juxtaposition: vesuvius

Juxtaposition: the ferry ride to Ischia, with Mount Vesuvius, and the rock formations, born of volcanoes, on Maronti Beach in Ischia, at our lovely Hotel Vittorio.


room with a view

It's the strangest feeling.. we're back home in London (a lovely city, don't get me wrong) but I feel like our ghosts are still haunting room 205, at the Hotel Vittorio (on Maronti Beach, Ischia, as previous post).

Our deck - as with all the other guests - was large, big enough for deck chairs and a table, lots of space to sunbathe, but we were always in water: the sea, the warm natural pool, the hot hot pool - all natural mineral spa water, no chlorine (I will never again consider any other 'spa' the real thing, because it's not).

Our view, from left to right. That's one of the guests, the lovely Miriam from Milan, waving. She always wore orange and hot pink - one of my favourite combinations - and became a kind of muse.

Second in my Vittorio series.


hotel paradiso

We have found, simply put, the best holiday in the world. Two words: Hotel Vittorio.

On Ischia, the Italian island near Capri (but better, less touristy), Hotel Vittorio sits on the most private end of the best beach on the island - Maroni Beach - like a white cruise ship, growing out of the volcanic cliff it nestles in. Everything: dining room, every room, has a deck facing the sea. Imagine, if you can, layers climbing up: sea. Sand. Next layer: deck. Glorious pool, naturally warm from thermal, volcanic water - with the kind of minerals people pay good money to bottle and put on their skin (our skin, as Katrina put it, became 'like a baby's). Then, behind the pool, the even hotter pool, shown above - a kind of hot tub, in a grotto. Sauna. Every kind of spa treatment you can imagine (my husband even did the natural mud - the 'fango' - top to toe).

Then layering up and up, three floors of rooms and decks, all with a view. And the most amazing Italian cuisine. Delightful staff, and guests who get it. As people arrived, bear hugging the staff, it was often difficult to tell who were guests, and who were old friends. As we soon learned, it's the same thing. We were the only English guests, and it didn't matter. Soon after our arrival, I started feeling Italian. Swimming in that glorious sea, then the pool.. to wake by going to the sauna, the sea, the hot tub, then the buffet breakfast.. peaceful, blissful days into nights, just the sound of the sea, always the sea.

Perhaps we were lucky: the weather was perfect - not a cloud in the sky, average about 88 fahrenheit - and we had the loveliest neighbours on deck next to us, Katrina and Hubert, from Vienna, who have been coming here every year for twenty years, and who are now our good friends. In fact, we're hoping to time our next trip with theirs. But who knows: we might not be able to wait a year. It was so easy to do - a quick hop to Naples airport, then a lovely ferry ride over (I love being at sea) that we might just do it again this summer - or September.

There is so much more I want to say about this magic place, and especially, all the photos I will share with you. This is a start.

This is paradise.


something tells me we're not in kansas anymore

We're off to Italy! Ischia, actually. With camera. So setting this in advance, hopefully when you see it, we'll already be there. Really into the concept of travelling light, not checking any baggage.. oh and we're leaving at 3:00, so just hope the alarm works.

This isn't Italy, btw. It's Venetian Pool. As before. 


magic water

When I was a young girl, in awe of something (I was awe struck a lot - still am, actually) and I'd say to my dad, wow, it's Magic. And he - an early childhood science education professor, who wrote books called Teaching Science Through Discovery, would smile and say 'It's Science.'

Perception is everything.

When we were at Venetian Pools, in Coral Gables, this winter, I was watching a young man showering. I'm older than him, and - he had appeared out of nowhere, it seemed - I realised he was probably the age my father was, when we first came to this seemingly magical place. I hadn't yet been to Italy, but it was like a Hollywood version of Italy, in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood south of Miami, created by architects in 1923, out of a coral quarry. And as I looked at the shower itself, the wabi sabi way it has aged so beautifully - beautiful decay - I realised that this is the same shower that my mother probably helped my younger sister, my younger self, rinse off when it was time to go.

This was the same shower my dad would have used.

It felt sacred, this water: swimming in it, bathing in it. After all, we're mostly made up of water. We're all connected by water. Which is, if you think about it is quite magical.


in my life: venetian pool

It was the year the Beatles first came to America, and they had just been to Miami for the first time. For those lads from Liverpool, I've seen the shots of them in the warm sea, and I know they'd not known anything like this.

I know, because it was the first trip I remember to Miami: I was just old enough to have memories, that stay with me, like songs, all my life.

We spent day at the Deauville Pool, guests of a man (a friend of my dad's?) who was staying in the same suite the Beatles had just vacated. Telling stories of girls knocking on the door, crying, kissing the walls.

But of all those memories, staying with our friends who are like family still, and trips to Monkey Jungle, Parrot Jungle - kids stuff - there are none that compare with Venetian Pool, in Coral Gables. And going back with my husband, after all these years, seeing a little girl who looked like me, who was exactly my age when I was there, playing with her brother being watched over by her father.. swimming in the same natural spring waters (it's the largest man made natural pool in America). Knowing it hadn't changed - that these were the same coral shapes that my father, living, had touched, and the joy that it was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it - a Hollywood vision of Italy, created from a coral quarry, dug to create the homes in this incredible place, just south of South Beach, Miami. It opened in 1923, the Gatsby era, and the ghosts of that time - and of my family, as children - haunt it today.

I have mixed within my photos, two shots by my father, Art Carin, the top shot, and the one of my sister in her blue swimsuit. His legacy - his eye - watches over me, informs everything I do.

And this is a song that has played ever since, which I offer to you, as the sound track to my life.


lost in translation: trainer trending

Do you care how you look when you exercise?

That's how it started out: a lovely girl named Sophie wrote to ask me. She was thinking about the fuss the media (i.e., the FEMALE media: boys have other things to think about) were making about Katherine Jenkins allegedly running wearing make up. Turns out, she wasn't, just lip gloss. As Stephanie Marsh from the (London) Times tried to point out to her, some girls would be thrilled to bits if people thought she was wearing make up. Not Jenkins. And not me, either.

We actually met her, my husband and I: it was a black tie event at Coutts bank, a dinner, with Bryn Terfel singing duets, love songs - show tunes by Rogers and Hammerstein, the stuff that makes me cry - introducing a young singer, Katherine Jenkins. When we met her after, one of first things that hit me was, this is a pretty girl who is a girl's girl. Not competitive. I didn't get that vibe.

Which is why I can't imagine anyone feeling threatened by her, or wanting to be bitchy about her. It seems to say more about them than her.

I'm noticing that we women tend to fall into two camps: those who see life as a race, a competition with winners and losers, and other women as competitors, and those who just want, you know, to be liked. I could totally relate to Jenkins being upset that women would be jealous of her beauty. Not that I'm a super model, but because I'm not wired to think that way either. ('I honestly think I just have this face', she said in her defence). And over the years, the friendships that last, and the new ones I form, are with women who feel the same way I do.

So when Sophie contacted me and offered me a free pair of trainers from SportsShoes, if I would talk about my feelings about how I look when I exercise, I had to explain that she had the wrong girl. I'm not a runner, I'm a swimmer and a yoga doer, and I don't wear make up for either. But I do care about my 'gear', in the most low maintenance way. I am very sensitive to colour, for example. I care about wearing the right swimsuit. Not expensive, because chlorine eats them alive, but I like a nice H&M bikini, or if it's a Speedo one piece, I like it as plain as possible. The wildest I went was to get one with hot pink trim - I like hot pink with black, but HATE red with black. Or orange. But I like orange AND hot pink with black. So yes, I do care about how I look.

And I don't do trainers as fashion, aware as I am of the trend. I'm more of a Converse or even Keds kind of sneaker girl. But again - it's like with wearing simple black lines to yoga - it's more of an aesthetic. That said, yesterday I couldn't stop thinking about what our yoga teacher was wearing - she's Indian, and against her dark skin, the white loose lacy knit over white sports bra tucked into black yoga pants looked fab. That's what was going thru my head during downward dog. And the way Katie Grand has styled her trainers for Hogan.. nope. Still not for me.

But I asked, can I get a pair for my husband? He does run. He's training for a triathlon, which means he needs to swim, which is great for me, as we're now exploring swimming options all over the place. This was weeks ago. 'Pick a pair, any pair, honey, long as it's not black and red or orange.'

So what did he do? You guessed it. Orange and black, Halloween colours.

'It's for my blog,' I said, 'Can't you choose something blue?' 'They're RUNNING SHOES, Jill,' he replied. 'I really don't give a shit.'

So I chose these. And he's running in them. And he's happy.

And just as I was about to do the post, which is like two weeks ago now, or more, we had come back from swimming at a pool in Surrey, the heat wave had started, and I remembered I left my phone in the car. First time that happened. I went out into the mews, which is quiet in the summer, and there were three Italians: two girls and a boy. Alessandra and Hilaria, with this giant suitcase on wheels, were doing a photo shoot, right outside our house. For their fashion blog.

Explaining that I used to shoot streetstyle, I ran up to get my camera. They were wearing Nikes, finishing each others' sentences in their version of English, explaining that it's the trend, trainers, everyone's wearing them, and I tried to explain about the post. Gave them my card, said I'd send them the photos, and maybe hook them up with Sophie. Help them launch their blog.

Later, I heard the sound of wheels on cobblestones, and laughter and Italian sounds, as they finished their shoot and disappeared into the twilight.

And never heard from them again.

And I love Sophie's take on it: 'maybe they got tangled up in another adventure.' That's exactly how I see it.

It's a funny old thing: London in a heatwave is turning everyone Italian. People are driving crazy, lovers are actually showing public displays of affection, babies are crying louder, and tempers are flaring, people are talking with their hands. Loudly.

Even while we were doing our little impromptu shoot in the mews, my husband was shouting from the window 'Jill, you're freaking out the CAT.' It's like one big Fellini film.

So I told my husband yesterday, how nice Sophie is, and how patient - that I STILL haven't done the post. The irony isn't missed on him: I'm basically not rewarding the nice girls for being nice.

There's a concept of favour that I remember a boyfriend teaching me, the one whose brother wrote the Karate Kid about him. The Japanese concept that when you do someone a favour, you forget it. It's done, gone. But if someone does YOU a favour, you never forget. In theory, if everyone subscribes to that theory, you have a most harmonious society.

So going back to my original question: do you care how you look when you exercise? And are you on board the trainer trend train?

With gratitude to Sophie Tanner, and SportsShoes. AND Katherine Jenkins.


skin deep

There's a childhood story that stayed with me, the story of Stone Soup. If you don't know the story, here it is. I have always been fascinated by that concept: that together, we can create.. magic.

That's how I felt last Wednesday, when I had the privilege of attending a lovely charity event called Fight it with Fashion, created by the gorgeous girls (with amazing skin) at the British Skin Foundation. It's such a lovely concept: throw a party, everyone brings 3-5 items (altho a lot of us ended up bringing more: spring cleaning, de-cluttering, is SUCH a liberating feeling). Ask Nadia and Sara from the Young & Lost club to DJ. Get great people to cater it, serve drinks, and the proceeds go to finding cures for skin diseases, especially skin cancer.

Watching everyone laugh - it was like a sea of blondes, for some reason - I thought of my own dear childhood friend, Linda - also a lovely blonde - and luminous, glowing, radiant, beautiful mother, who was like an aunt to me, growing up, and who died two years ago today, of skin cancer. Evelyn: this event was for you.

Like my friend Lina, I wasn't planning to bring anything home from the event. But then.. it's hard to explain, but it was kind of a bit of a feeding frenzy, and I saw someone eyeing this navy beaded dress, and the adreneline kicked in, and when she put it back on the rack, I swooped it up. Turns out it's by a designer named Luisa Calvino, but I can't find anything on her. I think it's vintage from the 80s, but it fits like a glove. I can dress it down with a tee shirt and chelsea boots, bare legs, but I could happily wear it to the most glamorous event. I'll try to get my husband to shoot me in it: do a bit of self style, in the name of charity.

If anyone reading this wants to host a private party with their friends - a clothes swap - for the BSF, just get in touch with them at the British Skin Foundation. Ask for Hermione Lawson or Kelly Taylor, tell them Jill sent you.

What: The British Skin Foundation Fight it with Fashion Event
When: Wednesday, 5 June, 2013
Where: BSF HQ, 4 Fizroy Square
We had: Margaritas and yummy Enchiladas from Chipolte, and the best cakes from Honey & Co.

Huge thank you to Hermione and Kelly, and the other lovely women at the BSF, and the guests who made it such fun, and everyone who donated, and my friend Lina (with the hot pink lips and black hat) for donating such great designer stuff, including the Marc Jacob kitten shoes, and then choosing to not take anything home. That's the spirit.


OMM: apples & oranges

More fun with photography on the roof of the OMM hotel, Barcelona. Third in a series.


OMM: casa milà serendipity

Yesterday, hanging around with my husband in cold London town, I felt - out of the blue - like pulling out old photos of a brief trip to Barcelona, without my husband, like five or six years ago. 

Little did I know that at possibly the same moment, the same childhood friends, Sheila and Steven, were in NYC, visiting from home in Malibu, with my other childhood friends, Caryn and Linda.. we all go back to when we were like two, three years old (okay, I didn't meet Caryn until Kindergarten, so that was five) and I only just discovered today, that while I was posting yesterday, they were talking about me, and that trip to Barcelona! I guess this isn't coming out the way I meant it to, except to say that I do so love serendipity.

The first day, Sheila and I were on the roof pool at the OMM hotel, a hot languid afternoon, and we were about to go on an architectural walking tour. And the serendipity of THAT: our guide mentioned that they were doing the first jazz night on the roof of Case Milà, which we could see from the pool. But I didn't realist until now: we were seeing these guys on the roof. They were setting up the jazz night. Which we went to that night: which you'll see in another post.

Second in the OMM Barcelona series.