Everyone needs....

...a bit of glamour in their lives.  So that's why 17 of us decided to celebrate Cathryn's birthday onboard the Great British Pullman.  When the day trip was booked, we had no idea where the train was going to take us, so it was a bit of a busman's holiday traveling back to Whitstable, where most of us live.  It felt like the most comfortable commute ever, albeit with familiar sights and no 'ooh' and 'aah' that most people make when arriving in Whitstable (that sweeping coastline, the colorful beach huts...we see it all the time).  The night before our early morning alarm, i arrived back from Italy rather late so was feeling quite sleepy.  Once i'd finished my camera duties, i took a quick snooze and sadly, evidence was taken!  We stopped off at Folkestone for oysters and a bit of a bop to a brass band, a good way to stretch the legs.  It was glorious to see everyone in their 20's finery especially the woman wearing the amazing Peacock feather head dress...i got a serious case of clothes envy.  What was the Great British Pullman like?  Extravagant.  Expensive.  Luxurious and heaps of fun.  What a perfect treat for a special birthday.

IMG_5526.jpg
IMG_5517.jpg
IMG_5640_1.jpg
IMG_5607.jpg
IMG_5550.jpg
IMG_5670.jpg
IMG_5756_1.jpg
IMG_5607.jpg
IMG_5634.jpg
IMG_5654.jpg
IMG_5716.jpg
IMG_5777.jpg
IMG_5762.jpg
IMG_5792.jpg
IMG_5805.jpg
IMG_5459.jpg

2015 - A year in reflection

The end of 2015 turned out to be a little busy.  I had some last minute commissions to Parma in Italy and a christmas Shopping trip to Basel, Switzerland.  Sadly, I've neglected my blog a little whilst I've been juggling the commitments of travel and all it entails afterwards (8 hours sitting at my computer writing the first draft of each feature and that's before I've even downloaded the pictures) but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm attempting to post twice a week for the time being...so let's see how that goes!

As the year closed, I realised that actually, I've got a few nice projects in the pipeline so there's plenty to be getting on with!  2015 was a wonderful and very exploratory year where I completely stepped out of my comfort zone.  The lure of the 9-5 with it's early morning commute and no time to myself didn't appeal to me anymore.  Yes, I miss the regular income but things always work out.  I am traveling, photographing and writing and nothing makes me happier.  I can spend blustery mornings on the seafront with my dog.  I can work from 6am-9pm if i desire.  I can nip out for a long lunch if I want to.  These kinds of things are priceless so...if you have a dream then make it a reality in 2016.  

Here are a few images from Parma...Switzerland hasn't been edited yet!

IMG_5417.jpg
IMG_5412.jpg

Photographer spotlight - Jenny Zarins

It's been a while since i've posted a 'photographers spotlight' piece (to be honest, i've only ever posted one..i've been a bit slack).  these are photographer who inspire me and, more often then not, i've had the pleasure of working with or meeting along the way.  i first met Jenny a few years ago when i asked her to come to see me at Sainsbury's Magazine.  At the time, we were commissioning a lot more food related travel pieces and i've always admired her work.  Jenny was warm, friendly and very inspiring.  wherever she can, she still shoots with a film camera too.  I get the sense that she just hangs in the background, waiting for the right moment to capture her beautiful pictures.  Here are a few of my favorites from her portfolio.  Do check out Jenny's website here.

copyright Jenny Zarins

copyright Jenny Zarins

copyright Jenny Zarins

copyright Jenny Zarins

   Copyright Jenny Zarins

 

Copyright Jenny Zarins

Copyright Jenny Zarins

Copyright Jenny Zarins

Copyright Jenny Zarins

Copyright Jenny Zarins

Sainsbury's Magazine - Burns Night Feature

The January 2016 issue of Sainsbury's Magazine is out...hooray!  Which means the travel images I shot back in October have been published.  Here is a very rugged layout (whilst i get myself a much better quality version).  Here's a link to my original post about my trip from a recent blog post.  it's brilliant to share the credits with the lovely toby Scott, a greta food photographer and my ex colleague, Michelle Dickson, Deputy Editor at Sainsbury's Magazine. 


Horse and Hound

I recently travelled to Morocco with the lovely News Editor of Horse and Hound Magazine, Amy Mathieson.  She kindly published one of my pictures from the Fantasia Horse event we went to whilst in El Jadid.  It was so good to see it at a half page in the magazine...thanks Amy!  Here are also some other images from the Horse event.

HORSE AND HOUND MAGAZINE - MY PICTURE IF THE BOTTOM RIGHT

HORSE AND HOUND MAGAZINE - MY PICTURE IF THE BOTTOM RIGHT

RIDERS LINE UP TO TAKE PART IN FANTASIA

RIDERS LINE UP TO TAKE PART IN FANTASIA

RIDERS DURING FANTAZIA

RIDERS DURING FANTAZIA

A HORSE JUMPER WARMING UP

A HORSE JUMPER WARMING UP

A HORSE HUMPER WARMING UP BEHIND THE SCENES

A HORSE HUMPER WARMING UP BEHIND THE SCENES

A HORSE RIDER LOOKING AT THE SCREEN IN THE WARM UP SECTION TO SEE THE RESULTS OF HIS COMPETITOR

A HORSE RIDER LOOKING AT THE SCREEN IN THE WARM UP SECTION TO SEE THE RESULTS OF HIS COMPETITOR

A HORSE IN TRAINING

A HORSE IN TRAINING

A HORSE TIED UP OUTSIDE THE FANTAZIA RING

A HORSE TIED UP OUTSIDE THE FANTAZIA RING

A COMPETITOR GRABS A QUICK CUP OF TEA

A COMPETITOR GRABS A QUICK CUP OF TEA

THE HORSES BELONGING TO HORSE SHOWMAN EXTRODINARE, LORENZO THE FLYING HORSEMAN

THE HORSES BELONGING TO HORSE SHOWMAN EXTRODINARE, LORENZO THE FLYING HORSEMAN

EPIC HORSE RIDER LORENZO 'THE FLYING HORSEMAN' LEADS HIS MAGNIFICENT HORSES BACK TO THE TRAINING AREA AFTER A JAW-DROPPING DISPLAY

EPIC HORSE RIDER LORENZO 'THE FLYING HORSEMAN' LEADS HIS MAGNIFICENT HORSES BACK TO THE TRAINING AREA AFTER A JAW-DROPPING DISPLAY

I'd never heard of Lorenzo The Flying Horseman before.  I had no idea what to expect but after quite a few hours of sitting through lots and lots of horse displays (a little tiresome after a time!) it was well worth the wait.  Lorenzo commands his horses so impressively, the connection he has with them is palpable.  It actually brought a tear to my eye to see just how adoring his horses appear to be and how he appears to treat them with such care (I say 'appear' because i'm not to know for sure!).  

Wylde Magazine

Wylde is a high-end magazine I've been following for a few years now.  Not only does it look fabulous, it also is the place for some great photographic and styling talent.  It is also owned by my good friend, David Newton, himself a brilliant still-life photographer.  David and i have worked together now for about 14 years, first on Harpers Bazaar where he started his career as an illustrator and 'scanographer' from his bedroom in Finsbury Park and then over the years on other magazines i've worked on, teaching himself photography and not only producing some of the most creative and technically amazing product images i've seen, but also becoming a personal inspiration to me...you don't have to have a qualification or full technical skills to be what you long to be, just a creative eye and a will to succeed.  

I've just been listed in the newest issue of the magazine as i'm now writing travel features for the website.  There are other plans in the pipeline for me to be involved more too...exciting times!

Here is the link to the review of Coworth Park

Bonny Scotland

A few weeks ago, I flew up to Glasgow with the lovely Michelle Dickson of Sainsbury's Magazine and the brilliant people at LVMH - Antonio and Mary.  The reason?  We were off to get drunk on whisky!  Well...not quite; we were there to explore the wonderful world of whisky for the January issue of Sainsbury's Magazine to go alongside a Burns Night feature.  It was a real treat to eat a delicious, early 'Burn's Night' dinner courtesy of Glenmorangie House where we were staying the night (complete with a Piper, haggis and many a dram of whisky).  The house has a really cosy home-from-home feeling with a snug 'front' room and lots of little nooks and crannies to explore.  I was lucky enough to have the room Ewan McGregor stays in when he visits - one of the best in the house.  When staying at the house, one must have a Whisky Zest or 4, essentially 2 parts whisky, a dash of angostura bitters, a touch of sugar syrup and a top up of ginger ale followed by the key ingredient (as well as the whisky, of course); a twirl of orange zest, set on fire briefly, to release the aromas before finally being rubbed around the rim of the glass and twisted into the drink...christmas in a glass and very, very moreish.   

The Glenmorangie Zest

The Glenmorangie Zest

Lobster Thermidor as part of the Burn's Night Supper...locally caught, of course

Lobster Thermidor as part of the Burn's Night Supper...locally caught, of course

Cadboll Beach is on the doorstep of the house which made for a stunning late evening walk after travelling for most of the day.  We were lucky enough to have two very glorious days of sunshine but a walk in Scotland wouldn't be complete without wellies, regardless of the weather.  Luckily, the hotel had a plethora of Hunter wellies in every size along with Barbour jackets to borrow.  If only i realised i wore one size 6 and one size 7 boot before we left the house.  Suitably windswept, we settled down to a delicious Burn's Night dinner where i tried my first haggis.  Much like my sushi experience in Japan, i think the only way is down after trying haggis of this calibre...i loved it.  Karen Fullerton, Glenmorangie's Global Brand Ambassador (what an AWESOME title) joined us and completely won us over with her extensive whisky knowledge in front of the roaring fire as we tried the new Glenmorangie Christmas Blend (available in Sainsbury's stores NOW!) 

Well rested and full of Scottish breakfast, we took another walk to Cadboll and met the carver/designer/creator of the Cadboll Stone before heading over to the distillery where we were given a whistle-stop tour of the processes involved in making whisky including the vast barrell hall where they're aged over a lengthy period of time.

Michelle Dickson looking out to Cadboll Beach

Michelle Dickson looking out to Cadboll Beach

Next up was a 3 hour drive to Glasgow for an overnight stay at The Blythswood Hotel before we flew to Islay the next morning.  The spa at this hotel is pretty impressive, if somewhat maze-like and dark.  It was quite busy at 5pm but as the Rhassoul Chamber was empty i decided to go for a self-treatment.  After some explanation as to what i needed to do - scrub down, chuck on a load of mud, wait for various lights to come on to indicate mud drying time, steam time and shower time, I found myself waiting in the room for said lights to come on...sitting down was tricky as i kept slipping off the high-backed stone seats and standing up got a little boring.  Just as i was about to head out to find the attendant to ask if he had indeed turned the whole process on, the green steam light came on and soon i had mud slipping off me, straight into my eyes.  Ouch!  Finally the shower came on but as it was above the seats, i had to get on the seat and stand, eyes sore from the mud and unable to see, to shower off.  I was actually relieved when the whole thing was over although i did find myself chuckling at the hilarity of what was going on, thankful there were no hidden cameras in the room.  Dry and mud-free, we ventured into Glasgow and went for a delicious dinner at Porter and Rye steakhouse although i was slightly let down by the coleslaw which sounded promising with the inclusion of hazelnuts and coriander but sadly, to me, it just tasted like gone-off meat.  Still, the rest of the dinner was pretty good and we trotted off back to the hotel for an early night.   

Up early, off to Glasgow airport and sitting on a tiny plane ready for the 25 minute journey to Islay and we were thankful the weather was brilliant.  I heard that when visibility is reduced even by a small percent, flights are delayed and sometimes cancelled for safety reasons.  The beaming sun meant it felt warmer then normal but with no driver there to pick us up, Jackie Thomson, Ardbeg's manager of the shop and winner of the Best Global Icon Visitor Centre of the Year, (what an accolade) swung into action and bombed down to greet us.  She's a demon at the wheel so we were glad to get there alive....Jackie may have been driving Formula 1 and not a people carrier as we literally flew down the Postman Pat style lanes.  En route to Ardbeg are other well-known distilleries such as Lagavulin and Laphroaig but Ardbeg, situated right on the coastline was pretty impressive.  We took to the hills for a walk to the peat and water source (water being one of the most important initial ingredients of any whisky and peat for Ardbeg is the most characteristic thing about this brand) and had our tasting outside in the wilderness, with Jackie producing two very special, unlabelled whiskies, one from 1976 (and the other whose name i couldn't pronounce, let alone write down) which we sipped on as we basked in the sunlight.  The afternoon flew by as we were taken on a tour of Ardbeg Distillery and had lunch at their brilliant cafe as we watched so many people come in and buy the Ardbeg Supernova wisky, a limited edition bottle, one of the peatiest ever, and the product of an experiment involving the whisky ageing process, zero gravity maturation and Ardbeg's experiment in Space, which is now a UK sell out.

Flight booked in for 6pm, Jackie sped us back to the airport in her make-believe Maclaren for check in and finally, our flight back to Glasgow and eventually, London.  It was a whisky whirlwind that provided me with an appreciation for Scotland and of course, whisky.  

Jackie Thomson

Jackie Thomson

Ardbeg's water source

Ardbeg's water source

The 1976 Ardbeg

The 1976 Ardbeg

Sunset visit to Margate

Sometimes i forget how near to Margate i actually live...just 15 minutes on the train and i can be in Dreamland or at The Turner Centre, or exploring the little streets now full of vintage and charity shops with a few art and craft galleries placed here and there.  And still, i forget to visit because i live so near..and i haven't even been to Dreamland yet.  I can see why Turner loved to paint here as the colours are quite exquisite.  We had a few drinks as the sun set at a very spit-and-sawdust pub where beer and cider come straight out of the barrels; a place that smells like a hamster cage (i can't remember the name of it).  Our visit was only brief as we'd booked in at the wonderful Burger Brothers in Deal, it's home now at The Clarendon Hotel right on the seafront.  I can't recommend a visit enough especially with great sea side views.   Here are a few Instagram pictures of that wonderful sunset.  Do follow me on instagram...i'm 'leannebracey'.

IMG_3043.jpg

Canyon Ride and Franks house - what a treat!

Have you ever been on a jeep ride through the Canyon?  if you get the chance, you should!  Even better, find Bill, a 68 year old tour guide who will make you feel so safe and secure that you really won't mind heading out into the middle of nowhere for an open topped jeep ride through the Oracopia Mountains.  As we sped through this really arid, dry, quiet (ok, aside from the roar of the jeep) area, you kind of realise just how big America is.  I really fell for the gnarly old trees, things that need to be hardy and tough to withstand this kind of environment.  I saw a hare...then a hawk although thankfully not at the same time, but that was about it.  Not even a spider scuttling by, although Bill said there are plenty but this area stays dead through the day and comes alive at night...somethingI'd rather not see!

Next up was a jaunt around Palm Springs, a mid-century modern lovers dream, right from the cars to the houses.  But be sure to take a cable car ride up to the nearby mountain range for amazing views over Palm Springs and beyond.  Sod being scared of heights...it's pretty special

Palm Springs is pretty cool with lots of shops and restaurants but i couldn't spend longer then 2 days here.  There are some interesting characters, but let's not talk too much about the man showing a bit too much of his bodily parts then he realised.  Let's just say there were many jokes about 'dates and nuts'.  We hooked up with the guys who look after the Frank Sinatra House so we took a ride through the 'movie' district of Palm Springs and I got massive house envy.  But the best of all was this rather crazy dude who takes three months to adorn his house with a mad array of large scale movie memorabilia in his garden.  It must take forever to get from his front door to the car.  This place really made me smile...what a wonderfully eccentric character he must be.

I immediately wanted to stay the night at Sinatra's house but upon finding out it's $6,000 PER NIGHT i decided a quick call to the bank for an overdraft extension wasn't a good idea.  Still, it was good to have a nose for a time, and get to experience the atmosphere Sinatra created back in the 40's in this groundbreaking (at the time) modestly small (only 3 bedrooms) home he built before he got really famous.  

And here is a wonderful falcon i spotted at the hotel...


Palm springs, California - A very hot commission!

A few weeks ago I flew out to California for a commission to photograph the production of Dates in Palm Springs.  The first thing that hit me upon leaving the airport was the heat...105 degrees!  eek! I met up with food writer, Neil Davey and trip organiser, the lovely Christian Vaughan who had expertly put the trip together.  We picked up our huge limo-style SUV and took a 2 hour drive out to Palm Springs, eventually checking into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, just beyond Palm Springs, more into the Coachella Valley region.  We were to meet date farm owner Greg Raumin and his lovely wife, Heather, for a tour of the area and the date farms.  We worked hard on the first day but the following morning, i really wanted to capture the sunrise over the desert as i'd been told it was the best time of day so everyone got up at 4.30am for an early start.  it was worth it i think although it took a while for the sun to rise and for me to be able to capture the mood in the pictures i initially intended.  Here are a a few of my favourite pictures.  They are to be published in 2016 in Sainsbury's Magazine.

IMG_3613.jpg
Neil Davey eats a freshly picked Medijool Date

Neil Davey eats a freshly picked Medijool Date

Neil drinks a famous date milkshake

Neil drinks a famous date milkshake

Amy and Ed's Wedding - Smarden, Kent

The lovely Amy O'Sullivan married Ed Lingfield at the weekend and wow what a party it was! the sun came out, we got a wee bit hot and Amy's mum got very emotional before we'd even left the house.  i've know Amy and Ed for a few years now as her brother is my boyfriend.  Although Amy didn't want me to take their official pictures (she wanted me to enjoy the day) i just couldn't help myself so i had lots of relaxed fun taking these shots.  I did put my camera down for the party as i needed to get out my dancing shoes.  But here are a few extra images not included in my wedding section.


DWHA - Elizabeth Avey feature is published

I’ve been a bit slack on the blog updating front recently.  It’s been quite busy since I handed my notice into Sainsbury’s Magazine a few weeks ago.  I’ve been frantically working hard on the job still and preparing the mammoth handover but in my spare time, I’ve also been busy editing some events I’ve worked on and also setting up some exciting trips and bagging commissions!  I will share these once everything has been 100% confirmed BUT I can tell you I’m off to Peru in October on assignment for Sainsbury’s Magazine who have given me my first paid trip.  I can’t wait!

In the meantime, my shoot with lovely Elizabeth Avey was published in DWHA Magazine.  Here it is!  

Elizabeth Avey's stunning wedding dresses

A few weeks ago, I shot the charismatic Elizabeth Avey for an up and coming issue of DWHA (Destination Weddings and Honeymoons Abroad Magazine) over at her studio shop in Greenwich.  Elizabeth sources exquisite vintage dresses and accessories across a whole range of eras….a vintage 20’s flapper dress or a 1960’s boho number perhaps?  Elizabeth herself is so friendly, approachable and knowledgeable and for anyone wanting to source this kind of dress, I’d recommend her in a flash.  A consultation normally lasts for about an hour and is free of charge.  You can also take up to 3 people with you for that all important second opinion!  She has the cutest dog and lives near to me so i'm hoping to bump into her on a dog walk soon! Here’s a sneak preview of images…

Www.elizabethavey.com

Freddy and Perrin's Wedding, June 2015

It’s been a busy month for me, hence the lack of blog posts.  I kicked off the month of June photographing Freddy and Perrin’s London wedding at the Lexi Cinema followed by swing dancing at The Hammersmith Club.  The couple had a really unique wedding, choosing to get ready at home together (separate rooms!) before walking over the road to the Lexi Cinema where the ceremony take place.  A great location but a real challenge for any photographer!  Over in West London, close friends jazzed up the room and a burger van served guests some sustenance before kicking off with a swing dance lesson which everyone really seemed to enjoy – I was even tempted to put down the camera and have a bop myself.  The couple then took to the river to pose for some fun portraits as passers-by wished them congratulations.  We did some quick ‘guerilla’ style shooting by Hammersmith Bridge as the sun was slowly starting to come down.  Freddy and Perrin didn’t stop smiling the whole day and the club erupted with joy when they took to the floor for their amazing first dance – a brilliant choreographed swing dance, performed to perfection.  It was a fun and unique day.  Here are some of my favourite pictures from the day.  There are some more on the 'wedding' section of my site.  


the amazing Tom Kerridge

There have been lots of exciting things happening this year but one of the most, so far, is meeting chef Tom Kerridge.  Yesterday, I travelled down to Marlow with photographer Greg Funnell to meet probably the nicest man in food.  He’s been spotted quite a bit in Whitstable recently so one of the questions on my own agenda was to find out a bit more about his jaunts down to the Kent coast.  The Hand and Flowers itself is really just a normal pub..there’s not one fancy-pants part to it at all.  In fact, it’s quite small with not many tables, easy to see why booking is a year in advance.  The man himself met us at 9am prompt, dressed in his white t-shirt and apron and was polite and businesslike.  He made sure we had everything we needed and dished out bacon sandwiches for those of who were hungry before settling down to what seemed like an entertaining chat with the interviewer.  Keen to get the shoot going after almost an hour of chit-chat, I joined the interviewer to try and hurry him along, but caught Tom mid-sentence, explaining why he just doesn’t like a massage (he goes with his wife when they’re away on one of those couples massages but still finds it funny…as for those silly little knicker things they make you put on…don’t get him started!) and I was sucked into the interesting life of Tom!  As The Hand and Flowers has rooms, it also has a little treatment room, so upon being questioned on what he does to relax, it was quick to see that a massage is the last thing on his chilling out agenda, preferring to spend an hour after work watching mindless TV such as The Island with Bear Grylls.  Interestingly, as a lover of pigs, he did find the killing of the pigs on the Island a little unnecessary, after all, it is only a TV programme and it’s not like they were in real-life situation.  I have to say, the same thing did cross my mind.  Anyway…back to the photoshoot!

Taking our photographic cue from the interview, the brief was to do something fun with Tom relating to his favourite things or daily rituals.  Sadly, there were no pigs heads in the kitchen (the chef had already prepared it that morning) so we couldn’t have Tom with one of those, but he does love a sausage, so taking a cue from a well-known image of a butcher with sausages as fingers, we did something similar.  Tom was game-for-a-laugh and promptly made the sausages into his fingers before doing a ‘Usain Bolt’ and grabbing a string of them, pointing them in the air in a victory fashion.  

Tom pondering over what sausages to buy next whilst Greg takes a shot

Tom pondering over what sausages to buy next whilst Greg takes a shot

Next we moved outside where we posed Tom on some empty beer barrels as the delivery men were changing them over.  He called the delivery guy ‘chief’ affectionally, as he’s known for doing in his programmes, proceeding to lift the barrels strong-man style as I told him one of my old school friends, Terry Hollands, is a strong man to which he was really impressed.  

Tom 'strongman' Kerridge

Tom 'strongman' Kerridge

Next shoot space was the the little garden in the car park, as Tom likes to grow his own as much as possible, but doesn’t get the time.  Joking along with his gardener, he posed with a rake and spade as Greg tried to shield him from the now glaring sun so he wouldn’t squint.  I asked Tom about his recent sighting in Whitstable to which he said it’s his little getaway.  That’s all I can say I’m afraid guys!  For I would hate to spoil the privacy of this man who is in such demand, whose only respite is time away with his wife and dogs (3 of them, one of them includes a nutty boxer).  But his favourite places to eat are English’s, Jojo’s and Brown’s Deli.  Hopefully he’ll get along to The Oyster Chop House in Herne Bay after a recommendation from me I managed to sneak in. 

After posing for a final shot outside The Hand in Flowers (surprisingly there were no ‘beeps’ from cars passing by) and me jumping in for a picture with him…me: “Tom, can I jump in for a picture with you please?” Tom:  “Yeah course…come ‘ere girl” was his reply, we finished up with him being accosted by a group of people walking past and I was ‘forced’ to take a picture of them with Tom.  Tom just doesn’t get why people want to have their picture taken with him and finds the whole fame thing a little weird, bless him.  He was even recognised by a prostitute at 4am in Las Vegas (he was on a stag do, being teetotal, he was on his way back to the hotel and got accosted….there was nothing sinister at all going on!) 

Tom and I

Tom and I

I left the Hand in Flowers feeling joyful and elated at meeting someone I’ve admired on TV, desperate for him to be as nice as he comes across.  He really is that nice, jolly ‘lad’.  So accommodating, generous with his time, not at all diva like but just a regular normal great guy.  He hopes we’ll see each other in Whitstable soon and as I know where he lives, I expect he might.  But there’s no way I’m sharing it with you guys!    

A little luxury in Barcelona

When visiting Barcelona a few weeks ago, I went to The Mandarin Oriental hotel and their new Bistreau restaurant.  The Mandarin Hotels are always outstanding – luxurious, sometimes understated but always of such a high quality and I love visiting them.  It’s my personal mission to at least eat in every single one of them (good luck with that I hear you say!) and so far I can tick off Paris, London, Tokyo and Barcelona…ok there are still many more to go!  It was a hot day in the city and pollen counts were at a high so to relieve myself of itchy eyes and a streaming nose I welcomed the hotel lobby and it’s air conditioning.  As always with these hotels, you never know what to expect so I was delighted to see that Bistreau was set in the heart of the hotel, all blues, turquoises, greys and whites..my kind of colour scheme.  And it was peaceful and calm and aaahhhh….it was so nice to rest my weary feet!  Plus the light was too good not to take any pictures. 

Everything about this dining experience was elegant – from the thin, streamlined gold cutlery, to the woven mats and the comfortable high-backed chairs.  The menu was presented beautifully and had a 20’s feel about the design, it immediately appealed to my design sense with fun and intriguing titles for courses and little illustrations.  My favourite thing was from the sharing options – the ‘Bravas from the sea’ which was prawns and kimuchi deep fried and served with a spicy sauce.  The dish evoked such a memory, one of sitting on the seaside with fish and chips…the flavour was just like fish and chips in a bag rolled into one.  I also really loved the Croquettes which included squid, squid ink and bechemal.  I polished off the whole portion myself.  Call me boring but I opted for the steak for main course…as my friend (who owns a pub) said ‘you can always tell good food by how it cooks it’s steak) and this steak was delicious.  Pudding was simply ‘orange blossom and figs’ and very hard to explain…but it was a real burst of fresh flavour and the perfect end to great food.

Make sure you go to the roof terrace to check out the pool the views over Barcelona...pretty cool! 

www.mandarinoriental.com/barcelona

Bistreau at The Mandarin Oriental

Bistreau at The Mandarin Oriental

Lovely Natasha!

Lovely Natasha!

Delicious Squic ink croquettes and pumpkin ravioli with marinated anchovies

Delicious Squic ink croquettes and pumpkin ravioli with marinated anchovies

the 'bravas' from the sea

the 'bravas' from the sea

Fig and orange blossom pudding

Fig and orange blossom pudding

The view from the roof terrace

The view from the roof terrace

The pool on the rooftop of the hotel...an oasis of calm in a pretty busy city

The pool on the rooftop of the hotel...an oasis of calm in a pretty busy city

the atrium of the hotel

the atrium of the hotel


My loom picture as an album cover

A few months ago, i was at Dishoom in Kings Cross with my friend Susie Begg and we got talking to a couple of guys sitting next to us - Susie does like to be nosey!  They were out having a quiet birthday dinner for Stuart (one of the men) who was over from Shanghai visiting family and friends.  It turned out that not only does Stuart have an interesting job as a tea ambassador for Twinings, he also writes poetry and music.  Stuart flicked through my website and liked my lomo work so asked me if he could use an image of some trees in snow that I took back in 2009 at Blean Woods.  I always loved this picture so to see it as his album cover was a lovely moment.  thanks Stuart!

Barcelona 2015

Last week I spent 3 glorious sunny days in Spain, first in Sitges where my brother has the most delicious restaurant (check it out…it’s called Nem) and then Barcelona.  It was a bit of a whistlestop trip but here are my favourite pictures taken on my new Canon 7D.  

IMG_7855.jpg

Bluebells

In a mad rush to capture something of the beautiful bluebells before they disappear, i took a few shots at 3 different locations in Kent yesterday.  I've still to find the perfect location to photograph them but so far, the most beautiful woods is between Charing and Challock.  There is a little pathway taking you through them - it's so magical not to mention they smell divine. I was really looking to capture the afternoon light-play between the trees but in a dense forest this is quite tricky to achieve especially if the sun isn't really shining. Here are a few of the best  shots. 

A Lindyhop Wedding and a glorious sunny day in Herne Bay

Last week I was commissioned to photograph a wedding this coming June for Freddy and Perrin who are lovers of the 50's and Lindyhop dancers.  Last night we had a great meeting to discuss their wedding which sounds fun and totally different involving old cinema, a burger van, the pub and lindyhop dancing as the reception.  I'm really looking forward to this event so fingers crossed for lovely weather.  I imagine I'll be posting some images at the beginning of July so watch this space...in the meantime, i'm off to try a bit of swing dancing myself!

Last weekend, Freddie and I took a walk along our local seafront in Herne Bay.  The skies were blue and glorious but it was darn cold!  Holding an ice-cream whilst a cold northerly wind whips about isn't the best way to enjoy this summertime treat.  I stopped to take a few instagram photos and vowed to take my camera out next time (I don't really take it out when walking the dogs as i'm scared I'll put it down and then forget to pick it up).

I love that Herne Bay is still a bit of an undiscovered gem.  Once people discover the beach and walks are so much more expansive just 6 miles down from busy Whitstable, I'm sure they'll start flocking here.  Plus it's much easier to park (ssshhh don't tell anyone!) But it will be good for local business if people start visiting more.  I was really excited to see the pavilion retail huts gearing up for the warmer weather and noticed a few great food huts selling seafood and indian treats.

I've also recently discovered Briggsy's Antique Emporium in the high street which is a tardis treasure-trove of antique knick-knacks.  Be sure to visit if you're ever in the area. 

http://bayguide.co.uk/wp/index.php/briggsys-antique-emporium/

The Helter Skelter at the end of Herne Bay Pier - one to rival Brighton's i think...

The Helter Skelter at the end of Herne Bay Pier - one to rival Brighton's i think...

Retail beach huts on the pier all getting ready for summer

Retail beach huts on the pier all getting ready for summer

Loved this sign on one of the retail huts

Loved this sign on one of the retail huts

Boats in Herne Bay

Boats in Herne Bay

A fabulous collection of random items at Briggsy's Antique Emporium

A fabulous collection of random items at Briggsy's Antique Emporium

Vintage rocking horse at Briggsy's Emporium

Vintage rocking horse at Briggsy's Emporium

A scary soft toy monkey sitting up high at Briggsy's Antique emporium

A scary soft toy monkey sitting up high at Briggsy's Antique emporium