This week… botany, boredom and British paintings

Something has definitely shifted but I’m not sure if it’s a sign of lethargy within the tourism industry or just my expectations. Lately, I’ve been receiving a few of the usual seasonal press releases about Halloween, and a trickle relating to the annual light shows for the Festive Season, but they feel half-hearted. The tourism industry is trying it’s best to run business-as-usual but it feels off-kilter. It’s like trying to ignore the elephant in the room. Halloween, for instance, pales into insignificance beside the terror of real-life at the moment. I find myself wishing that someone would come right out with their marketing and say “this is a crap situation, and you probably don’t feel like dressing up or putting up the festive bunting, so let’s do things differently.”

What happened to all the wonderful virtual events and workshops that sprung up during lockdown, and have since dwindled away? I feel I want to celebrate the changing seasons with simpler rituals, that have some meaning and relevance to the here and now. Over the past few months, I’ve loved connecting with people from around the world on social and Zoom, both the experts and places I may not normally have access to. For instance, a live concert direct from Italy by Andrea Bocelli.

I joined a cookery demo with Raymond Blanc (courtesy of Belmond) who is currently promoting his new book The Lost Orchard focusing on homegrown apples.

“It’s a marvel to see and taste all the incredible British varieties we can reconnect with… of apples, pears, quince, medlars…” Raymond Blanc.

I have a terrible voice but love to sing, usually on my own in the car. Sam Neill, actor, has cheered me up with his, um, singing on Instagram (although I think his performance is coming along nicely under Jeff Goldblum‘s tutelage).

Chef Anna Roš, Hiša Franko, Green Gastronomy in Slovenia via Zoom this summer. Photo by Benjamin Schmuck

I’ve e-travelled to Hiša Franko in Slovenia this summer and enjoyed e-meeting artisan independent producers such as the independent coffee roasters in Cornwall who are doing business in a sustainable way and the young entrepreneur who has started his own cocktails company using authentic craft spirits. Next up is a Master Honey Sommelier who bee-farms in fields of Welsh wildflowers (look out for my interview this week).


Arctic: culture and climate

(L) Andrew Qappik (b. 1964, Inuit, Pangnirtung, Nunavut Canada), There’s Another One. Coloured stencil drawing, 2012. © Andrew Qappik. (R) Woman’s hat or ládjogahpir, Sámi, Norway. Wool, horn, cotton and silk, pre-1919. © Trustees of the British Museum

The Arctic Circle is the most northern region in the world encompassing the area of midnight sun in summer and the polar night in winter that covers 4% of the Earth. A new exhibition this month Arctic: culture and climate at the British Museum will look at the history of the Arctic and its 400,000 Indigenous Peoples belonging to one or more of 40 different ethnic groups, through the lens of climate change and weather.

The region has been home to these resilient communities for nearly 30,000 years. Most of the Arctic’s Indigenous inhabitants are involved in hunting, fishing and reindeer herding. These subsistence activities are supplemented by employment in industries such as government infrastructures, energy, commercial fishing and tourism.

The exhibition will feature a diverse circumpolar collection of rare archaeological finds, unique tools, clothing adapted to flourish in the extreme cold and artworks reflecting the respectful relationship between Arctic people and the natural world, as well as stunning photography of contemporary daily life, and responses to dramatic changes in seasonal weather and human-caused climate change.

Arctic: culture and climate at The British Museum runs from 22 October to 21 February 2021. Tickets available online adults £18, members and under 16s free.

Cecily Brown Art Exhibition

Cecily Brown in her studio.

British painter, Cecily Brown, will be showing all new work at Blenheim Palace from this week. Brown’s first major solo UK show in 15 years has been created in response to the Palace’s history as an English country estate, as well as the home to successive generations of the Spencer-Churchill family and their collections.

Photo courtesy Cecily Brown.

Rendered in her emotive, frenetic brushstrokes, Brown’s new series will visually reference masterpieces by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony Van Dyck on view at the Palace, as well as family heraldry, armorial banners and the martial scenes of the Blenheim Tapestries that line the State Rooms.

Cecily Brown has compiled a playlist of songs (spoiler alert it includes Brian Ferry, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, amongst other great names) that inspired the titles of each painting in her exhibition opening this week at Blenheim Palace.

Cecily Brown Art Exhibition at Blenheim Palace runs from 17th September to 3rd January 2021.

In my inbox

Ca’ Di Lista, Tuscany.

Not an Oscar-winner, but I rewatched Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) recently. So these elegant, secluded villas in the stunning Italian landscape sound like a perfect getaway. I spent a memorable birthday celebration in Tuscany a few years back exploring the art, architecture, food and countryside. If you’re planning on a special holiday for 2021, to make up for this year’s disappointments and sustain you through the long winter months ahead, take a look at these remarkable villas that also afford plenty of space. Exclusive to the Tuscany Now & More portfolio each property – an old farming estate, a country residence and a stylish 16th century Venetian villa – has a different character.

Lamore di Carla, Tuscany.

As a guide to prices Lamore di Carla features six bedrooms and sleeps up to 10 people from £2,851 per week.

Become an urban botanist

I’ll leave you with this little story about a botanist who is going round London identifying plants and chalking the names next to them on the pavement or wherever. French botanist Sophie Leguil has gone viral with her posts. I’ve been walking most days since lockdown began, even on rainy days. In particular, without any real intention, I’ve enoyed spotting wildflowers and watching the seasons change. As I’m not travelling at the moment, any opportunity for a photo to feed the voracious social media, is welcome. But these little snapshots into nature have really boosted my mood.

That’s all for this week. Don’t forget to share your own discoveries and recommendations for unusual places to visit and things to see in the comments. Stay safe and well.

As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on international travel guidelines.

Unless otherwise stated, I have no affiliation with the brands mentioned but simply aim to share places and products that have caught my eye. I will always state if a post is sponsored or gifted.

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