Artist’s homes around Stockholm

July 28, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (0)

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24 July Millesgården Lidingö

 

A PLACE OF SHEER BEAUTY.

Ate lunch at MILLESGÅRDEN in a courtyard restaurant with a heavenly border of flowers – how do you describe flowers if you are no longer able to say gay?   I sat after lunch on the sofa, just to look at them…and sat some more.

 

Millesgården is a place to meditate upon beauty. Built on a steep rocky hill that plunges down cliffs to the sea channel below, it was lovingly crafted by sculptor Carl Milles and his wife as an “artist’s home”, with gardens, endless stone stairs and balustrades, very Mediterranean in feel. All over are his sculptures and fountains, many created as forerunners or copies of his work displayed in public places all over the world.

Milles was in in love with art and all things beautiful … and felt it was his ‘duty’ to make his home and garden an attraction for other artists to enjoy. Apart from his sculptures, his former home is full of relocated Ionian columns and graceful and gracious classical things.

“We have no forks and no sheets – but columns – those Carl can always afford to buy”, his wife Olga is quoted as saying wryly.

It was not just columns. There is a room full of classical treasures…including marble antiquities from Greece and Rome, with picture windows out to the Mediterranean terraces. This snapshot almost makes the glass disappears so the antiquity could be in the garden.

There are at least four sweeps of granite steps down the steep rocky slopes, between tall pines, tucked away gardens and treasures, to the lowest terraces crowded with mythological figures that are raised to meet the sky. Most of the sculptures are in or around fountains. And so there are fountains everywhere. The place tinkles with water….

That is part of the magical charm. Water sounds. And the smell of water, resin and flowers.

A gigantic Poseiden looks over the end wall and sees that beyond this magic place is the “bread and butter” (hind side) Stockholm. On the other side of the sea channel Värtan you see oil bowsers, chimneys and gigantic cruise ships. He is proud anyway…

Carl Milles, 1875-1955, lived at Millesgården with his wife Olga in the early 1900s. After returning from America he stayed there in the summers and lived in Italy.
… and now to Waldemarsudde

 Waldemarsudde, Djurgården

Full of the magic still, we drove to the Stockholm “island” of Djurgården, coming in the back way past Frihamnen and Gärdet. Djurgården is almost an island, but has a small land bridge. Djurgården is where the most popular attractions are found – like Gröna Lund amusement park, and culturally interesting Skansen zoo and open air museum. It is also where the super rich live, and the embassies. It has large green areas, well liked restaurants and very special art galleries.

The first drops of rain had started, and we drove (it seemed to me) through an Englishy world of tall sappy deciduous trees. None of the tougher feel and mystery of a Swedish forest, a lighter golden mellower feel. The king’s sheep were wandering by the roadside and were herded away by Welsh border collies – a very pastoral scene.

Now one hour before closing we were at Waldermarsudde, an art gallery and the former home of Prince Eugene, with original furniture and effects, in a beautiful garden overlooking the water. Prince Eugene is the great grandson of the first Bernadotte king – Charles XIV (Karl Johan) and a relative of the present Charles (Carl XVI Gustaf).

Two connected exhibitions were on, called the Crown and the Ring and The Royal House of Bernadotte (both end 3 October 2010). We got to see the Bernadotte family tree, portraits of descendants of Jean Baptiste/Charles XIV, photographs, and beautiful jewellery and bridal crowns (on loan from all over the world).

It emerged that though Jean Baptiste was too busy doing military things to show his artistic side, he had brought artistic genes to his descendants. Prince Eugene was much praised as a painter, and his works are among the treasures of Waldermarsudde. He never accepted the praise he got – and said wryly that it was largely due to his social position. He had the good fortune to be able to purchase the work of other artists like Isaac Grunewald (a Swedish impressionist) and was a promoter of Swedish art. I have the feeling he was a very nice man.

Another exhibition was on – celebrating 200 years of the Karolinska Institute. Showing stunningly crafted medical art from the middle ages, it nevertheless struck me as unpleasantly sensationalist – and no doubt reflected truly the brutality of the first doctors as well as the vulnerability of homo sapiens.

At last, out into the beautiful garden. Prince Eugene’s former home stands on a rise, and the garden runs down to the sea channel where Viking Line boats pass, as well as the tubby boats that ply between the archipelago and the quays at Nybroviken and Grand Hotel.

It started to rain. From the shelter of a “lusthus” (pagoda), I snapped The Thinker.

Then as we drove home, the rain started in earnest:

A month of  midday temperatures between 25 and 30 has come to an end.  It had to happen. I hear the rush and splatter of rain from the sky.  That is a sound that pleases in the desert.

But in Sweden that thick sky is a blanket over our pleasure….our magical gift of heat is over…

At least the rain held back for us to enjoy two artist’s homes and gardens. Tomorrow is another day:

Sunday 25 July – luminous meeting of dark and light

 

Bleary mood when the sun has gone. I woke thinking how so many Swedes love grey weather. When autumn comes they relax from all the need to be so active and hectically happy – “time to sink into yourself,” a friend explained.

This set me remembering that gorgeous painting by Prince Eugene of the Stockholm Royal Palace. It was a dark vast palace in a watery world that was grey and metallic, and yet pearly and luminescent in places … delicate in touch.

Today I would go looking for a view  of the Royal Palace that resonated with Prince Eugene’s mood when he set oil to that huge canvas….a luminous meeting between dark and light.

My snapshots follow, showing the changing mood…

I wanted the grey feel, and I could almost see it…but of course there were painted tourist buses parked in front of the palace, and a concrete bridge has been built since Prince Eugene painted…

And then the sun came out vaguely through the cloud.

The bright walls of the gabled buildings along Skeppsbron, Gamla Stan were leaping out of the grey. Shouting joyfully…

Slottsbackan- palace hill

The boats from the islands were coming in and going out, adding a brightness and sense of activity and adventure. Sunday is of course a popular day for Stockholmites to travel out to the archipelago.

In this snapshot families are spreading their bags across quay 3 – probably heading out for a week or two or returning with shopping.

Most of the Waxholm boats that provide transport to the islands leave from in front of the Grand Hotel, facing the Royal Palace. One of Stockholm’s oldest and finest hotels – and by contrast, look at all those plastic bagson the quay

Those are some of the things I love about Stockholm…


About the lilting city

July 21, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (3)

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21 July 2010

Pleasure boats now where ancient warships saild

I write about places all round the world so why not this watery city where I live and work. Like all places blessed with water, it is a new and different every day.

Stockholm is built on islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic sea. Most places in Stockholm city are a mere 10 minutes walk from the water, and my place of work is only 500 metres or so from one of the inlets on the long and looping coastline. I eat take-away lunch here, watching boats come in  to Nybroviken to pick up tourists on the quay.

From here they take a hop-on hop-off boat to the medieval old town, the 17th century warship Wasa (built 1628), Gröna Lund amusement park and other must-dos. Or take a boat under the bridges and through the canals. Or head further out in fat, jolly old boats among thousands of islands.

I long to go with them. But I have only lunch hour to drink in the atmosphere.

The succulence of the air is soupy in its lazy wash around us. We who usually quickstep through the cold are washed down into its warmth. Locals sit on the steps with take-away in their office clothes. Two men lie on the pier in their suits (shoes off). Others have got down to bikinis on the pier in front of Hotel Diplomat.

Behind me leaves are an eruption of sap framing my favourite sculpture (John Ericsson, inventor) – the embodiment of all the power and sensuality of the spirit, despite his scientific leanings shown romantically as hammer and chisel.  I float by with my solitude and my camera. Listen to the voices. Most are locals or Swedes from upcountry. But the Italian and Spanish bring the feel of the Med and the spirit of adventure.

We travel to see the world (and ourselves) in new ways. In this warmth and with the sound of foreign voices around me, everything looks new. Feeling free as a bird, I soar with my mind’s eye around things taken for granted. I long to explore and see this city released from the box of straight 3d perceptions.

If there is a fourth dimension, it is the spirit – n’est pas?

Dylan Thomas wrote about his childhood perceptions: “About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green…”

With apologies to the beloved Dylan,  I call this series of lunchtime snapshots “About the Lilting City”.

A couple were taken after work when I hopped off (the T-bana) at Gamla Stan – the old town. Some were taken wandering though Kungsträdgården.

This view of the lilting city shows the Seagod and mermaid by Carl Milles, against a backdrop of colourful seafront buildings in the old town. The robust granite figures look out over the quay at Skeppsbron, another spot where boats constantly come and go. “I sang in my chains like the sea…”.

Nearby is a lock (Slussen) through which smaller boat traffic goes between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic. Slussen qualifies as a crime against humanity for blank-faced modern architecture, messy roads and concrete structures like a slap in the face of the graceful old Stockholm. But here I have taken it lightly. Seen  through the tacky  “square” created by Katarina bridge and lift, is the quay along the shore of the island of Södermalm, which takes big passenger boats to Finland and beyond.

Back to the beautiful old and lilting city, and now history creeps into the story. This is “Bågspännaren” against a skyline of medieval rooftops in Gamla Stan  – the sculpture of the archer represents the leader of an uprising in 1434 against Erik III of Sweden. The rebel Engelbrecht Engelbrechtson was murdered shortly afterwards and martyrised. Erik got deposed soon after but made it back into power, only to be deposed a few more times. When finally thrown out for good he moved to Gotland and became a pirate of German ships…

Now we are in Kungsträdgården – the king’s garden – a shadow of its former self, though the kings live on in stone and metal. 

Karl XII – the warrior king 1697 to 1718 (above and below). Kungsträdgården, where he stands in front of the elms once saved from decapitation by treehuggers, is a favourite marching destination for Keep Sweden Swedish and such like.  Racist political groups love him as he did a lot of fighting and did not believe in compromise.  He even conquered his neighbours, Denmark and Norway, but Russia was his most sought-after adversary  – he is pointing at Russia here.  Charles won a big battle against Peter the Great – but lost badly at the Battle of Poltava, marking the decline of the Swedish empire. Was finally shot in Norway through the head. 

The bird is a reminder that “sceptre and crown must tumble down”… Click for a closer view of the bird’s heritage.

The view (below) of a lilting Karl XIII in Kungsträdgården would be incomplete without the lions – now a favourite place for people to sit and children to ride. Our Charles was according to an internet source “decrepit” by the time he was crowned in Sweden in 1809. There was a very nasty regent before him who basically ruined him. Karl was married to a woman with a very fine name: Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp. He had no heirs which brought the current house of Bernadotte into the picture.

Below: The first Bernadotte on the Swedish throne (1818) was French, an advocate’s son who made a successful career in Napoleon’s army and administration. An inspirational Swedish noble decided to invite Bernadotte to be king (off his own bat) (for which he was put in house arrest since parliament favoured a Dane). But his idea turned out to be a winner, and Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was elected by Parliament and adopted by Karl XIII as the future Karl XIV of Sweden for at least one reason. He had been kind to Swedish soldier prisoners in one of his wars. I like stories like that – when good actions bring rewards… 

“Only the actions of the just smell sweet and blossom in their dust…”

Meanwhile on the shoreline of the island of Gamla Stan, life goes on. The weather brings a long row of people to the quayside to enjoy the sun.  The Bernadotte, Charles XIV, can be seen on his high horse in the background as a tiny dot. Boats tie up or head by to the lock ast Slussen. A floating pub is very popular…

Back in time (below): Gustav II Adolf lilts high above the Foreign Office, where he has been in Gustav Adolfs Torg (square) since 1791 – the later additions to the sculpture are cut off in this snapshot. He overlooks the royal palace on Gamla Stan (built between 1698 and 1771) – The current king Carl XVI Gustaf does not actually reside there any longer.

 

The opera house is also in Gustav Adolfstorg –  and round the corner is THE  place to go, a lot of the time. Cafe Opera.  Way back in the 1990s some London journalists at Cafe Opera told me: forget swinging London – this is it.

Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill starts….

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

(…)

and ends:
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Then James Shirley’s poem

The glories of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things;

There is no armour against Fate;

Death lays his icy hand on kings:

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made

 With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.

 (…)

Then boast no more your mighty deeds!

Upon Death’s purple altar now

See where the victor-victim bleeds.

 Your heads must come

 To the cold tomb:

 Only the actions of the just

 Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.


Out to Utö

July 17, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (4)

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Saturday

Barnens bad - beach on Utö

Today we travel out to a special island among the 24 000 islands and skerries in the coastal waters off Stockholm.

Life was made for moments like this. Waiting for a boat to the archipelago, with legs swinging over the quay. Focus on water. Cool, green and dreamy depths…and fish.

A baby girl who bears a striking resemblance to her clutched doll says excitedly: “Mycket vatten” (lots of water). She too sees the fish floating around the pier, and would just leap off the edge and fly too (or sink) if mamma did not hold her.

Over the glittering water, the boat Silverpilen (silver arrow) comes in to Årstabrygga. How much nicer than flying. An unshaven guy leaps off the boat and says informally to the waiting passengers “10 minutes to tidy – then we are off”. You love him. If an airline pilot was so nonchalant you’d be really worried about the coming takeoff.

Silverpilen comes in

We’ve had heat – lush lazy heat since before midsummer. We are sweltering.

But now it is Saturday and we are heading for Utö, where not many tourists go. It’s a long four hour boat ride from Stockholm and the Grand Hotel. The normal way the locals get to Utö involves a half hour self-drive from Stockholm to the pier or 50 minute train and bus ride, and then half an hour ferry boat ride to the island.

Utö is undeniably special.

Hoary lichen, spruce and water

It is one of the most varied islands in the archipelago. The outer edge of Utö faces the Baltic and has the look of the outer islands of the archipelago  – worn smooth first by the ice age glaciers, and then by waters lapping and slapping. The rocks seem wavy, light and free in their lines, striped with white leptite  – beautiful places to lie.

Smooth rocky shore

The inner edge of Utö is more like the coast it faces – rich vegetation close to the seafront, rougher rocks. And some beaches. On this side lies Gruvbryggan – one of the main ferry stops and guest harbours. A long line of yachts and glittering masts is sheltered by an offshore island. Up on the hill is the “famous” sight of a windmill, though famous is perhaps too strong a word for an island that is more in the best-kept-secret bracket.

Utö Värdshus - the inn includes 2 restaurants

Restaurants, inn, guest house, shops and a beachside camping site make Gruvbryggan the undisputable centre of Utö. This sleepy little place can seem quite exuberant in the evenings with live music and the smell of grilling meat.

Iron was mined on Utö for 700 years up there on the hill. Related “sights” include a small museum, the 250m deep pit (containing water), a line of workers cottages – and I guess the windmill, now restored.

The best news about Gruvbryggan is that one can hire bikes – so the first thing we did after a café latte at the pier café was to queue for a bike. It is better not to have coffee first, as the best bikes get snapped up. You can cycle many pleasant kilometres to the far ends of the elongated island and to another island, Ålö, over a bridge.

Parts of Utö are national park much of Ålö island – with elk and deer and other gentle Nordic creatures. Old hoary pines and spruce, and rarer species bring a special feel that differs from the rest of Sweden as (like Gotland) it has large areas of limestone – not just granite. Between the shaggy arms of spruce there is paler earth along with flashes of blue water in any and every direction.

As we head off from Gruvbryggan we use our three gears to get up gentle hills (which in the heat feel quite steep), passing a small public bathing pier.  Utö is all about water and swimming.

Now we were in view of a quaint church over a bay.

Utö church across the bay

We stopped at a little shop and café by the water where the locals were buying strawberries and eggs. I overheard someone explain to another that at Utö church today a couple would be getting married in the presence of all their kids. Typical Swedish wedding – the kids are present.

Later, amazingly, on our return journey we saw the bridegroom or best man fiddling with his buttonhole/carnation, standing by the roadside under a tree, waiting…

No limousines or anything boring like that. The probable wedding guests came down the paved road wheeling overnight bags. There is a ferry stop close to the church.

The sad truth of our cycling is that we gave up on three routes when I got deterred by gentle hills…(too hot). So turned back (1) before reaching the beach at Alléviken, (2) before the bridge over to Ålö, and (3) before the northern tip at Kroka. But we cycled at least 18 km…

Some favourite places on Utö: barnens bad (the children’s beach) – pale sand and strokes of long grass with the water sheltered by islets – surrounded by forest. No toilet – only a recycling shed. Very ecological.

Rävstavik. Didn’t get there on the bikes but by walking in a previous year – only 3km from Gruvbryggan.

Rävstavik


SIZZLING IN SUMMER SWEDEN

July 14, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (0)

Stockholm, city on water, comes into its own in this heat.  Along its long shoreline people linger, eating picnics on the piers, and hot tourists queue to take boats between sights.  

Its been three weeks of this. Heat…

 

Nybroviken. Water and boats – water and light, people lingering. Life is as long as the summer lasts… 

Just before midday the guards march past the Royal Dramatic Theatre on the way to the Royal Palace (Slottet) for changing of the guard.  

Just over the road there is a leafy park. And between water and park, erupting with a sensuality that is in tune with all this heat, is a sculpture of someone surely not meant to be that erotic. But it is…

 

 The truth is that in winter, Mr Ericsson doesn’t look this gorgeous. Sculptures come to life with the inner eye.  This royal horse (below), normally a bit stiff, rises full of mischief in today’s heatwave.

I wander on to Grand hotel overlooking yet another inlet of the Baltic.  Here too boats come in and go, out to islands of the archipelago. Today this beloved steam boat waits its turn.

Storskär

Stockholm drapes its self over 14 islands  – some mostly park, some with small (popular) sandy beaches. Another place to go in the heat.

Water under a willow Långholmen


TENERIFE LUXURY HOTELS

July 3, 2010 in Spain | Comments (14)

Sitting here with a view of a glistening streams among Swedish hills, I have finally put my notes of Tenerife hotels in writing.

Some 30 representatives of luxury tour operators were invited on a familiarization trip this June to see that the Canaries island of Tenerife has much more to offer than mass tourism…

LUXURY IMPRESSIONS IN TENERIFE

The glorious year-round warmth of Tenerife has not just nurtured charter beach holidays. It has proved fertile sunny ground for luxury too. There are 20 five star hotels on Tenerife – more than there are in Barcelona.

Self taking note from the presidential at Abama

We viewed the following properties, dining or lunching at some, and stayed at the Sheraton. I give some bare facts and a few personal impressions of each property.

Hotel Villa Cortes

Playa del Camison, Costa Adeje – 5 stars, 129 rooms and 22 suites, heated seawater pool, 5 restaurants, 3 bars, beach club, kid’s pool area and miniclub, tennis court.

Comment: The group’s favourite, until we saw Abama. I loved Villa Cortes for its sunny joyful colours daringly splashed in sienna, burnt sienna, terracotta and purple. I was thrilled with its exciting objets d’art, carved wooden furniture and the feel of a Mexican hacienda. I fell for its multilevel Canarian rooftops, and its courtyard using lustrous ceramic tiles and sizzling mixes of siennas and violet. The architect is the very one who designed Abama and Sheraton La Caleta. He creates magic environments playfully inspired by ethnic villages or colonial past, by dreams and fictions…

The only negative I can name is spotted wall to wall carpets all over. The space I dream of occupying is the Presidential suite’s Jacuzzi (as usual).

The pool area is pleasant and different (surrounded by the colourful village style hotel skyline). That is where the guests were, not at the beach club with its own manmade beach of soft sand, just off the path along the rocky shore. Surfers walk past quietly bearing boards. The rocks offer a tidal pool that looked less inviting. Near the hotel is millionaire’s mile – a palm lined road with mighty brown mountain filling the skyline. Here there are are designer shops.

Presidential jacuzzi with view, Villa Cortes

Hotel Jardines de Nivaria

Playa de Fanabe beach, Costa Adeje – 5 stars, 175 rooms and 91 suites, 2 pools, kid’s pool and playground, 3 restaurants, 3 bars, spa, lift to the beach.

Comments: Extraordinary glass cupola over the lobby with grand stairs lined by sculptures bearing lights. The promised garden of the hotel name blossoms in the lobby area with greenery and another beautiful glass cupola over a bar. The rooms we were shown (superior suite) and double room (with sitting area) were of modern design – newly renovated. In a hotel with such magnificent art nouveau features, the minimalism of these rooms, fringed with Thai, did not work. The hotel has apparently realized it, and plans to renovate in more fitting style in future.

Living up to its name with gardens and art nouveau

Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque Resort

Playa del Duque, 2km to Adeje, Costa Adeje – 5 stars, 356 rooms including 47 suites and 40 villas

Comments: This is a vast property running down the hill to the beachfront promenade, full of charm and surprises. Bahia del Duque brought a feeling of déjà vu, a dreamlike sense, with its conical witch-hat towers scattered here and there, and its vast lobby like a film set full of props set for different scenes. In fact I kept puzzling: where have I seen it before? In a movie? In a dream? The resort paths wind around bringing sudden views of blue sea, ornate garden balustrades, swimming pools and restaurants. The vast spa seems miles away, and so do the villas … but every step you take is a pleasure. The two bedroom villa invited one to luxuriate in its outdoor living area and its own infinity pool (with mountain view). In the main hotel area the standard double room sea view, with pleasant café latte tiles and a couple of bright cushions, was restful in hues but rather small. I think a special kind of person will like Bahia del Duque – not your orderly person who wants straight lines – but someone who finds adventure in irrationality. Direct access to the promenade, and two beaches.

Garden of dreams and discovery at Bahia Del Duque

Iberostar Grand Hotel El Mirador

Playa del Duque and Playa del Bobo, Costa Adeje – 5 stars, 120 sea view rooms including 70 superior junior suites, 3 restaurants, bar, gym, access to spa at Anthelia 5 min. walk

Comments: A truly interesting Spanish hotel – with the feel of a medieval castle. The outer walls and towers are in a mixture of grey and faded terracotta. The lobby is entered through a tunnel like arch into an austere atrium with a round pool, fountain and clear symmetry. The deluxe junior suites and higher categories got far away from austerity to romance or spring-like frivolity, with four poster beds draped in gauzy white fabrics. The deluxe junior suites open into the VIP area, where 11 suites share a pool, a pagoda or two and an appealing view of the sea and the non-VIP pool area below. A wedding was to take place that night costing quite modest sums for 66 people to occupy that pagoda to enjoy disco and food. Obvious place for the wedding couple is the Royal suite, which offers amazing views from its plunge pool on the terrace surrounded by sun-loving flowers. It was more romantic and open in feel than the Presidential suite. The hotel stressed that the Presidential is the most private with a 136 sqm terrace among the rooftops, dining table, kitchenette, plunge pool, view of the sea.

Deluxe suite opens onto Mirador VIP area

Grand Hotel Anthelia

Fanabe Beach, Costa Adeje, Tenerife South – 5 stars, 391 rooms, spa

Comments: The feeling was not five star. The hotel was brutally empty as Amway was in town for a conference, and all the guests were away at the congress centre. So the huge size and long corridors were somehow echoing with silence and emptiness. However, one of our party, from a Belgian luxury tour operator, said she had just spent a week at Anthelia with her family and enthused that it was a marvelous family hotel, with a nice kid’s area. One pool area was right at the beach with a pleasant backdrop of blue sea. There is a special VIP area with its own restaurant – but one structure there did look a bit time worn – metal rusts by the sea.

Pool by the beach at Anthelia

Hotel Botanico

Puerto de la Cruz – 5 stars, 252 rooms and suites, 3 heated pools, 3 restaurants, bar, tennis courts, putting green.

Comment: Traditional city hotel, cross-dressed with Thai features, uplifted by gardens full of glistening gold fish and extensive secluded spa area. Our lunch went on and on…with a degustation ice-cream between the main courses, and again desert at the end. We saw the ambassador suite with maroon “poshness” comfortably worn in.

Senator or ambassador suite

Hotel La Plantacion del Sur

Costa Adeje, 5 freshwater pools, 3 restaurants, 3 bars, disco/jazz, kid’s club, 500m from beach with free transfer

Comments: Beautiful blue views from the terraces, looking over a built-up area to the sea. Very nice standard rooms with sea view made this hotel memorable (affordable luxury?). The spacious and tasteful room has a seating area, terracotta tiles, rich mellow wood, orange touches. However, the lateral sea view rooms were disappointing as on one side they look over the road and the sound does rumble and float upwards. The Junior Suites had bigger bathroom and lounge with sofa and easy chairs, balcony with sunbed. The villas (for couples) were really romantic with a terrace on the roof with Jacuzzi and view. Finally the spa was superb with a terrace opening out to a pool with view, and a big bubble pool opening onto the terrace too. The interior of the spa was created as a volcanic cave, with all the thermal features surrounding a cold plunge pool and candles burning. A really nice place for someone who wants a sunny break and a beautiful spa but is not mad about lying on the beach.

Spa terrace by pool and bubble pool

Villa romance for couples at Plantacion

Hotel Sheraton La Caleta Resort & Spa

Near Caleta, quiet end of Costa Adeje – 5 stars, 284 rooms including 20 suites, 3 outdoor pools, kid’s club, minigolf, 4 restaurants, 2 bars, spa/health club, set on the sea shore 5 to 10 minutes walk from a beach (Playa del Duque and another).

Comments: I have written lots in my earlier blog posts. A beautiful hotel with a playful design in desert village forms and colour (my interpretation) plus marvelous glossy marble spaces, attractive gardens with pools and palms against backdrop of sea. The superior rooms are spacious with plenty more marble stretching across floors and bathrooms, warm colour and delightful private balconies embraced by the intense ginger or terracotta walls (an indescribable colour). I liked the pool restaurant, admired the Japanese restaurant, but was disappointed (being vegetarian) in the Spanish restaurant. My pasty paella was given some very stringy beans in lieu of the missing meats. The hotel is five star but not top luxury – some kind of lag in the otherwise pleasant service.

My spacious room at Sheraton

Quaint lookout on the terrace of premium suite

Abama Golf & Spa Resort

Guia de Isora, Southern coast – Top luxury, 476 rooms (328 in the Citadel and 148 in villas), 7 open air swimming pools, secluded beach, 10 restaurants, 4 bars, kids club spa, gym club, 18-hole golf course, tennis academy

Comments: We were shown Abama last as a grand finale and had dinner there on the final night. All the luxury tour operators were blown away by this Ritz-Carlton hotel. It’s by the same architect who created the Sheraton La Caleta and Villa Cortes, evoking fantasies of a village that is somehow an oasis in North Africa, or a lush futuristic biosphere on a desert planet in outer space, with its domes, wide terraces, terracotta walls, and exuberant glossy green gardens. Part of the surrounding beauty is its very own golf course.

The rooms were rather plain yet they felt luxurious, uplifted by the cream marble floors, the terracotta balconies and terraces, and small things that count. The 1-bed room suite in the Citadel, with a big breath of light whiteness, was embraced by an L-shaped balcony with a marvelous view of the lush “Abama village” and the sea. I would be happy with that little suite – but then how about the presidential with big lounge and dining room, 2 bedrooms (the master bedroom like a Junior suite) and a wrap-round balcony that opens to all rooms, bearing a sofa under canopy. Ok even the standard double is gorgeous in its whiteness and balcony. Over now to the villas. We saw a deluxe room which connects with a 1-bedroom suite in a villa, by now our heads brimming with so many impressions they mixed together in places…

Enjoying the 1-bedroom suite terrace at Abama


The spa, as everything else in this vast property, seemed far away – in fact we were happy to get a ride there.

Some might find Abama a little far from everything – but there are 10 restaurants – with dollops of romance, style and tropical well-being. It is not far from a white fishing resort called San Juan. Abama is surrounded by banana plantations which can sometimes bring insects (I heard this unverified complaint from another operator). The truth is lush tropical areas always have some insects – wherever you go.

The beach is wedged between two cliffs bearing banana plantations; one of them was covered for agricultural reasons, creating a flat box. You can reach the beach on a funicular if you choose to walk way down to the bottom of the Abama property, or you can drive down. The sand has been brought all the way from the Sahara desert (which is actually not so far away just a few hundred kilometers). On this pale desert sand the waters glisten turquoise and peace reigns.

This is top luxury, far from the madding crowds…

We ate in a balmy subtropical atmosphere with a  table laid for romance.

For a worldwide collection of luxury resorts see  Select Collection


Meeting creatures of the Kilsberg hills

July 1, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (0)

Continuation of Midsummer night’s dream in Sweden.

Thursday evening – new animal visitor. 

Down at the water, quietly gazing at reflections. The upside down  trees, sky and clouds were suddenly scattered by a swoop of breeze into quivering bars of colour. I turned my head. And suddenly there he was. 

A new animal visitor. Brown and furry, opening and closing his mouth as he swam, emitting a little bark or grunt, swimming straight towards me. Surely not the shy beaver? I  hardly breathed trying to stay quiet and bring him closer. 

But suddenly he turned and swam around in circles, then dived, with a snaky curve of his back. Was gone. 

Now the geese family swam straight at me, as if to will me to depart. I just stood, hoping my silly cap bought in Tenerife would impress with its beak like shade. 

Two families afloat on the river in front of the house

Suddenly the new furry brown visitor appeared at my right, much closer…his head above the water and the body trailing out just beneath. Then he dived again with the curve of his back and hump of his haunches visible. 

Is it an otter or the European water vole?  We have just been on the internet to try to find out. 

He would be a very big water vole or a small otter. I think his face was more rounded, more like an otter. Oh I hope for the privilege of seeing him again. 

22.36 

Pelle went down to the river and he has snapped the beaver eating and swimming. Now was it him I saw diving after all? Or her…there are several families of beavers in Sågdammen and Kvarndammen and not many birches left on our property. Itchy teeth… 

Beaver pix below 

Beaver swimming past on river below the house

Beaver over water by the islet


In Nora looking back through time

in SWEDEN | Comments (1)

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Thursday – In Nora (3 hours drive from Stockholm) looking back through time…

Nora 100 years ago - we found this exact spot

We went into Nora and discovered the past – at least we found Nora of a century ago – and a charming hotel that has rave reviews in Lonely Planet. This is how we found it.

On the corner of the quant cobbled square is a café that breathes an earlier Swedish era when Nora was a prosperous town at the centre of the independent mining industry. It is a charming café enhanced by flowery porcelain, aged cottagey furniture and effects. On one wall is a huge blowup of a black and white photo from the early 1900s. After drinking café latte in front of the poster, we were inspired to go searching for the very same view of Rådstugagatan – the road where the café is situated. Carrying my little Panosonic camera with a picture of the cafe poster we found ourselves in the exact same position. The wooden buildings in that street had hardly changed, and the church still rises up telling the time with no sign of the century.

The difference between then and now is that the tall building on the right now bears the sign Lilla Hotellet and has bay windows added; and no people strolling down the cobbled street in old fashioned gear, instead the gleaming car.

Now surely we should ask to see Lilla Hotellet.

Rådhusgatan 2010 - and Lilla Hotellet

A women with the relaxed ways of Swedish country people met me as I entered the courtyard and invited us in with enthusiasm and smiles. It is a cosy hotel, with plenty of authentic charme (a luxury that is in shorter supply than marble lobbies).  There are only 10 rooms, all completely different, and some do not have private bathrooms. The style is a mix of fifties or sixties wallpaper and Jugend (art nouveau) furniture – put together with flair and sensibility.  In the living room the wallpaper was recently printed by hand from old designs. The hotel was built in 1912.

The owner Cecilia Lundquist says her guests come most of all from Switzerland and Italy – with a few Dutch – all brought to Lilla Hotellet by Lonely Planet’s warm recommendations. Breakfast buffet with yoghurt, home made muesli, home baked bread, fruit, eggs and more is offered daily.  The hotel  can now also offer a conference centre (phone 46 587 154 00).

Hand printed wallpaper at Lilla Hotellet