Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apartment Rental in Paris

If you're considering visiting Paris next year, don't book into a hotel – although there are some truly lovely ones around, such as Le Senat and the Pantheon. Try renting an apartment instead. An apartment gives you a) more flexibility, because it will usually have a kitchen (great for preparing your own breakfasts and dinners), b) more privacy (no maids coming in at 11AM to tidy the room), and c) a more intimate sense of Paris. You really feel like a local when you're walking through a classic Parisian courtyard and then up an ornate Parisian stairwell to your own front door.

Here is a small selection of some fabulous apartments I've found over the years.

The Brad and Angelina Apartment
Once rented by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and the Pitt-Jolie family, this glamorous penthouse, 'Brochet', is located on the Boulevard de Grenelle and is available to rent through Love the view from the bathroom! (Images courtesy

The Quintessential Parisian Apartment
This apartment, 'Voltaire',  has everything you've ever dreamed of, right down to the elegant Parisian furniture and the silk taffeta drapes. Available through Chez Vous Paris Apartments - (Images courtesy of Chez Vous)

Another Classic Parisian Pied-a-Terre
This one, 'Sortilège', is also from the Chez Vous Paris Apartment group ( Their vacation rentals are some of the most stylish in the city.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Paris in the Winter

I love Paris in the winter. Most people don’t realise that Paris is more beautiful going into the colder months than at any other time. Under a dignified sky the shade of Dior grey, you can see the ‘bones’ of the city, including its noble architecture, through the brittle branchs of the trees. Somehow, the city seems finer, grander, and more spectaculaire. The shimmering cognac shade of the Seine under the morning sun (which changes through the day to a luminous petrol blue and finally to a silver the colour of evening slippers at twilight), the grand Aubusson grey of the famous cobblestoned avenues and the fine huître (oyster) shell grey of the architecture all co-ordinate to give the city an almost gentlemanly feel. The city is distingué (distinguished), poised and more handsome than Vincent Cassel.

Here are some images of Paris in this glorious season of starkly sophisticated beauty.

A Parisian Typeface

Here's another glamorous typeface. A designer called Moshik Nadav was so inspired by the world of fashion that he decided to create his own 'Paris' typeface, which is now being picked up by fashion magazines and luxury brands. The typeface is a cheeky, chic mix of beautiful ligatures and sexy numerals. You never hear those two words together – "sexy numerals" – do you? Well, it's about time we did! Personally, I'm rather fond of a sexy numeral, especially if it has more than seven 0s on the end...


High Heels Typeface

So very clever! The clearly chic designer Zummi has created an alphabet inspired by elegant shoes. Mr Blahnik would surely love this.

Via and

Vogue: The Covers

Christmas has come early to our household this year. Last week, I received my first gift, and what a gorgeous gift it was! Entitled Vogue: The Covers, it's a enormous new tome filled with the best Vogue covers of the last century. If you love Vogue, photography, magazines or simply fashion, then think about putting it on your Christmas Wish List as a last-minute edition. (Abrams, $70)

Here's a glimpse at some of the lovely pages.

Beautiful Book Covers

Books are a difficult business. Especially at the moment. The number of books being published has increased to the point where the market is saturated, the online buying phenomenon has kicked bookstores in the knees and – to really finish things off – the book buying public isn't spending as much as it once did. So what do you do if you're a publisher and want to increase sales of a new books? Produce a truly beautiful cover.

Over the last few months I've started to see some extraordinarily gorgeous jackets emerge. Some of them have been inspired by the 'silhouette' craze that's sweeping book design, while others have gone for what a friend calls "ornate simplicity". The now-famous artist Rob Ryan was, of course, one of the first to highlight the beauty of silhouette or cut-out design (, but others have picked up the trend and embellished it with their own graceful details. (More details on silhouette art in a later blog today.)

Here are some beautiful book jackets that have stood out from the shelves lately. Oh – and if you want to know more about the enchanting patterned covers of the Penguin Classics Hardcover series, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, there's an interview with Coralie here:

Our Family

As Christmas is a time of family, I thought I would introduce mine.

My Other Half
I met RR in a gorgeous cafe called The European the day after I'd finished writing a novel about looking for love. (Is that serendipity, or what?) He bought me a G&T, I told him a dirty joke about a Scotsman, and they rest, as they say, is a mystery.
It's a wonder we ever got together, however, since we are as different as Liberal and Labour. He works in government/politics; I am a writer. He likes hunting; I am an animal lover. He loathes planes; I spent a lot of time travelling on them. He loves listening to politics; I loathe it (the result of interviewing a certain Australian prime minister several years ago). And he hates reading, whereas I adore libraries.
Not only that, he likes ACDC, Metallica and a lot of other bands who sing songs I can't understand. I, on the other hand, prefer classic 1970's music: Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison and even Neil Diamond. (Yes, I know, I must be the only girl under 42 who does.) I'm not quite sure how it all works but it does. Probably because he's lovely.
We are not married yet because I am dragging my heels with the reticence of Julia Roberts. We were meant to have married this month but, well, life intervened and I postponed it. We're now aiming for May 2012. It will be an elopement. I will wear my grandmother's pearl ring, my Chanel bracelet, and a home-made suit with whatever fabric I can find in the fabric closet. I've already had a big wedding in my life and the marriage didn't go too well. I don't want to jinx this one.

My Parents
My parents, Ross and Jenny, are lovely, but they're not like normal parents. They're what you'd call Extreme Adventurers. One journalist wrote that they like to take the Department of Foreign Affairs warnings and create travel itineraries out of them. It's not quite right, but it's not far off the mark. In the last two decades they've travelled through two wars, a tornado and a cyclone, and narrowly missed perishing aboard a sinking ferry on Peru's Lake Titicaca. They've travelled through South America, Patagonia, the Galápagos Islands, Alaska, Africa, the Arctic Circle and the Outback more times than I can count, and have traversed Europe and the US so much they know most of the plane timetables off by heart.
I've had the privilege of travelling with them several times but I can tell you it's not easy. For a start, they're both former school principals, so it's a little like travelling with, well, former school principals. We travelled through the US a few years ago and I felt like I had to write an essay at the end of every day. But I love them. They're smart, funny, witty, kind, and still correct my grammar. How could you not?

My Nieces
Alex, Meg, Gemma, Shae and Abbey
We have five girls in our family. (Or we thought we did, until two more grandchildren popped up this year that we didn't know about. But that's a story for another day.) We love all of them. It's difficult raising girls in this day and age, but these ones have turned out to be lovely. My sisters-in-law are the true stars. I don't know that I would have been as good at being a mother as they have been.

Our Dogs
Cooper and Coco
We tried IVF last year and stopped. It was too demoralising. So these puppies are our substitutes. And boy, do they take just as much work! (Tip: Don't get a Jack Russell. Your life will consist of one long marathon chasing after it.) So far they have chewed through an iPhone, a iPod, an expensive lamp, Christian Louboutin shoes, two vintage picnic baskets, a first edition book, my favourite Panama hat and assorted clothes. Including two much-loved Armani outfits. They will eat anything, even the ugly slugs that drown in the beer traps left out in the garden overnight. They test our patience, and they steal all the space in the bed. But – like the rest of the family – we adore them. Slugs and all

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas this year. 
With warmest regards from ours.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Once, Upon an Island (Part 2)

I love islands. I always have. I love their mystery, their geography and their topography, their slow pleasures and their languid lifestyles. I even love the architecture of islands, which tends to celebrate the honesty of form and the purity of line. But mostly I love their landscapes, which are cheerfully weathered but still quietly dignified. In a world where everything is designed to a flawless finish, islands are still a little rustic; a little 'unmade'. And that makes them, in my mind, just about perfect. They are, in  their charmingly undressed, messy state, delightful radicals. Nature’s rebels that have never really conformed to the rest of the world and its impossible expectations but have always stood slightly apart, cut off by their isolation and their oceans, and distinguished by their rakish ways.

I have often wondered what my perfect island would look like. It would probably be small, so you could trundle around it in a day, but still big enough to have room for adventure. It would have beaches tickled by coconut palms and an encircling lagoon, warmed to perfection. There would be a harbour, a postcard-style jetty, and a village that sold rock lobster from a co-op, as well as delicious, locally made produce and beverages from quaint pastel-coloured stores – run by people called ‘Ma Ruby’ and ‘Shoeless Joe’. There would be a couple of celebrities for cachet (“oh, did you hear De Niro’s bought a house next door?”), but not too many that it felt like the Hamptons or Nantucket. There would be a statue of a 19th-century local writer, whom everyone is proud of but nobody has actually read; a whiff of pirate history; a smattering of deserted old plantation mansions blanketed in vines; a secret waterfall somewhere in the centre (an island is not an island without a proper waterfall); and of course a number of colourful beachside bars. With names like ‘Eddie’s’, ‘Sip Sip’, and ‘Sip More’. It would have eccentrics that made you laugh, and sunsets that made you cry. But most of all, this island would be so gentle in its beauty and so undemanding in its ways, that it would allow you to take life lying down for a change. And there, in a hammock under a palm tree, you could begin to think clearly about life again.

Here, in no particular island order, are some of my favourite islands in the world.

Haggerstone Island, Australia
Getting to Haggerstone is as much a part of the adventure as staying there. You need to take a number of planes, each one a little smaller than the last, and then a small boat to reach this remote, 40-hectare lush atoll 90 kilometres from the tip of Cape York Peninsula in the very far north of Australia, In fact, it is about as remote as you can go without hitting Papua New Guinea. Designed by Anna and Roy Turner, who sailed there 21 years ago with a water tank, a tent, building supplies, chickens and seedlings for a garden, it is a kind of Swiss Family Robinson hideaway, only far more luxurious. There are a handful of open-air pavilions to sleep in, plus a fabulous main pavilion to dine, read and congregate it. There is also a gorgeous reef to snorkel on, great fishing and other islands nearby to explore. Former prime minister Bob Hawke adores it. So does David Reyne, hotelier James Baillie and many, many others, including US magazine Travel and Leisure, which voted it the number-one beach destination for the 21st century. One of Australia's best-kept secrets. (Images courtesy of Haggerstone.)

Mauritius, Africa
Mauritius is changing rapidly, thanks to the influx of northern European investors buying up parcels of real estate for hotels and developments (it is now officially the richest country in Africa), however there is still something deliciously sweet and simple about this tiny place. It's the kind of island you find a beach chair and a big cocktail and chill out for days. Preferably in front of a postcard-perfect beach with a cool sea breeze. One of the most beautiful hotels on Mauritius that has all these ingredients is the charming Hotel 20° Sud, which is designed by that chic Belgian firm Flamant. Concealed within an old coconut grove and reached via an old oak door, it is currently being hailed as one of the most stylish boutique hotels in the world. One look and you can see why. (Images courtesy of Hotel 20° Sud.)

Islamora, Florida Keys, USA
I have a soft spot for Islamorada. I never fail to have a memorable day here. Part of a string of unpretentious, under-populated and ever-so-lovely islands that stretch all the way down to Key West, Islamorada, which means "village of islands", is a delightful hideaway with a cluster of beach houses and hotels, a lot of enchanting coves and waterways, an endearingly retro-esque atmosphere and a whole lotta eccentric characters. You need to get off the main highway to really explore the place, and perhaps hire a boat to meander the coast, but it's worth a weekend trip from Miami. For hotels, try The Moorings or Casa Morada (pictured below), both of which are loved by stylish travellers the world over.

Tybee Island, near Savannah, Georgia
Sandra Bullock loves it so much she's bought a house here. Robert Redford filmed The Last Song with Miley Cyrus here. And yet many Americans – and international travellers – have never heard of it. If you're visiting Savannah and have a day free (make sure you have a day free), grab a taxi and spend some time here. The exquisite little Caribbean-style beach houses are sublime, and the beaches are divine. You can hire a bike and trundle around all day. There are lots of cottages for rent, and many have pools. I just adore it.

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