A brilliantly located rental apartment in Rome

Disclosure time (& even my husband doesn’t know this).

When looking online for a flat to rent for our stay in Rome earlier this month, I was looking for places which seemed well located for running.  I’m a brand new, totally enthusiastic runner, and this “choosing a location so that I can go for a run” malarkey is also brand new.

So, looking at the map of Rome, and remembering bits and pieces of the city’s geography from my last visit there some 30 years ago, I thought, why not something along the river? It’ll be nice to run alongside a river in a big city, I thought.

Panorama Ripetta looked perfect.

On the river, & from the map it looked apparently quite close to the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps.  A little balcony on which to have morning coffee/evening drinks.


What I hadn’t quite realised that Panorama Ripetta is so amazingly close to all these iconic locations and more.  Looking at a map, I’d thought we would have longish walks to reach all these places, but instead it was literally a matter of minutes to reach so many of Rome’s major sights. Piazza Del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, the Borghese Gardens, the Vatican – all an easy-peesy stroll from our lovely apartment.

So, on location grounds alone Panorama Ripetta wins hands down.

Absolutely brilliant location.

The flat was equally lovely & spotlessly clean. Decent sized bedroom with hanging space, hangars, extra blankets; bathroom, large living room, with the kitchenette tucked away behind doors.

Panorama Ripetta is in a gorgeous old building just oozing charm and dignity, and with its high ceilings and quiet elegance, it was a delight.

The address is Piazza del Porto di Ripetta.

This is the building, with our very own slightly crumbly fountain.


There is a lift, and our 1 bedroom apartment looked out over the river.  This was our view:


There is traffic along the Lungotevere, but the flat has double glazing which cuts out the noise.

The tiny balcony was my favourite perch, to have my morning coffee


my evening glass of vinoIMG_1699

and just to sit and watch the world go by:IMG_1471

There are plenty of shops and restaurants within a couple of minutes walk, and we shopped most days at the great little Carrefour just round the back of the building, which is amazingly well-stocked and open every day till late.

The kitchenette (below) folds away behind those doors.  There are 2 electric hobs, toaster, dishwasher, Nespresso machine  – when we were checking in (late), it was discovered that there were no Nespresso capsules for the next morning (oh disaster!) but they were delivered promptly next morning, which was a sweet touch.IMG_1598The other folding doors conceal a washing machine, and all the cutlery and crockery.  The crockery was of good quality but there was literally just enough stuff.  Meant we had to run the dishwasher after virtually every meal (& we ended up buying our own capsules as the few supplied ran out).  Similarly, the cooking pots and pans were fine, but j-u-s-t enough.

Nicely decorated and no visible signs of wear and tear.

TV, but we didn’t actually use it at all.IMG_1597

Bathroom was small but had everything including a heated towel rail, a hairdryer, and a first aid box which I thought was a nice touch.

Fire extinguisher, too.

We used the A/C a couple of nights to sleep, and it worked perfectly.

Free wifi.

We arrived late, and so had to pay Euro 25 as a check in fee, which was explained to us in advance.  A lady was waiting for us at the bottom of the building, checked us in, explained things – adequate English.  Since I speak no Italian, am in no position really, to pass judgement, am I?

There was also a Euro 30 end-of-stay cleaning fee, which I’m not sure I remembered seeing online, but there you go.

We booked online, through Expedia, and all emails were handled very promptly and efficiently, including queries about taxis etc.


Would I stay there again?  Oh, absolutely.

We paid our own way, and no-one knew/knows that I blog or write reviews.

Oh, yes –  the running was GREAT.  Along the river to the Vatican City every day –  too much fun.


Where to stay in Venice for THE ultimate view? Altana Albachiara

We have just returned from THE most fabulous trip to Venice (for an equally fabulous family wedding) and we stayed at the ALTANA ALBACHIARA.  And loved it.

There are, however, 2 things that have to be made clear at the outset.

a) the view from the two rooftop terraces is absolutely breathtaking.

b) the 91 steps to get to the flat (& then a few more up to the terrace) are equally breathtaking.

If climbing up 91 steps is not a deal breaker for you (it a-l-m-o-s-t was for our family at one point) then do not hesitate.

Repeat do not hesitate to book this fully furnished, well-stocked, fabulously located 2 bedroom flat for your Venice trip.

The views from the 2 roof terraces (yes indeed, oh joy, 2 terraces!!) are beyond gorgeous.

As in this gorgeous :


The description that the owner of the flat, the utterly delightful Chiara, has posted on sites such as Tripadvisor is 100% accurate:

“In the San Marco district, Altana Albachiara is an elegant charming 120 square meters penthouse at the top of a 16th century merchant’s building at the base of Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal, accessible from a private courtyard, offering the best view you can dream of Venice 360 degrees from the two large top roof terraces overlooking the whole city!

Restored respecting the original features of the typical venetian home, such as the timber beamed ceiling, marble floors, the fireplace and raw brick walls, the apartment is tastefully furnished, with a mix of antique furniture and contemporary conveniences to offer an authentic, cozy and welcoming atmosphere and every necessary comfort to feel completely at home.
The apartment is provided with wifi internet connection, self-regulating air conditioning and heating system, tv, dvd player and a complete hi-fi system for the whole house entertainment.
Full of natural sun light being located on the fourth floor and attic, it feels like the ideal quiet refuge of tranquility where you will be delighted to come back at the end of your days exploring the city.”

The location is unparalleled.  Right at the foot of the Rialto Bridge.  You could not be better located if you tried.

There are 2 well appointed, air-conditioned bedrooms, each sleeping 2 people. Cupboards, ample storage space, coat-hangars galore.  Sheets, towels, extra blankets.

One bathroom upstairs – loo, bath, shower, washing machine.

One downstairs loo.

Well stocked kitchen:

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Dishwasher, gas cooker, toaster, every kind of pot and pan you could wish for.  Even a basil plant on the windowsill:

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Kettle, coffee percolators (plural –  see photo above), loads of glasses, cutlery, crockery.




Chiara even welcomed us with a bottle of Bellini and some chilled beers.

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Large living & dining room, with books, videos, CDs, jigsaw puzzles – it’s truly just like being in a home.  And such a nice relaxed home, too.


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Chiara, the owner, could not be nicer nor more helpful.  From the first email enquiry, she was enthusiastic, helpful, charming.  Fabulous English.  She came to meet us from the ferry station, along with her equally charming daughter (whose baby photos are in the flat), and they settled us in, helping us carry our luggage on our first ascent of those 91 steps.

There were lots of lovely touches.  The Bellini, the beers, chocolates on our bedside tables, visiting cards for a range of shops and restaurants, leaflets, ferry timetables fridge-magneted onto the kitchen fridge (those are the lovely homely touches), a pile of guide books and maps…even a pair of binoculars.





Ah yes, but what about the two terraces, I hear you ask.  They face in different directions: the lower one has a dining table and chairs and faces Piazza San Marco.

The other, a few steps further up, faces the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal and has a sofa and chairs.

Too, too perfect.



Totally, unequivocally recommended.

Would we go back and stay there? In a heartbeat.

Book online via any of the main booking sites, such as Expedia, Tripadvisor.  Just Google “Altana Albachiara” and you’ll be spoiled for booking choices.  The price varies according to the season, I think, but you can figure all that out from whichever booking website you use.

Enjoy your fabulous, unparalleled views.  After all, you have climbed up a lot of stairs to get there.

Enjoy your morning coffee view :


And enjoy your evening cocktail view:


We paid our own way, and Chiara doesn’t know that I blog.


Starbucks, Connaught Place, New Delhi

It’s taken a while, but I finally visited a Starbucks in India.

The fact that I ended up in the wrong Starbucks for my first-time meeting with a well-known author is not especially relevant to this review, other than the fact that sitting alone (in the wrong place, you remember) gave me time to observe my surroundings.

And jolly impressive they were, too.  Now please don’t take this wrongly, all ye diehard “Mera Bharaat Mahaan” people, but sitting in Starbucks in Connaught Place, you could have been anywhere in the world.  Which is what you sort of expect in a Starbucks, right?

I knew I was in India, because of the very polite service and the “Ma’am” added to every sentence, but in case of doubt, here you go:


But what was totally un-Indian (and y’all know I love India.  Live here, remember) is the feeling of space.  It’s lovely and restful, when you find it.  And it was quiet and the cappuccino was excellent.

So all round great experience.

Too bad I was in the wrong Starbucks for my meeting.


India_Starbucks_8891Oh yes.


Rs 147 for a very generously sized cappuccino.  Not bad at all.

Great scarf shopping in Delhi

We have this end-of-holiday ritual, my daughter and I.

Before she heads back to university in England, we go shopping for scarves and dupattas, which are her favoured presents over there.  Brightly coloured long scarves, some with beads, some with prints, some crinkled, are always welcome, and her university friends seem to love them, and so off we go, several times a year to Ram Ji Sons in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar.

In all the years I have been going to this popular shop, I have never, ever once found the shop empty.  Not even half-empty.  It is always packed to the gills with women shopping up a storm.  Fabrics of every description are sold there, and if you look up, the scarves and dupattas are hanging from the ceiling.  Select what you want, try and catch the eye of one of the assistants, and you’re A for away.

The address is Lajpat Nagar Central Market –  they are the shop on the corner, so 2 entrances.

They take credit cards, too.

As you can see from the bills, the scarves are in the Rs 125-175 range.

Want home delivered paper goods in Delhi ?

Delhi (and indeed India) is full of -walas.

People who are specialists in this, that or t’other.

People who will deliver this, that or t’other.

Thus we have a metalwala, who carries out any metal work needed in the house.

And a chabiwala, who makes keys.

And the sabziwala who delivers groceries.

And then we have Vikram, who delivers any kind of household & kitchen paper, so is – I suppose –  my kitchenpaperwala.  Except that his English is so good, and his manner so polite and dignified that everyone calls him Mr. Vikram.

So, if you need kitchen paper, aluminium paper, kleenex, loo rolls, then Vikram is the man for you.  He delivers, charges less than in the shops, has a mobile & email, and is charming to boot –  so what is there not to like ?

I have used him for years, have passed him onto at least one ex-pat friend who has in turn passed his name along, so his service comes fully recommended.

This is his own list :

Paper bathroom rolls
Face tissues box
Kitchen towel roll
Paper Napkin
Aluminium foil
Cling wrap food wrap  foil
Yellow duster(car duster)
Kitchen cloth duster
Floor duster
Garbage bags
and all type of disposables items

Vikram Sharma



Where can I find a good gardening shop in New Delhi ?

In New Delhi’s unpretentious (actually, make that pretty scruffy and down-at-heel) Yashwant Place shopping centre, ignore all the pushy salesmen trying to sell Kashmiri products to Russian tourists, and look out for Argosy, a calm, quietly efficient little shop selling most of the basic garden supplies one needs.

Pots, wire baskets, seed trays, packets of seeds and a few cuttings –  that kind of thing.  The staff is polite and the absolute opposite of pushy.  They leave you to potter and decide on your own without any sales pitch.

You won’t find a huge variety of plants for sale in Argosy – for that you need to go to a nursery – but otherwise, all essential gardening supplies are available.  And they have a huge variety of packets of seeds.

A nice, reassuringly old-fashioned shop.


I went back on a follow-up visit to Argosy yesterday.

If it’s possible, Yashwant Place is looking even more down-at-heel than on my last visit.

I followed a group of overweight Russians being literally herded into the market by an officious Indian driver in a safari suit – by the way, how divinely retro is that ? He imperiously waved his arms in a shepherding gesture, the way school teachers do to primary school children, and once inside the aggressive Kashmiri salesmen took over with a vengeance.
However, I discovered that I don’t look like a Russian, clearly, since I was left alone to go and buy my hanging baskets from Argosy.
The shopkeeper was on the phone ordering bulbs when I arrived, but with a smile and a totally welcoming arm gesture, not at all safari-suit-esque, he indicated I should potter till he was finished.
Polite, efficient, reasonably priced, as ever.

Delhi Airport

For those of us who have known Delhi for a goodly number of years, and endured the old airport, the new Indira Gandhi Airport is beyond a breath of fresh air.  It is Nirvana. Perfection. Relief.

Loads of check-in counters. Loads of immigration counters, though that particular make-over is strictly cosmetic.  The staff may well wear smart grey jackets, but they are just as surly and unsmiling as in the old days.

Once through formalities, you could be anywhere, though Heathrow springs to mind, with all the WH Smith bookshops and Body Shops and Early Learning Centres.  All rather unsettling.  There are some Indian shops, but not enough to make an impression.  You can buy Versace, Reebok, Mango should you wish, but it would have been nice to have more Indian merchandise to soak up all those departing tourist dollars.

One exception is a store tucked away at the end of the huge shopping area, called “India Explore” which, at least the morning this reviewer passed through the airport, had a musician playing the tabla, sitting in front of the marigold-strewn “Serenity pool”.  Apologies for thinking it was piped music.  This calming little bit of Indian mechandising is rather bizarrely located opposute Haagen Das and opposite the Delhi Daredevils sports café.

Other than the profusion of British shops, another unsettling Heathrow-esque touch is the rather Essex girl voice that makes all the English-language flight announcements.  What on earth is wrong with a well-spoken Indian voice ?

The airport now has clean loos – by Indian standards – but the corridor leading to the bathrooms in the International departures section is old-style India- paan spit stains and broken tiles.

Expensive coffee, but it’s good.

Loads of comfortable seating, TVs with the latest news, plug points for laptops, people walking round cleaning.

Definitely world-class.