This week… pizza, photography and life on Mars

A glorious spring week with longer days of sunshine as everything starts slowly warming up, including me. As I write this I have Abba blasting in the background and I have to keep stopping to dance around the living room. The news remains up and down but I’m definitely feeling upbeat. It’s been awhile. Hello optimism.

While actual travel is still not possible, this week I popped over to Germany and Portugal virtually to catch up on the latest news. I really enjoy connecting with people around the world live and virtual trips coming up include Japan and Greece. Tourism organisations and travel providers are desperate for British visitors, just as we are to travel. From an overloaded inbox here’s five things I especially liked this week.

Planetary exploration

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote. Photos Canary Islands Tourism.

While space travel is still in the future it becomes more realistic as each year passes. The island of Lanzarote is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Geopark. It also has a geological resemblance to both the Moon and Mars. Due to its similarities with the red planet the island’s Timanfaya National Park is used by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) for astronaut training and testing Mars Rovers. ESA chose Lanzarote for experiments, instrument-testing and astronaut training because of the unique geological conditions similar to those found an incredible 54.6 million kilometres distance from Earth. Lanzarote and Mars share a similar volcanic terrain and the basalt soil around the island’s national park is the same as on Mars.

With Lanzarote and Tenerife as the Center for Planetary Studies, ESA began sending scientists to Lanzarote to begin the field training of astronauts in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover launched on July 30, 2020 on its mission to search for life. It landed on February 18, 2021 at the 45-km wide Jezero Crate, Mars in the Timanfaya landing grid, named in tribute for the Lanzarote park.

When it was calculated where the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover would land on Mars, it was chosen to be in a work grid called TimanfayaThrough the rocks and minerals of Lanzarote’s landscapes we can understand the history of Mars.”
Jesús Martínez Frías, an instructor of astronauts at the Geoscience Institute of Madrid.

The sub tropical climate of Lanzarote offers sunshine throughout the year with the hottest temperatures in August. If you can tear yourself away from the pool or the beach make sure you visit the volcanic area where your guide will give you a small volcanic rock to hold. Be careful, it’s hot! www.hellocanaryislands.com

A Day Out from London and the south east

L to R: cycle beside the River Cam; accomodation at University Arms Cambridge.

In the hope that we’ll be able to travel a little further afield before too long Cambridge is one of the most famous cultural destinations in the UK. It offers historic sites and the chance to wander The Backs, the pastures and gardens alongside the River Cam where, of course, you can hire a punt. Allow an afternoon to explore the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens with vast woodlands, lakes, fountains and seasonal plantings. If an overnight stay is permissable this summer take a look at the historic University Arms luxury hotel. Eat al fresco at Parker’s Tavern siutated on the city’s famous green where, incidentally, the rules of football were invented in 1848.

Slow travel fact. Cambridge is 40 minutes direct from King’s Cross with the University Arms a 10 minute walk from the train station. A ‘Botanical Package’ includes an overnight stay in a suite, exclusive private tour of the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens led by an expert Horticulturist and a private ‘Make It’ session at the Cambridge Gin Distillery Lab. No prices available at the time of writing. universityarms.com


Chanel partners with The National Portrait Gallery

L to R: Anna May Wong, actor; photographer. Photos courtesy The National Portrait Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery, in partnership with French fashion house Chanel, has announced a three year project Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture led by newly appointed Chanel Curator for the Collection, Dr Flavia Frigeri. The gallery will highlight the role of women photographers with the aim of documenting history (or rather her-story) and to encourage women to enter the profession.

Activities will include a spotlight on Edwardian photographers such as Alice Hughes. Hughes only photographed women and children. At the peak of her career she employed up to sixty female assistants. Women’s contribution to the war effort of both world wars is a topic of research and includes Georgina Masson, the first black woman Officer in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, Noor Inayat Khan, Special Operations Officer, and Lady Sarah Wilson, the first female war correspondent. An aside, but projects or media stories on this topic always seem to omit the extraordinary contributions made by ordinary women such as the WAACS later known as the QMACC the first women’s corps of the British Army, including those who died in service.

Other fields of endeavour will feature in portraits and stories including modern painters and sculptors. Featured women are: actor Anna May Wong; writer Radclyffe Hall; and pioneering film editor and scriptwriter Alma Reville, overshadowed by her husband Alfred Hitchcock.

To celebrate Women’s History Month the gallery is currently featuring a series of filmed interviews with inspirational women and include: Sarah Gilbert, lead scientist on the Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine; Sarah Gilbert, founder of the MOBO Awards; Zenaida  Yanowsky, former Principal of The Royal Ballet; and Amika  George, period poverty campaigner. www.npg.org

Life’s better with fizz

Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa. Exquisite chocolate dessert; view over the Champagne vineyards.

“Why wait for the green light to eat out again to elevate dining at home or to enjoy the finer things in life? A glass of bubbles enhances your mood like a spritz of your favourite perfume”.

After a long and busy working week at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, a friend and I developed a regular Friday night ritual of sharing a bottle of Champagne at our favourite bar, over an enjoyable but quite simple meal. It felt indulgent, well-deserved and maybe a little cheeky. So it struck a note this week when expert Daniel Pires, Sommelier at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, shared his recommendations for pairing the very best bubbles with favourite comfort foods. The Champagne region’s first contemporary five-star hotel is set in the hills above Epernay and Reims (Dom Pérignon).

Pires on Champagne with pizza. “There’s something for every type of pizza! For a four-cheese pizza, I’d opt for a dry Champagne such as a Laurent Perrier La Cuvée, whereas a lighter blend, such as Leclerc Briant rosé, would be better for a classic Margherita pizza as the bubbles will highlight the delicate taste of the tomato sauce. For a truffle pizza, I would recommend an aged and full-bodied Champagne such as a Moët & Chandon 2012 Grand Vintage.”

Slow travel fact. The Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa is located right in the vineyards and just 40 minutes by TGV from Paris Gare de L’Est. www.royalchampagne.com.


Happy 550th Birthday


We tend to think that travel is a relatively modern phenomenon but people have always explored the world. A new exhibition Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist at The National Gallery will mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of Albrecht Dürer and will explore the influences and ideas the artist drew on from his travels. Dürer journeyed far and wide from his home in Nuremberg, crossing the Alps into Italy and the Netherlands.

Exchanging ideas with artists in other countries fuelled his curiosity and creativity, increasing his fame and influence across Europe. And all in pre-social media times! This is the first major UK exhibition of German Renaissance art for some 20 years. The exhibition will bring together loans from museums and private collections across the world and include ‘Madonna and Child’ (c. 1496/1499) from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, not previously seen in the UK. It is his drawings of women though that I find particularly appealing and intriguing. I can’t help but wonder what their lives were like. ‘Dürer’s Journeys‘ (20 November – 27 February 2022).


That’s all for this week. Please share recommendations for exhibitions or places to visit in the comments. Stay safe and well wherever you are in the world.



As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on domestic and international travel guidelines.

Unless otherwise stated, I have no affiliation with the brands mentioned but simply aim to share places and products that have caught my eye. I will always state if a post is sponsored or gifted.

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