Sunday, 26 January 2014

Ultimate B&B

I’ve started sifting the bottom cabinets of our bookshelves, more precisely those concealing piles of interior design magazines. I haven’t had the heart to throw away my beloved Art & Décoration and other French copies, some of which are more than 10 years old. After all, Mediterranean style is rather timeless.

The French interiors took my mind to some of the places where we have stayed on our travels. Even though we generally stay in private apartments it sometimes happens we (meaning I) can’t find a suitable one, in which case we prefer a bed-and-breakfast or a small privately owned hotel. The B&B we’ve adored the most is the gorgeous little Le Stanze del Casale in Portoferraio on the island of Elba. It was an absolute joy to stay there.

The place is located a few kilometres outside the town, not exactly by the beach but in a quiet and picturesque rather rural setting at the bottom of a hill not far from the sea. We were delighted about everything there, especially the owners and the fact that there is nothing fake about the place. All the items looking traditional or old are authentic hand-crafted, antique or vintage pieces.

The decor is most charming and welcoming with lots of delicious well thought out details both indoors and outdoors. You could stay at a place like this for weeks discovering something new of the interior and surroundings every day. We enjoyed our stay so much we didn’t mind a bit the lack of a TV in the room. Who would come to Elba to spend time indoors anyway?

The lovely owners have renovated their place from an old farmhouse. They live in the same building but in completely separate quarters with an entrance of their own. So they are always available but will not disturb you if you prefer privacy. Moreover, they are such animal lovers that visitors with pets are also welcome to their place. The B&B is open from April until the end of September. I bet it is fully booked most of the season.

Our room.

Our terrace facing the hills.
We travelled to Elba a few years ago in April when the weather was mostly sunny but we also saw some cloudy and rainy moments. We would like to return one fine day towards the end of the season when the crowds have cleared out. Should we be lucky we might be able to revisit Le Stanze del Casale, too. To me, it is the ultimate benchmark for a B&B. That’s how I’d envision by own fantasy establishment to be like, an inviting and tasteful home-like little place full of character.

More on our visit to Elba here.

Portoferraio across the bay.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sun pillar

Yesterday I nailed it. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and witnessed a fantastic sunset with a spectacular sun pillar. Such a light pillar is an optical phenomenon created when light is reflected from ice crystals.

I took some things to my son who lives in western Helsinki. When I left his place the sun had started to set. I hurried to a nearby bay parking by the bridge to the Seurasaari island.

Recent weather reports have warned people from walking on thin ice but around Seurasaari the ice seemed to have exceeded the safety limit of 5cm. Paths and tracks had already been formed on ice by people skiing or walking their dogs. 

I didn’t spot any Nordic skaters – tour skaters on natural ice – although this form of exercise has become rather fashionable in the last few years. They probably favour the lakes.

Seurasaari is a popular recreation area, especially in the summertime, much thanks to its rural atmosphere. The island is the home for an open-air museum with wooden buildings mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries that have been moved there from around the country. It’s been years since my latest proper visit. Another entry to add to my calendar for next summer.

More about halos and other optical phenomena in my post from two years ago here.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Out of fabric and thread

I’ve realized I haven’t posted anything on my ‘Handmade treasures’ in months. I must revive the series soon. Meanwhile, I am showing something that was recently on display in the café of the Old Student House in Helsinki. Such a piece of art would be a treasure to anyone who can afford it.

'Opera Don Giovanni´'

These are works by the Finnish textile artist Helena Vaari.  I saw her exhibition in Lahti a couple of year ago and now immediately recognized her unique style when spotting these on the café walls. Her techniques are appliqué, free machine embroidery and textile collage. She likes to call it painting by sewing machine, describing the thread and yarn as her paint and the needle as her brush.

'The old friend'

'The source of power'
Helena Vaari finds her inspiration in nature and the simple joys of everyday life.

'Hiding together'

'Forget me not'
In addition, she often ‘paints’ people in poses resembling fashion photography.

'Aida, The Costume of Amneris'
The show also included several opera-related items, a couple of which portrayed details of costumes. 

I am sorry my photos are not sharper. The café was rather dimply lit and I didn’t want to disturb the fellow customers too much. Nevertheless, I hope they will reveal what amazing works of art you can create out of some fabric and thread or yarn when you have enough imagination and a lot of talent. Plus plenty of patience. The price tags ranging from €500 to €1600 clearly talk about that.

'Turandot, The Blue Choir'