Posts Tagged ‘Champagne’
Celebrations are in order. We’ve been given another chance to appreciate the sunshine and relax a little with the arrival of this beautiful Indian summer. So don’t shelve the barely worn shorts and sandals just yet, there’s still plenty of alfresco dining, Champagne afternoon teas on the terrace and maybe the odd barbecue still to be had.
If you were a little disappointed with the summer and missed out on that holiday feeling, think of this as a stroke of good fortune. Steal a moment at lunch to sit in the warm air. Take the opportunity after work to dine alfresco with friends over a bottle of chilled sparkling wine recommended by the sommelier. Set your alarm clock a little earlier to catch the most stunning sunrise to inspire you for the day ahead and grab a coffee and some you-time before nine.
It’s not often we get a second chance, so let’s grab this one with both hands and have a most wonderful Indian summer. After all, autumn is just around the corner.
It is fair to say that the British climate is sporadic at best. A patch of warm weather brings a flurry of wardrobe rearrangements to find the summer dresses and bare leg exposing shorts. But it also gives the ideal temperature to sit outdoors, take in some fresh air and dabble in a little after work tipple or have a nibble on something straight off the barbecue. We are great fans of all things alfresco – Veuve Clicquot in the Courtyard Champagne Bar at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh, the garden at Tunbridge Wells or sitting under the sails at Poole with an ice-cold beer. There is something that makes you feel relaxed and free when you’re able to wine and dine outdoors, as if on holiday. We say bring on the Indian summer and plenty more balmy nights. Of course, if the sky looks temperamental we’d just head to Hotel du Vin York who are prepared for every eventuality to prevent dampened spirits with the brilliant installation of a retractable roof. Indoors outdoors or outdoors indoors, you choose. Just one question to ask – who’s up for a spot of alfresco?
I was checking out the festivals and outdoor events in the hope of continued light jacket weather, when I realised just how many great things are happening over the summer months. I haven’t got any holidays planned yet and time is ticking to get something booked in before all the good dates get snaffled from the work rota, so I’m thinking this might be a rather interesting way to chill out closer to home rather than panic into a last minute overseas package deal.
Here’s a few that I think look compelling:
1. Henley Royal Regatta. Regarded as one of the best regattas in the world. It’s a favourite of all oarsmen and fans of the sport. Famous for the great sporting occasion as well as the great buzz of the day and its competition. Spectators make a break of it enjoying Champagne, afternoon teas, sunshine (hopefully) and mingling with fellow fans at Hotel du Vin & Bistro Henley-on-Thames.
Held from Wednesday 29th June to Sunday 3rd July.
One for the ladylike tea dress, sunhat and Pimm’s I think. I might get a glimpse of the Queen, Prince Albert of Monaco or Dame Kelly Holmes at the prize giving.
2. Harrogate Festival Fringe. This menagerie of wonderful activities and events looks great fun. A mixture of performing arts, literature including hip hop, jazz, dance, crime writing, children’s festival, quartets and ‘The Building of a Global Iconic Brand – Kit Kat’. So many exciting elements not to miss, this will keep me entertained nicely.
Held from 1st July to 31st July.
If only I had a month off to do all of this. I shall need to choose wisely. This one is a must – 30th June is the Glitzy Gala Opening featuring the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra called ‘Putting on the Ritz’: A celebration of Fred Astaire and his leading ladies – this calls for a cocktail aperitif at Hotel du Vin Harrogate Bar beforehand in my glitzy frock.
3. Cambridge Summer in the City – A free weekend of rock, pop and blues music, entertainment, a French market, sports and fireworks – sounds like fun and is in the centre of this beautiful city. Handy for Hotel du Vin Cambridge for when I need to put my feet up with a large glass of Rioja after a day’s rocking out and exploring the French delicacies on the market.
Held from July 11th July to 13th July.
4. Winchester Hat Fair – Britain’s longest running festival of street theatre and outdoor arts with a great reputation for outdoor performances, unique shows and community arts. Street theatre at its best – the art of street entertainment. And it’s free throughout Winchester’s ancient streets.
Held from 1st July to 3rd July.
Look out for the Hat Fair iphone app to keep you informed. For up to date information about which artists are performing where and when, where to eat (I’m thinking an afternoon tea at Hotel du Vin & Bistro Winchester), and park, download this FREE.
These are just a few I’ve selected so far. I’m thinking of compiling some together and doing a little summer festival tour. A different way of spending my well overdue holidays which I’m really looking forward to. Any other suggestions very welcome to add to my list.
I’ve been asked a few times over a glass or two of vino, who would be the top ten people on my invite list to a dinner party hosted by moi. The rules are: they need to be famous, well known or historical and can be from any time/any era.
Now most of these don’t take much pondering over – I have a list as long as my arm I’d like to invite, full of the people that intrigue or inspire. The key is collating the most cunning mix of characters that, to me, bring something to the table. Here’s my list and why (in no particular order):
1. My first invite goes to the iconic Marilyn Monroe. A classic beauty and with poise rarely seen these days. I imagine she has a fair few secrets to tell.
2. Bill Murray – the sense of humour to break the ice and of all the comedic guests – he’s one of my favourites.
3. I’ve always had a great respect for Richard Branson – his business mind mixed with daring ‘live life to the full’ attitude inspires that anything is possible.
4. Mark Zuckerberg – A lucky find or a stroke of genius – whatever the answer, he’s current and happening – I’ll FB him his invite.
5. Seth MacFarlane – I’m obsessed with the work of this master of many trades: animator, writer, comedian, producer, actor, singer, voice actor and director. He makes me laugh a lot.
6. Banksy – Graffiti art with substance, humour, meaning and summons a reaction – I’d be interested to hear the conversation between him and my next guest – how art movements differ.
7. Van Gogh – a different emotional impact with his work than Banksy, but a reaction nonetheless.
8. Stephen Fry – for more witty humour and topical discussions – and an avid tweeter – I can perhaps poach some tips to multiply my following.
9. Elvis – The King (hopefully he won’t be leaving the building).
10. Coco Chanel – Ultimate style and inspiration, whether she meant to become the icon she is or not. Her story is one I’d like to hear first hand – as well as a few fashion tips.
So, picture the scene. We meet in the bar for cocktails and canapés first, for introductions and some jovial quips from Bill and Seth. Coco, Marilyn and I are having a giggle over the fashion faux pas in the bar. Then to the private dining room, a large table beautifully set for dinner. I make sure I’m sat in the middle. And as the dishes are served and the Champagne and conversation flows, my ideal dinner party inspires me: I must have more.
However, just in case Banksy and Zuckerberg don’t show face – I’ve got a few on the reserve list.
(Mary Quant, CS Lewis, James Dean)
Big city neon lights. Big clothing. Bigger hair. Even bigger mobile phones. With The Apprentice hitting our screens again and a menagerie of ever hungry young guns treading over each other to be the next big thing, I find myself hooked once more. The catchphrases, the tasks and the cunning strategies of the select few individuals that shine through, got me to thinking.
It may come in various guises and face an assortment of good and bad challenges over the years depending on the world’s economic conditions, affecting perceptions, trends and decisions from top to bottom. For example, the time to be seen to be flash, big and ballsy is one of the past. Old school business ways are perceived as too showy, not productive, a waste of spare pennies – why have a top meeting over lunch in a local restaurant or bistro, when you can grab a severely pale coffee from the machine and stay within the beige four walls of your 6m x 6m office? Companies are still looking for ways of doing business that show value for money whilst at the same time seen to be ‘looking after’ their clients and colleagues and show that they are important to them. A meeting of minds over an unpretentious brunch and a Bloody Mary, or a late Friday afternoon lunch arrangement that turns into a nip or two of malt to see in the weekend, gives the impression that you care to take the time and show the importance of your clients or colleagues. An important trait to gain loyalty and trust.
Technology is advancing at the speed of light so much so that we don’t even need to be in the same room to have a meeting or hold a conference. I feel a little sad that this may cut out some of the personality, the face-to-face that helps build trust and longevity in business.
The world may have changed, but I believe business on a whole has not. The hunger, the drive, the ambition and the dealing, all still make up the bones of business. Whether a small business of one, or an organisation of hundreds, perception and creating an impression is still a major factor. Ok, so we can’t be seen to be splashing the cash on fancy locations, travel, and popping the Champagne on a regular basis – this doesn’t make good business sense especially in this current climate.
But there’s a balance. To build good relationships and discuss important deals and decisions, there needs to be some sort of respect given to this process. Is it not all part of the perception to take a leaf out of the old school style and add those little touches that made the difference? That impressed or made clients or colleagues feel relaxed and confident in each other? A local beer in the bar was always where the best nuggets of an idea formed, a quick and efficiently served lunch on comfortable stools round the open island kitchen is a great way to kill two birds and eat while you meet. A glass of bubbly to celebrate a success is always well deserved and keeps up spirits and moral.
So, it looks like the big hair’s making a come-back so I say let’s invest in a glass of exceedingly good Claret or chew over a decision on a succulent, melt in the mouth steak once in a while – the devil is in the detail, and if you’re going to do business with him, we should all embrace him.
One poignant moment comes and goes and we’re all asked – ‘Where were you?’, then shortly after comes another one. Life is a stream of decisions, moments and memories, so although you might not think it at the time, your choice of where to watch the Royal wedding, who to spend your 21st with, and what to wear on your graduation day for fear of tripping up on stage, are all decisions, that lead to moments, that lead to great memories that last a lifetime.
I’d like to say I cracked open the Champagne and celebrated my graduation with my friends and family, digging in to a good steak and swapping comments of thankfulness and hilarity that I was the one who tripped on the gown, but I sort of let the occasion go by without a sense of importance and without much appreciation to my family who had seen me through the long, long hours and mounds of drawing pads. Talks of drinks and meals with fellow graduates fell by the wayside and no-one really seemed too excited about yet another night at the Dog and Parrot.
In hindsight, if I were to do it again, I’d absolutely make more of an occasion of it all. I’d gather up all my loved ones and celebrate with them in style. Dressed in our finest I’d splash out and have the Champagne on ice, the chocolate strawberries in circulation and weather permitting, we’d be dining alfresco. I’d have definitely opted for the Champagne Afternoon Tea all round, which to me would have suited the occasion and the moment down to a ‘tea’, with delicate, delicious finger sandwiches, creamy scones (my father’s favourite) and sponge cake (my favourite).
Many, like me, may let the day drift by, or spend it in the ‘Dog’ without putting any great significance on the achievement. But having spent years of studying, striving and of test cramming, to set a platform for the future, I think a celebration with substance is the least the graduate and equally their nearest and dearest deserve.
And so, I’m gathering my family for that Champagne Afternoon Tea, even if I am a decade late, to toast to them, and to all those who support and nurture with love, humour and wise words. Thank you. To all those decisions, moments and memories. This time, no trip ups.