Saturday, 31 July 2010

I am on day 498 of my "daily diary" ... on Monday when we go to Quebec, it will 500! That's 500 days of interrupted chunterings from me. I am actually impressed that a) I have stuck to it b) that I haven't actually missed one entry c) that people still read it! So on Monday, I will raise a glass of something alcoholic & bubbly with the boys to celebrate this wee milestone.

Was in the pool at 0730 this morning. I love swimming at that time as there's no-one ever there and I can even do the "Crome" stroke ... only Jimmy will understand what that is!

OK so packing is proving an issue. I am not sure whether it's going to be hot/cold/rainy/Sunny ... all the websites say something different. Here's hoping it's not Scottish weather. All I know is that sadly I will not be taking my pair of Carnegie Club tartan trousers with me as I won't be playing golf ... boohoo ...

Song of the Day: The End of the World - Skeeter Davis

Weather: Confusing ...

trousers ... I LIKE!

Friday, 30 July 2010

It's National Cheesecake Day in the USA today ... and that's one "holiday" I celebrate! I LOVE cheesecake ... cherry ... hmmm ... not a fan of New York style though.

So, it's the last working day before we jet off to Canada to film the Quebec show. To say I am excited is an understatement. I LOVE Canada ...

So it was all bits n' bobs today ... getting bills paid, research done ... I am going to trial a new mosquito repellent next week called Smidge. It smells too nice to be anti-moz ... I hope it works! I got bitten in my swimming pool on Wednesday! Was VERY annoyed!

Next week we will announce our new PR and the 2011 filming destination list! Oooh, aaah!

I need a nap.

Song of the Day: Oh Patti - Scritti Politti

Weather: Weird ...

My friend Lucky from the Sonora Resort in British Columbia sent me this photo of her having fun ....!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

It's been a rather long and somewhat crazy day in London. But everything is good - except for my computer which being slow and problematic.

Highlights of the day: cigar at Davidoff, shopping on Jermyn Street, sushi lunch at So Japanese, a good meeting with my broadcaster, a good meeting with (possibly) our new PR lady AND finally fabulous dinner with lovely (old PR) Julia Record at one of her "new homes" - The Dorchester Hotel.

I am off to bed now ...

Nearly the weekend! Whoo-hoo!

Song of the Day: Everything is Everything - Lauren Hill

Weather: Warm & Sunny

the "dorch"

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Today has been VERY, VERY busy! BUT I am not entirely sure what I have achieved....

Ah, the good news is that James (camera assistant) has passed his driving test ... lock up your daughters time I think!

A few aaahs & ummms re: Canada which need ironing out. Humpf.

Tomorrow is a BIG day ... I am not sure what time the diary will be written ... it WILL be late.

Song of the Day: Weezer - Keep Fishin'

Weather: Sunny :)

song is rubbish ... video is a CLASSIC!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

I don't think I am a nerd ... but sometimes I do have nerdish tendencies. Sci-fi movies for instance - I LOVE THEM! Space and Aircraft Museums - I LOVE THEM! New Scientist magazines - I LOVE THEM! Anything "Apple" - I HATE THEM!

So - I did watch "Star Trek" - the JJ Abrams version this afternoon ... for the fifth time! What a romp - spoilt only by some appalling acting and a hokey storyline - I LOVED IT! Tonight, it's "Tokyo Story", a VERY depressing Japanese movie from 1953 ... why am I watching it? Well, it's because it's "pot luck" from Lovefilm (Netflix) and the comedian dispatcher thought that Star Trek and Tokyo Story fit together like bread & butter.

Canada fact 1: The original Star Trek owes much to Canada. Two of its stars – William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and James Doohan (Scotty) were Canadian. In the 1980s, Doohan’s unique interpretation of a Scottish accent led to the formation of the Scottyish Society at St Andrews University in Scotland. Members offered recitals of the poetry of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, in a “Scottyish” accent.

Canada fact 2: In the 15 – 64 age group, for every 100 men, Canada has 102 women. The provinces where the imbalance is greatest are Newfoundland/Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia; all have more than 105 women for every 100 men.

Watch out Canada, I will be counting you all next week!

Song of the Day: Dare - Gorillaz

Weather: A hazy swirl of opposites

Canada, oh Canada ...

Monday, 26 July 2010

I was thinking about my favourite past-times today. Golf, swimming, pooch-walking, cigar, whisky ... travel ...? Hmm ... then I realised that I forgot one major "hobby" ... food. So I have cooked and will be cooking, with some of the greatest chefs on Earth: Robouchon, Fairlie, Trotter, Cruz, Kocchar, Puck ... to name a few ... but I have yet to master the art of making toast ... or tea ... or even breakfast cereal. It's not for want of trying ... it's just, I can't do it.

I digress -- pies. I have always HATED pies of any kind: chicken, vegetable, fish (yuk) ... cheese & onion ... yik.

A couple years ago, a very dear Kiwi friend took me out for a pie on my birthday. It was revolting. It looked like a cat had regurgitated fur-balls into dry pastry ... and it tasted like that too.

Kurt explained that in his homeland, pie-eating was part of life. So last year on the North Island, I tried one of these "amazing" pies ... and you know, it was! Potato, onion and cheese! It was heavenly ...

Anyway, this evening I munched a pie (it was either that or Gemima's anti-arthritis biscuits) and it tasted vile. Moral of this diary entry: travel more and NEVER eat pies unless you are in New Zealand.

Song of the Day: Goldigger - Kanye West & Jamie Foxx

Weather: Ahhhh! Sunny .....!

pumpkin pie eeeee - bleugh

Sunday, 25 July 2010

It's been a beautiful Sunny day here ... hardly a breath of air ... not too hot, not too cold ... almost a perfect day.

I hear it's 105 degrees in New York ... how I wish I was there! I LOVE SUNSHINE! In my plans for 2011, there are a few Caribbean Island options ... and maybe a Fiji or a Tahiti ...

I have just been for a relaxing swim and I feel grrrrrreat ...

Have much planned this week ... and have much to prepare for with Canada just around the corner.

Song of the Day: Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon

Weather: Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect!

for some reason this photo is archived in the "happy" folder! I had just played golf at The Hills on the South Island in New Zealand ... and obviously Tim needed a bonk on the head with a putter! Amazing clubhouse, helicopter flight ... and golf!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

I have been listening to the "Which is the Best Song of the 80's" on VH-1 for most of the day. I still haven't voted ... there are so many, nay, too many to choose from ...

So - as you can tell - I haven't got much to chatter about today. I was desperate to get on the golf course today - resplendent in my Carnegie Club tartan trousers - but it wasn't to be as I have too much work to do ...

I receive emails all the time from viewers wondering if I spend my entire life sitting by swimming pools supping cocktails or on the golf course with a cigar ... all I can say is "I WISH"!

Song of the Day: Whitesnake - Here We Go Again

Weather: Temperamental

99 red balloons! Honest ... you can count them!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Ah! Back on track ...

Well, it's been a rather tiring week and today I have been catching up with all my mail, emails, Facebook, Twitters and telephone calls.

At the vey beginning of August we are off to Quebec in Canada and the itinerary looks awesome. I am VERY excited by it ...

We have almost finalised the 2011 location list ... phew!

Song of the Day: 1979 - Smashing Pumpkins

Weather: Sunny :)

snowy Quebec by night ...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

I am home!!

I left Edinburgh quite late in the evening and in the words of Roy Orbison, "drove all night". There is something quite cathartic about driving at night. Eight hours of me time ...

I even rang one of those late night music shows on the radio to get a song played ... (as below) ...

What a GREAT last day in Scotland's capital city. The weather was VERY miserable but it only rained in the afternoon after we had filmed the Castle. Phew! With top guide/historian (and ex-nuclear power station technician) Jonathan Brown we explored the Castle ... complete with stories of evil kings (aged 9) who murdered playmates (Tim, again, not those kinds of "playmates"). The highlights of the tour - being one of just 500 or so people to be allowed into the bowels of David's Tower (the original part of the castle) and standing right behind the 1 o'clock gun as is fired! Booooom!

In the afternoon we headed to the National Gallery of Scotland - one of my favourites in the world. With the lovely curator Dr Frances Fowle, I was given an expert out-of-hours tour of the galleries and some of my favourite pieces by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rodin, Canova, Degas, Raeburn ... a fabulous way to end my tour of Scotland.


Not one mozzie or midge bite! Ha!

Song of the Day: Fury - Prince (just awesome)

Weather: Sunny and then not so Sunny ...

In David's Tower! Spooky! James II was evil here ...
Ready for the BIG BANG!
Puppy cemetry ... lovely Jonathan in front of enormous cannon
Mr Brown
With Frances and THE Raeburn ..
My favourite photo from Scotland - about to tee off from the 16th at the Carnegie Golf Club ... heaven!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Yes, yes, I am one day behind!

So this is all about yesterday. Well at least you can say "phew! I am pleased that didn't happen today"!

I am staying at The Glasshouse on Leith Street. It has 65 bedrooms including 17 suites ... a recommendation from Julia Record - who is now head of PR at The Dorchester Collection - but WAS my PR! How I miss her ...

ANYWAY - good choice Jules! It's quite contemporary unlike most luxury hotels in Edinburgh.

I am in the Glen Moray Suite ... overlooking St Paul's & St George's Church ... also I can see the Forth of Firth AND The Hills of Fife ... and I am just 3 minutes away from Princes Street.

I have a HUGE balcony ... it's lovely on a sunny day, as it was yesterday (but not today).

There's no restaurant or spa here ... but there is one just 2 minutes away at sister-hotel The Scotsman (where there is a fabulous restaurant and a swimming pool).

The General Manager of both hotels Daniel Pereira is a lovely chap and his interview on the rooftop garden at The Glasshouse was one of the best I have conducted ...

In the evening James and I went to the cinema next door to watch "Predators" ... it was a romp of blood & gore ... Adrien Brodie ... really???!!!

I will be back on track with the diary this weekend I promise!

Song of the Day: Keep on Running - Spencer Davis Group

Weather: Horrible ... but lovely on Wednesday!

GM interview
With Scotsman's Exec Chef - Spencer Wilson

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Today is filming in The Glasshouse hotel in Edinburgh day ... will report with photos tomorrow ...
The one question I get asked the most is "where is your favourite place in the world". To be honest, I am not sure I have one BUT I do have places where I could happily breathe my last breath. Sonora Resort in Canada, The Royal Malewane in South Africa and The Four Seasons Tented Camp in Thailand too ... I think I can add another one now ... MUCH closer to home ... The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle in Dornoch, Scotland.

Andrew Carnegie was the greatest philanthropist the world has ever seen ... in fact, here's the Leica article that has just gone up today (

For me “integrity” is one of the most important words in the English language. In a way, we all look for integrity in our decision-making process whether it be choosing a new friend or the brand of a new camera.

For the past few nights I have been staying in a castle in Scotland which was home to the greatest philanthropist this world has ever seen. Unlike the magnates of today who set up foundations where part of their fortunes (usually tax deductible) are placed, industrialist Andrew Carnegie – once the richest man in the world – made it his mission to give away every penny he ever earned. He amassed an amazing US$300 BILLION (in today’s terms) in his lifetime which was all donated to good causes … the building of libraries, music halls (Carnegie Hall in New York is one of the city’s great venues ) and universities. Andrew Carnegie had integrity.

He was a self-made man. Born in Dunfermline in Scotland in 1835, he was moved by his parents to Pennsylvania at the age of five. His first job paid was a paltry US$1.20 a week … but by the time he died in 1919 he was vastly richer than Croesus …

In 1897, his wife Louise gave birth to daughter Margaret. He then decided to buy a rundown estate in Dornoch, Scotland which became the family’s summer home. Finished in 1902 after 3 years of works, Skibo Castle was the most comfortable & contemporary dwelling in Great Britain. It boasted an indoor heated swimming pool, 9-hole golf course and of course an enormous stately home that hosted royalty, writers and fellow industrialists.

When Margaret died in 1981, the Castle was sold (with the proceeds going to charity, of course) and converted into a hotel. In 2004 it was acquired by its current owners and it is now – undoubtedly – the finest private members club in the world.

I have actually been staying in Mr Carnegie’s suite in the Castle – virtually untouched since the 20th century due to heritage conservation laws. The 3-roomed suite has many original features; his bed (I have been assured that the mattress has been changed though), wardrobes, a superb bathroom with unique bidet and enamel bath. The highlight though is a private balcony which offers views over the Dornoch Firth and the estate’s vast gardens.

The Championship golf course sees less than 3000 rounds played on it every year. The last three holes are the most memorable I have ever played. The swimming pool is very special indeed … a 25-metre stainless steel pool enclosed by an enormous Victorian conservatory.

Dornoch itself is located in the Highlands of Scotland and is just a few kilometers from famous whisky distilleries, for example Dalmore and Glenmoragie.

The scenery is breathtaking with deep green carpets of dense forest punctuated by glistening lochs …

I am lucky to have visited over five hundred luxury hotels & resorts in the past decade. The Carnegie Club is not a hotel but it offers the greatest service experience in surroundings that are unrivalled anywhere in the world.

For the first time since I have taken charge of my new Leica, I have felt intense pressure to do my subject justice … and bizarrely have been questioning my integrity as a photographer …

There we are ... Heaven.

Song of the Day: Nothing Compares to U - Prince and the NPG

Weather: Rain or shine ... Edinburgh seems to have both today ...

Skibo Castle

the awesome swimming pool
THAT bidet
The original Carnegie bed
I wonder how many cheques were written here ...

With the delightful, wonderful, gorgeous and sweet AC ... and Master, Mr Peter Crome
21 bedrooms in the Castle ... 29 in Lodges around the 8,000 acre estate ...

Monday, 19 July 2010

Greetings from The Glasshouse (hotel) in Edinburgh ...

I drove here this afternoon from ... "xxxxx xxxxxx" ... I will fill in the gaps tomorrow!

I am VERY tired today ... so it's just photos today ...

If you are bored:

Song of the Day: Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye

Weather: Dismal ... but warm!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

T'was an early start from Dornoch as we headed to Cromarty. Usually there's a ferry from Nigg over the Cromarty Firth but it was not running today so we drove.

I met up with the lovely Sarah Pern from EcoVentures who took me out on her rib ... into the Moray Firth and the North Sea. The weather was STUNNING ... and very soon we came across a pod of bottlenose dolphins. Gorgeous. Now on this trip you can see seals, birds, dolphins and even sometimes whales ... and it's a must on any trip to these parts.

Back at Dornoch, I met up with Lindsay Mackay, this property's Executive Chef ... we talked haute cuisine and barbecue ... he taught me much ...

Finally - the last piece to film - the golf course. While it is Championship standard, it only gets 3000 rounds played on it a year. I love this course BUT I really, really love it for the last three holes - the most memorable final holes to any course I have played in the world ...

Today, I played rather well ... despite distractions!

Tomorrow, I am off to Edinburgh ...

Song of the Day: I Don't Want to Dance - Eddie Grant

Weather: Topsy-turvy

Lovely Sarah
Off we go ...
One Tree Hill
My dear friend Peter
A bottlenose dolphin
My crew
The greenhouse
Chef Lindsay (spot the Peter and AC)
my new Tartan trousers!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Today was feature day and we left Dornoch at around 0800 and drove just over an hour to Nairn and the Boath House (hotel). It's an eight bedroom property owned by a lovely couple, Don & Wendy, which features a Michelin-starred restaurant - run by the excellent chef Charlie Lockley.

The sun was shining and rather than cooking in the kitchen we headed to the "greenhouse". He showed me how to prepare a delicious farmed poached salmon dish ... garnished with beetroot, one of my favourite vegetables.

From there, we headed to Inverness. It was time to get Tartan! First up, an interview with Jim Callander, a Tartan historian. He himself has either 89 or 98 kilts ... kilts are only worn by men ... not women. He walked me through the history of the Tartan (over 4,000 years old) before handing me to Valerie Allan who owns Ben Wyvis Kilts. It takes 10 hours to make a kilt from a Tartan ... she showed me how! Did you know that a kilt is warmer than trousers? The Scottish inventor of the radiator got the idea from his kilt ... and a single kilt will last a man all his life, even if he wore it every day ... AND in olden times, to protect a kilt, the maker soaked it in 3-month old women's urine! I joke not!

By chance a young piper Jordan Neil was in the shop buying socks! He agreed to play the bagpipes for us while I changed into a full Highland outfit! His playing was extremely professional ... and lifted the whole feature! It was an EXCELLENT day!

Song of the Day: Mull of Kintyre - Wings

Weather: Varied ...

It was my turn to drive today ... eyes not on the road though!

Cold knees
Jim, Val, Jordan ... and Mr Cold Knees
James on the Run!
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