This week… flower power, prospecting and private jets

It’s just over two weeks to the shortest day on 21 December, when the light begins to return to my little corner of the world. More significantly an end to 2020 is in sight. While there have been some silver linings, I can’t imagine there’s anyone on the planet that won’t be glad to see the back of this annus horribilis, which is really saying something if you think about it.

I continue to dream about getting back to travelling and venturing out into the world-at-large in 2021. In the meantime here’s a round-up of what has captured my attention this week, the grand and the little things that go a long way towards enjoying life.

Up, Up and Away

L to R: Chalet Chouqui, Verbiar; interior of a private jet at Vertis Aviation.

There are many reasons why flying privately has become even more popular, our health being the top priority. If you need more convincing, there’s the perennial challenges of time, baggage complications and busy airports, not to mention two hours check-in, delays and more. If you’re looking to escape to snowy climes this winter, Vertis Aviation will transport you safely to the heart of the Swiss Alps including Zermatt, St Moritz and Verbier. Vertis fly to Sion Airport, just 45 minutes drive away from the alpine village of Verbier. For experienced skiiers there is off-piste skiing. Whether you ski or not, it’s a stunning destiation to enjoy spectacular views of Mont Blanc and Le Grand Combin, high-quality restaurants, and vibrant nightlife. Stay at Chalet Chouqui offering nine bedrooms in a secluded location with a stylish interior, a furnished terrace and one of the largest private indoor pools in Verbier. For more details contact specialist travel company Leo Trippi

Wilderness Adventure

The Samling at Lake Windemere.

Bond with nature in 65 acres of meadows, ancient woodlands teeming with wildlife, gardens and rolling hills. The Samling at Lake Windermere is offering a new luxurious short break this spring. Sleep under canvas in ‘Prospector Tents’ and wake to birdsong. Sip freshly brewed coffee served on your veranda, as you admire panoramic views across the lake over breakfast. Later, follow in the footsteps of Wordsworth with a hike through the woods, up to Scarfell Pike in the Cumbrian Hills.

L to R: Prospector tents at The Samling; the view across Lake Windemere and the Cumbrian Hills.

Your personal chef butler will serve delicious meals in your own ‘restaurant tent’. If the weather is fine, dine al fresco under the stars by lantern light before retiring under a cosy duvet in a super king size bed, and immersed in nature. Price from a two-day exclusive weekend hire £3,000 for two. For full details visit

New New Zealand Hotels

L to R: Reception at Naumi Studio Hotel in Queenstown; wallpaper and lighting at The Dairy Private Hotel in Wellington.

Escape staycation breaks come in all shapes and sizes. And heaven knows we all need some colour in our lives right now. Three new boutique hotels have recently opened in New Zealand: The Central by Naumi Hotels and The Dairy Private Hotel by Naumi, both in Queenstown; and Naumi Studio Hotel Wellington. Each is colourful, to say the least, with the latter a creative reimagining of a historic listed property, lavished with floral works. The landmark Edwardian-era building was originally one of many People’s Palace hotels that were built by the Salvation Army in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the Reception area, completely covered in gold leaf, there is a large scale floral backdrop, 3D flower lights and bespoke rugs with a striking floral design created by artist Karl Maughan. Explore the waterfront promenade, sandy beaches, a working harbour and colourful timber houses on surrounding hills in the capital of New Zealand. Nightly rates at the Naumi Studio from NZ$300 (approx £155). @naumihotels

Exhibition extensions

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms

Chandelier of Grief © YAYOI KUSAMAYayoi.

Tate Modern has announced a special presentation of two immersive mirror room installations by Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. Kusama (born in 1929 in Matsumoto) came to attention for her ‘happenings’ in 1960s New York. Her artistic practice has encompassed installation, painting, sculpture, fashion design and literary writing. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms will feature two major works, Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life and Chandelier of Grief, a room which creates the illusion of a boundless universe of rotating chandeliers. The exhibition will include some previously unseen film and photography as historical context for Kusama’s work installations, alongside early documentation of experimental performances and events. Due to open in 2020 to celebrate the museum’s 20th anniversary, the year-long exhibition will run from 29 March 2021 to 27 March 2022. @Tate

Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace

Cecily Brown’s Hunt with Nature Morte and Blenheim Spaniel.

Blenheim Palace re-opened to visitors this week and the Blenheim Art Foundation confirmed the Cecily Brown Exhibition, due to close 3 January, is now extended to 7 February. You may recall from an earlier post on the British painter’s work on display references masterpieces by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony Van Dyck, as well as family heraldry, armorial banners and the martial scenes of the Blenheim Tapestries that line the State Rooms.

In my inbox

St Paul’s festive greetings card and a snowy scene. Images courtesy Open House.

Be quick! I adore this limited edition folding Christmas card in the form of a model of St Paul’s Cathedral. Not just for geeks. If, like me, you really enjoy Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series of novels, you would be thrilled to receive this in the post. It’s a good size and comes with an A4 envelope for postage. St Paul’s Cathedral was built in 1666 in place of a medieval structure, damaged beyond repair by the Great Fire of London. Inspired by Wren’s travels in France and his knowledge of Italian architecture, the great architect proposed a vast double-skinned dome as the central feature. The model is an accurate scale model and is complete with a snowy roof, Christmas tree, twinkling fairy lights, and a bright star atop its famous dome. All sales help support the work of charity Open City. Price £5.99 plus postage. Today is the last chance, orders will be shipped Monday 7 December.

I’ve been listening to Neil Oliver’s Love Letter to the British Isles, a captivating podcast series that explores everything from the first human footsteps recorded, to the Vikings in the latest episode. Oliver is a Scottish television presenter, freelance archaeologist, conservationist, and author. Check it out on Instagram @neiloliverloveletter.

Stocking filler

The Great Escape, hand-drawn map. Image courtesy Guy Walters.

I watched The 12th Man on Netflix this week rivited to my sofa even though I read the book about Norwegian resistance fighter, Jan Baalsrud’s, near death experiences in WWII. It’s a remarkable and inspiring story which has remained with me for possibly the last thirty years. Author, historian journalist and presenter, Guy Walters, will be running a series of live one-hour talks revealing the real story of The Great Escape (4 to 8 January), accompanied by original documents, photographs, drawings and maps. Episodes will be recorded so you can catch up if you miss one. I’ve been entertained and sustained by new podcasts, Zoom events and press trips during lockdown and this would make a truly original and thoughtful gift. Add a glass of their favourite wine and some delicious treats for hours of enjoyment. £30. Twitter @guywalters.

As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on domestic and 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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