Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Day 44 – Phew!

The most manic day of the year so far …

With Tom off sick, it’s just me & Tim.

0515 – awake and get ready for first hotel

0600 – arrive at The Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge. We are tired already! Lovely, lovely PR, Rosanna is on hand to feed us coffee … mmmmm! Film the spa where I have a hot oil treatment from wonderful therapist Pummy.

Rosanna and Tim

0800 – breakfast and begin hotel review in earnest .. inc. David Nicholls – head chef interview, watching the Horse Guards potter by and a lovely cocktail in the bar! Yum!

1300 – on roof of hotel with Rosanna’s assistant Amber filming! She transforms into Lastogirl …

1500 – one of the loveliest people in the world pops round to say hello on a whirlwind visit to London. Two minutes with Julia – PR to One & Only hotels – is like a lifetime of smiles!

1506 – arrive at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower. Blondie (PR) on hand to ensure that we get in and out of everywhere in lightning speed. Drink an £800 cocktail! (yes - £800) and do something “VERY” exciting … (watch the show!)

1900 – drive to my new home 1 Aldwych. AM very pleased – my suite has a … GYM!

Beano at 1 Aldwych

2000 – interview GM Gordon Campbell-Gray. Fascinating & enjoyable!

2130 – dinner

2200 – bed … its been a lonnnnnggggg day!

Song of the Day: Rapper’s Delight (Sugarhill Gand)

Weather: Gemima the Dog (perfect)
Weight: 84.1 kgs

Monday, 30 July 2007

Day 43 - Varun’s New Shirt

Short diary today.

0900 - Started off with an excellent shave at Gentlemen’s Tonic on Bruton Place. FAB!

1000 – Back to hotel to start filming. I am in love with The Stafford. Suite 231 … my home from home!

1100 – Measure for a shirt at Harvie & Hudson … James Harvie knows his shirts.

Email from Editor – he’s getting married! Bravo!

1400 – Pick up shirt.

1500 – film in cellars – 18000 wines! Wow!

So much to say but am knackered – have a 0500 start.

Tom – camera assistant – has broken his wrist! Anyone want to work with us and travel the world?!
Song of the Days: Every Little Thing She does is Magic! (Police)

Weather: Maggie Gyllenhal (stunning)

Weight: 84.2 kgs

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Day 40, 41 & 42 - Highs & Lows

Sitting here on Sunday evening at The Stafford Hotel in Mayfair, I am thinking back to a few VERY crazy days!


Still trying to get over the amazing event that is The Old Course in St Andrews! Phew!

We leave the lovely FS Canary Wharf quite early and battle through the traffic to The Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly. I love this little hotel … it has a funky but classic feel. Its how those trendy here today, gone tomorrow “boutique” hotels should be – accessible, not uber-trendy, designed but with excellent service. I once met God here (that’s a story for another day!).

The bar is excellent and has 250 types of whisky! HEAVEN! I had a wee tasting with the Food & Beverage Manager … of an 18 year old Caol Isla … stunning!

There are 30 1 & 2 bedroom apartments on Dove Street that I believe are the best in London – filmed there…. Alison – the PR- was at hand to ensure we got everything done and the GM Jonathan Critchard was brilliant in his interview!

After lunch we pottered around the corner to a very special place – The Four Seasons – Hamilton Place. OK – so it’s not “hip” or even “happening” BUT it has the best service in London and I feel amazingly at home there. The lovely PR Charlotte kept us all fed and watered and we got a lot out of nothing!

WENT HOME! Whoo-hoo!


Left the house early and drove up to Hertfordshire – just 1 hour away up the M1 to Panshanger Airfield, Cole Green. So at 10 a.m. met up with Tim and Jez Burgoin – the “PR” of the airfield. He took me through the safety stuff …

Babe on board

THEN all hell broke loose. Was introduced to the very colourful and intense pilot – Haim Mercado … a Jekyll & Hyde character … on the ground full of life and anecdotes and very very funny … then in the air – very “focused!”

The plane – an Extra 300 L – built in Germany – is specifically made for aerobatics.
Tim rigged up the cockpit and off we went.


It was the craziest AND SCARIEST thing I have ever done – looping, spinning, rolling and tumbling. Thankfully I had had no breakfast or it would have been messy.

Haim is an excellent pilot and even teaches you the basics and I even managed a ½ roll & ½ turn.. all by myself … the footage looks amazing!

The pup was very scared for her Daddy!

An amazing day & experience – I would encourage everyone to try it!


Rest & prepare for the week ahead! Can it get better????!!!!

Song of the Days: Star People – Live (G. Michael)

Weather: Kirsten Dunst (beautiful!)

Weight: 84.3 kgs

Thursday, 26 July 2007

DAY 39 - The BEST Golfing Day of my LIFE!

Happy Birthday Pops … happy birthday Tommy!

0500 – in St Andrews – it’s raining SO hard that I can’t see down the road! Eek!

0600 - step out onto the Old Course at St Andrews … meet up with Charlie the caddy

0600 & 30 seconds – rush a drive with new golf clubs – pinggggggg!

0601 – light cigar

0645 – meet up with Mike & Stephanie from the Links Trust
0700 – play in & out of bunkers – the sun keeps threatening to come out and instead it starts raining

Much later
Arrive at the 17th hole – aim at hotel – miss but onto fairway – hit huge fairway wood into the Road Hole Bunker … groan … then hit bunker shot onto green and putt out! Whoo-hoo!!!!

18th hole – drive up fairway …. Take a 7 iron and BOOM its on the green … 2 putts to end on a par!!
Dance back to the Jigger Inn for a wee scotch (Old Course Malt) … am soaking wet BUT very happy indeed! Meet Thierry Henry in lift – he says “I look terrible” … I thank him for the “compliment”...

Say bye-bye to lovely Lisa Parker from hotel and back to Dundee!

Quick note – did a Kohler Spa feature last night in the hotel. It’s one of the best spas I have seen in the UK … jumped into the icy cold plunge pool! Felt numb… am now looking for a Spa presenter to do all the spa stuff! I don’t like the cold!

Fly to London City and finish filming in the Four Seasons Canary Wharf … am staying in the Presidential Suite (awesome). It’s a lovely hotel – very friendly staff – just right. If it was in the centre of London, it would be the most popular hotel in London! It’s just 10 minutes on a rib down the Thames … I know, I tried it! Marco Bax – head chef at Quadrato – makes fabulous Puglian dishes!

Song of the Day: Get The Message (Electric)

Weather: Rain, the more rain, then sun, the rain, then sun, then rain etc etc
Weight: 84.7 kgs

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Day 38 - The Four Seasons

0600 – The sun is shining.

0700 – Depart the Milestone with a heavy heart and drive up to the Four Seasons Hotel in Canary Wharf; takes 45 minutes at this time of the morning.

0800 – Boys arrive and start filming – security very tight.

1000 – Start filming hotel with Sales & Marketing Director Andrew Peart to hand .. he is off to Barbra Streisand tonight - I do NOT envy him!

1200 – Hop in car.

1315 – Take Scotairways flight to Dundee.

1430 – Met by Nina and driven to The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews.

A dream......

1530 – Lunch at the Jigger Inn and general filming around the hotel. Interview Stephen Beaumont – acting GM … he’s English, wife is Canadian and he works in Wisconsin … but is over here for now … very interesting chap.

1615 – Bump into the Barcelona FC team – who are staying here before a “BIG” game tomorrow. very polite chaps. They all wear VERY big watches covered in diamonds …

1700 – Getting VERY excited about tomorrow…

Song of the Day: Local Hero theme tune (Mark Knopfler).

Weather: Scorching in St Andrews – OK in London.

Weight: 85.0 kgs

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Day 37 - Tea for Two … Times Two

0600 – Awake and the sun is shining! Whoo-hoo!

0730 – meet boys for breakfast. Explain we have a long day and T&T devour more food than I have ever seen them do. I have muesli and soya milk. I have a new fitness trainer – Joe Fournier. He is one of these celebrity fitness chappies and over the next 5 months he is going to train a non-celeb me – more out of pity I suppose. BUT he has put me on a strict diet of no-carb (BUT not Atkins!), exercise and healthy ‘thinking’. I am now working on a penalty system – apart from breakfast when I am allowed a piece of toast – I am not allowed bread, potatoes or pasta for 5 months OR I have to pay a fine to my favourite charity (kidney association).

As I write this – at 2000 – I have not let a drop of carbs pass my lips. I have just got a parking fine though which has really pissed me off.

Tea for Tim

0900 – arrive at The Ritz. Built by Cesar Ritz in 1906, the hotel is glitz and glam through & through. Gerrie Pitt – lovely PR – was at hand to lead us through the morning. If I went through the history of the place I would be here all night BUT it’s grand! We filmed in the William Kent House and The Marie Antoinette Salon and the Palm Court – where the Ritz-Tea s held. £36.00 for cakes, scones and sandwiches – none of which I even nibbled on! (GM – Stephen Boxall)

1300 – Head to Browns – London’s OLDEST hotel! Built in 1837 by Mr & Mrs Brown who were in the personal service of Lord & Lady Byron. Now run by Sir Rocco Forte’s RF group and PR is old friend Nina Colls. Get through filming in the Kipling Suite where Rudyard wrote the Jungle Book! Had facial and watched Tom eat high tea! (GM – Stuart Johnson)
Back in Suite at Milestone – last night here … sad…

P.S. Welcome to the world Little Ted!

Song of the Day: I hate everything about you (Ugly Kid Joe) – directed at Chelsea & Kensington

Weather: Happy

Weight: 85.5 kgs

Day 36 - My Day

Today was all about me.

0700 – breakfast – scrambled egg & smoked salmon – my favourite!

0800 – Fortnum & Mason … film with Victoria Christian – who runs a company that makes the most expensive bottle of perfume in the world at £125,000!!! Yes - £125,000 a bottle! It smells nice … the refurb of F&M is coming on well

1000 – Davidoff – smoke cigars – actually sample cigars THEN smoke them with one of my favouritist people in the world – Edward Sahakian

1200 – Review The Milestone – with Terry the Butler

1600 – In Pimlico at Volpe to get a new suit measured out by my old friend Adrian Holdsworth! It’s a great colour!

1800 – back to hotel

1900 – work-out with new personal fitness trainer … will explain more about that tomorrow – when I recover!

Song of the Day: Sweet Dreams Baby (Roy Orbison)

Weather: Damp (!)

Monday, 23 July 2007

Day 36 - My day

Today was all about me.

0700 – breakfast – scrambled egg and smoked salmon – my favourite!

0800 – Fortnum & Mason - film with Victoria Christian (who runs a company that makes the most expensive bottle of perfume in the world at £125,000!!!) Yes - £125,000 a bottle! It smells nice; the refurb of F&M is coming on well

1000 – Davidoff – smoke cigars – actually sample cigars THEN smoke them with one of my favouritist people in the world – Edward Sahakian

1200 – Review The Milestone – with Terry the Butler

1600 – In Pimlico at Volpe to get a new suit measured out by my old friend Adrian Holdsworth! It’s a great colour!

1800 – back to hotel

1900 – work-out with new personal fitness trainer … will explain more about that tomorrow – when I recover!

Song of the Day: Sweet Dreams Baby (Roy Orbison)

Weather: Damp (!)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Days 33, 34 & 35 - A busy weekend

It’s all too much…!

It’s Sunday evening and I am sitting at my desk at The Milestone in Kensington contemplating the last few days.

Friday was final preparation for today – the 1st day of the London shoot and yesterday was all about Timmy & Fifi, very dear friends who got married in a lovely village near Nottingham called Linby.
So – I am very lucky in that Alfa Romeo has sent me a lovely “Spider” to zoom around in and zoom I have. I am not a petrol head but I have to say that I am pleased that I will be driving this for the next few months as a) its fast b) its fast c) its fast! Yes – it’s fast!

The wedding was awesome – all white & happy! I was sitting next to the bride’s sister Amanda who does “hog roast” – basically a pig roasted on a spit – in her spare time. The pig is cooked in something that looks like a cremation chamber … smells rather good though.
The weather has been stunning today but yesterday & Friday (of course!) it was awful. I have never seen such rain in Pimlico.

So – today Tim & I with new-boy Luke, started filming the London show. There’s an exciting 2 weeks ahead of us … and I can’t wait.

The Milestone is one of my favourite hotels in the world. 45 rooms, 12 suites and 6 x 2 bed apartments. It’s classic chic – the service is on par with the Four Seasons, the sommelier Nicolas Clerc is the 2007 UK Sommelier of the Year, the GM Andrew Pike is just one of the nicest people on Earth, the cuisine is great and and and … you get my drift. It was built from 2 houses – 1 & 2 Kensington Court – in 1883 & 1888 – and has been a hotel since 1922 … in 1989, it was bought by Red Carnation Hotels and it’s just dreamy! It’s in Kensington – opposite the Palace Gardens – and my suite is just gorgeous!

Early start tomorrow … GREAT memories of the weekend!

Song of the Day: Pictures of You (The Cure)

Weather: Back to Sunshine!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Day 32 - A Night at the Opera

I have just seen Tosca at the Royal Opera House.

Growing up, I was forced to watch Indian movies - every single one an ‘opera’. I hated them all, however, Puccini and Tosca presses all the right buttons

It’s a total tragedy – loads of jealousy, weeping, anger and murder and suicide! Totally amazing! The music is also very familiar …

The Royal Opera House

The Opera House itself is so filled of memories for me. I have been going there for nearly a QUARTER of a CENTURY! I have been there with people I love, people I hate and people I can’t even remember!

The weather looks like it’s going to be awful for a few days … one of my best friends is getting married on Saturday … eek….

Song of the Day: Goodness Gracious Me (Loren & Sellers)

Weather: Floody

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Day 31 - Where did it all go?

OK – all editing is over now – just a few tweaks here and there and the end product looks fabulous.

I am dead .. need food & bed. Sorry.

Song of the Day: I Want to Break Free (Queen)

Weather: Changeable

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Day 30 - A lesson in life

Nearly done with the edit, hopefully that’s all done and dusted tomorrow.

A lesson in life: I needed a haircut so rather than going to my usual I popped round to ‘Tony’s’ round the corner. He has 2 teeth and mumbles in strong Sicilian.

He took one look at my hair (the strand!) and said “You had a girl cutting your hair, no?” - I nodded.
“Don’t!” he said “they bad with hair.” He then snipped and snipped, until he finished and said “Girls bad at cutting hair.” So there we are – apparently girls can’t cut men’s hair - or is it just mine?

Cookie Monster Goes Parasailing

Gemima has just popped into work and now I have to walk her home. I wonder what its like to see London from dog-eye level.

Am interviewing for a Personal Fitness Trainer tomorrow – whoo-hoo!

Song of the Day: King of Rock & Roll (Prefab Sprout)

Weather: Steaming

Monday, 16 July 2007

Day 29 - Nothing!

In to the edit at 0800 – out of the edit at 2000

It’s looking great though!

Tune of the Day: King of New York (Fun Lovin’ Criminals)

Weather: not sure

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Day 26, 27 & 28 - Lazy Days!

Well, its not that I have been lazy, it’s just there is so much to do that I haven’t had time to think - let alone write the diary and take photos.

I am worried that we start filming in London on Sunday and that it’s still monsoon season here.

I am excited about Transformers and The Simpsons Movie.

Friday had a lovely walk home with a cigar and a smile. It’s so nice to see people boozing responsibly on the streets.

Saturday: golf. Broke 100 – a feat … a HUGE achievement … satisfying.

Sunday: scripts and avoiding scratchy kittens.

Decided I need a personal fitness trainer.

Tune of the Weekend: Rehab (Winehouse)

Weather: VERY depressing

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Day 25 - Harry Potter

Go Harry! (Straight to hell – do not collect £200 if you pass “Go”)
We are still in the edit.

Walked to work today and I was only accosted once by a policeman to look in my rucksack … note to self, shave … oh and whiten up.

Facebook an old uni buddy from 10 years ago … SOOOOO excited. We spent a lot of time goofing around but it seems we have both grown up. Really?

Went to see Harry Potter … as threatened. Was confused to heat whooping adults “go Harry”, “go get them Harry”, “you the man Harry” … what the hell?!

When talking about Harry’s first kiss, he said “it was wet”… wet? She’s a girl not a washing machine!

The only reason I didn’t fall asleep was that I had eaten so many chocolate mice from the choc shop, I was buzzing. It is a TERRIBLE movie but the trailers of the all the other films on this summer look good .. Transformers & The Simpsons WILL be excellent – if they aren’t.
Looking forward to the weekend.

Tune of the Day: La la la, la la la la, la la la, la la la la (The Banana Bunch)

Weather: depressing

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Day 24 - Alone Again … Naturally

Gemima was so tired last night that she has not come to work today!

Not a lot to say today except the edit is quite tough … but it’s getting there.

Tomorrow I am off to see Harry Potter … can’t wait … (VERY cynical) … I think all the wizardry stuff is very dodgy. I mean, if any normal person had those powers they would live on a private island in the Caribbean … & date the receptionist lady from Ugly Betty … and have a 6-pack stomach … not whinge & whine about … everything!

I am home early today – loads of work to and I have a real need to do some housework … starting with the kitty litter tray!


I am very scared by Facebook … but some real blasts from the past have come back into my life! I don’t see a free evening for the rest of the year! YEAH!

Tune of the Day: Friends will be Friends (Queen)

Weather: Changeable

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Day 23 - A Dog’s Life

While Varun is immersed in editing, Gemima the dog takes over the diary.

0630 – I am awoken by Daddy who steps over me. I pretend I am still asleep.

0700 – I hear my sisters Maisy & Mittens getting breakfast. I scoot out of bed, up the stairs and present myself at the fridge door. Of course I am fed immediately with my favourite – fresh roast chicken.

0730 – Chase sisters around the place then hear the line “Gemima is going to work with me today” … work? What’s that then!?

0745 – Leave the house and start trotting towards a place called Soho.

0800 – Amazed by how many vans & cars stop to let me & Daddy cross the road. I get petted by a policeman outside the Commons. I leave a “gift” outside the building … the policeman tells Daddy to remove it immediately.

0845 – Arrive at UNIT. I am saddened at how dirty London streets are. I am having a bath when I get home apparently.

0900 – The editing suites are lovely! Loads of corners to sniff and I even met a small puppy who I ignored then growled at. That will teach her to try and be cuter than me!

1200 – Daddy pops out for lunch. I stay in the suite with Steph and eat a Markie. It’s a bit odd because I can hear his voice coming out of 4 boxes … I am not sure which one to go to!

1400 – Met the nice runner Charlie. I think he is a bit mad. He is skate-boarding from here to Marrakesh for charity! Nutter … www.testicleofmanhood.com

1500 – Helen turns up and tickles my tummy … Tom & Tim arrive too … more tummy tickling!

1600 – Looking through some photos on Tom’s camera, I am amazed to hear that there’s a hotel in Monaco that doesn’t accept dogs! Is that really true? SURE IS…

1800 – Getting tired and hungry so it’s time to go home… I quite like going to work with Daddy, but only if its not raining!

Tune of the Day: How Much is That Doggy in the Window (Mummy)

Weather: I am nearly blind – I don’t have a clue.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Day 22 - And so it begins...

First email arrives from Helen at 0545; it’s the first day of editing so any email I open with dread. Maybe all the footage is the wrong colour; maybe the editor has fallen off a cliff…

At 0815, Helen and I trot to work. No bus, no Tube - just our happy feet; it’s 50 minutes of London pollution. Walk past Big Ben. A local hero is out shaming the “members” who work inside the House.

A local hero

The traffic is bad. Gemima is coming to work tomorrow – I hope she doesn’t get trodden on.

0900: Start the editing with Steph who will have to put up with me for the next few months – donations on a postcard to etc etc.

It’s a stressful day, the footage looks fabulous but little things keep hampering the process. The first show will take 2 days to edit I think, but we’ll make up time.

Tune of the Day: My Girl Lollipop (anon)

Weather: Not sure – I have been cooped up in a dark edit suite all day!

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Day 20 & 21 - Genesis' Footprint

A quiet weekend writing scripts and catching up with friends..

So much still to do before the edit on Monday.

Travelled up to Twickenham (home of English rugby) to see friends – BY TRAIN. It departed on time, was clean and arrived on time. Not sure if I was dreaming or was in Switzerland.

Live Earth? Hmm – not sure whether the message was worth it. Apparently there were queues of private jets waiting to land and take-off in and around London.

An interview with Phil Collins on Saturday was telling: “apparently we (Genesis) used 195 tonnes in our carbon footprint last year and we didn’t do anything …” With them on tour this year that footprint should increase a far bit …

Still can’t sleep …

Tune of the Day: My Love (Paul McCartney)

Weather: Chilly

Friday, 6 July 2007

Day 19 – Howzat!

Just back from 20:20 cricket game otherwise known as pyjama cricket. For those international friends who have no concept of the game, its erm, well, played with a bat and ball; some games last for five days! (yes five days) but today lasted 3 hours.

My home team Surrey lost.

Here’s my big problem: I have a Blackberry – it’s very useful BUT doesn’t have a camera. So no photos today.

Had a first look at the footage we have shot. I am very excited.

Met up for dear friend from Hong Kong and now Beijing at the Hyatt Churchill in Portman Square for breakfast. The hotel makes great fried eggs. Then popped over to the lovely Mandarin Oriental for a quick oj/cranberry juice. We are filming there later this year. Can’t wait! The bar made me feel very sad; not a cigar in sight .

SO – I am off to the balcony now for a Davidoff Entreacto (my current favourite) for a pre-dinner puffer!

Weather: Awful … then … great!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Day 18 – Hello London!

Woke up with a hangover! It’s not alcohol induced, it’s lack of sleep. Spoke to Tim (cameraman) and he’s suffering too - poor bairn.

It’s dull and depressing outside; visibility is very poor.

I didn’t have any towels in my bathroom, my fault, soaked the carpet through on way to airing cupboard. Had to make my own coffee and there was no pain-au-chocolat in sight! BUT I slept like a baby, had so many face-licks that I didn’t have to shave and just generally feel happy to be home!!

Another wrong number

Helen (producer) and myself had a long meeting about the next shows - it’s going to be a fun year!

Editing starts tomorrow but am trying to catch up on emails, post and phone calls.

Early start tomorrow - yuk.

Tune of the Day: The Man Who Sold the World (Bowie)

Weather: as above

Day 18 – Hello London!

Woke up with a hangover! It’s not alcohol induced, it’s lack of sleep. Spoke to Tim (cameraman) and he’s suffering too - poor bairn.

It’s dull and depressing outside; visibility is very poor.

I didn’t have any towels in my bathroom, my fault, soaked the carpet through on way to airing cupboard. Had to make my own coffee and there was no pain-au-chocolat in sight! BUT I slept like a baby, had so many face-licks that I didn’t have to shave and just generally feel happy to be home!!

Helen (producer) and myself had a long meeting about the next shows - it’s going to be a fun year!

Editing starts tomorrow but am trying to catch up on emails, post and phone calls.
Early start tomorrow - yuk.

Tune of the Day: The Man Who Sold the World (Bowie)

Weather: as above

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Day 17 - Goodbye Monaco

Just got home the security at the airport was tight! A dark-faced tired-looking bag-carrying scrag-bag (me) was asking for it!

A disappointing day in the end…

a) We were meant to get onto a Silversea cruise ship BUT the Med was SO choppy that they shut down Monaco Port
b) I had to say “good bye” to some of the lovely people who made the past 14 days fun
c) I pulled a thread from my favourite sweater

Good things…

a) 2 people said they liked my hat
b) Air France came through – thanks Stephan!
c) We got everything done for the shows
d) I am home! WHOO-HOO!

Tomorrow we start editing and prepare for the next shoot – London.

OK – so Monaco. I could not live there BUT to visit as a tourist, for 5 – 7 days, it’s an excellent destination. It’s the “Cinderella Syndrome” – you can live your dreams there BUT reality is waiting for you at home.

Monaco is filled with history and I was lucky in that I met some terrific people whilst observing some terrible ones. Hotel-wise, some are fabulous, some are great and some are okay. Service is still a problem in some.

Anyway – time to rest!

What I will miss: actually the deep vroooom of a fast car, the lovely PRs and the sunshine
What I won’t miss: stockfish (eat at your peril)

Tune of the Day: Rocket Man (Kate Bush version)

Weather: wonderful & weird to wet & wailing

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Day 16 – Fairmont Bend

It’s just gone 9 pm – Monaco time. I have been up since 0500 and strangely enough I feel ok.

SO after a stuff-up with the cabs I finally meet the boys at The Columbus; they are not happy.

0800: Meet up with local architect Jean-Michel Ughes. He has designed several new builds in Monaco; no more belle époque for them! He has just won a competition to build the National Council Building. He takes us to Port Antoine, the Opera House, and then finally the “Circus building” an exhibition centre in Fontvieille. He’s an excellent guide.

0900: Arrive at The Fairmont. The excellent PR Claudia Batthyany is waiting for us. Knowing that we have to film another hotel today, she whizzes through our review – learning how smoked salmon is smoked, how to make Barbajuan – Monaco’s “national dish” and interview the GM, Xavier Rugeroni. We also review suite 4002, which overlooks the Fairmont bend from the front window on the F1 circuit. From the back you can see Monaco, France and Italy which is 18 kms away! The hotel is the largest on the French Riviera – 619 rooms!! It may be huge but with Xavier and Claudia, it has a prosperous future assured.

1500: Meet up with Guillaume at The Mirabeau. In the 1970’s (yes, I am that old) my family used to go on an annual driving trip around Europe. One year on July 28th, my mom’s birthday, we were driving through Monaco. Her name is Mira and when my papa saw The Mirabeau, he insisted we stay there for a few nights. We were on the 4th floor and I remember not being allowed to raid the mini-bar OR jump into the large swimming pool below (the largest in any Monaco hotel… the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel is in France btw) this hotel has great memories.
Interviewed the General Manager, Jean Marie Marcadier, one of those brilliant old-school GMs who is a hotelier first and accountant second. I could have spent days talking and learning from him.

Then filmed two great features (one at the spa ) a facial that will look excellent on TV and a “chef’s table” with head chef Monsieur Franques. He served up an excellent fish dish for my dinner. With the help of Marion, the intern, we breathed through the afternoon.

Shattered today and tomorrow we come home! Whoo-hoo!!!!

Weather: Sweaty

Tune of the Day: Life’s what you make it (Talk Talk)

Monday, 2 July 2007

Day 15 - on the SS Delphine

Slept like a log. Left door to balcony window open and all I heard as I went to sleep was the crashing of waves against rocks – VERY Local Hero …
Shower and run to breakfast as boys (who are staying at The Columbus) will arrive at 0815 for start of day. Breakfast lovely.

0900 – Start review of hotel. Guillaume Jahan de Lestang – the very able PR from SBM is looking after us today. He is always immaculately dressed – polite and is very efficient. Apparently his has “cyclist’s legs” but I don’t actually want to see them so this could be a big fib!

The resort has 334 rooms including 22 suites. I am up on the 7th floor with a superb balcony with views of the Bay. It’s very contemporary at the MC Bay – as it was opened in October 2005 – the first SBM hotel here in Monaco for 75 years.

There are 4 restaurants in Summer, the Blue Gin lounge, a mini-Casino and loads of swimming areas, As the GM – Mr Sergio Mangini says “it’s a destination within a destination, a resort within a resort”.

Filming the whole place takes all morning.

1400 – Am met at the jetty by Ineke Bruynooghe –owner of a “ship/boat/yacht” that I have been trying to get on – the SS Delphine. Out of all the s/b/y I have seen in Monaco, this is BY FAR the BEST! It was originally launched in 1921 – sank after a fire in 1926 then rebuilt – finally being restored by the Bruynooghe’s between 1998 & 2003. OK – it sleeps 26 – 22 in double rooms and 4 in bunks. It has a Jacuzzi on the top & a full complement of crew. The furnishings are just stunning. It was originally built for Horace Dodge – of the American car company – and pumps out “smoke” – i.e. the SS – is “steam ship”

We didn’t want to leave! It costs Euros 50,000 a day to rent … if I had the money, I would!

1700 – Back at the hotel I have a quick & lovely massage at the Spa Cinq Mondes … very relaxing

1940 – Have a go at the Casino! Didn’t win a bean!

2100 – Dinner and bed as tomorrow is a 0615 start!

2 days to go …

Boys are working very hard! I am very proud of them…

Tune of the Day: Manic Monday (The Bangles)

Weather: Bright & Breezy

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Day 14 – More Cars!


It’s been a day of cars, helicopters and motorbikes - and a hotel too that is connected to cars!

0800: Check out of The Hermitage after a team-breakfast.

0830: Arrive at The Columbus Hotel after a detour to track down a missing piece of kit. Waiting for us is Bettina, the lovely PR for this hotel. Coffee, coffee, coffee; it’s early but we need huge caffeine kicks. Everything up in the air today – literally.

0945: Dramatic arrival of Frank Sytner in stunning red Porsche speedster; 1950’s I believe. Far, far, far the most wonderful car I have seen in Monaco (save the Fiat in Prince Rainier III’s car collection).

I'm in love

Drive the “grand prix” course, filming while the car purrs like a pussy cat. Frank “Fearless” Sytner is a very humble man whose achievements are well documented. While he no longer runs the Sytner car sales company, he still lives, breathes and dreams cars. He drives the bi-annual classic Grand Prix here in Monaco and still competes in the UK, where he won the Touring Car Championship in the UK in a BMW in the 80’s. Whether he likes it or not, he is a legend. The course record is 1’15” or so, we get round much slower as there’s traffic (but not too much) and some crazy drivers around. Frank’s car is a true head-turner and in the Casino Square all eyes averted from the dull Bentleys and Ferrari to his Porsche.

1100: Back at the hotel (part owned by David Coulthard) I am delivered by MD Cabs, a motorbike cab service from Cannes. I nearly break the bike - definitely a blooper moment.

How did I nearly break this? (the bike that is, not the man)

1200: Interview hotel GM, Frederik Aspegren. There are 153 rooms and 28 suites, and an outdoor pool, restaurant and bar. The 9th floor is all suites and this is the only luxury hotel on this side of The Rock AND Frederik, from South Africa, is a serious dog lover (3 of his own) - a new friend for me then!

1300: Pizza time; my 10th in as many days. Thankfully the morning jogs are helping my waistline - just!

1400: Film room 906; I am in love with the bathroom. Views of the Rosary Garden and “Tete de Chien” – the mountain behind Fontvieille.

1700: Jump on helicopter for a quick zoom around Monaco.

1705: Jump off helicopter after quick zoom around Monaco.

1707: Boys jump on helicopter to film round Monaco!

Just call me the international man of mystery

1800: Finish off the hotel with the Grace Cocktail, rose jam in an iced glass, with rose liqueur topped up with champagne, very girly methinks.

Say goodbye to Bettina after a dip in the Columbus pool. The 10th floor is soon to be a spa/pool; methinks the Columbus will soon be one of the hottest hotels in Monaco.

2000: Arrive at the MC Bay Hotel, my home for the next 3 days. Am very tired so hopefully will sleep tonight!

Smoked a BIG fat hairy cigar this evening! In London, I would not be allowed to do this in my favourite bar, restaurant, hotel anymore another liberty gone!

Weather: Who cares!?

Tune of the Day: The Force of Destiny (Giuseppe Verdi)
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