From Prado to Palm Beach in Marseille

Ever since studying French hip hop and the lyrics of rap group IAM at uni, I’ve been intrigued by Marseille. So, to get some end of summer sunshine, Steven and I booked a cheap Ryanair flight and headed to the south of France for three nights.

Marseille is like an intruder on the chichi vibe of the Côte d’Azur (its nickname is planète mars) due to being a large port town with North African influences and a laid-back Mediterranean culture. It can be a bit dodgy in places (we almost got pickpocketed in the old port), but it’s ancient history and super friendly people add to its rugged charm.

vieux port

Being on a pretty tight budget, we decided to spend two nights at the moderately priced Mercure Marseille Prado and stay for the last night in the luxurious Pullman Palm Beach spa hotel.  I’m not usually a fan of big chain hotels, as they always seem to have more properties than they can cope with, but Mercure has been pretty good to me over the years.  This one was comfortable and basic (we got it for £156 for two nights and wouldn’t pay much more) but the main draw was the incredible breakfast, served on the terrace each morning.  The hot selection was dubious, but there was a good selection of mini pastries, fresh baguette, local cheeses and heavenly buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup. 

The location is quite far out from the centre on foot, but it took less than 1o minutes on the metro and it is just 20 minutes down the tree-lined avenue to Prado beach and our next stop, the Pullman Palm Beach.   

ocean view at Pullman Palm Beach

The Pullman Palm Beach is a sleek design hotel that overlooks the famous Corniche J.F Kennedy, next to a yachting club, and has an outdoor infinity pool, jacuzzi, sauna and gym.

We were in a double patio room which was decorated in a subtle nautical style and featured prints by a local artist, a massive flatscreen TV and the most incredible bed that felt like you were curled up in a marshmallow. 

The bathroom had both a shower and a bathtub, bois d’orange toiletries by Roger & Gallet, some seriously fluffy bathrobes and velvety slippers – everything you need for a relaxing spa stay.

bedroom at Pullman Palm Beach

Most of the guests were business delegates and I was so tempted to gatecrash their champagne and macaroon receptions at night (I resisted, of course), but there are probably more regular travellers in the high summer. This wasn’t a bad thing though, a we almost had the pool and sauna to ourselves.

The hotel is all about relaxation, so it’s very quiet and peaceful, especially in the library on the first floor, where you can read coffee table books and international newspapers in an armchair, overlooking the sea.

Library

We didn’t eat at the restaurant, although the food looked amazing, but we had a drink at the bar before going into town for dinner.  We had a Pina Colada and a Tequila Sunrise (both 12 Euros) from the classic cocktail menu, but maybe a spirit or beer would be better, as they were a bit too weak and filled with ice.  We got a massive tasting plate of olives, nuts and tapenade bruschetta with our drinks though, as well as a sunset view, so it was well worth it.

Pullman at night

The best thing about the Pullman is that staff are around when you need them, but they leave you to get on with your own thing without hassle.  The spa facilities were amazing and there was no shortage of towels, sunbeds, extra toiletries and even free healthy snacks in the spa area.  We were even upgraded to an ocean view room on arrival. 

We got a decent deal at £130 a night, as a double room at walk-in price costs upward of £300, but it was one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in and was worth every penny.  I’m already plotting a way to return next year – I wonder if Marseille has a film festival to be reviewed?

Mercure Marseille Prado, 11 Avenue de Mazargues  13008 Marseille

Pullman Palm Beach, 200 Corniche J.F Kennedy 13007 Marseille

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Water On The Lens at The Movieum

It’s not often that I get to hang out south of the river, other than munching on venison burgers and brownies with my friend Emily at Borough Market, so after the Foale and Tuffin press preview, I hopped on the bus to County Hall at Waterloo to see the Water On The Lens exhibition at The Movieum.

The exhibition features behind-the-scenes, underwater photographs taken at Pinewood Studios that will have you wondering ‘how on earth did they do that’? 

Imagine

Pinewood Studios opened its Underwater Stage (U Stage) in 2005, after 5 years of development by Diving Services UK, making it into a world famous water-filming facility.  It includes a permanently-filled water tank that holds an incredible 1.2 million litre of water.

To achieve their amazing shots, Pinewood create unique settings such as the elegant Parisian apartment above and construct them within the tank, ready for models, actors and musicians to jump in.  The underwater shoots are captured by Phoebe Rudomino of Dive Services UK and they have appeared in films, adverts and music videos. 

Keira Knightly seems to be a big fan of splashing around at Pinewood, as she filmed the scene in Atonement where she is submerged in the fountain, as well as a glam promo shoot in aid of Fresh 20, a water charity. 

Keira Knightley

Jared Leto also had to hold his breath in an underwater car scene in Mr Nobody.  Other shots include James Blunt hanging out underwater with some hot models, Matt Lucas and David Walliams in Little Britain, the scene stills from Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Boat That Rocked and images of Sharon Stone and Eva Herzigova, who look just as gorgeous under the water. 

Mr Nobody

The exhibition is sponsored by Hunter Boot, the brand renowned for their waterproof and festival-friendly wellington boots.  Hunter are also showcasing their new collection of lime green and purple wellies, alongside their prestigious Balmoral and classic tall green models. I’ve got my eye on a pair of magenta ones with a Lara Croft-style side pouch and cream fleece detail.  If they keep the Pinewood crew’s tootsies dry and warm, then they must be worth investing in for next year’s Glasto!

Credits:

Imagine                                                                    21 July 2006
The set of a Parisian apartment was recreated in U-Stage for a commercials shoot for Johnson & Johnson’s ‘Imagine’ Total Hydration body wash. The apartment becomes a watery, hydrated version of real life and the model ‘floats away’ at the end of the advert.
Keira for Fresh 2O                                             3 December 2005
 
Photographer Candice shot Keira Knightley submerging in haute couture dresses and jewellery for a photoshoot to promote water charity Fresh 2O.

Mr Nobody                                                       19 December 2007
 
Jared Leto shoots a scene for upcoming feature Mr Nobody (2009) – a sci-fi fantasy that spans two time zones across the 20th & 21st Centuries. In this sequence, Jared Leto’s character is trapped in a car underwater.

Water on the Lens, sponsored by Hunter Boot, forms part of The Movieum of London in the Riverside Rooms, County Hall, Southbank, London SE1 open now until 28 October 2009.
Tickets £12 adults, £10 concessions, £8 children. 

Foale and Tuffin: Made in England retrospective

After showing minimal Swedish style and the evolution of underwear this year, the Fashion and Textile Museum has gone back to its favourite era to honour the influential but somewhat overlooked, Foale and Tuffin.

Sixties design legends Mary Quant, Ossie Clark and Biba are considered the leaders of the swinging London style movement, but those that were lucky enough to be there will remember that Foale and Tuffin was ‘what cool girls wore’.

checked suit

 

Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin played a major part in London’s ‘Youthquake’ and were the label to be seen in by the Mod girls of Carnaby Street and posh bohemians on the King’s Road.  Replicating couture by Paris-based designers like Dior and Balenciaga was the most likely career route for RCA graduates, but Foale and Tuffin wanted to break out and create their own functional but stylish clothes for Britain’s new independent and free-spirited girls.

lace-and-red

 

Foale and Tuffin’s designs have an apparent femininity and innocence, but there is no key formula to their style.  They have gone from creating pop and sports-inspired shift dresses to moody, Bloomsbury-style smocks with wallpaper prints in dark ochre and bottle green.

Wandering round the exhibition, I felt a bit nostalgic for all my handmade childhood clothes, which were obviously inspired by Foale and Tuffin. There were look-a-likes of my beloved purple wool coat with grey corduroy lapels from when I was four years-old and my dark floral smock dresses.  Even the sixties soundtrack being played reminded me of Sunday afternoons spent having fittings and playing with the mannequin in my grandma’s sewing room.

clothes and rails

For the exhibition, they have recreated the Foale and Tuffin boutique, workroom and design studio. You can see their exquisite sketches and illustrations, their sewing table and patterns and images of models like Twiggy wearing their clothes on the covers of Vogue, ELLE and Harper and Queen.

sketch

 Foale and Tuffin’s influence on fashion is still evident today – the resurgence of velvet and lace, Liberty prints, floral dresses and boyfriend jackets can be pinpointed back to their collections.  Psych girl band Ipso Facto, VV Brown and even, dare I say, Peaches Geldof owe their style to Foale and Tuffin.

I love it that Fashion and Textile Museum hasn’t relied on drawing the big name designers to get fashion lovers through the door but has once again offered an alternative education on fashion history beyond the mainstream.  The range of garments and the fine attention to detail make it the must-see exhibition of the season – I can’t recommend it enough!

Foale and Tuffin: Made in England runs from 23 October until February 2010.  Ticket prices are £6.50 for adults, £3.50 for students and concessions, free entry for under 12s.

Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF

Frieze Week: Free Art Fair

This is the third and final Free Art Fair, so of course, everyone with a vague to impassioned interest in art flocked to The Barbican to try their luck at winning one of 52 pieces from a range of emerging and established artists.

Marlene Dumas was obviously the big draw, but also on the agenda were artworks by Cathy Lomax, Douglas White, Matthew Stone, Josef Valentino and Free Art Fair founder Jasper Joffe.

Jasper Joffe

The artworks have been exhibited all week around The Barbican but the big show was the closing gala, with well over 1000 entrants.

Artist Jasper Joffe created the fair as a more democratic response to the extortionate cycle of demanding and paying ridiculous sums for art.  Everything is free, everyone can enter and anyone can win, although there was so underlying corruption.  Yes, one mean-spirited girl broke the rules and entered possibly a number of times and was rumbled when they drew her name twice in a row – what are the chances!  Amazingly, she wasn’t disqualified and probably picked up the Matthew Stone or Josef Valentino pieces I had my eye on…bitter, moi?

Matthew Stone

The fair’s volunteers drew names out of a barrel and the first 50 went downstairs to pick out their piece.  The chosen few are asked to name their first and second choice, but here’s the rubbish part, if your choices have already been taken, they move on to the next person!  It must have been crushing for the earlier ‘winners’ when after drawing 100 names, there were still 18 pieces up for grabs.

Free Art Fair

It seems to be pretty unfair, but at least it might keep the works from ending up on ebay, or someone living in a tiny studio being stuck with a giant concrete plinth.

So, the 150th person was called after a tedious wait and sadly neither Steven or I became new art owners, although his lucky art school tutor at Byam Shaw walked away with a piece.

Josef Valentino

Sadly, the Free Art Fair is now no more, but as Jasper said, there’s no reason why anyone can’t start their own free art fair.  Lets hope that a well-connected and well-organised art student steps up to the gauntlet, so I might just have a chance to replace those beyond bland IKEA pear prints above my bed – they came with the flat, honest!

Frieze Week: Zoo Art Fair

Zoo Art Fair has a new home in the East this year and really, it feels like it should have been there all along.  Zoo used to be at the Royal Academy and now even the more conventional buyers will have to hop on the 149 to the three disused buildings just behind Shoreditch High Street.

Zoo is the place to find emerging artists but there are some Hirsts and Gilbert and George pieces to keep the bigtime collectors happy. The atmosphere of is a lot more relaxed and inclusive than the Pavilion of Art & Design, which attracts a more well-heeled, conventional crowd. 

Damien Hirst jaws

This year, Zoo features 50 contemporary arts organisations from all over Europe, including London galleries such as Serpentine Gallery, White Cube, Other Criteria, Camden Arts Centre, Whitechapel Gallery.  There are three art zones comprising four main exhibitions, curated by FormContent, LUX, Studio Voltaire and Rob Tufnell.

Zoo art fair

LUX’s  Film As A Subversive Art is a project inspired by Amos Vogel’s 1974 book of the same name that continues the question of subversion in contemporary art and film.  It was developed by six students from the Curating Programme at Goldsmiths, with Ellen Cantor’s captivating Pinochet Porn showing on Friday.  It narrates the tragi-comic lives of five adults who grew up during Pinochet regime, including the charming trainwreck Paloma and her Six Husbands, and ends with the question: Is tragedy a choice?

Zoo art fair

Confetti covered the floor of Mariel Lopez Gallery (Berlin) booth, which was in fact a piece by Ruben Grillo called 20 Manifestos – famous manifestos shredded, scattered and stood upon.  Also, Ant Macari showed his work behind a giant wall cavity and used his trademark scrolls and symbols to communicate cultural and religious ideas. 

Ant Macari

After viewing the art, you can quaff some champagne at the elegant Champagne Perrier-Jouet Bar and of course, it wouldn’t be an east end trendy knees up with Bistrotheque and their pop-up restaurant.

Also, if you’re new to the treasures of the east, Zoo have printed a map of the best places to drink and break bread with emerging artists and the galleries where they hang out.

Bistrotheque

The only trouble with Zoo is the hefty ticket price at £15, with no student discount.  The poor, impoverished art school students there can barely afford to make any huge purchases, or even a can of coke at the cafe from what I heard, but they could well be the next generation of talent at Zoo.

Zoo Art Fair is on now until Monday 19 October. 3-10 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6PG.

Frieze Week: Pavilion of Art & Design London

Last night, I headed down to the VIP Opening of the Pavilion of Art & Design in Mayfair’s Berkeley Square, which will be the home of the hot pink palace until Sunday.

Pavilion is a reinvention of last year’s DesignArtLondon fair, with the new addition of contemporary art pieces.

Among the guests inside were the cream of the internation art community – the world’s wealthiest art dealers and collectors, distinguished art critics and mini Dasha Zhukovas clad in Hervé Leger and Louboutins (black, of course).

Pavilion art fair

This is a place where the buyer is treated like one of the family, sales are negociated over glasses of Ruinart champagne (I wangled a thimble full of fizz perfection) and the press are treated to an earlier lunch and preview, which I unfortunately missed.  

Pavilion features 45 of the world’s most prominent and influential dealers of contemporary art, design and decorative arts.  Galleries from Paris, London, Brussels, Milan, New York, Barcelona and Geneva are showing a covetable selection of fine art, antique jewellery, statement furniture and design pieces.

Skulls

As a self-confessed magpie, I spent a great deal of time pawing over exquisite jewellery created by some of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists presented by Louisa Guinness Gallery.

Jewellery has been a relatively unexplored medium in art and Louisa Guinness sought to change that by working with high-profile sculpters and painters to create ‘jewels of art’.

On display was a giant gold orb necklaces by Anish Kapoor, a ruby necklace spelling out ‘cunt’ by Sam Taylor-Wood, colourful geometric necklace by Meret Oppenheim and Louise Bourgeois’ silver Araña brooch.

jewellery

On the design front, Todd Merrill’s Studio Contemporary (New York) features some subversive, hand crafted pieces such as a feather-light molecular chair and Galerie Downtown François Laffanour mixes the functionality of iconic designers like Le Corbusier with more avant-garde pieces by George Nakashima and Takis.

velvet chair

 A highlight for me was seeing two mixed media pieces by Gottfried Helnwein – The Red Gun and a lucid, blue-tinted portrait  – represented by Friedman Benda.

Toshio Shibata’s Japanese bondage photographs at Michael Hoppen Gallery were intriguing and enigmatic and I marvelled at the two Francis Bacon paintings at Faggionato Fine Art.

Art

A great start to the art world’s version of London Fashion Week, but if you’re actually in the market for an artwork, you better get there quick, as some sales were reportedly made before the fair even opened!

Pavilion of Art & Design London is on from 14 – 18 October in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 6ES. 

Tickets are £15, FREE for students and children under 15.

Chocolate Unwrapped in Mayfair

Sampling some of the world’s finest chocolate in Mayfair sounded like a glorious way to spend a Sunday afternoon, so I headed down to the May Fair Hotel for Chocolate Unwrapped, the first show dedicated solely to delicious cocoa goodness.  It was like entering Marie-Antoinette’s boudoir, with an intoxicating scent of chocolate and tables laden with exquisite morsels and pretty, shiny wrappers – I was in heaven!

chocolate festival

Part of the UK’s Chocolate Week, Chocolate Uncovered featured exhibits from 25 of the country’s most respected and innovative chocolatiers and talks from Rococo founder Chantal Coady, the MD of Hotel Chocolat and Visit Mexico.  Samples were unlimited and plentiful and aside from atempting a full-on sugar coma, you could peruse dessert cookery books from Foyles and admire the incredible chocolate sculptures by renowned artists and chocolatiers.

I adored Rococo’s fragrant earl grey and rose scented chocolate bars, Paul Wayne Gregory’s salted caramels, Pacari’s cocoa nibs and Paul A. Young’s gooey ultimate chocolate fudge brownies.

Chocolate dress

Being the geek that I am, I had to make it an educational trip, so I attended the talk given by Visit Mexico and the co-founder of the authenic Mexican restaurant Mestizo, on the history of chocolate and its importance in Mexican cuisine.

I discovered that cocoa was drunk by the ancient civilisations of Central America, including the Aztec and Maya communities from as early as 2000BC.  It was taken back to the court of Spain in 1527AD and eventually reached England in the 1650s and, like gin, was used for medicinal purposes.

But the main part of the talk was the celebratory role that chocolate plays in Mexican culture – chocolate skulls are exchanged like Valentine’s roses on the Day of the Dead and mole (pronounced ‘molay’) is laboriously prepared for weddings, funerals and religious holidays.

mole

Mole is an aromatic sauce that usually accompanies different kinds of meat and is created using a blend of onion, garlic, tomatilla, dried chilli, nuts, seeds, spices and of course, chocolate.  There are many different kinds of mole originating from various regions in Mexico, all with different colours and flavours.

We sampled the brown Mole Poblano, slow-roasted with chicken and it was one of the most complex, flavoursome sauces I’ve ever tasted.  It reminds me a lot of my favourite Iranian dish, Fesen Joon – a textured sauce made from ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses and served with chicken.

Chocolate Unwrapped’s chocolatiers will be hosting a series of talks, tasting sessions and demonstrations around London for Chocolate Week.  There will be also chocolate-themed afternoon teas and set menus at selected restaurants as part of London Restaurant Festival.

Chocolate Week runs from 12-18 October and events will be held at venues across London.  Check out  www.chocolate-week.co.uk for more details.