Cee’s Flower of the Day #156

I really enjoy showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – throughout the year, and from around the world.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Wordless Wednesday #96

Here’s another photo from one of our many #adventuredownunder. Goodness knows when we’ll next be able to visit……but I have plans…….big plans……….

 

 

 

 

The House where Eileen lived

Eileen Gray's E-1027 villa

Designer Eileen Gray’s E-1027 modernist seminal modern home in the south of France, and Le Corbusier’s holiday home Cabanon next to it, reopened recently following a five-year renovation managed by the Association Cap Moderne which has  returned it to the state it was in when it was first completed in 1929.

E-1027 villa by Eileen Gray

Association Cap Moderne president Michael Likierman said:

The restoration of the Villa to its 1929 state has been a labour of love for all of us who have worked on the project.The refurbishment showcases the genius of Eileen Gray and provides a marvellously dynamic contrast with the surprisingly intimate buildings of Le Corbusier nearby. It’s magical and unique………

Modernist villa on Côte d'Azur

One of the most significant international-style houses, E-1027 was the first major architectural projects designed by Irish architect Gray, in collaboration with her partner at the time, Romanian architect Jean Badovici, who owned the house.

The home’s name is a reference to the Gray and Badovici names. E stands for Eileen, with the couple’s initials – J, B and G – signified by their alphabetical positions – 10, 2 and 7.

E-1027 house by Eileen Gray

The villa — essentially a white rectangle perched upon the Cap-Martin cliff face— is clearly a Modernist building. It adopts some aspects of Le Corbusier’s five points of new architecture (concrete piles, open plan rooms, a roof garden, horizontal windows and a “free” facade) which the Swiss-French architect had published in his seminal 1923 book Vers Une Architecture.

However, despite Corbusier’s call for openness within and without, privacy is the main objective of E-1027. On the exterior, floor-to-ceiling concertina windows open to the Mediterranean Sea, providing light and views, yet rolling shutters and two strips of canvas shield the villa’s interiors from being seen, thereby also blocking harsh afternoon sunlight and framing the seaside vista.

E1027 villa eileen gray crowdfund preservation

Inside, the house refrains from using an open plan. Its interior spaces aren’t immediately revealed. Rooms are private places waiting to be discovered. Entering either the bedroom or living room-cum-boudoir, for example, requires walking around a series of corners. Furthermore, given the house’s compact size 140 sq m (1,400 sq ft) and many rooms, Gray was meticulously efficient with space. Such constraints, as is commonly the case, led to delightfully innovative workarounds: wardrobes open to become walls, the living room sofa turns into a bed, and a whole host of cupboards and other bespoke furnishings are either embedded or intrinsically in tune with the rest of the house.

The most prominent example of this ingenuity is the “E-1027 table.” Designed for Gray’s sister so she could eat breakfast in bed without getting crumbs in the sheets, it is a classic piece of Modernist furniture. The table comprises two steel tube circles whose open base fits around a bed post; the design’s height is also adjustable so the table can hover over the bed.

E1027 villa eileen gray crowdfund preservation

For all the work done by Gray, however, it took an essay by Joseph Rykwert in 1967 to bring her deserved recognition. Before that time, the house had been credited as entirely the work of Badovici and even Le Corbusier.

In fact, Le Corbusier was a good friend of Badovici’s and was obsessed with E-1027. After Gray and Badovici split in 1932, Badovici inherited the house and often stayed there with his wife. Against Gray’s wishes, Le Corbusier, while Bodovici’s guest, painted murals on the walls. The French-Swiss architect even tried to buy the house but failed, instead purchasing property nearby where he built a small cabin, the Cabanon de vacances.

The houses’ sorry tales continued during World War II when German soldiers used the E-1027’s walls for target practice. Then, on 27 August, 1965, Le Corbusier’s body washed up on the shores below, having drowned after going swimming contrary to his doctor’s orders. Thereafter the house and surrounding area were declared a Site Moderne due to their international significance. Even that, however, didn’t halt the villa’s plight.

E1027 villa eileen gray crowdfund preservation

More tragedy was to follow. In 1980, E-1027’s then-owner, Marie-Louise Schelbert was found dead in her flat in Zurich. Three days prior, her physician, Dr. Peter Kägi had secretly snuck almost all of Gray’s original furniture out and auctioned it off in Zurich. When Schelbert died, Kägi inherited the house, using it to host an array of hedonistic affairs, notably drug-fuelled orgies. In 1996, this came to an end when he was murdered in the living room.

In 1999, the villa was bought by the Conservatoire du littoral (a cultural conservatory) and since then several efforts have been made to restore the house. The latest was by Cap Moderne, which was set up in 2014 to manage E-1027 as well as Le Corbusier’s adjacent cabin.

Tim Benton, a trustee of Cap Moderne and art history professor specialising in 20th century architecture said:

We have taken the position, which is not fashionable in many conservation courses, to reconstruct [that] which had been destroyed to more or less the 1929 situation,.

The villa is one of 100 important houses of the late Modern period but the interior is one of the four most important modern interiors in the world. This why the furniture was remade using the same tools, the same materials, the same processes as the originals.

A team led by Claudia Devaux, Renaud Barrès, Burkhardt Rukschcio and Philippe Deliau carried out the restoration to recreate as closely as possible to what had been imagined and accomplished by Eileen Gray. A major part of the restoration included extensively reinforcing and repairing the concrete structure, which had been damaged by the sea air.

Alongside E-1027, the nearby seaside holiday cabin, and five holiday homes designed by Le Corbusier, have also reopened to the public. Named Cabanon and built in 1951, Le Corbusier’s small cabin is UNESCO World Heritage-listed.

Le Corbusier's Cabanon

All images courtesy of Manuel Bougot.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #155

I really enjoy showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – throughout the year, and from around the world.

 

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Musical Monday: George Michael

My beloved and I introduced musical evenings during the first lockdown and we’ve kept these going to take maximum advantage of his Apple Music subscription. Last weekend we listened to lots of George Michael albums reminding us of just how much we love whatever he sings. But which of his tracks to choose?

George Michael (1963 – 2016) was an English singer, songwriter and record producer, regarded as one of the leading artists of the late 20th century. George rose to fame as a member of the musical duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981 and later embarked on a solo career. 

George’s  first solo single, Careless Whisper, written years earlier with Ridgeley, reached number one in over 20 countries, including the UK and US. His debut solo album, Faith, was released in 1987, topping the UK Albums Chart and staying at number one on the Billboard 200 for 12 weeks. The album sold 25 million copies worldwide and remains one of the best selling albums of all time. Four singles from the album reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. George became the best-selling music artist of 1988 and Faith was awarded Album of the Year at the 1989 Grammy Awards.

Michael released his second solo album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in 1990. The album was a UK number-one and included two Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles A duet with singer Elton John in 1991, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, was also a transatlantic number one. Michael went on to release two further multimillion-selling albums, Older (1996) and Patience (2004).

At the time of his death, Michael had sold over 115 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He achieved seven number-one songs on the UK Singles Chart and eight number-one songs on the US Billboard Hot 100. Michael won various music awards, including two Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, three American Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, and six Ivor Novello Awards.

My dilemma here was which track to choose? So here’s a “live” version of You Have Been Loved.

Recorded for his third studio album, Older (1996). It was written by George Michael and David Austin and released in September 1997 as a double A-side single with The Strangest Thing ‘and reached number two in the UK, behind Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997” charity record. The track was about George’s lover, Anselmo Feleppa who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1993. One of the Sunday newspapers said:

A beautiful ballad. Considering recent events, it strikes the perfect chord.

Enough said.

Cee’s Flower of the Day #154

I really enjoy showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – throughout the year, and from around the world.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

French Fancies: Baccarat Crystal

France has some wonderful manufacturers of glass and crystal. Here’s one of my favourites though sadly it’s no longer in French hands.

Baccarat 'Tuzla' Chandelier at the Baccarat Museum, Paris

How it all began

Baccarat Glass was established in 1765 by the Bishop of Metz who wanted to encourage industry in the little village of Baccarat, some 400km (250 miles) east of Paris.

ROAD MAP BACCARAT : maps of Baccarat 54120

The Verrerie de Sainte Anne at Baccarat made all kinds of utility glassware (windows, bottles, tableware) and flourished for many years. It survived the French Revolution (1789) but struggled through the Napoleonic Wars (1812-1815).

In 1815 the great French glassworks at Voneche in Northern France found itself outside the new French frontier in the newly created country of Belgium – oops! The owner of Voneche, a Parisian named Aime-Gabriel D’Artigues, bought the Baccarat glassworks so that he could re-establish his business in France and continue to serve French customers without paying heavy import taxes. There is a story that he struck a deal with the King of France to reduce his import taxes from Voneche in return for setting up again in France.

The new company Voneche-Baccarat focussed on high quality lead-crystal glass and in the following 200 years Baccarat developed many new techniques in making the finest crystal glass. In 1822 D’Artigues sold the glassworks and the new owners set up the Compagnie des Cristalleries de Baccarat (keeping Voneche as part of the name until 1843).

Baccarat's display at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle

Baccarat received its first royal commission in 1823. This began a lengthy line of commissions for royalty and heads of state throughout the world. In 1855 Baccarat won its first gold medal, at the World’s Fair in Paris. Baccarat first began marking its work with a registered mark in 1860.

Baccarat crystal mark

The crystal production expanded its scope throughout this period, and Baccarat built a worldwide reputation for making fine stemware, chandeliers, barware, perfume bottles and crystal paperweights.

Baccarat chandelier in the Dolmbahce Palace

The Imperial Era ended in 1870 with the defeat of Napoléon III. Influences outside France began to have a stronger impression on Baccarat’s production, particularly imports from Japan. The company was commissioned to produce the world’s largest chandelier and a staircase lined with a Baccarat crystal balustrade for the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul.

Baccarat art nouveau vase, 1890-1900, Victoria and Albert Museum

The company enjoyed strong growth in Asia but also at home in Europe, particularly in royal households. The Queen of Portugal, for example, commissioned many decorative pieces and tableware (currently exhibited in the Ajuda National Palace ). One of the strongest production areas for Baccarat was perfume bottles, and by 1907 it was making over 4,000 bottles per day. In 1936 Baccarat began marking all of its works via acid or sandblasting.

Post-WWII, in 1948 Baccarat created an American subsidiary in New York and the company now has many stores in the US, a very important market for its output.

A retrospective was held in 1964 at the Louvre  to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the crystal works. In 1993, Baccarat began making jewelry and by 1997 the company had expanded into perfume and later into hotels!

How the pieces are made

Baccarat crystal glass is made, like any other glass, by adding lead oxide to a mixture containing silica, a ‘flux’ such as soda (sodium carbonate) and a ‘stabiliser’ such as lime (calcium oxide). One of Baccarat’s great innovations in 19th Century was to devise a method for producing an even clearer, more brilliant crystal glass by adding nickel oxide to the mixture.

The raw ingredients are then heated together in furnaces which reach temperatures of around 1500°C (2732°F). These furnaces take up to a month to get up to full heat, and so are rarely left unheated.

The molten glass is then taken out of the furnace and blown or pulled into a shape. Normally this will be done with the use of a mould. Once the component shapes of a piece of glass have been created, they will then be put back into the furnace so that they fuse together.

A table setting with chandeliers in

After the finished piece has formed and cooled, it will then be decorated. Baccarat glasses are sometimes gilded, or applied with gold powder which is fused onto the surface of the glass.

Very often Baccarat glassware will be engraved. This is achieved by cutting a pattern into the glass either with a stone or copper grindstone or with acid.

Acid engraving involves covering the glass in bitumen, a tough tar-like material, to show the negative of the intended pattern. The glass is then dipped in acid which cuts away at the uncovered part. The bitumen is then washed off and the object polished.

Baccarat: Benenvolent Employer

Another key element of Baccarat’s success was its innovative relationship with its employees. The company set rigorous standards for its employees, including an eight-year apprenticeship. But from the beginning, Baccarat proved a model of social enlightenment. When the company was formed, its artisans and workers were given housing within the factory’s confines.

In 1827, Baccarat began adding benefits far in advance for its era, including medical assistance for its employees and opening a school for its employees’ children. In 1830, the company began offering pensions to certain of its workers; the following year, employees were offered a savings account, with a five percent annual interest rate. In 1850, Baccarat established a retirement fund for all of its employees, paying in one percent of workers’ annual salaries. A second retirement fund was established at the end of that decade for the company’s engravers. In 1890, lastly, the company established an unemployment benefits fund for its employees.

Ownership of Baccarat

On the financial front, Baccarat went public in 1978, reserving 11% of the company’s shares for its employees. Its fortunes soared during the economic boom of the 1980s. Eager to expand its name into new markets, particularly the rapidly developing economies in the Asia Pacific region, it welcomed a capital injection from Société du Louvre, part of the Group du Louvre, a hotel and luxury goods group controlled by the Taittinger family,

Société du Louvre continued to advance its position, building its share of Baccarat’s stock before reaching majority control of 51.7% in the late 1990s – even as Baccarat’s growth was slowed by the extended economic recession of the early 1990s, and the later collapse of much of the Asian economies in the late 1990s.

In 2005 Groupe du Louvre was acquired by US Starwood Capital Group. In 2012 Starwood announced it would use the Baccarat name for a luxury hotel chain “Baccarat Hotels and Resorts” which would showcase the company’s crystal chandeliers, decorative pieces and glasses.

There is one hotel in New York, opposite MoMa with further hotels opening shortly in Doha, Bordeaux and Florence.

The Baccarat hotel made history two months after opening in May 2015, when the Chinese Sunshine Insurance Group purchased the property from Starwood Capital Group paying US$230 million, the highest price per room for a hotel in the United States.

In 2018,  Fortune Fountain Capital, a Beijing-based financial group, finalised the acquisition of Baccarat, acquiring an 88.8 % from Starwood Capital Group through its holding company Fortune Fountain Limited (FFL). FFL defaulted on the interest payments on its loans and in 2020, four financing funds based in Hong-Kong took control of it, including its stake in Baccarat.

Silent Sunday #77

This year all my photographs are of France.

The Musette: Gougères (French cheese puffs)

Gougères are made with choux pastry (pâte à choux) which might be one of the oldest doughs used in the kitchen. Allegedly Catherine de Medici’s chef was making the dough more than 500 years ago. It’s also the only dough I know that’s first cooked and then baked.

I love choux pastry’s versatility as you can use it for sweet or savoury dishes and it freezes really well. Over the years, I’ve fiddled with just about every aspect of the dough and how it’s baked. The traditional cheese for these puffs is Gruyère or Comté, but I’ve made them with pretty much anything hanging around in the fridge.

I now have to confess that when making these I don’t pipe the dough – sacre bleu! No, I just use a small ice cream scoop, so much quicker and easier and it results in bite-sizedness small puffs of cheesy perfection. Ideal as they’re often eaten standing up.

I usually serve gougères with white or sparkling wine, but they’re equally lovely with a light red wine. In their native region of Burgundy, they’re traditionally served with Kir, a mix of dry white wine and Kir is named for the mayor of Dijon, a city known for crème de cassis, pain d’épices (gingerbread) and mustard. Not a bad line-up!

Importantly, as I mentioned above, they’re freezable! While you can freeze baked puffs and then reheat them, I find it better to scoop the freshly made dough, freeze the puffs and then bake as many as I need when I need them. Freezing the dough means you can have fresh, hot puffs ready the minute friends arrive.

Ingredients (Makes 48 small puffs)

  • 120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 115g (4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt salt
  • 140g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 5 large organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 175g (1 1/2 cups) grated cheese(s) of choice

Method

Process shots for how to make choux pastry.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/(425°F)/gas mark7. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or greaseproof (parchment) paper.

2. Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a rapid boil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and quickly start stirring energetically with a sturdy spatula or heavy whisk. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough.

3. Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a bowl you can use to mix with a hand-mixer or a wooden spoon. Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny.

 

How to make Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux) - Wheel of Baking

4. Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next and don’t be concerned if the dough falls apart. By the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again. Beat in the grated cheese. Once blended, the dough should be spooned or scooped out immediately.

5. Using a small scoop, drop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, leaving some space between each mound of dough. 

6. Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 190°C/170°C fan/(375°F)/gas mark 5.

7. Bake for 12 minutes then, if not using a fan oven, rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are golden, firm and, of course, puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so. 

8. Serve warm, rather than piping hot.

Don’t mind if I do!

One from the Vaults: Postcard from the Vuelta III – Bizkaia

Here’s the last of my 2016 Vuelta a Espana trilogy.

We first visited Bilbao in Bizkaia back in 2011 when the Vuelta stopped and started in the Basque country for the first time in 33 years. No prizes for guessing why the Vuelta had avoided the area for a while. Fittingly, that stage was won by (former) Euskaltel rider, Igor Anton. We stayed in a small hotel overlooking the town which, by chance, was next to two great restaurants. I had thought of staying in the town this time around but my beloved preferred to stay outside since it would be easier to ride from there. He was right – and I don’t get to say that very often!

Although we’ve visited Bilbao a number of times, I don’t think we’ve seen most of the town. It’s one of the most prosperous parts of Spain largely thanks to its port and industrial heritage from its iron ore deposits. Though it’s now more reliant on the services sector and better known for its Guggenheim museum, on the Nervion river and  fronted by Jeff Kroon’s flower strewn puppy, which was opened in 1997 as part of the city’s attempts to revitalize it. I’d say they’ve succeeded.

We left Gijon early on Thursday morning, right after breakfast, and headed to our new hotel to drop off the bikes and luggage before heading back into town to watch the conclusion of stage 12. The hotel was another converted Palace  – I could get used to this – situated on a golf course with all the amenities you could want or need. We had a light, spacious room at the rear of the property overlooking the golf course with a patio garden- perfect.

biz2

After a delicious press buffet lunch in the NH Hotel, I interviewed Ashley House of Eurosport for VeloVoices. I first met him back in 2012 when I spent a few days with the Eurosport team at the Tour. We’ve bumped into one another on a regular basis at most of the Grand Tours, so an interview was long overdue. He didn’t disappoint.

We then bade the Vuelta a fond farewell and spent the last two days of our holiday enjoying the beach and riding around the incredibly undulating countryside. Friday evening, we ate in nearby Gernika-Lumo which was full of families enjoying themselves in the warm late evening. The sun was starting to go down which is why I’ve resorted to photos from Getty Images, mine were too dark and my beloved’s are still languishing in his camera! I’m sure he’ll download them eventually. In his defence, he’s been on a lengthy business trip ever since our return from vacation.

After a leisurely stroll around the town famously bombed and destroyed by the Germans with Franco’s blessing in April 1937 –   I found what looked like a great bar and restaurant. I wasn’t wrong, the diners on the next table confirmed it was the best in town. My father taught me well, I can sniff out a great restaurant at 50 paces. And, yes, I did eat more octopus!

Saturday evening, we returned to Bilbao to investigate another part of town. We followed a similar strategy to the previous evening until I espied a small restaurant (20 covers) at the rear of a wine shop and deli. The maitre’d explained there was only a 7-course tasting menu. My face fell as I explained my dietary restrictions but he assured me that chef would cook me something within those guidelines. He did, and it was absolutely delicious, and a fitting end to our wonderful vacation.

I can’t recommend northern Spain more highly for a fabulous, inexpensive vacation to suit everyone’s tastes. I haven’t recommended restaurants or hotels because those things are very personal and, frankly, it’s much more fun to find these yourself. I rarely book restaurants in advance unless it’s one where I know I’ll have problems booking a table. And, even in August, it’s possible to find hotel vacancies at short notice as we (thankfully) discovered in Asturias.  Also my idea of heaven is another’s idea of hell. For example, I do appreciate that octopus  – like oysters – is an acquired taste but I’d urge you to try it – just forget about those suckers and dive in.