Antica Tenuta Le Casacce

 

Jamie and Ilva found the most stunning location for our Tuscan adventure.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Antica Tenuta Le Casacce is an agriturismo owned by Roman chef Enrico Casini, situated near Seggiano in the glorious landscape of the Val d’Orcia, whose timeless hills and valleys are deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enrico used to run six restaurants in Rome before settling down in his beloved Tuscany and his amazing four course meals every evening were a true highlight of our stay (we also did a cooking class with him – recipes appearing on the blog shortly, yay!).

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Linda Bass of Tuscan Muse offers a selection of creative workshops in conjunction with Enrico based at Le Casacce. Retired trial lawyer Linda is warmth and generosity personified – nothing was too much trouble – and a fabulous writer, artist and photographer in her own right. Her workshops include not only first class instruction but also a number of day trips to the small hill top villages which dot the surrounding hillsides.

However, with accommodation and surroundings like this, it was nearly impossible to drag ourselves away. Come and visit this little corner of paradise. Oh and meet Socrates, the resident manic depressive donkey and star of Le Casacce.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad view from the pool.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad view from the terrace.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s Jamie coaching Deepa from One Small Pot.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And here are Linda and some of the ladies working hard.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The old stone buildings were charming inside too.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s the ghost of a photo studio at night.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Minx would have loved the wooden cats hanging out outside.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Here’s Chef Enrico presenting his incredible food.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com
Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com
Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And here’s Ilva being Ilva.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And a couple more of Socrates gambolling in the sunset. Life is sweet at Le Casacce.

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antica Tenuta Le Casacce - photography by www.paolathomas.com

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Tuscany, I can’t recommend Le Casacce highly enough. And Linda’s Tuscan Muse creative workshops are pretty special too, as you’ve probably already worked out.

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Tuscan Churches and a Personal Revelation

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

You would be hard pushed to find a less religious person than me but I do adore a good church.  Particularly a good European church where the very stone has been engraved by centuries if not millenia of stories and ghosts, joys and sufferings. Even the air seems full of other peoples’ memories somehow.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

We were lucky enough on our Tuscan travels to visit a number of ancient churches and abbeys, whose spare, austere, stripped down beauty made a moving contrast to the overwhelming rococo splendours of those various cathedrals and duomos commissioned mainly to celebrate the wealth and prestige of that particular city’s inhabitants.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I also had a bit of a revelation on this trip, one that hit me with an almost spiritual force, the discovery – thanks to Jamie Schler’s patient tutelage -  that I can write, that I might even be a good writer, but it’s so much easier for me to hide behind a rococo façade of sarcasm and terrible puns. I learned that I’m scared of seeming pretentious and inauthentic when I write, but that good writing involves writing from the heart and making oneself vulnerable and for me that is difficult in the extreme. I don’t consider myself to be particularly emotional, and find delving even a little deeper into my own thoughts and feelings – getting down to the soft person beneath the hard, snarky carapace – to be almost completely terrifying.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this newfound knowledge. It’s currently percolating around in my brain. But expect some attempts at some more ‘writerly’ writing on this blog in the future. And even saying that out loud scares the bejeebus out of me.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

In the meantime, back to churches (this is all going to make sense soon I promise).

On our trip to the Renaissance town of Pienza we were given the task of thinking about a person, a colour, a sound, an emotion and a smell, and then for a quick fifteen minute assignment weaving them all into a small composition. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I chose to write about a church as they’re some of the places where, despite my lack of belief, I feel most emotionally responsive and vulnerable, yet also most comfortable and at peace.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

“I looked up at the stone walls of the cathedral – centuries old, they were a symphony of soft neutral colours – faded ochre stone, soft mushroom brown wood, the pale rose of ancient terracotta – which all combined to create that colour watercolourists know as raw Sienna, a colour which I finally found myself fully understanding, since these golden walls stood only a few kilometres from Siena itself.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Outside a tall, spare, white-haired man, in a neatly pressed black suit and a white dog collar, walked from the church towards the other side of the piazza. He unfurled a gigantic handkerchief as white as his hair, blew his nose extravagantly and glared at me, as if daring me to whip out my camera. Then he proceeded with hurried steps to the raw Sienna building across the square, opened the antique wooden door and disappeared into the shadowy depths of what I assumed was his home.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I, on the other hand, entered through the antique wooden door which led into the cathedral and was immediately assailed by the scent of old churches – that indescribably potent mixture of incense and beeswax, of flowers and damp, of the small homage of careful cleanliness and floral tributes, still somehow weighted with the dust of centuries.

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I’ve only ever smelled that smell in Europe, never in America, and at once I was overwhelmed with nostalgia for a world full of old things and history, for tradition and timelessness, for stories stretching back century after century, for the Old World, for my world, for home.”

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tuscan Churches - photography by www.paolathomas.com

With many thanks to the Abbey of Sant’Anna in Camprena (location apparently for many scenes from the English Patient) ; the Abbey of Sant’Antimo; the Duomo di Sovana; the Church of Santa Maria, also in Sovana; Pienza Cathedral, the Church of San Francesco, also in Pienza for helping me illustrate this post.

Join me here for some Tuscan Street Photography.

I think I need a lie down after all that. I’m sure we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled snark very soon.

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Tuscan Stories

So, dear hearts, I’m back from two weeks away in Tuscany – and a few days getting over an epic forty-four hour journey across the world (involving only one lost bag containing all my camera lenses, thankfully recovered), my usual chronic jetlag and the most amazing creative high.

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Nonna Agata would like to inform you she doesn’t need yoga, she has a herb garden

I was attending the very first Plated Stories workshop, taught by Ilva Beretta and Jamie Schler, the two genius ladies behind the award-winning Plated Stories blog – and the combination of top quality food photography and food writing instruction, new and unbelievably talented friends, the stunning location of the agriturismo where we were staying, and our trips out to some of the most beautiful hilltowns in Tuscany, served to nearly make my head (and camera) explode.

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Guido and Silvia wonder where the heck they parked the Vespa

I’m still processing my thoughts and processing the exactly 2,000 photos I apparently took while I was there. If you’re not in the market to see hundreds of pictures of Tuscany over the next few weeks, I would quietly exit stage left now. Believe me I will understand.

When you think of Tuscany you think of dreamy landscapes and ancient buildings, and yes, we saw our fair share of those. What I hadn’t realised was the amazing scope it holds for street photography. Here are a few of the little ‘Tuscan Stories’ I encountered.

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

“Tell that bitch I didn’t want to be invited to the wedding anyway”

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Francesco and Lorenzo briefly consider not being gay 

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

You know what they say…. big camera… big ice cream

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Antonella wistfully remembers that time she nearly got a part as an extra in La Dolce Vita

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Hey Mummy, go faster, we can’t let her win again’

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Tell those tourists that if they want anything else to eat they can flippin’ well cook it themselves. Stronzi!’ 

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Federica wistfully remembers the days when her husband still bought her flowers

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Wonder if we’ll still be friends when we grow up’?

Tuscan Stories - photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘Isn’t it amazing that we’re still friends after all these years!’

Lots more Tuscan street photography (and more photography of every other possible description) to come!  I’m going to be milking this trip for MONTHS!  I bet you can scarcely stand the excitement.

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Textures and Shadows in Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

One of the main reasons for attending Helene’s workshop on Saint Simons’ Island last autumn was the chance to spend some time exploring Savannah, Georgia.

It had long been near the top of my list of places I wanted to go to in the US (together with Charleston, which I sadly didn’t get to) and I was so not disappointed.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com 

It was the textures and shadows which struck me – and made me realise how much I crave, and can’t get, old stuff here in Seattle, where not much goes back more than a hundred years.

In Savannah, even the bricks and paving stones have antique stories to tell, history seeps out of the very fabric of the city, and it all made me dreadfully nostalgic for England.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The area round the river, with its general piratical yohoho-ishness reminded me a bit of the Thames.

savannah-6

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And it was so lovely to encounter beautiful old churches once again.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

We didn’t have much time to explore, but one of my very favourite places was the Paris Market – a gorgeous homewares store with a stunning small café and superb macarons.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

I stayed for a night in glamorously sexy Bohemian hotel, which had the tones and textures thing down pat and also featured a gorgeous roof terrace overlooking the river and excellent grits for breakfast.

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, Georgia - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Savannah, I truly can’t wait to return.

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Skagit Valley Tulip Fest

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s the that time of year again where I bore you with photos from Skagit Valley Tulip Fest, about ninety minutes drive from Seattle. For those of you still in the depths of winter, I apologise.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

You’ve gotta love a road trip where you get to see this out of the car window.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

But unfortunately several thousand other people had the same idea.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

I even got to try out the pano feature on the iPhone for the very first time (no one can accuse me of being a gearhead) which was super duper impressive.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

After a glorious day we chased the sunset back to Everett, where we stopped off for fish and chips.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad day on the whole.

If you’re in Seattle the fields are at their absolute peak right now. I’ve never seen them so pretty. Previous dispatches from the tulips here, here and here.

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The Markets of the Cote D’Azur

The Markets of the Cote D'Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

‘But where is the FOOD, Paola?’ I hear all two of you crying.

Well actually I don’t, though I have to admit we’ve strayed rather from the food porn in the last few posts. Unfortunately I’ve been travelling so much recently that food photography has had to take a back seat. I’ve hardly had time to cook, let alone take pictures of food. Things will change soon I promise.

But in the meantime, I’ve realised that I still have TONS of photos from my trip last year that I haven’t yet inflicted upon you shared with you, so come with me as we visit some of the local shops and markets of the Cote d’Azur. Summer is on its way!

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton has a wonderful indoor and outdoor market full of tantalising shops and equally tantalising characters.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

It was such a pleasure to shop here every day, chat with the vendors and exclaim over the quality of the produce. When I bought a melon I was asked what I was planning to do with it, so that that the melon selected would be at optimum ripeness when I came to eat it. Another vendor slipped a small bunch of parsley into my bag full of courgettes, so I could saute’ them with the right herbs.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

It goes without saying that the food was absolutely mouthwatering.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com
Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

The  Marche’ aux Fleurs in Nice is an outdoor market that sells all manner of produce as well as flowers.

And the food here is equally mouthwatering.

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

Markets of the Cote d’Azur photography by www.paolathomas.com

We’re planning this year’s holiday as we speak. We were thinking that maybe we wouldn’t go back to France, but when I go through my images I can’t imagine going anywhere else.

More pictures of Menton here.

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New York, New York

So I’m back from two back to back trips to New York, New York – firstly to attend a food photography workshop given by Penny de los Santos (with the Minx and the Husband tagging along) and secondly for Blog Tour NYC and the Architectural Design Home Show. I am still processing all I learned, saw, thought and felt, though I will be blogging the bejeezus out of everything in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for sumptuous shops, stunning restaurants and sexy hotels.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

In the meantime, by way of an introduction, here are some of the sights and characters of New York City, which are still buzzing round my head.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

One day I AM going to start a Tumblr called ‘Hipsters in their Habitats’.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Loved this hardworking little guy down in the subway.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com newyorkcity-34

Love truly was in the air.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Pilgrimage to PurlSoho. Check.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Remember when we did a ‘Go Fug Your Room’ on Diane Von Furstenburg’s NYC penthouse? Well here it is, seen from the magnificent new High Line Park. I couldn’t quite see in to see if she’d taken our decorating advice.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Gorgeous chartreuse green tables and chairs on the High Line, and windows that look like makeup palettes.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Ladies in green.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Photogenic taxis? Check and check.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

For some reason people kept mistaking me and my Canadian friend Danielle – fellow foodie and street photographer extraordinaire, for British tourists. Can’t think why.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

But I forgave her wearing that scarf when she introduced me to Balthazar’s.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Fabulous street art everywhere.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Can anyone tell me how water towers work? Do they collect rainwater? They fascinate me.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

Lots of neon.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

New York truly is a melting pot.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

And obviously many iconic tall buildings.

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com
New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com New York, New York photography by www.paolathomas.com

I’ve never been a big one for street photography, but I could get completely obsessed by it in New York. We didn’t have a huge amount of time for it on this trip, but I WILL be back. I love this city so much.

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Menton Mon Amour

 

Did you know that around 80% of American tourists in France only go to Paris? Which is a crying shame as the rest of France is so spectacularly beautiful, so deeply fascinating and so incredibly varied from region to region. 

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Gelateria at sunset on the Menton waterfront

I was fortunate enough to be invited to lunch in Seattle last week by the France Tourism Development Agency and several regional French tourist boards, as they keen to spread the word in the US that France has much more to offer for travellers than just Paris.

As long time readers of this blog or followers of my Instagram feed know only too well, I have a very soft spot in my heart for Menton, the gracious old city on the very eastern edge of the Cote d’Azur, a hop, skip and jump from the Italian border.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

The beach where we swam every day

We rented an apartment there for three weeks last summer and it occurs to me that, what with one thing and another, I never shared any photos with you. So these are for those of you who might be planning your summer vacations and may need some encouragement to get out of Paris.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com
Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s the colours of Menton that get to me most. The warmth of the coral, ochre, mustard and terracotta, punctuated by bursts of brilliant blue from shutters, sky or sea. And everything bathed in the most astonishing clear dancing light.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

We rented an apartment full of antique furniture  in a cute residential neighbourhood just behind the casino, about fifteen minutes walk from our favourite beach.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Minx learned to sail (it’s so useful that she’s at the French immersion school here as we can put her in cool French camps).

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

And we spent endless days just hanging out on the beach, and endless warm evenings watching night fall over the Mediterranean. That sea. It does something for my very soul.

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Menton Mon Amour photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Menton’s fabulous covered market. I have a lot of holiday snaps to inflict upon you get through. (What is a blog for after all?)

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Fancy Hotel of the Week – Chateau Whistler Christmas

  We’ve just concluded a weekend of festivities for the Minx’s birthday and it feels like the New Year has finally started. I actually love this time of year as I feel no guilt about sitting indoors in front of my computer, hiding from the unremitting greyness and gloom of a Seattle January, and can actually get sh*t done. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Although Christmas feels like a long time ago now, I just wanted to share some photos of our trip to Whistler this year, mostly because we had the most wonderful time. We don’t have any family here in the States, so it’s become our tradition to drive up to Whistler and take a pampering break in a hotel. This year we managed to score a deal and stayed for the first time at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, nestling at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler’s Upper Village. And all was utterly perfect. Unfortunately for our finances it was so perfect that we might just have to return every year, deal or no deal. From the minute we drew up at the front entrance, it felt like Christmas had begun. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com   Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Yes, roaring log fires, a quite ludicrous number of Christmas trees, life-sized gingerbread houses, beautiful wintry walks across the golf course, a big Christmas dinner-dance, macarons and chocolate fondue on tap, a very hard-working Santa and Mrs Claus, and even a Christmas stocking hung on the door of everyone’s room on Christmas morning are going to very difficult to beat.

Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com
Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com

There was obviously also far too much scope for ‘sparkly light’ photos. Apologies. The Minx-sized gingerbread house was all completely edible and smelt incredible. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com The view from our room. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Not much snow (though enough for the Husband and the Minx to enjoy their skiing) but the golf course was still pretty. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com On the night before Christmas Mrs Claus read to the kids under the tree. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Then we had enjoyed eiswein and macarons in bed while watching a relaxing movie. And Santa’s special stocking delivery the following day was a really magical ouch. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Amazing food, gorgeous decorations and quite a good band actually for the big Christmas dinner-dance.

Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com

Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by www.paolathomas.com It was really hard to leave.

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Wonderful Whidbey Island

 

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No Photoshop filters were harmed in the construction of this photo.  It really did look like this.

 

I’ve been feeling just a tad overwhelmed over the last week or so – moving eleventy million tons of STUFF back into the remodeled kitchen and bathroom; shooting some pics for a friend’s cookbook (yay!); holding the fort while the Husband was in China and generally rushing about like a crazy person.

 

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So when the lovely Clare Barboza told me there were still places left on her 2013 Farm to Table Photography Workshop this weekend on glorious Whidbey Island (just across the water from Seattle), I was wondering whether it might be a bridge (or indeed a ferry ride) too far.

 

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But with the aid of some dear friends taking the Minx for a sleepover, a wonderful Husband babysitting through his jetlag and some frantic late night packing I managed to make it work.  And I was SO very glad I did.

 

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I met some mindblowingly talented and just plain delightful women, ate fabulous food (thanks to the amazing Sean, Joe and Christine), drank too much wine; enjoyed gorgeous weather, sunsets, rainbows and scenery; and generally spent some quality time with my camera, which I always find to be incredibly soothing for my soul. We stayed at at the exceptionally comfortable Willow Pond Lake House; visited two farms -  Willowood, where they grow organic vegetables and Little Brown Farm where they keep goats and make the most delicious cheese and butter; shopped at the very cute Bayview Farmer’s Market and then got to style and shoot the farm produce.

 

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As with the Gulf Shores workshop I have MUCH to think about and process (and I will be blogging both at much more length), but in the meantime here are a few photos of the gardens at the house and from a pond nearby.

Can you see now why I loved it so much?

 

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Many thanks to Melissa (seen squatting above), who taught me how to ‘paint’ beautiful abstracts like this.

Stay tuned for the full story of the baby vegetables and the baby goats.

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