EST. 2009

June 29, 2019

That Spanish Heart

MAJESTIC AND MEDIEVAL AND JUST 30 MINUTES FROM MADRID, Toledo was known as the "city of three cultures’" in the Middle Ages, where Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities coexisted. Today, influences of the cultures continue to be seen in the architecture, densely packing a few dozen impressive buildings in a hilly, walled town.

Wander the winding cobbled paths leading to mosques, synagogues, castles and cathedrals with Sephardic, Visigothic and Roman roots. The Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo is a High Gothic cathedral considered to be the magnum opus of the Gothic Style in Spain. The Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca is the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. The Alcázar is a fortress and former Roman palace perched on the city's highest peak. There are city gates dating back to the 10th century, and bridges from Roman and Medieval times.

Culture has always been celebrated in Toledo, preserving the intellectual and artistic fruits of its historical periods. Even after the Castillian conquest, the city maintained its Arab libraries, with Muslim and Jewish scholars translating Arabic or Hebrew books into Spanish, and then into Latin. Art and artefacts also abound, with the Museo de Tapices y Textiles dedicated to tapestries, and the Museo del Ejército housing an extensive display of military treasures, including a full room of medieval armor.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Toledo is a gem of a city transporting you back to a world of castles and conquests. Best served with a cold glass of tinto de verano.

Museo de Tapices y Textiles, La Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, El Trébol, Alcázar de Toledo, Castillo de San Servando, Casco Historico de Toledo, Spain.

May 15, 2019

That Lyric Romance

PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI'S COLD WAR IS A TRAGIC, ANGUISHED KIND OF ROMANCE made so beautiful, you don't mind the heartache. Set in post-war Poland, the film follows the decade-spanning, on-again off-again love affair between Wiktor and Zula, who meet at an audition for a state-sponsored musical ensemble.

Wiktor is a sophisticated composer. Zula is an impulsive performer. Their backgrounds and personalities clash, and yet intense chemistry draws them together repeatedly in spite of their rash behavior, and amidst turbulent times. The Cold War serves as a sobering backdrop to the lovers' passion, while music in a splendid range of genres brings warmth and joy.

From the a cappella renditions of Polish folk songs in barren winter fields, to the choral propaganda performances in German auditoriums, sultry cooing in Paris jazz clubs, and swinging to mid-century rock and roll, Cold War reminds of music's power to bring harmony where there is none, and elevate the spirit even in dire circumstances.


Cold War, 2018. Directed by Paweł Pawlikowski.

April 18, 2019

That Floral Fix

AMONG ART'S FAVORITE MUSES, FLOWERS HAVE BEEN A PROMINENT SUBJECT of artistic works across history. From ancient Egyptian ceramics, to medieval tapestries and impressionist paintings, flora features heavily in precious and iconic works. “It is maybe to flowers that I owe becoming a painter.” said Claude Monet, who is famed for his Water Lilies series.

In more contemporary times, flowers inspire an even wider range of artistic applications. Andy Warhol's Flowers is a quadriptych of silkscreen prints in kaleidoscopic colors. Jeff Koons' Large Vase of Flowers is a polychromed wood sculpture of a Renaissance-style bouquet.

Monet's Water Lilies, Andy Wharhol's Flowers, and Jeff Koons' Large Vase of Flowers

Still life depictions of flowers, however, continue to be one of my favorite floral genres. Its simplicity places less of a focus on concept, and more on composition, color, light and the quality of flowers as they are painted or photographed.

I'm currently feeling Britta Walsworth's fresh, fashionable floral designs. Looking elevated from the commercial bouquet without being avant-garde, her compositions have a tousled vibe to them while comprising sprigs and blooms in immaculate condition.

Floral design by Britta Walsworth,

March 30, 2019

That Super Siesta

A SINGLE DAY FEELS LIKE AN ETERNITY IN VALLADOLID, where time seems to stand as still as it has since the city's colonial era. Cobbled roads are lined with pastel-toned, Spanish-period edifices, built literally with stones from demolished Mayan structures. No modern buildings to be seen here.

The locals are unhurried. The pace is languid. Take your time especially since most everywhere is a leisurely walk away. The city center is conveniently compact, with roads arranged in a neat grid intersected only by Calzada de los Frailes: a quaint street where where the multicolored facades house both boutique shops and hotels so high in style.

Hacienda Montaecristo is one such, working with 30 local tanners, weavers and embroiderers who use ancient Mexican techniques to produce textiles and leather goods. Caravana also has its roots in the Yucatán, aiming to preserve Mayan culture in creating "neo-artisanal" pieces. Part shop, part hotel, Coqui Coqui lists Valladolid as one of its locations, housing a spa, perfumery, guest rooms and a plunge pool.

In and around the town square, the Iglesia de San Servacio is Valladolid's postcard attraction, with its two towers standing alongside symmetrically-arranged palm trees. The Museo de Ropa Étnica de México displays a small, colorful collection of regional costumes. The Casa de los Venados is in fact a private home, which opens its doors to visitors for guided tours around its folk-art-filled rooms.

A few hours suffice for a culture fix in Valladolid, leaving plenty of time for long lunches, and even longer siestas.

With no beach, limited landmarks, and a sensible night life, Valladolid visitors usually treat the sleepy city as a base for exploring the rest of the Yucatán. I too ventured out but mostly stayed in town to simmer in the languor I can never have in London. Poolside under the Mexican sun is never a bad place to be.

Tresvanbien, Calzada de los Frailes, Hacienda Monteacristo, Casa de los Venados, Iglesia de San Servacio, La Casona Valladolid, Hotel Casa del Mayordomo, Valladolid.