Within these pages you will find all things archetypically French, from snow-covered chalets, mighty châteaux and fromage, to every variety of wine a connoisseur could desire. But you’ll also encounter the unexpected – food- inspired jaunts through the Pyrénées-Orientales, journeys across the Alps in the footsteps of literary giants and a coastal road trip that pays homage to the elegance of yesteryear. This is a country of jasmine harvests, market splendour, Parisian decadence, fairy tale islands and adventure; a place to chase light and history and appreciate the marvels of terroir and creative daring. Full of the singular, serendipitous and spectacular, France, je t’aime.
Upon first glancing at my map, the city of Amsterdam appeared as a spider’s web, with rows of interlocking canals. And the Dylan, situated on the Keizersgracht, is very nearly at the heart of the web, in a series of tall row houses overlooking the canal of the same name. Something about the lofty windows set into the front of the hotel suggested that I might be in for a treat of a view when the sun came up, but as I’d arrived in the dark I had to content myself with exploring the inside of the hotel instead.
Fortunately, the Dylan’s interior is at least as beautiful and fascinating as the outside of historical Amsterdam. The building was originally the site of a theatre, the Duytsche Acadamie, which played host to many illustrious figures down the years, including Vivaldi, the Prince of Orange, the King of Poland and the Russian Tsar. In 1772, the theatre succumbed to fire, and the site was sold to one of the Regents of the Roman Catholic Church charities, known as the Old & Poor People’s Office, until 1999, when the building was re-opened as a luxury boutique hotel. The Dylan now offers five different styles of room – Serendipity, Loxura, Klassbol, Kimono and Loft. There is an interior to fit the taste of any hotel guest, from the grey and red striped décor of the Klassbol rooms, which marries modernity and classicism, to the luxuriously modern Serendipity collection, which was designed in partnership with acclaimed interior architect Remy Meijers.
On my way to my room I was taken through the lounge area for the guests with wood panelling and a warmly crackling fire in the grate, and Bar Brasserie Occo where breakfast for the hotel’s guests is served, and which is also open all day to guests and non-guests. Up and up we went to the top of the hotel; I was convinced that there couldn’t be any further to go but when the door to my room was opened, a short flight led to a delightful loft space, which spanned the width of the roof of the hotel. Beautifully lit, with natural tones and sloping ceilings, the loft was divided into three spaces using furniture rather than walls and included a bathroom, a sitting room area and a snowy white bed in the centre of the space. What better invitation to sleep could there be than this?
In the morning, feeling thoroughly refreshed, I was pleased to find that I had been right: the view from the room was lovely. On the one side, the windows looked over the hotel courtyard, which offers outdoor seating in the spring and summer. On the other, I could see a patchwork of the sharply gabled rooves so typical of Amsterdam’s old city skyline. Breakfast was served, and I was able to eat my (delicious) Eggs Florentine and enjoy my coffee in peace, whilst admiring the blend of historical and modern interior design characteristic of the hotel, which was showcased by the gleaming brickwork floor, wooden ceiling beams, and wire-hung light fixtures.
After a long day’s exploring in and around the canals, I was glad to return to The Dylan for dinner at Bar Brasserie Occo; it must be said that the hotel is perfectly located near to any number of Amsterdam highlights, from the Rijksmuseum to the old town. The Dylan actually has two restaurants: Occo, and the Michelin-starred Vinkeles. The two restaurants mirror both sides of the hotel – while Occo is warmly smart-casual, with a sleek curved bar illuminated by a brass light fixture, Vinkeles is more formal, set in a sunken dining room with 18th century cast iron ovens that once served as the bakery for the Catholic Poor People’s Office set into the walls and traditional/ modern French cuisine.
As I gratefully sipped on my Aurora Borealis cocktail, with a raspberry hue as pretty as its name, I was able to peruse the Occo menu at my leisure, which features a blend of continental and world cuisine. My starter was a flavoursome and creamy oyster mushroom soup and guinea fowl confit with a goat’s cheese crostini. Although seriously tempted by the burger, I eventually decided on the weaver fish special for my main, and was not disappointed when it arrived; the fish was succulent and served with perfectly cooked asparagus. A sweet toffee pudding with honeycomb ice cream was a fitting end note to the meal, and my stay in Amsterdam. It was an experience made all the better by the impeccable service I enjoyed at the Dylan, and I cannot think of anyone whose trip to this beautiful city would not be improved by enjoying all that this hotel has to offer.
Frozen fingers. Lonely flamingoes. Tufty scrubland. A dome of blue sky. Pastel lakes. Slow trains with white tablecloths and real china. Cheap beer. Hand-knitted alpaca wool socks. Salty pentagonals. And a light case of high altitude pulmonary oedema. These are just a handful of memories of Bolivia in late May.
I crossed the border on foot – from La Quiaca (Argentina) to Villazon (Bolivia) – and jumped on a leisurely train to Tupiza. From there, along with a guide called Elvis and an evangelical traveller preaching a new religion, we drove into the mountains.
For four days we travelled across stark plains and Martian desert scapes. We climbed high and gazed at geysers and braved the biting wind to paddle in geothermal pools. At night, while the the King of Rock practiced walking on his hands, my travelling companion did his best to convince me that God exists simply because so many people believe in her. In bed, with the temperatures plummeting to -10ºC, I tried (and failed) to keep warm under a pile of slippery sleeping bags.
In spite of their beauty and vast horizons, Bolivia’s Andean Highlands are sparsely populated – by humans and animals alike. A few small towns exist here and there – the locals who brave the weather are mostly employed to serve tourists or to farm. Infrastructure is minimal: hot showers are synonymous with luxury, WiFi is practically non-existent, and it’s lights out at 10pm. But what need did I have for these extraneous things in an environment where every twist and turn brought some new marvel to keep my curiosity, and cravings for my creature comforts, at bay?
The annual flamingo migration was coming to an end, so it was only a lazy few that we saw wading ankle deep through the many lakes we passed, scooping up algae with their hooked beaks while pondering where their hundreds of thousands of friends had gone. The only other animals we saw were the ubiquitous alpacas, replete with ear streamers and expressions of complete indifference.
After three nights spent at air-gulping altitudes, we got got up before sunset and dropped down onto the vast plateau of the Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flat. In all honesty, I thought this would be somewhat of an anti-climax, but as the sun rose and the crackly pentagonals began to appear, my wonder grew. Stark white in all directions, our colourful clothes, even my pale skin, in full contrast. If you ever want to feel both small and inconsequential, but so utterly connected to our earth, this is the place to visit.
Beyond the basics of sustenance and gluttony, food is emotional – closely linked to memory, imagination, and travel. Supper clubs have cosily diversified the capital’s dining-out options, in which strangers come together along big wooden tables to break bread and share conversation. It is the experience of the intimate dinner party, expanded out, and unlike a restaurant, you know you’re never going to have that evening, those people, this menu in combination again.
Out of London’s growing vogue for supper clubs come two in particular that understand this irresistible lure of food and culture. The Literary Hour, which originated out of a group of friends’ Haringey kitchen, lays on suppers inspired by classic writers and books. Kino Vino, a cinema supper club, puts on stylish evenings of feasting from the national cuisine of the particular film screened at the beginning of the night. This is cooking which inspires nostalgia, whilst also sparking visions of unfamiliar places and flavours.
The Literary Hour has been going strong for nearly two years now. Head chef Jude Skipwith started exploring culinary possibilities with her housemates in the summer of 2015. Thumbing through childhood copies of Roald Dahl stories, they dreamed of snozzcumbers, edible wallpaper, and luscious giant peaches. They put together their first menu, and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ golden ticket chocolate bars were sent out to their guests in the post as invitations. Since then, they’ve done ‘Silence of the Lambs’ for Halloween (duck hearts, lamb shanks, and blood-like gazpacho), and then moved on to the stories of the Brothers Grimm, using pumpkins leftover from Cinderella’s carriage, and peas that rolled out from under the Princess’s mattress, presumably. Beatrix Potter inspired last year’s spring supper club, with their dining table laid with an edible vegetable patch of seeds and olive tapenade ‘soil’, and tiny blue felt Peter Rabbit jackets as table settings.
Over Christmas they made the decision to upscale, moving their pots, pans, knives and pile of battered paperbacks to Styx. The multi-purpose arts venue in Tottenham gave them the space for their most inventive and ambitious supper club to date. Diners found themselves in an everlasting Narnian winter, complete with an indoor forest of fir trees with sprayed-on ‘snow’ and frequent belchings of dry ice. Warming up with steaming cocktails and hot water bottles, we sat down to feast under the most beautiful canopy of branches and fairy lights. I found myself taken back to childhood evenings reading ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ as the courses began to roll out. To start: a deliciously smooth celeriac velouté in a teacup, served with a black pepper scone and horseradish butter to warm our bellies. As we listened to the words of the Pevensies fleeing the wrath of the White Witch (readings between courses continue to be The Literary Hour’s signature touch), we tucked into an adorable ‘ham on the run’ picnic spread of the sort the beavers might have packed for them, although perhaps their version wouldn’t have had the beaver salami we sampled. Of course, there was handmade Turkish Delight. After some boozy hot chocolate and pudding with marmalade vodka, we were ready for home.
Speaking to The Literary Hour’s founder Jude, it is evident that she is utterly obsessed with food, a highly talented amateur chef learning new techniques as she goes. She remembers in particular the challenge of making gorgeously fresh duck egg ravioli, ensuring the pasta was cooked whilst the egg yolk inside remained runny. Upcoming menus are often researched at the bottom of her garden with a picnic basket of cold prosecco and crisp salad, and she has been to every corner of London in her quest for the best ingredients. While her cooking remains essentially local and European, she’s a dedicated foodie traveller, and starts reminiscing about dishes of currywurst in Berlin and chicken heart kebabs in Thailand during our conversation. In her opinion, “Food is such a fantastic way to begin understanding a different country and their different culture. When language might be a barrier, it is the easiest – and most delicious – way to connect to people.”
This is a sentiment shared by Alissa Timoshkina, and put into mouthwatering practice with her supper club Kino Vino. She brings her genius curation skills to pair chefs with a particular film of her choice. Travelling thematically from nation to nation with each individual supper club, last month was all about India. Handed glasses of prosecco at the door, we started with a screening of ‘The Lunchbox’, the charming Indian film in which a pair of strangers fall in love over a misdelivered packed lunch. India, perhaps more than any other country, really comes to life on the screen: the streets of Mumbai rammed with dabbawalas on their bicycles, office workers inhaling spices from the lifted lid of a tiffin tin as ceiling fans whirl overhead, smoking on one’s balcony at sunset. And the food: rich pulpy aubergines in baingan bharta, perfectly simple dal, and stuffed bitter gourd, with fresh chapatis to mop everything up. The heroine of ‘The Lunchbox’ licks her fingers at her stove, and the unlikely hero’s days are transformed as he falls in love with firstly her cooking, and then her (despite some outrageously ungrateful complaints about one lunch being too salty).
While we were watching, we snacked on our first course from Bengal-born guest chef Romy Gill – deep-fried potato balls with flavours of ginger, chilli and mint zinging alive in our mouths. Then, dinner, on the scrubbed wooden tables next door, surrounded by palms, candles and flower garlands. It was the kind of fresh, inspired Indian menu which is a world away from the average British high street curry house – stand-out dishes were the deliciously tangy octopus tentacles with a cool apple, fennel and dill salad, and the hugely comforting goat curry that followed. There were also plates of pork and cabbage momos to be rolled luxuriantly around in a soy and spring onion dipping sauce and stuffed, whole, into our mouths. As the guests opposite me told tales of trips to India, we finished up with perfectly creamy shrikhand flavoured delicately with saffron and cardamom, as live sitar played in the background. Oh, and there were mouthfuls of ruby jewelled pomegranate seeds – on everything!
As Alissa prepares for her next dinner, a Polish feast from chef Zuza Zak, I ask about her particular connection with food, film and travel. “It is the concept of a journey – sensual, emotional, intellectual – that has always attracted me to viewing a film,” she told me. “You start with a blank screen and by the end of the film, your life is no longer the same. This is not too dissimilar to a journey one takes during a good meal – an empty plate is your passport to a unique world of flavours that lifts you out of your seat. The idea of people gathering around a beautifully set table, and embarking on a journey through a film-inspired meal was the foundation for my supper club.”
Northumberland, in North East England, is where my husband, and fellow Lodestars Anthology contributor, Tom Bland is from – and without our paths crossing, I doubt I would have known this place existed. You may have heard of Newcastle upon Tyne, Lindisfarne, Hadrian’s Wall or maybe Bamburgh Castle, but if you don’t call Great Britain home, odds are that Northumberland and its adjacent counties are not known to you. We like it this way, of course, and coming here is a welcome respite from our day-to-day life a stone’s throw from New York City.
A vast and sparsely populated county of moorland, farmland, and forests bound by stone walls and rugged coastline, Northumberland was easy to appreciate from my first visit seven years ago. I have traveled here often in the years since, fortunate to enjoy repeated visits in different seasons that reveal new viewpoints and greater understanding. This winter in particular has been a chance to see this part of England anew, with unusually calm days full of low-hanging sunshine made for leisurely walks in Hexhamshire or venturing further afield into County Durham, Cumbria, Teesdale and even into the ‘debatable lands’ in the Scottish borders – all of which are part of the ancient kingdom of Northumbria. These lands are home to complex layers of history and today are a spectacular setting for natural beauty. This landscape can be extreme and wild, bleak and isolated, lush and bucolic in turn, changing by the season and sometimes by the hour.
Photographer Nic Rue, contributer to both the Scotland and Australia issues of Lodestars Anthology, was lured back to Australia this winter. Nic has returned with beautiful photographs to gladden the coldest of hearts, including shots of sunny Sydney, Melbourne at New Years Eve, and the warm colours of the Australian countryside.
There’s nothing we like more at Lodestars Anthology than a fascinating story from a far-flung corner of the world. Mao Guh, the first Taiwanese surfer, has had his story captured in images by London-based photographer Jorge Luis Dieguez, and we are delighted to share it here.
During the 50s and 60s, Mao Gu’s father (Jeff being his English name) worked with the US Army based in the north of Taiwan. Mao used to follow his father on business travels, giving him an extra hand and during one of those trips he saw US soldiers surfing off the north coast of Taiwan. He had never seen anything like it, and, recalling his first sighting, he remembered the surprise he felt all those years ago:
‘Woowww…what is that? I’d never seen that before. It was a very long time ago, I was 13 years old, it was around, I forget, 1960…and one of the soldiers asked me if I wanted to try. My father asked me ‘You want to try? Ok, come on!’ he said to me.
No leash, a little bit of wax (on the board) nothing you know, those boards were pretty heavy for a beginner and really big.
One wipeout, come in again, another wipeout, come in again. I tried several times and I told my father ‘I got one stand up! One stand up!’ and he said: ‘OK, OK, come on!’
Mao continued surfing for five years in the same place, using a board that his father had purchased from one of the soldiers that he first began surfing with. During those five years Mao only surfed with American soldiers.
Although his health has now deteriorated, Mao still remembers the reluctant attitudes towards the sea and the reactions towards surfing that Taiwanese and Chinese societies held at the time.
‘Chinese people thought I was crazy, the sea is really strong in Taiwan you know, and there used to be sharks in the water, but not anymore. No people in the water, only me. For a few years I used to surf alone until I moved to Ylan county (in the northeast of Taiwan), where I brought my family and taught them how to surf and we started travelling and surfing throughout Taiwan. In the winters we went to the southeast and in the summers we would come back north.’
In 1969, after 10 years of surfing, Mao founded his surf shop (the first in Taiwan) and started shaping boards, a technique he learnt from his Japanese master. Mao has travelled the world in search of the most renowned waves and has lived in Hawaii for three years, but, due to an operation, no longer surfs or shapes boards. Along with his wife and son, he still runs the Jeff Surf Shop, and, taking after his father, Mao’s son is now a well respected surf instructor. As for Mao, he continues to be a living legend of surfing in Taiwan, and is admired across the country.
Here at Lodestars Anthology we love a beautiful travel journal as much as the next person (a lot more so, probably). So imagine how happy we were when we chanced across Cornwall by Weekend Journals, a definitive guide to exploring the fairest English county which features unique and special venues, from verdant gardens to visionary galleries, independent shops and exceptional restaurants.
The book is written by Milly Kenny-Ryder and produced by Simon Lovell, who both have strong links to Cornwall, and have been visiting with their families since they were young. Using these connections they have gone off the beaten track to discover the venues that the locals love, while also showcasing some of Cornwall’s most iconic sites and stories. For a hint of what this edition of The Weekend is all about, read on, and be inspired by all that Cornwall has to offer (or click here to order a copy).
St. Tudy Inn
Emily Scott is an ambitious and optimistic chef who took over the St. Tudy Inn, determined to offer locals and visitors great food in a delightful setting. This charming Cornish pub is situated in St. Tudy, a quaint village in North Cornwall. After extensive redecoration the pub feels cosy and welcoming, with Nicole Heidaripour prints on the walls and vintage furniture.
All Emily’s cheffing experience has been put to good use in the kitchen, where seasonality and local produce reign. The menu is full of comforting classics with a twist, such as the fish and chips, upgraded to the irresistibly tasty Monkfish tails in rosemary focaccia crumb with fries and citrus mayo. The St. Tudy Inn also runs regular events, including Pig and Cider nights with a hog roast and regional ales, so there’s many an enticing reason to visit.
St. Tudy Inn, St. Tudy, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL30 3NN
01208 850 656
Surfside is an exciting venture from London-based mixologist Tristan Stephenson, author of The Curious Bartender and part of the drinks company Fluid Movement who founded Purl and The Whistling Shop bars in London. Surfside has become a local hit, serving fresh food and cocktails at the water’s edge in Polzeath. Located on a corner of the beach, the restaurant is only accessible via the sand which adds to the experience.
Although the venue appears casual from the exterior, inside the offerings are for serious foodies with surf and turf platters and inventive cocktails. Thanks to the isolated location Surfside feels intimate and exclusive, with panoramic sea views adding something special to the meal.
Surfside Restaurant, On the Beach, Polzeath, Cornwall, PL27 6TB
01208 862 931
Trevibban Mill & Appleton’s at the Vineyard
Situated on the slopes of the Issey brook near Padstow, Trevibban Mill is one of the newer Cornish wineries but is already producing award-winning wines. Liz and Engin began planting in 2008 with an ambition to produce top quality Cornish wines and ciders. Native sheep graze on the land and their wool is for sale in the vineyard shop. Tours and tastings can be arranged to sample a range of the different wine and cider varieties.
Also on site is Appleton’s at the Vineyard, where ex-Fifteen head chef Andy Appleton is managing the kitchen, feeding hungry visitors with fine Italian dishes showcasing the local produce. Choose from a beautiful piece of sustainable fish, or a bowl of comforting pasta. The dishes provide the ideal accompaniment to a glass of Trevibban Mill wine.
Trevibban Mill & Appleton’s at the Vineyard, Dark Lane, near Padstow, PL27 7SE
01841 541 413
Hidden Kitchen is a supper club and culinary concierge serving unique food to its St Ives clientele. Located on the corner of St. Andrews Street, in the centre of the historic town, it is easy to miss this understated dining room. Chef James Watson and his wife Georgina worked together in the catering business before opening their first venue. The intimate dining experience in the boutique restaurant makes it feel like a dinner party at a friend’s house.
James regularly plays host to visiting chefs who provide diners with constantly changing, exciting international cuisines. Guest chefs have included Gordon Ramsay student Lee Skeet and Japanese cook Naoko Kashiwagi. After the meal leave a message to show your appreciation on the blackboard tables.
Hidden Kitchen, The Masonic Lodge, St. Andrews Street, St Ives, TR26 1AH
07792 639 755
There are more and more promising independent coffee shops in Cornwall; Espressini on Killigrew Street in Falmouth is one of the best. This characterful venue serves a bespoke blend of beans sourced and roasted by Yallah Coffee, selected specially for them from growers around the world. Inside, the café is cosy and familiar with mismatched antique furniture, and the chatter accompanied by a thoughtful playlist. The coffee is bold in flavour and served to your preference. Brunch is particularly popular with a menu of tempting and indulgent dishes displaying a wide range of influences from world cuisines.
Nearby, on Falmouth harbour, is Dulce, the smaller sibling of Espressini which, as well as offering freshly brewed coffee, sells equipment to help you make the perfect cup at home.
In winter our thoughts turn to candlelit rooms and warming fires. But Tom Bunning’s photography reminds us that the cold comes in many guises and draws our gaze to Icelandic landscapes – the waterfalls, the birds wheeling under eggshell blue skies and the endless snowbound vistas. Be warned though, if you venture out into the cold, you may not come back again…
This week the Canada issue of Lodestars Anthology – officially released in the UK on October 18 – will be avalible through our online store. So we thought we’d celebrate by sharing some of the wild and wonderful images and illustrations that fill the pages of issue 6. Thank you as always to our truly spectacular contributors – the world is indeed filled with some rather talented beings.
About the magazine: Canada is a land where lakes glow, mountains soar and island life prevails. Wild, rugged and unfazed by time, luxury resides in unexpected corners, cities delight and outdoor adventure beckons, for nature is indeed all around. You yearn to explore, to get lost, to reconnect with a pristine beauty so hard to encounter in the modern world. The seasons astound – from frozen winters to summer’s never-setting sun – while waterfalls carve canyons, rivers become frozen highways and people smile, aware of their heritage and all that this land has gifted them. You’ll find snow and maple syrup, art and architecture and a landscape both inspiring and eternal. Greetings from the Great White North.
Some featured destinations:
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Fogo Island Inn
The flavours of Canada
Cosman & Webb maple syrup
Left Field Brewery
Canoe North Adventures
The Yukon in winter
Halifax Lobster Boil
The Canadian Rockies
Prince Edward Island