Visiting the exhibition “CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE”

Let me be completely upfront with you.

This review is going to be nothing but breathless prose, incoherent, uncritical admiration and lots of photos of THE most fabulous exhibition imaginable.

Yes, indeed, my reviewing colours nailed well & truly to the mast.

If you haven’t already seen the breathtaking retrospective of the work of Christian Dior, then make time.

Go. See. It.

Go to Paris, if you are not lucky enough to live there.

Go.

See this stupendous exhibition of wondrous clothes, exhibited in an absolutely stunning way.

BUT – if you do go, be sure to book in advance, but that will not stop you having to queue, I warn you.  Pre-booked tickers make for a shorter queue, but there is still quite a lot of waiting involved.

And whatever you do, do NOT go on a holiday or over the weekend, if you can avoid it.  We couldn’t, being only briefly “de passage à Paris,” and the crowds and the heat definitely spoiled a lot of the enjoyment.  I was surprised at the lack of crowd control and crowd flow.

There were, quite frankly, w-a-y too many people in each room, and there were several exhibits in the early stages, in the first 2/3 rooms that we could hardly see, so thick was the crowd.  Have to wonder why they don’t have a system of timed tickets, enabling better crowd movement.

Right, having got that off my chest, let me rave about the clothes on display.

From the museum’s website, in their own words:

“The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the creation of the House of Dior. This lavish and comprehensive exhibition invites visitors on a voyage of discovery through the universe of the House of Dior’s founder and the illustrious couturiers who succeeded him: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and, most recently, Maria Grazia Chiuri.”

There are sumptuous gowns and frocks and dresses on display, grouped sometimes by designer, sometimes by theme, sometimes accompanied by a work of art that inspired the designer.

And by “work of art” we are talking Old Masters and Egyptian statues.  Too fabulous.

Like so.

There were dresses that were simply breathtaking in their beauty:

Seriously, how utterly jaw-droppingly gorgeous are these 2 confections (above)?

Sometimes, you need to stop drooling over the outfits, and take a moment and try & separate the clothes themselves from the way of displaying them, to admire the genius of the people who curated the exhibition (below).

There is drama and theatricality in the presentation, but never too much so as to overshadow the clothes.


I loved the groupings by colour:

I loved the groupings by country and influence… will you just look at that flamenco inspired dress!  To die for.  Total perfection.

Now look at these 3 dresses in luscious shades of pink (below).

The reverential atmosphere was lightened at this display by a tiny, wee Australian muppet, who pointed to the dress at the left and said in a loud voice, “That’s my dress, Mummy”.

There was a sigh of agreement from every woman in the vicinity.

I loved every single thing about this exhibition.  Except the crowds.

Totally & utterly recommended.  Even with the crowds.

CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE  from 5 July 2017 to 7 January 2018

Musée des Arts décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
France

We paid for our own tickets and no-one knew that I blog and review.

Eating at The Peak Lookout, Hong Kong

Yes, OK, OK, agreed.

The Peak in Hong Kong is super touristy, with coach-loads of tourists selfie-ing away to glory.

The tourist tat gets worse with every visit – & is set to get even more so, once that giant Coca Cola can is up & running for even more selfies…

BUT, the good news is, The Peak Lookout stays as classy and elegant as ever.

We’ve eaten there a few times before – the last time in 2014 – and there is a sense of timelessness about the place, which is welcoming in a place like Hong Kong, where change is the norm.

We trundled up the Peak in a double-decker bus – as one does – made a reservation, and then wandered through the tourist hoards for a while, before succumbing to the heat, the humidity and the noise of a zillion selfies being taken, and headed for our 30th wedding anniversary lunch.

We’d requested a table outside, but the charming girl on duty asked us if we were sure, since it was so hot out.

I had pleasant memories of dining under one of the beautiful shady trees, as I had done on my last visit, but that was dinner, and this was lunch, so we moved indoors.

Lovely food, efficient attentive service, and I do so like the look and feel of the restaurant.

 

The building, a 19th century Grade II listed building, is a piece of Hong Kong’s history.

Quoting Wikipedia here:

“In 1901, the site was handed over to the government and built into a chair shelter and rest place for sedan chair carriers for both public and private sedan chairs.”

Nice.

For lunch I had oysters, which were on a special promotion & they were delish.Followed them up with mussels, which were equally delish:Hubby celebrated our anniversary with a club sandwich, which he declared excellent:We paid for our lunch, didn’t mention that it was our anniversary, nor that I blog and review.

How good is the coffee at The Coffee Academics?

Excellent.

Truly.

As a total coffeeholic, I’d already Googled “best coffee shops in Hong Kong” prior to our trip there last week, and found The Coffee Academics.

Then, on arrival, one of the first things I was told by my equally coffeholic-y hostess, was that The Coffee Academics was just down the road from her flat.

And so after a lovely run along the beach in Repulse Bay, I had a flat white caffeine fix.

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Great coffee, lovely presentation.

The next day, I had a post-lunch caffeine fix in their Lang Kwai Fung outlet & it was equally good, and equally elegantly presented.

The décor of the coffee shop was uber-cool:


So, yes, a fan.
Totally.

I paid for my coffees, and no-one knew that I blog or review.

Testing the underwater housing for iPhones

On a recent scuba diving holiday in Thailand, we all tested out the housing for my iPhone7, first in the hotel pool and then during a week’s diving trip.
Result?
A resounding success and such fun to use.You simply place the phone inside the housing (above) and snap it tightly shut, using the black catch (below).  It really is that simple.
It is also super-simple to use, with just a couple of things to be done to your phone before use – basically, you need to put the camera icon in the centre of the screen, at the bottom, so you can access it via the housing.

And that’s about it.

You can video, slow-mo, the works, and there’s a fitting so you can put it onto a grip, as I did.

This case was bought in China, and comes with spare O rings.  The box is well-padded, meaning the housing is safe from scratching etc during the time between diving trips!

The photos and videos were way better than I would’ve thought, so, yes, an all-round success story.

There are housings easily available online for different phones, so am only including a couple of links, since these both appear to work on the same principle as mine in the review.

 

How good are ASICS Nimbus running shoes?

Yesterday, I was chatting to one of the lovely fellas in my running group, Navi Singh, as we ran our warm-up laps, & he was singing the praises of ASICS running shoes.

Now before you jump to any conclusions, this was nothing to do with the fact that we are part of the ASICS Running Club, since the club is only a few months old and Navi, as you will see in a moment, has been a loyal ASICS fan since 2011.

He waxed so eloquent on the subject of his running shoes, that I arm-twisted him into writing it up for the blog.

I expected a re-hash of what we’d chatted about.

But no!

This is a product review like no other 🙂  Just read it and see what I mean.

Navi, my friend, this is such a fun review!

And now, let’s hear his thoughts.

Over to Navi.

“My run buddy Asics was introduced to me in the year 2011.

I was never an athlete in school. My flirtation with running started in college days as evening runs, listening to 80’s music on the cassette player Walkman.

Typically while growing up in the 80’s, the sneaker brands known to us were Adidas and Nike.

Reebok and Puma came in around late 80’s.The sneakers were brought more as a lifestyle fashion statement. The interesting thing about running shoes was, you buy new sneakers and then wear them sparingly while going out, partying etc. They were used for running after 2-3 years, ie. when they got old.

Now it’s the other way around. I use the new shoes for my runs, and after few years use it for everyday wear.

Fast forward to 2011.

I tried Asics shoes by default and fell in love with them instantaneously. The first ever model I brought was Cumulus 13, even ran my first half marathon in them. The feeling you get after wearing them is like floating in the air, thanks to the gel technology of Asics. I used them for almost 3 years of road running and the damn shoes still bounced back. The mid sole has the longest life compared to any other brand available at least to my knowledge.

It is unbelievable that I still have that shoe and is going strong.

My second pair of Asics was again Cumulus (15).

Another amazing aspect of Asics is you need very less time to ease into the shoes. The 2014 ADHM I ran in my new Cumulus 15, was only 15km old. (Not that I recommend/advocate anyone doing that!)

The love affair with Asics continued, and I brought Nimbus (17) for the first time in 2016. And fell all the more in love with them. It would be not wrong to say they are the most cushioned neutral shoes available.

The cushioning in Nimbus is out of the world.

I have compared it personally with Nike Cushlon and even the latest Adidas Ultra boost, & the gel cushion of Asics Nimbus way surpasses both the brands. And when you compare the price with other brands, it’s a steal. Typically the competition brands are around Rs17-20k range whereas Nimbus is in Rs12-14k range.

I would like to point out another misconception about Asics that runners typically have is that Asics is a heavier shoe. I have personally compared it with other brands, mind you it’s lighter compared to any shoe with that kind of cushion. Anyway, I could never understand the concept of 20gm here and there in a shoe, when you weigh around 50-75kg.

The Nimbus is so, so, so amazing that I have brought another one, this time the Red Nimbus 18, and it reminds me of the late David Bowie song “Let’s Dance” :

“Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues

Let’s dance to the song

they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway

while color lights up your face

Let’s sway

sway through the crowd to an empty space

 

If you say run, I’ll run with you

If you say hide, we’ll hide

Because my love for you

Would break my heart in two

If you should fall

Into my arms

And tremble like a flower

 

Let’s dance for fear

your grace should fall

Let’s dance for fear tonight is all

 

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes

Let’s sway under the moonlight,

this serious moonlight

 

If you say run, I’ll run with you

If you say hide, we’ll hide

Because my love for you

Would break my heart in two

If you should fall

Into my arms

And tremble like a flower

 

Let’s dance put on your red shoes

and dance the blues

 

Let’s dance to the song

they’re playin’ on the radio

 

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes

Let’s sway under the moonlight,

this serious moon light.”

 

Told ya.

Isn’t that the best review ever, complete with musical accompaniment?

 

I liked this post so much, that I have added “Let’s Dance” to my own running playlist (why wasn’t it there in the first place, of course…) & written a short blog post about the song, with a link should you wish to download it, too.

So a second thank you to Navi is in order 🙂

Reviewing the Newton Motion IV Running Shoes

Exactly 3 months ago today, on 1 April, I won a pair of Newton Motion IV running shoes in a lucky draw in New Delhi, India, where I live. (SO not an April Fool, then!).

As my lovely shoes turn 3 months old today, and have probably racked up some 200km since, it’s time to share my thoughts on these beauties.

Because, let’s not fool ourselves, these shoes are beauties.

They are a fab colour, and there are so many cool design features –  yes, I know they are also super technical and functional features, obviously, but there are details which are stylish as well.

Like so:

The shoe felt instantly comfortable from Day One.  There was not one second of “new shoes” feeling.

The sole is super cushioned, with the lugs that are a hallmark of Newton shoes:

The lugs really do make a difference – I feel lighter when I run in these shoes. I know that’s a horribly untechnical expression, but it’s truly the way I feel – lighter and bouncier.

Here’s the technical low-down from Newton:

Another great feature of these shoes is the heel cushioning.  It’s also super stylish, in keeping with the whole look of these shoes.

And here’s Newton’s own info:

There is also excellent sole cushioning:

I do not use these shoes every day, but alternate with the other shoes in my cupboard, but when I return to my Motion IVs, I definitely feel as though my feet are more protected and “surrounded” –  does that make any sense?

In the 3 months I have owned these shoes, I have run in them many times in Delhi, where I live, and up in the Himalayas, running up and down damp trails in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.  I have run in the rain, in the blistering heat, on grass, in slush, on roads, on trail runs…and these shoes have not given me a moment’s discomfort.  Nor do they show any evidence of wear and tear.  They’ve been washed a few times, after a particularly muddy trail run, and they always come out looking as good as new:

Super happy with them.

Though I won these shoes, neither Newton nor the organisers of the lucky draw asked me to write anything, and I came under no pressure whatsoever to review them.

Will I buy Newton in the future?

Definitely.

And happy 3 month anniversary to us!  

Travelling with India’s best adventure tour operator

I know I am spoiled beyond belief – 2 trips to the mountains in almost as many months, but you know how it is, when the mountains beckon…

In late January/early February I went on a high altitude trek in Ladakh with my all-round favourite adventure travel people – White Magic Adventure Travel.  I wrote about the Chadar Trek in a blog post – here it is again for reference.

Then, come mid April, off I set again on a super exciting, super challenging 2 week trip to the mountains of Himachal, yet again with the one & only White Magic Adventure Travel.  Just got back late last night, tired as anything but smiling happily as only a mountain addict can 🙂

The first week, we were taught the basics of climbing.  The second week we attempted Friendship Peak.

And, yet again, the amazing folk at White Magic delivered a fantastic experience, for the 12 of us on the course and then the 8 of us who attempted Friendship Peak.  The weather for our climb was crazy – huge amounts of snow, as in HUGE amounts of snow – knee-high levels, that kind of thing, so we got to within 200 metres of the summit but then turned back.  The snow was simply too deep and too risky to continue.  Avilash felt it was avalanche-prone and indeed on the l-o-n-g descent from 5000m+ to our Base Camp, there were numerous small avalanches happening all around us.

Oh yes, before I go on – one night, as we were all sitting in the mess tent at Base Camp, Avilash very quietly & diffidently told us that WM had just won the Outlook Traveller Award for excellence – recognising WM as the ‘Best Adventure Tour Operator’.  Cheers all round, as we were living this excellence – plans being rearranged to deal with the weather, sick travellers being looked after, oxygen saturation levels being checked twice a day – that kind of attention to detail which bagged them their much-deserved award.

Here, these are photos of the award ceremony:

So, yes, back to our trip.

Difficult logistics, with all that snow at high altitude and rapidly melting snow at the lower levels.  Indeed, when we descended on the last day to Dhundi, where we were based for the training course, the slopes were virtually unrecognizable, most of the snow having melted.

The training course consisted of practical sessions on the slopes in the morning – terrifyingly exciting skills like arresting your own fall with your ice axe, an adrenalin-pumper if ever there was one.  Kami Sherpa would rock up half way through the morning sessions, with tea and juice and biscuits and we were allowed a quick 10 minute tea-break, and then back to work.  (See what I mean about the WM service and attention to detail, by the way?)

After a late lunch, there would be a classroom session – how to wear your boots and crampons, how to pitch a tent, how to tie knots, many of them conducted by the wonderful Tashi, with whom I trekked on the Chadar.

There was not one single thing to criticise on this trip.

Not one.

Fabulous professional service & attention to detail.

Top class equipment.

Great food, including a high altitude sponge caked baked by the brilliant kitchen staff.

I was so knackered after the summit climb, that I slept right through lunch & emerged about 5pm, absolutely starving.  Staggered through the thick snow to the mess tent, where I was fed bowls of Maggi noodles.  That famous WM great service again.

Every single member of the WM staff was a rockstar – special thanks have to go to our 3 trainers, Avilash, Kirti & Tashi.  Kami Sherpa was beyond wonderful on summit night – I think shovelling snow to make me a space to pee, when we were all on a fixed rope, at 4500m, in the dark, goes way beyond the call of duty…

Fab trip with a fab company.

Would I recommend White Magic Adventure travel?

Unreservedly.

Disclaimer: the guys at WM know by now, after 4 trips with them, that I blog, but they have never, ever once asked me to write a favourable review.  This is all 100% genuine feedback.

I paid for my trip.

Testing the SEATOSUMMIT dry sack

Last year, prior to a diving trip to Borneo, we bought a Seatosummit lightweight dry sack from a dive shop in KL.

8 litre capacity and weighing in at only a spectacular 58 grams.

I have just taken my lovely bright yellow dry bag with me on its first “summit” outing – a 2 week trek in the Himalayas in late Jan-early Feb.  The trek, on a frozen river, provided extreme weather day in, day out.  Cold, snow, sleet, and the possibility of having to ford glacial rivers (the latter didn’t happen, thank goodness).  I used the bag inside my daypack, to keep my camera, batteries, spare socks and spare gloves dry.

Perfect.

Everything dry, despite the fact we walked for hours in the snow.

Here’s the link to the Seatosummit website for these dry sacks.

It’s now been used on dive boats in Borneo and up in the harsh Himalayas, and has passed with flying colours.

Personally recommended.

I bought the bag, didn’t tell the shop nor the company that I blog.

White Magic Adventure Travel – THE adventure specialists in India

Yesterday, with great reluctance, I left snowy, wintery, beautiful Leh, and headed back to Delhi, after another stunning trip with White Magic Adventure Travel.

As I unpack and download my photos and generally ease back into city life, I thought I’d put pen to paper (as it were) and give you an update on the travel company that organised this latest adventure.

I have travelled with White Magic Adventure Travel twice before and have written about them in an earlier blog post, but since every trip is different, I felt an update in order.

No surprise, White Magic did it again.

In the face of extreme weather, beyond unpredictable conditions, sickness (that would be me…) we had a fabulous trek on the frozen River Zanskar high up in the Himalayas.

The River Zanskar freezes over in the winter and what has always been the traditional access route between Leh and Zanskar for the locals, has become an increasingly popular trekking destination.

The very nature of this trek means it is extreme in every sense – you are camping on a frozen river bed, and the logistics are nothing short of astounding. Tents, food, supplies – everything has to be ferried by hand, with a team of 20 fabulous porters dragging the food and luggage and baggage on wooden sleds, and then hoisting both sledge and baggage onto their backs whenever the ice was broken and we had to clamber up hills. (More anon).

The trip started in Leh, and it was great to catch up with old friends from previous treks, like dear Tashi Angchuk, Nitesh Sati and Mohan Singh, who has always been a tower of strength.

On day 2 in Leh, I felt unwell – drowsy, no appetite, vomiting – and so after a morning of worried nagging by Sanjeev Ganju and Tashi, I was marched off to Leh hospital and put on oxygen.  I wound up spending the night in hospital on oxygen.

Since my oxygen saturation level had risen overnight, I was cleared for travel the next morning, though Sanjeev made it quite clear to me that at the slightest hint of further sickness on my part I would have to turn back.  And no discussion.

This is one of the reasons I travel with White Magic –  they are safety-conscious in the extreme, and expect you to follow their advice.

Another member of our group came down with a bad stomach so he too was whisked off to hospital, injected and also cleared for travel.

Full marks to White Magic for prompt reactions – and for visiting me in hospital late at night and first thing in the morning.

So, off we all set to drive to our departure point.  Nitesh had done a recce run the previous day so it came as a total surprise to him when we rounded a bend in the road and – whoa! – landslide. The road totally blocked.  No way vehicles could get through.  And so we scrambled over the landslide and walked, while the porters had to offload and reorganise and walk for miles in the sleety cold snowy weather.  Indeed, some of the porters wouldn’t even make to our first campsite until the next day, poor fellows.

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I shot this video as we left the valley after our trek – and to be honest, the landslide looked even worse than I’d remembered…Goodness knows when it will be cleared.

The Chadar – the ice cover on the river – was so broken in places that after 5 days, the decision was made that we should turn back, having already accepted that our 3 day planned homestay in Zangla was out of the question, since the region was under 5 feet of snow & inaccessible.

Throughout all his process of decision-making and re-working arrangements, plus 2 people turning back earlier, Sanjeev, Tashi Zangla and Nitesh handled things with smooth but firm efficiency.  Cups of tea, warm fires, hot meals – everything went like clockwork, despite all the behind the scenes headaches.

The weather was so extreme that the DC – the local authority – actually closed down the Chadar trek for a few days, banning anyone from setting out, and in addition Leh airport was closed by snow for 2 days.

There was no mobile connectivity, satellite phones are not allowed in India, so the fact that the trek leaders rearranged, planned, re-jigged our trip is nothing short of a miracle.

We were fed copious amounts of food, served gallons of tea and hot mango juice (my latest fav drink, by the way, below)

and slept every night, come snow or high winds, in super-warm double sleeping bags and I, for one, was honestly never cold.  OK, let me rephrase that – it was cold, but I was honestly never uncomfortably cold.  OK, admittedly, one night I did sleep in 2 layers of fleece, I never took my thermal beanie off once – but other than that…

After we turned back from the Chadar, the White Magic team quickly re-organised the rest of our stay.  A welcome night back in the toasty-warm hotel in Leh, and then off we went for a 3 night homestay in Stok village –  all quickly arranged on the go – and never forget the lack of connectivity.

From then on, people started peeling off, heading back to Leh earlier, and with the threat of more snow, some of the group even brought their flights forward.

I didn’t, deciding to gamble on the weather gods and indeed the predicted snow never came, and so I squeezed every last moment out of this amazing trip.

Tashi and Mohan even took the final remaining 4 of us rock climbing, which was super-fun & has now inspired me to tackle new ventures…

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our kitchen crew baked a birthday cake for Anu, we watched the cricket with our homestay family, our kitchen crew and – I think – a few neighbours, all of us happily ensconced around the heater or “bukhari” – oh, the whole adventure was so much fun, and it was a credit to Sanjeev and his team who took a lot of strain.

Trekking in -15C/-18C is already tricky enough, but when you add landslides, dangerous ice conditions, a lack of connectivity, then even more praise is due to the competent, devoted folk at White Magic Adventure Travel.

I fully and whole-heartedly recommend this company – and the proof of the pudding…I have already signed up for my next trip with them in April.

Mangrove Running Belt

Santa Claus was generous this year, bringing me not one, but two, Mangrove running belts – one black & one a delicious Barbie doll pink.

I’ve used both of them, one per day, for the last week and I’m already a fan.

The belt has an expandable pocket for mobile phones, which makes such sense.  I have an older belt which I can now no longer use with my new phone, because the pouch isn’t expandable, so good call, Mangrove.

In fact, for the last half marathon I ran a couple of weeks ago, I used my older phone just because of this issue.

A clip for car/house keys – also makes total sense.

Head-phones have their own access point, and connect easily and internally to the mobile.

What I like is the fact that the belt doesn’t fully open – you either step into it, or put it over your head.  Presumably the logic is to avoid the risk of a clip or velcro fastener opening/not working, causing you to drop the belt.  Once again – good call, Mangrove.

I heartily recommend them.  

Now you want to buy this running belt, don’t you?
Here you go!  You’re just one click away from a new belt… 🙂

By the way – these belts were purchased, and Mangrove has no idea that I blog.