Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Eve ... 2011 ... wow!


Looking back - it's been a year of love, laughter, cigars, whisky ... and oh ... travel ... and so little golf or sleep! Ha! May 2012 be exactly the same!

Memories of 2011 - the Royal Bengal Tiger in India (& Beyond/Taj), Budapest & the Gresham Palace (Four Seasons), Sweden (Treehotel), Camp Bestival, golf in Antigua with Sir Viv Richards and winning a tournament in St Moritz (Kulm), my Leica V-Lux 2 ... Moo still doodling around at the age of 13 ... seeing old friends in LA, Hong Kong, Monaco, Geneva, New York, Cape Town ... and making new ones in Germany, Portugal, Hungary ... and in so many, many more cities & countries ... saying farewell to dear James ... the "birth" of Culinary Travels ...

2012 - HERE I COME!!!!
 Up in Germany
 Down in India
Semi-nakedness with the Boys!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You ... THANK YOU for all the sweet & kind birthday greetings I received from you today! I am very touched indeed! Some of the messages have been just so generous ... I am so, so grateful ... thank you!

I have had a lovely day despite the misery of the weather! Every year I say that the next I will be sitting by a swimming pool, somewhere awesomely sun-drenched, drinking cocktails and reading books ... and every year I am here in the UK ... freezing. Here's to 2012 ...!

But I have just remembered a bottle of vintage, single-malt Scottish whisky with my name on it in the kitchen ... so ... I'm off ... to drink and dream of white sand beaches, turquoise seas, vodka-based cocktails, hot sunshine, peace ... and sleep ... !

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Just back home after a two day driving trip around England to see near & dear friends. What fun ...

I did NOT wake up feeling rubbish today as I "somehow" managed to drink 3-pints of water & fruit juice before I crashed last night! As James Brown once sang "I feel good ..."

OK - so - the next trip of 2011 was to the Seychelles where I stayed at the Four Seasons Resort on Mahe and the Raffles Resort on Praslin. I also popped over to Denis Island for some diving ... and got bitten by a thousand mosquitoes on Cousin Island.

One of the highlights of this trip was meeting and spending time with my dear friend Olivier & family ... he is the only GM who has jumped into an ocean to drink champagne with me! For the end credits of the show of course!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Oh dear. A bottle of Chateau Batailley 2004 (Pauillac) has just passed my lips ... and erm - I am finally in the true Christmas "spirit"!

Why is there so much Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy on television? It's getting quite annoying ... more Charles Bronson please ... and Homer Simpson ... of course!

So - my next trip in 2011 was to Wolfsburg in Germany - home of Autostadt (the VW HQ), an awesome Ritz-Carlton hotel run by the lovely Edith Gerhardt ... and Aqua - a 3-Michelin starred restaurant ... run by the fabulous chef Sven Elverfeld. The hotel is BRILLIANT ... the restaurant is SUPERB and ... ah ... I have GREAT memories! Oh - and later in the year I cooked with Sven for my Culinary Travels show AND he sent me his cookbook last week ... which is a treat!!!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

I am not big on birthdays. I used to be and then realised that too many candles on a cake - after a certain age - becomes just embarrassing.

I like giving presents but I am not so good receiving them ...

ANYWAY - I have just been sent - anonymously - a brand new iPad2 ... 32 Gb ... with added go-faster stripes ... for my birthday which erm - falls this week. There are several things wrong here: the anonymity ... it's a crunchy fruit - whose brand I actually dislike ... I have just taken delivery a brand new super-duper laptop (I am a PC) ... I don't like "tablets" ... I don't know how to use it ... erm ... and it's engraved with the words "to be used for ... only". Publicly, I am shocked and amazed by this gift ... inwardly, I am intrigued and quite blushy about it!

By the way - there is an initial - presumably from the sender - that sits after the above engraving ... it's a mystery that will keep me "up" for nights!

Oh ... and yes, I have asked around ... and there have been many, many denials ... and there's no senders address ... so all in all ... unless the "cloud" is lifted ... THANK YOU to whoever sent this to me! Whether I ever learn how to or indeed ever use it is a very different matter!

Next stop in 2011 was Hong Kong where The Peninsula Hotel gave me a runaround to zip through the city streets in ...

It was a Mini-adventure :)

Monday, 26 December 2011

I am exhausted! All this eating, drinking and making merry has made me a bloated wreck!

A question I have been asked a few times today is why/what is Boxing Day -- well --

Boxing Day originated in England in the middle of the nineteenth century under Queen Victoria. December 26th, or Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. It is spent with family and friends at open gatherings with lots of food, fun, friendship and love. Boxing Day is so called because it was the custom on that day for tradesmen to collect their Christmas boxes or gifts in return for good and reliable service throughout the year. Boxing Day is also St. Stephen's Day. St Stephen was a little known saint who achieved eternal fame by being the first Christian to be martyred for his faith by being stoned to death shortly after Christ's crucifixion.

The traditional celebration of Boxing Day included giving money and other gifts to charitable institutions, needy individuals, and people in service jobs. The holiday may date from the Middle Ages (A.D. 400's--1500's), but the exact origin is unknown. It may have begun with the lords and ladies of England, who presented Christmas gifts in boxes to their servants on December 26. Or it may have begun with priests, who opened the church's alms (charity) boxes on the day after Christmas and distributed the contents to the poor.

Some say the tradition stems from Roman times when money to pay for athletic games was collected in boxes. Amongst the ruins of Pompeii, boxes made out of earthenware with slits in the top full of coins have been found. Later the Romans brought the idea of collecting boxes to Britain, and monks and clergy soon used similar boxes to collect money for the poor at Christmas. On the day after Christmas, the priests used to open the boxes and distribute the contents to the poor of the village. Thus this day came to be called Boxing Day.

While government buildings and small businesses are closed, the malls are filled with people either exchanging gifts or buying reduced priced Christmas gifts, cards, and decorations. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing day is classed as the Christmas Season with Boxing day falling on the following Monday if December 26th falls on a Saturday or Sunday.


 From the 3rd trip this year - Malaysia (Save Varun)
If I were a rodent ..

Sunday, 25 December 2011

merry xmas to you all!

with love from me & the Moo

Saturday, 24 December 2011


It's really cold & there's a wee wind blowing ... brrr ... but there's no snow!

This time last year, there was around 3 feet of snow ... and it was REALLY brrr ...

I can imagine my friends in Russia, Sweden and Canada are laughing at 3 feet ... while they deal with 3 metres of the white powdery stuff ...

All last minute shopping done and now I am going to settle back with a glass of sherry ... and sing Bing Crosby ... while wearing a Bind Crosby sweater ... I did watch High Society today ... I HATE musicals BUT I love this one ... Bing, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly ... Louis Armstrong ... brilliant!!

The third trip this year was ... CHICAGO... Nighthawks ... American Gothic ... Pizza ... The Tribune Building ... The Elsyian (then yah! now urk!) ... ah ... possibly my favourite city in the USA ... besides Nashville that is!
Snowy view from my once favourite hotel in the USA ... now - with a change of management - it isn't!

Friday, 23 December 2011

A truly rubbish day. Bad weather, bad courier service, bad traffic ... all leads to my bad mood ... but like a cloud ... it will pass within the next few minutes ...

The second trip of 2011 was to Nashville, Tennessee ... where I first came across my now dear buddy Douglas McHugh (St Ermin's in London), stayed at The Hutton hotel in the city, sang bad karaoke, visited Jack Daniels ... and ...

"This is undoubtedly one of my favourite photographs of all time. It was taken this afternoon at Studio B in Nashville. This studio was owned by RCA and is dubbed "the home of 1000 hits" because this is where the top country & western stars recorded their singles. Elvis used this piano to record 231 of his hits ... THIS piano! Also this studio was home to the likes of Roy Orbison and Dolly Parton ... awesome!"

Thursday, 22 December 2011

It's just 9 days until 2012. I can't believe it ... what a year 2011 has been.

Today has been crazy again ... I have tried (in vain) to get some shopping done but the stores resemble zoos ... but that is being rude to zoos actually.

The taxman sent me a bill today ... and when I queried it, "he" said "oh, it's a payment towards your 2012 bill - whatever that may be" ... erm, excuse me? A two days before Christmas? Maybe if I took the taxman out for an expensive lunch, I will get a lower or no bill at all ... as happens here in the UK!

Anyway - YES - what a year! So many places, so many people, so many memories ...

I was sent this link to one of my favourite cities of 2011 ... it's rather good time-lapse:

A hint to the video ... my first trip in 2011 was to here ... that's where the love started!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The shortest day of the year and to be honest, it wasn't short enough. I got stuck in a 2 and a half hour traffic jam which meant I wasted most of my day sitting in my car listening to the doom & gloom that is currently our world. In fact, several times when the "news at the top of the hour" came on, I switched over to a French channel ... and you know, even though I am sure it wasn't, it seemed so much better!

Racism in sport (really?? who would have believed it??), riots in Egypt and Syria (ugh!!), markets down (again!!), big business let off tax bills (really??), North Korea (!!), Piers Stefan O'Meara (aka Piers Morgan - ugh!!) and news that Scottish people eat deep fried butter (1450 calories per ball) ... all dominated the news agenda ... not even one rescued cat-up-tree story!

Tomorrow is (hopefully) going to be a wonderful new day!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Inside Luxury Travel - new series - 1900 hrs CET on Travel Channel - Europe, Africa and Middle East only - tonight we're in the Seychelles.

With Xmas comes the obligatory Xmas cards ... and I have received quite a few ... but one of my favourites arrived by email TODAY from my dear friend Edward Sahakian from Davidoff in London. I am hoping it was NOT taken today! Great eh?

Singing in the snow!

It has to be said ... HOW did we do our Xmas shopping before Amazon???

Monday, 19 December 2011

I am a PC. Yes - I ordered a new laptop today and I was not even tempted by one of those crunchy-fruity "user-friendly" as-soon-as-you-buy-it-it's-out-of-date machines!

So at lunchtime (beans on toast Varun-style ... with fried onions and grated mature Cheddar - yum) I had the choice - the news (death, destruction, misery, gloom), a soap opera (death, destruction, misery, gloom) or the superb "Muppets take Manhattan". I haven't watched a Muppet-movie for years and I tell you what, they are awesomely funny ...

Miss Piggy to Joan Rivers " ... my Frog (sic - Kermit) has turned on me ... "
Joan Rivers to Miss Piggy " ... yes, my tuna was a bit off at lunchtime too ... "

How I laughed ... also Miss Piggy and Joan Rivers on the same screen - I couldn't tell one from the other.

My workload for 2012 is becoming ever-greater! HELP!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

hibernate (hi¦bernate) - Pronunciation: /ˈhʌɪbəneɪt/verb - [no object](of an animal or plant) spend the winter in a dormant state: some species hibernate in tree roosts of a person) remain inactive or indoors for an extended period. travel presenters who have been hibernating during the winter months get their passports out in spring and head for the sun.






early 19th century (earlier (mid 17th century) as hibernation): from Latin hibernare, from hiberna 'winter quarters', from hibernus 'wintry'
Please do NOT disturb until February 2012 ... and even then, approach with extreme caution!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

London is ... cold! The weather and the people ... mannerless bunch, some of them.

So George Michael cancelled so I had a lovely meal at China Tang at The Dorchester last night.

Today was a rush ... but I did get to buy some/very few Xmas gifts ... and have not even been able to post them! Grrrr ...

Expecting MORE snow tomorrow! Yay!
The annual gift from Norway in Trafalgar Square!
Too cold for me

Friday, 16 December 2011

Greetings from London!

A fleeting visit - staying at St Ermin's with Dougie and eating at The Dorchester at China Tang ... and I had the pleasure of bumping into one of my most favourite people in the world ...

Tired now - sleep - bed - zzzzzz ...

ILT new series started airing in the UK today ... I hope the viewers liked it ...
 Darling Julia
Delightful (!) Dougie

Thursday, 15 December 2011

I am not a jealous guy by nature ... BUT ... one of my friends is currently playing with elephants in Thailand, one is trekking to the South Pole, one is photographing gorillas in Uganda, one is on safari in India and one off to Cape Town for the weekend. I think I am suffering from serious "travel envy".

Today I have had FIVE power cuts which has wreaked havoc on my plans ... it's been windy, cold and overcast ... with the odd flurry of snow. The Pooch has been wrapped up in her blanket for most of the day ... snoring ... what a life she has ...

Tomorrow in London for odds & ends ...

 Baby Girl
 Slobbery elephant kiss!
Where I would like to be right now ...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Yes - this morning I drove through "four seasons" ... which included rain, warm(!)sunlight, bright sunshine and SNOW! It's bitterly cold ... I can't believe I am already wearing winter socks ... and a scarf ... and gloves ... and hat ... this time last week, I was basking in 29 degrees in South Africa ... oh happy days ...

SO - today was my last "official" day of work ... YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I am now on "holiday" until January ... technically ... whether that is a reality is another matter.

I intend to hibernate with a HUGE "please do not disturb" sign outside my door. Trespassers will be snowballed!

The show started airing in Europe, Middle East and Africa last night to only positive comments ... which is rather nice.

London is glorious.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Greetings from the Corinthia Hotel in London!

I am staying at this hotel after meeting the COO of the company Liam Lambert - of Mandarin Oriental fame - a few weeks ago. I actually was quite interested to see this property ... and compared to The Savoy (just down the road) - it's quite fabulous. The chandelier in the lobby is breathtaking!

The views from my suite are awesome!

Last night I stayed in Kensington at the house of very dear friends ... and this morning visited her PR company to explain what I do to her colleagues ... it was quite fun.

Ah - Inside Luxury Travel has started airing in Europe this evening ... UK on Friday! So far only nice, positive comments.

Pesto Spicer the Pooch
The lovely ladies of PrCo

Monday, 12 December 2011

A day of travelling ... and tying up loose ends for the show ...

Both my dear Leicas (V-Lux 2 and D-Lux 5) are heading off to Germany for a full overhaul ... between them, this year, they have taken tens of thousands of photographs ... not only for the Leica blog ... but also for the Diary ... and all those other photographs that will be added into the travel book we are working on!

The Leica for this week btw:

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain ... howling wind ... rain, rain, rain ...

It's been a perfect day to sit in front of the television and watch all those shows I have recorded over the past few weeks. And yes - I did wear my onesie ... NO photo to follow!

Off to work in the morning ... the next couple of days are going to be interesting and fun ... !

On Tuesday this week, the news series of Inside Luxury Travel starts airing in Europe, Middle East and Africa ... and in the UK on Friday ... gulp!
Awesome time-lapse photograph of the eclipse last week!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

It's been my official day of rest ... and I have not left the house ... and have spent the day in my spotty pyjamas. I did watch a news piece this morning announcing that the onesie is back in fashion ... I am therefore happy to admit that I have had one in bright red for over a decade now ... not to wear around the house ... but as my "fancy dress party" outfit - where I go as Hrundi V Bakshi - the Peter Sellers character from The Party - one of the funniest movies ever made ... I also carry a bowl of nibbles with "Num Num" written on the side it ...

It's almost Xmas which means many-an-Xmas cartoon on and today it was The Simpsons. There's a fabulous episode in which Bart opens up a casino in his treehouse and kidnaps Robert Goulet to entertain ... and the immortal lines are sung:

Jingle Bells
Batman Smells
Robin laid an egg
Batmobile, lost its wheels
Joker got away - hey ...

I have been humming that all day now!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Home at last!

Left Nice ... the sun was shining, the sky blue and it was warm. Arrived London ... the sun was shining, the sky blue BUT it was freeeeeezing! Brrrrr ... winter is upon me.

For the latest news on ILT:

Thursday, 8 December 2011

This is - dare I say it - officially - my last "work" day of the year ... I have a few things I need to do next week ... but my last day of ILTM wraps everything up!

ILTM in Cannes has been great fun. I have been hanging out with so many dear travel friends ... and my liver is very much looking forward to a holiday.

Home tomorrow! Yay!
With my friend Charlie at the Majestic Hotel in Cannes
The view from my window ... lovely!
My dear friend Catherine from the Four Seasons, Hong Kong
Early morning in Cannes
Monte Carlo

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Greetings from the South of France .... Greetings from Cannes ....

Here for ILTM - the International Luxury Travel Market no less! Just here for 24 hours ... I will get home this week ... finally ... I hope!

No time to write big Diary - have to press the flesh!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

"Every time I say goodbye, I cry a little ..."

Well, time to say farewell to Cape Town and indeed South Africa ... for just a few months at least. We are back in 2012 to film in J'burg and yet another fabulous African safari.

We arrived late last evening at Constantia Uitsig -- a fabulous wine estate/cricket ground/hotel/spa just outside Cape Town. There are just 16 bedrooms here ... and one of the most fabulous restaurants in the world - La Colombe.

The Head Chef - Scot Kirton - had us round for a superb meal last night in the restaurant and this morning I learnt how to prepare a awesome scallops/pork-belly dish followed by a panna cotta dessert. Yum! We had fun!

I then did some wine tasting with the wine-maker here at the estate - Andre Rousseau. Three wines ... sparkling, white and red ... AND now I feel rather sleepy ...!

OK - well - that is IT for 2011!!!! We have finished filming for the year and this also means that we have to say good-bye to James. After three years of being polite, kind, thoughtful and obviously working as a runner/production assistant/second cameraman & decoy (!) - he is off to seek fame & fortune ... which I suspect will come in a matter of day & weeks ... Tim & I will miss him.

So we fly tonight and tomorrow will wake up in London ... from where I fly to Nice ... then to Cannes ... for a travel show ...



James .... ahhhh .... 
 Signature dish ...


Monday, 5 December 2011

Greetings from Constantia Uitsig ... where I have just had a wonderful dinner at La Colombe ... one of the most well-known restaurants in South Africa.

It's been a long ... but lovely day!
Up early and drove the 5 kms to Moreson - a wine farm that is part of the Le Quartier Francais "empire" in Franschhoek. We were set to do some filming at "Bread & Wine". First up, I played with Congo - the affable and inquisitive cat ...
I then learnt how to prepare saucisson from the head chef and "amateur" chacutier ... Neil Jewell. It was fun! And it was yum!
Then I learnt how to make bread with his delightful wife - Tina Jewell. This was GREAT fun! As you can see, I took it VERY seriously! I am so pleased that today I have learnt two new skills ... and I will use them ... when I have time!

After a lovely lunch, I did some wine tasting with the wine-maker at Moreson - Clayton Reabow. The chardonnay is quite outstanding.
My drive ... drove to Constantia ... it took around 2 hours ... too much traffic ...
Kissing a reindeer!

The wonderful Le Quartier Francais

Lots of filming tomorrow ... then home ...
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