Paper work

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Despite using my trusty laptop to do most of my writing, being a writer, I am still hooked on good old fashioned stationery and am a sucker for stationery shops – stocking up notebooks, pens and bits and pieces.

My latest love? Nuuna Notebooks by German brand Brandbook. Made of Swedish premium paper, thread-stitched and bound in smooth bonded leather or jeans label material, they feature funky covers (think silkscreen printed patterns or mirror effects). Designed to be small design objects, collector’s items pieces they were launched to put an end to boring notebooks and will definitely be accompanying me on my next foray abroad.

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I particularly love my green metallic leather version and will be using it for ew ideas, sudden inspirations, thought fragments and sketches. Lightbulb moment just waiting to happen.

Available in Selfridges, Topshop and Paperchase and from www.stonegift.com.

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While we are on the subject of stationery inspiration, I’ve also come across these cult mt washi tapes which come in a huge range of colours and patterns. They can be used as decorations, crafting and they also allow you to be creative by writing and drawing on them.

mt washi masking tape is the original of its kind and began in 2006 when three ladies from Tokyo approached Kamoi Kakoshi who initially made industrial masking tape. The four joined forces and revolutionised masking tape as we know it, launching mt washi tape as a decorative item. There are now over 100 different colours and patterns available.

 

Prices start at £2.50. Stocked in Selfridges and stonegift.com

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While we are on the subject of getting creative, I also have to give a mention to these great little finds that I will be packing with me on my next trip with the kiddies. French brand Minus‘ genius activity books, £5.50, will no doubt go down a storm with my boys next time we are faced with a long flight. The fun books are meant to be alternatives to playing on an iPad or phone.

Meant to inspire moments of togetherness between adults and children, the books are designed to capture children’s attention while peaking adults’s curiosity! Covering varied subjects such as love and politics, Minus books contain thought-provoking and humorous content, such as this ‘Oh If I Were Prime Minister‘ version. In it, you can devise your own rules, create an identity card, plan an election and form your ideal country. Ideal for little tyrants.  www.minus-editions.fr

Also perfect for travelling are the Omy pocket maps and games to colour in and while away the hours. Oh! To be young again! www.omy.fr

Summer Lovin': little gems for holiday fever

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I’ll be packing these beauty gems next time I take off somewhere balmy. This trio of products is perfect for keeping skin in tip-top condition.

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First up is Origins’ latest launch. The Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay, £23, gives dewy, glowing skin ideal for no make-up skin once the sun comes out. The two-in-one formula deeply cleanses while exfoliating and refining surface texture so skin looks glowing and refreshed. Best of all is its deeply relaxing fragrance from the essential oil blend of lavender, geranium, rose and grapefruit. Rose Clay, used for thousands of years as a detoxifying ingredient, gives it a creamy texture and draws out impurities and excess oils. Canadian Willowherb restores luminosity while Persian Silk Tree is an anti-irritant to keep skin balanced. It also contains jojoba beds for the exfoliation step, activated when it comes in contact with water.

www.origins.co.uk

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Ideal for refreshing skin after a day in the sun is this gorgeous tonic from Dr Gabriela‘s advanced Moonlight Dust Therapy Skincare range (products are all made with molecular water). The Moonlight Dust Skin Toner leaves skin feeling refreshed and protected against the elements. I’ve been using it at the end of the day on cleansed skin and its cocktail of ingredients plumps up the skin, firms and adds a layer of moisturisation.

www.drgabriela.co.uk

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Finally, I swear by using a good body scrub once summer arrives – regular use means limbs are left bump and abrasion free as well as being smooth for hair removal. This Body Polish, £19.95, with lemongrass and ginger from the organic skincare brand Botanicals is just the ticket – not too rough on the skin but with enough ‘edge’ to slough off dead skin. It is infused with the naturally invigorating scents of lemongrass, ginger and mandarin, and is a soft sugar-based scrub which works gently to buff and brighten dry skin. Theorganic cane sugar and Himalayan salt crystals penetrate deep into skin, removing any dead skin cells or impurities clogging the pores. While the organic infusion of lemongrass, mandarin and ginger invigorate and put a zing in your step. Summer here we come!

www.botanicals.co.uk

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Throwback hair: Paul Mitchell celebrates 35 years

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I’m loving the retro vibe of Paul Mitchell’s limited edition Bonus Bags. Celebrating 35 years this year, the hairdresser has released a throw-back range of shampoo and conditioner duos in a vintage style bag (featuring a very 80s photo of the man himself). The bags have up to 16% off usual prices, with a donation also going to the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK.

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In 1980, hairdresser Paul Mitchell and business partner John Paul Dejoria started Paul Mitchell® Luxury Hair Care with just $700. They launched in the US with a quartet of products in black and white packaging (colour was too expensive). Back then it was one of the first and truly covetable line of hair products by a hairdresser that was available to use at home and was the envy of all if you spotted it in anyone’s bathroom. Seven systems and 130 products later the iconic global brand is celebrating its 35th anniversary (not to mention the now affordable splash of colour on its packaging). Back in the 80s, Paul Mitchell also became the first professional beauty company to announce they don’t conduct or endorse animal testing.

My Smoothing bag has the Super Skinny Daily Shampoo and Super Skinny Daily Treatment in it, £21.95. It tames frizzy, curly or unruly hair and has a luxurious feel to the products. Gorgeous and just as covetable now as it was then.

www.paul-mitchell.co.uk

Coast to coast: Meriko London inspired by travel

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Ooh! I’m loving the new Gold Coast collection of jewellery by Meriko London. The pieces blend a bohemian style with a sophisticated twist and feature gold-plated sterling silver with natural hand-picked stones in Meriko’s unique ball design. 

2 stone ring malachite 2 stone ring turquoiseMost wearable are the four adjustable rings (including a pinky and midi ring) which are wonderfully chunky and bold (so of the moment). A matching bracelet, long two-stone necklace, a back necklace (love, love, love), an ear cuff and long earrings complete the line-up. The collection is inspired by travel and the freedom of youth – so, right up my street – and feature a range of semi precious gems and crystals covetable because of their natural empowering qualities. 

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I love the little details, such as the Meriko flower or the signature round stone designs, which are prominent in each piece.  Designs are available in 18ct yellow or rose gold plated sterling silver and the two pinky/midi rings are also available in rhodium plated sterling silver. They are ideal for long, summer days and are wonderfully unique.

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The stones available are light pink Rose Quartz, dark green Malachite, navy blue Lapis Lazuli, landscape Agate, black Agate and Turquoise.  The jewellery line was started by Meri Hovsepyan in 2013, who comes from a family with a history of making fine jewellery. She founded Meriko London to offer high fashion jewellery at accessible prices but which had a timeless quality. The new collection was realised when she was travelling around southern Spain. Seeing the Mediterranean Sea every day, she began to think about translating its beauty into a new collection. She merged that with three ideals that every woman wants to feel forever: youth, serenity and freedom.

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The Gold Coast collection is now available online at www.merikolondon.com and through stockists in London, Moscow and Marbella, Spain. The range starts at £85 for a two-stone ring.

Doha, Qatar: a star in the ascendant

It may be a controversial place at the moment, but that doesn’t mean to say that Doha hasn’t got some seductive attraction about it…

Shimmering in the distance, lighting up the darkness of the desert, the city of Doha is a dazzling sight. The cluster of electric-neon towers are bold against the night sky, and mark Doha out as a true incarnation of a 21st century metropolis, unrecognizable from the original pearling port it was just a few decades ago. But while other Middle Eastern cities, such as Dubai, have a ‘bigger is better’ philosophy, Doha’s skyline – albeit with its fair share of skyscrapers – seems to be more about gravitas and grace than vertiginous pride.

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One of the most striking buildings in Qatar’s capital, for instance, is Doha Tower, designed by French starchitect Jean Novel, and overlooking Doha Bay. Standing at 761 feet, it is remarkable not because of its height but because of its delicate, lace-like layered façade inspired by Islamic shanasheel screens – making the building at once traditional and futuristic. With his ability to fuse both the old and new worlds that Doha represents, Nouvel was also called upon to design the new, much anticipated National Museum of Qatar, a work in progress, due to open in 2016 (www.qm.org.qa/en/project/national-museum-qatar). “Giving voice to Qatar’s heritage, while celebrating its future” is its tagline, and you can see the building’s innovative interlocking disc design, which is meant to look like a desert rose growing out of the ground, taking its final shape.

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Based on the Persian Gulf and bordering Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s capital may now be on the map for football fans the world over – it being the controversial host of the World Cup in 2022 – but it has long been overshadowed by glitzier Middle Eastern destinations. The government aims to right that with a bigger plan for itself beyond the World Cup aiming to mark out Doha as one of the world’s cultural capitals and a hub for well-heeled travellers. As a consequence, everywhere you look there are new state-of-the-art buildings, impressive museums, glitzy hotels and fantastical restaurants springing up across this desert and sea-fringed city. Big names from the arts, design and culinary worlds are also flocking here to be part of the action, making it a buzzy, exciting place to be.

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Another jewel in Doha’s cultural crown – the Museum of Islamic Art (www.mia.org.qa) – offers food for both the soul and body (see selection of images above). Housing a rich collection of varied pieces spanning 1,400 years, it stands in an iconic building, on Doha’s Corniche, and was designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei. Drawing influence from traditional Islamic architecture, the stark limestone building captures hourly changes in light and shade and has a glorious rooftop terrace with views over Doha’s skyline. Best of all is its very special in-house restaurant IDAM, Alain Ducasse’s first restaurant in the Middle East, with a sophisticated decor designed by Philippe Starck.

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W Doha (and below)

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Ducasse is in fact just one of the many world-renowned chefs with restaurants in the city. While culture is high on the agenda, so is culinary prowess, with many of the ‘great and good’ of the gourmet world opening up ‘shop’. Following on the heels of two Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants (Market and Spice Market) at the W Doha (www.whoteldoha.com) and Gordon Ramsay’s Doha at the St Regis Hotel, West Bay (www.stregisdoha.com), is the just-opened Nobu at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha (www.fourseasons.com/doha). While the Four Seasons itself is known for its grand, traditional interiors, its new Nobu outpost – located on its own private marina beyond the hotel – epitomises the very latest in seductive urban glamour.

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Nobu at the Four Sesasons

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Conceived by David Rockwell to resemble a coiled pearl shell, the sprawling, three-floored restaurant is the largest outpost by chef Matsuhisa in the world (at 26,000 square feet) and pays tribute to the city’s pearl diving history. From its roof-top lounge to its dramatic open-plan dining room, the circular restaurant uses natural materials to form a multi-layered ambience: think bronze accents, ribbons of stone, textured wood and shimmering glass baubles for lights. It is an apt setting for the stand-out Japanese food Nobu is known for. As well as his repertoire of signature dishes (black cod miso and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno), the menu boasts new creations using local ingredients and a unique tapas style menu (the grilled umami chicken wings with miso salt and the wagyu beef gyoza butter ponzu sauce are to die for).

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Four Seasons (and below)

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Seasoned travellers would do well to base themselves at the Four Seasons Doha. While the large rooms, with neutral but pleasing colour palettes, are perhaps the least interesting part of the hotel – they are nonetheless luxurious (nothing less will do here). Instead, the spotlight in this hotel is on the public areas – a standout waterfront spa, inviting tea lounge and authentic shisha lounge are vibrant places to hang out, whether it is for some me-time or to mingle with the local movers and shakers who gather here.

For a buzzier, younger scene – check in at the W Doha in the West Bay area, which has a Bliss Spa, sophisticated eateries and specially curated events. Rooms are curvy and cocooning (many are circular to reflect the local pearls which was once the only industry that existed in Doha) while the suites have stunning views over the Arabian Gulf and dramatic interiors.

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As a city on the move, it’s easy to be wowed by the glitz of the new. Just as rewarding, though, are some of the more authentically Middle Eastern places to visit (see images above). Souq Waqif is one of these: a labyrinth of small shops selling anything from fresh dates to pottery, handicrafts to everyday merchandise. Here you’ll mix with locals who are shopping or simply chatting over coffee. It’s noisy, friendly and scented with oud from the perfume shops. There are material shops aplenty – white cotton stacked up in the windows to make the immaculate thoubs (long tunics work over trousers) that men wear and piles of black cloth for the women’s djelabia (long dresses) – it turns out there are many variations – in the hundreds – of shades of white and black.

View of Qatar

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Desert Hiker

Desert

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Another local haunt is the Doha Corniche, a 7km-long waterfront promenade that stretches in a semi-circle around Doha Bay – great for leisurely evening strolls (much like how the Italians take their passeggiata, this is popular pastime with families) and to see the traditional wooden dhows bobbing in the bay. Also worth a bumpy trip across the sand dunes is the strange place that is Khor al Adaid or Inland Sea, found 60km south of Doha and only accessible in a 4×4 with a guide. A UNESCO recognized nature reserve, it is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert and makes for a unique spectacle. Like many of the world’s most memorable places, it’s weird and wonderful. Much like Doha itself.

EXSUS offer five nights in Qatar for £1,659 per person. Based on two nights at The W Doha and three nights at The Four Seasons Doha. The price includes airport transfers and return flights from London to Doha with Qatar Airways, 0207 337 9010; www.exsus.com

Qatar International Adventures offers a range of tours including Desert Safaris, Doha City Tours and Museum Tours, www.qia-qatar.com  

For more information on Qatar visit www.qatartourism.gov.qa

Dad bag: Baylis & Harding’s handy gift idea for Father’s Day

For those racking their brains as to what to buy their dear old Dads this Father’s Day, then here’s a last minute idea.

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Baylis & Harding’s Citrus Lime and Mint Body Treaty Bag (£9.99, available at asda.com) is just the ticket for Dads on the go. Ideal for travelling or for the gym, the black toiletry bag is stuffed full of really usable, sport-themed products.

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The four toiletries – an Aftershave Balm, Shower Gel, Face Wash and Hair and Body Was – all come in the zesty, fresh, masculine scent. Packaged in a stylish black wash bag, the set is ideal for a long weekend away or for sprucing up after a day spent on the golf course.

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The tangy fragrance of limes and mint is ideal for reawakening the senses and giving the body a boost –  ideal for reminding him, how you feel.

baylisandharding.com

Coastal cool: Cornwall in the summer time

Hidden coves, crumbling castles and cliff-framed beaches – Cornwall will always hold eternal appeal for those who love a quintessential seaside scene. But a new wave of hip openings is also giving the English Riviera an urban edge.

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What’s not to love about a traditional Cornish holiday? But while many of us may simply be happy to be beside the seaside, it seems that Cornwall is not content to rest on its laurels. Adding to its age-old charm is a raft of cool restaurants, boutique hotels and art installations, that wouldn’t be out of place in Shoreditch. Here’s my pick of the best.

UP AND COMING

Carlyon Bay

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Cannis Rock

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Carlyon Beach (and below)

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St Austell is the latest Cornish corner to undergo a makeover. Set to bring some razzle dazzle to this area of the south coast is the £250m Carlyon Beach regeneration project starting this year and which will encompass luxury hotels, restaurants, spas and shopping. Cannis Rock Apartments, just outside St Austell, is already ahead of the curve. The contemporary home-from-homes have magnificent panoramic sea views – perfect for those in the know (holidaycottages.co.uk).
Visit: stayincornwall.co.uk

GOOD BUNS

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HUBBOX (and below)

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Forget seafood, the humble burger is making waves on the coast. Inspired by the street food found in New York’s Williamsburg district, Hubbox started life as a restaurant pop-up in a 30-foot shipping container. It now has four permanent sites, the newest being in St Austell, all with industrial-feel interiors and award-winning burgers (hubbox.co.uk). Sam’s At The Bay, meanwhile, is the latest project by local restaurateur Sam Sixton. The tiki hut on Crinnis Beach serves burgers, moules mariniere and craft beers set to a soundtrack of chill-out tunes and live music (weather permitting, samscornwall.co.uk).

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Sam’s at the Bay (and below)

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MEALS ON WHEELS

Perfect for foodies wanting to burn off the calories is a new gourmet cycling tour of west Cornwall. The five-day itinerary, by Cornish Cycle Tours, covers 106 miles and takes in foodie hotspots at St Ives, Marazion and Porthleven, the site of Rick Stein’s newest harbourside restaurant Rick Stein Porthleven (rickstein.com). Cycle hire, luggage transfers and accommodation are all provided, cream teas are optional (cornishcycletours.co.uk).

SMALL STAYS

Having won a Michelin star for his Padstow restaurant Number 6 and critical acclaim for his Italian eaterie Rojano’s In The Square, chef Paul Ainsworth is now venturing into the world of boutique hotels. Set to open this summer Padstow Townhouse will offer just six rooms in the heart of Padstow, north Cornwall’s answer to the Hamptons. Expect quirky interiors in an 18th century building (paul-ainsworth.co.uk).

COASTAL INN

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With its marine stripes and cool colour palette, the new harbourside St Mawes Hotel, is the ultimate stylish stay. With just 14 boutique bedrooms and in-house restaurant serving locally-sourced produce (lobster and chips, homemade pizettes), there’s a real buzz to the place (stmaweshotel.com).

SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR SUMMER

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The Eden Sessions at The Eden Project (12-17 July, edensessions.com) will see Paloma Faith, Paolo Nutini and Elton John play their sets in the eco project’s natural amphitheatre. Meanwhile the endless days of summer are kept alive at the Sundowner Sessions taking place at Lusty Glaze in Newquay. Ben Howard and the John Butler Trio are just two of the names playing in what could be the most picturesque music venue in the UK (until 25 August, lustyglaze.co.uk).

 

CORNISH BUBBLES

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With our climate steadily getting warmer, the UK’s wine industry is going from strength to strength. Cornwall’s Knightor Winery in St Austell Bay grows its own grapes in vineyards in the Roseland and Whitsand Bay and is gaining a solid reputation for its premium quality still and sparkling wines. Visit for behind-the-scenes tours and wine tasting sessions in the historic converted barns. Recommended is the Madeleine Angevine 2013 served cold with a leisurely tapas lunch in the Cellar Door Café (knightor.com).

PUT YOUR FOOT IN IT

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Kite surfing and shark safaris are so last year. Cornwall’s latest offering for sports fanatics is Football Golf. Try your hand (or rather foot) at the new hybrid sport. It uses the same rules as golf but instead of using clubs, players kick a football into holes avoiding various obstacles on the dedicated course. Perfect for all ages (cornwallfootballgolf.co.uk).

 

BE PART OF THE ART SCENE

Cornwall has long been a mecca for artists – think Barbara Hepworth and potter Bernard Leach – with a thriving art scene established from the end of the 19th century onwards. A glimpse into today’s art scene can be seen at Porthmeor Studios in St Ives, which has had a makeover and is now home to some of the county’s best artists, such as marine artist Mark Dion and painter Naomi Frears. Sign up for an artist’s workshop (schoolofpainting.co.uk/about-us/porthmeor-studios/).

WORK UP AN APPETITE

From the Rock Oyster Festival (10-11 July, rockoysterfestival.co.uk) to the Great Cornish Food Festival (25-27 September, greatcornishfood.co.uk), Cornwall is leading the artisan food movement. It’s no surprise that Jamie Oliver is at the helm. As well as hosting regular farmer’s markets, you can check out Fifteen Cornwall’s head chef Andy Appleton’s locally sourced dishes at Somersault’s Campfire Feast (23 July, somersaultfestival.com).

TAKE YOUR SEATS OUTSIDE

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Pentillie Castle (and below)

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The balmy weather and spectacular scenery of Cornwall combine to provide the perfect backdrop for outdoor theatre. This summer Pentillie Castle, near Saltash, is opening up its grounds to a variety of companies and productions (pentillie.co.uk). Meanwhile, you can’t get more dramatic than catching one of the season’s al fresco performances at Minack Theatre’s famous Porthcurno’s cliffside location (until end of September, minack.co.uk). For more avant-garde tastes, catch 946, an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by experimental, nomadic theatre troupe Asylum (25 July-23 August, kneehigh.co.uk)

For more information, visit: stayincornwall.co.uk