Travelling light? – beware of weight restrictions

Travel blog

Travelling light is not just about being careful with your money. Speed and weight are an attractive factor for minimising your luggage. However, the goal posts constantly sift and some airline weight restrictions are shockingly low. So doing your homework is essential before you book.

Speed

Flying with only hand luggage with a pre-printed boarding pass gives travellers the freedom to skip the check-in queues. It also saves precious minutes waiting for luggage to drop onto carousel when you land and excludes the chance of lost luggage. The downside to travelling light is joining the rush to jam it into the aircrafts overhead storage lockers.

Weight

Gone are the aching shoulders and backs from loading and unloading the car or taxi. Or struggling up and down stairs at the train station. Hand luggage with wheels allows any traveller to glide effortlessly through the airport like the airline staff. However, with reduced weight comes the unfortunate reality of a restriction in content. Travelling light is perfect for short holidays, hot destinations or somewhere with laundry opportunities. But not so great for those winter holidays to colder climates.

Budget airlines

The budget airlines, Flybe, RyanAir and Easyjet have allowed many travellers to become masters in the art of travelling light.  And their generous weight allowance can allow most travellers to pack adequate clothing for a few weeks.

Shockingly holiday specialists Thomson offers the lowest weight of hand luggage on their flights. A mere 5kg. Thomas Cook is not much better with just 1kg more. Both companies flight prices keep them out of the realm of the budget airlines. And both charge for hold luggage if you book flights independent of their package holidays. Just a little something to watch out for when heading for the sun this summer.

Volunteering – a grounbreaking event

I love being involved in the art world and as many of my followers know I frequently take the opportunity to immerse myself in the Cornish art community.

Recently the excitement surrounding the county’s latest art commissions and sited work has been rippling through many of the events I have attended. So when a call for volunteers was circulated I couldn’t wait to get involved and signed on the dotted line.

Groundwork is a project organised by CAST, and will be bringing internationally celebrated art and artists to Cornwall from May to September this year.

A series of groundbreaking new commissions and acclaimed works by internationally celebrated artists will be featured in unique venues and unusual outdoor sites across West Cornwall.

Run in partnership with Tate St Ives, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange and Kestle Barton there will be an emphasis on moving image, sound and performance in the planned programme of exhibitions and events.

The focus of Groundwork is an exploration of place as the terrain of past, present and future human activity. The programme aims to develop connections between the visual arts and other specialist fields.

After an exciting training day, I am even more excited to be a part of this groundbreaking series of installations. My rota for the coming months will be arriving soon, after which I am looking forward to posting my personal experiences, so watch this space…

Geneva – a great destination anytime of the year

TRAVEL BLOG

Surrounded by mountains the historic city of Geneva is a fantastic destination for a holiday at any time of the year.

Culture

Perfectly petite the historical centre of Geneva just takes a few hours to explore on foot. Its stunning architecture oozes flavours of both France and Germany. And the cobbled streets are lined with tempting cafes, restaurants and boutiques.  However, to really get a feeling of this vast city, make a beeline for the Cathedral of St Pierre, which offers stunning views from its tower.

Lake

It’s hard to ignore the largest lake in Central Europe which divides the city. It is perfect for swimming on hot stuffy days. Sightseeing from a boat. Or just walking beside. The mountain vistas on offer are spectacular. Lac Leman, is bordered by some beautiful cities. Lausanne, Montreux and the stunning medieval village of Yvoire are just a few worthy of a mention and a visit.

Wine

Only 2% of Swiss wine is exported from its 15,000 hectares of vineyards. Most of which are produced within the cantons of Geneva. Unusually red grape varieties don’t dominate here.  Which allows the subtle delicate white wines, which rarely leave the region, to be the cream of the crop.

The unique wines from the nearby Jura, are grown at an altitude of up to 400m. The speciality wines include Crémant du Jura. A sparkling tipple made from unripe Chardonnay grapes and Vin Jaune. This late harvest wine is created from Savagnin grapes. Left to ripen as much as possible, they are fermented for up to 6 years to create an intense flavour.

Cheese

You can’t review a corner of France or Switzerland without mentioning cheese. Gruyère, Mont d’Or, Comté, are all created from the high pasture flora of the Jura by some very special cows. Each cheese oozes a flavoursome character of its own and holds a definitive place on any local menu.

Bon Appétit!

Mont Jura – a quick and easy ski fix

TRAVEL BLOG 22/03/2018

As a gateway for ski fanatics, Geneva is a cheap and easy destination served by some of the UK’s major budget airlines (Easyjet, Flybe, and Jet2 ). It is the perfect portal for a quick ski fix and most of my snow junky friends book flights in advance, watch the snow levels and head for the well-known resorts in France, Italy or Switzerland. With short transfer times of just over an hour, perfect for maximising slope time, I normally do the same. However, on my last trip I had the opportunity to discover some unknown little resorts within a fifteen-minute drive of GVA.

Nearby little gems

Small and relatively unknown to English skiers is the little gem of Lélex – Crozet. As one of the largest downhill ski areas of the Monts Jura resorts, it is suitable for all levels of skiers. It makes a perfect day resort for seasoned skiers or a great weekend destination for families.

The 30km of slopes can be reached easily via gondola from Crozet, on the French side of Geneva. With its summit at 1650m, this petite ski resort doesn’t suffer from blistering cold temperatures or windswept pistes. What it does offer are cheaper day passes, delightful tree-lined runs and quick, easy access to the slopes. Its potentially low elevation is alarming to some. But the resort boasts a high ratio snow cannons to service its 26 runs. It is this attention to detail which guarantees snow coverage in cold conditions and enables the resort to still thrive in lean snow years.

Slightly farther afield from Geneva is the Col de Faucille and access to the ski resort of Mijoux. Nestling above the charming historic town of Gex and just thirty minutes from GVA, it boasts 12 downhill runs. It also offers some great cross country, tree-lined walking trails and stunning views of the Northern Alps.

The third but smallest of the Mont Jura resorts is the Menthières ski area. A hefty 15 km from Bellegarde and fifty minutes from GVA it is not a solution for a quick easy ski. However, it is full of atmosphere and offers up to 10 downhill ski runs and some nordic skiing so is worthy of a mention.

Snow record

Unfortunately, snowfall in the area has been sketchy over the last couple of years. However, this season the snow depths have been incredible. So if you are short of holiday leave and low on funds but need an end of season quick fix, one of these small resorts could the answer to your dilemma.

Virginia Woolf – To the LIghthouse

Divine, is the only way to describe my total absorption into the world of Virginia Woolf recently.

Not only was I privileged to explore the recently opened Virginia Woolf inspired exhibition at the Tate St Ives on a personalised tour with director Anne Barlow. But I also spent a whole day at Porthmeor Studios with two renowned Virginia Woolf experts.

The intriguing new Woolf exhibition, housed in the new extension is inspired by her writing. It offers a narrative with a feminist perspective on landscape, domesticity and identity through modern and contemporary artwork. The exhibition includes some outstanding work by  Laura KnightGwen JohnVanessa BellWinifred NicholsonSandra BlowBarbara HepworthClaude Cahun and Dora Carrington.

Inspired by the premise of the exhibition I then joined a small group of twenty on a windy but bright study day, in St Ives. Sarah Phillips and Claire Nicholson, our Masters on Woolf for the day, bestowed on us a deeper insight into the Virginia life. Focussing particularly on her St Ives inspired novel To the Lighthouse, one of my particular favourites, the study day further opened my eyes to the influence of her childhood in Cornwall on her writing.  Symbolically the rare glorious sunshine illuminated the stunning seascape beyond the studio window’s, making it easy to understand how Woolf had been so taken with the landscape that surrounded her during her early years.

Claire Nicholson, is a specialist in Modernism, the history of women’s writing and Virginia Woolf who frequently lectures in Cambridge.  Sarah Phillips, who has made a career of studying the Bloomsbury art and literature has more recently focused her attention on Woolf as a Cubist Writer. Both knowledgeable speakers on all things Woolf, they are naturally also Executive members of the Virginia Woolf Society.

Unfortunately, I shall miss the Virginia Woolf: Art and Ideas conference, scheduled at the Tate St Ives on the weekend of the 2-4 March. Delivered by a huge collection of highly respected speakers and focusing on Landscape & Place, Performing Identity, Still Life, the Home & The Private Self, the conference will no doubt offer further in-depth insight into Woolf’s personal life and writing.

Colourful springtime destinations

TRAVEL BLOG

Springtime, I love this time of year. The public gardens are bursting into colour and the temperatures are starting to rise. My feet are starting to get restlesss and I need to travel. My mind also starts to wander to those famous destinations renowned for celebrating spring. The cherry blossoms of Japan. The Tulip fields of Holland. Both are tempting options which offer a colourful seasonal feast for the senses.

The springtime phenomenon in Japan

The cherry trees start to burst into blossom as early as January in Okinawa. This is the start of a three-month tide of bloom which travels the length Japan. From mid-march and into April, the cherry and plum trees of central Japan have burst into colour and Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is covered in a gentle wash of pink tones. The spectacle doesn’t stop there. It carries on northward through the remaining countryside, finally reaching Hokkaido in May.

Japan’s oldest and possibly most famous cherry blossom attraction is Ueno Park, Tokyo. With over a thousand cherry trees, this public space is a blossoming spectacle and a deeply symbolic reminder of new beginnings as the gloom of winter disappears. These beautiful blooms also mark the arrival of both the Japanese financial and academic year,  on April 1st.

European splendour

More popular and probably the most well-known spring flower sensation in Europe are the iconic flower fields of Holland. The tulip fields are at their most vibrant between March and May particularly at the  Keukenhof Gardens. Here the seven million swaying flower heads overpower the senses with the splendour of their multicoloured blooms. However, if daffodils are your bulb of choice, then March/April is the best time of year to view Hollands fields of cadmium.

The wild Channel Islands

Closer to home it is in late April that the celebrations begin for the Wildflower Fortnight in the Channel Islands.  As the sun begins to rise higher in the sky and begins to penetrate the frostbitten fields with heat, a blanket of flowers bursts into life. With over thirty miles of unspoiled coastline, the smallest of the island, Sark, allows the best-uninterrupted cliff views of an abundance of species.

Alessio Antoniolli – Porthmeor Studios

ART BLOG
FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY 2018

Once again I was lucky enough to be invited to Porthmeor Studios for another of the ‘Lunch Break Talk’ series. Alessio Antoniolli was to be our speaker for this session, which was hosted by the Artists Residency Programme in partnership with Cultivator Cornwall.

This was my second visit to St Ives since the new year.  It was also my second chance to mingle amongst the resident artists while I spooned delicious homemade soup from a mug and chomped on chunks of tasty bread.

Alessio’s a passionate, fluent and enlightening talk, dissolved all fears I had of falling into a post-lunch slumber. A naturally gifted speaker Alessio focussed his engaging talk on the unique opportunities offered to artists by  Gasworks and the Triangle Network.

At Gasworks, Alessio leads a programme of research and development.  This non-profit contemporary visual art organisation offers rare fully funded residency opportunities. Gasworks encourages artists to develop new ideas through educational projects, events and workshops. It also organises exhibitions to accompany these programmes. And encourages audiences to engage directly with the often groundbreaking, emerging UK and international artists it hosts. A priceless opportunity, particularly for artists with a small reach.

At its South London HQ, the easy-going, relaxed environment helps to inspire minds and develop talent. Gasworks is also the hub for the Triangle Network. Now a global support system for artists and visual arts organisations, with over four thousand members. The Network supports artistic development and promotes cultural exchange. Through exhibitions,  events, workshops and studio residencies in over forty countries, the Network creates opportunities to bring a variety of artists together in neutral spaces.

Both the Gasworks and Triangle Network have gone from strength to strength under Alessio’s guidance in the last twenty years. Together they offer exceptional opportunities for artists from all corners of the world to research ideas and develop work.

During his talk at Porthmeor, Alessio also hinted at the possibility of residency exchanges, which prompted some interesting enquiries during the Q&A session which followed on at the end.

Manon de Boer – screening and Q&A

ART BLOG
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2018

It’s not often you get the chance to sit in on a Q&A hosted by ex Falmouth School of Art student, Laura Smith. Or get the opportunity to listen to cubist inspired filmmaking Manon de Boer talk about her work. But on this valentines eve, our evening was made more unique by the realisation that it was also Laura’s last day as the curator of the Tate St Ives.

Manon’s career began as a sculptor and photographer and transcended into filmmaker while capturing her friends on super-8 film. She has since filmed on 35mm for Presto and 16mm, popular for low-budget motion pictures, for film Dissonant.  Her best-known films include a series of portraits, in which the film medium itself is continuously interrogated.

Her work is appreciated internationally and has been featured at the Venice Biennale (2007), Berlin Biennale (2008), Sao Paulo Bienal (2010) and Documenta 13 (2012). Her work has also been screened at film festivals in Hong Kong, Marseille, Rotterdam and Vienna.

Two films were shown at the Falmouth School of Art screening: Dissonant, which records every movement of dancer Cynthia Loemij and Presto, Perfect Sound, which focuses on composer and violinist, George Van Dam, as he performs the Béla Bartok’s sonata.

Both films were intense and concentrated on the sound rather than the image. This is particularly evident in Dissonant when the screen turns black during the one minute that is needed to change the 16mm film roll.

Presto was a perfect reflection of creative concentration, enhanced by the editing as the film captures the best of his six performances. The fractured image serves to intensify the sound.

She is now developing a new piece of work which will be launched in Cornwall on May 5th this year for the Groundwork programme.

Visual FX – Ben Toogood

FRIDAY 9 February 2018

I graduated from my first course Falmouth School of Art nearly thirty years ago. It was a unique course which evolved during its four-year duration. The course introduced us to a wide variety of media for conveying information including video & animation. Consequently, quite a few of the GID’s, as we are collectively known, pursued a career either in CGI or character animation. A few, including my nearest and dearest, went on to perfect their skills at Bournemouth and subsequently rubbed shoulders with the Aardman team. So when I heard  Ben Toogood was to give a lecture on Visual FX, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to slip into the magnificently lit Chapel lecture theatre to listen.

Ben’s career so far has also given him the opportunity to work with Weta and MPC. As a result, his work can be seen in some amazing films including Superman Returns; King Kong; Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and a couple of  Harry Potter films

Now Head of 3D for the Aardman Animations CGI department, his current work is varied. Which he elaborated upon in his lecture. Budget, safety, quality and just achieving the impossible are at the root of much of Aardman’s current FX work. The CGI department’s specialism is lighting/rendering processes and technologies for TV dramas, commercials and films. A bulk of their work also involves creating environments, crowds and even digital doubles.

Ben’s informative and well-structured lecture delivered some constructive advice on how FX is used throughout the industry. It also introduced the current batch of animation students to the possibilities of work outside the realm of character driven animation. Food for thought for any inspiring animators.

Bed bugs on planes – is there a way to avoid them?

TRAVEL BLOG

With the latest reports of bed bug infestation on planes, the question is raised – how clean are the seats we sit on?

Complaints from travellers have risen in the last few years, with both bites and sightings being reported to the major airlines.  Planes have been grounded and investigations launched, prompting some flight operators to clean up their act and exterminate the problem. However, the consequence of taking a plane out of circulation costs money, so the clean up has not been widely implemented.

It’s not an easy fix either. The problem doesn’t rest solely in the seat material or carpets. These nasty little nibblers are prolific international travellers and can hitch a ride on any luggage. Once stored safely in overhead lockers they have access to the entire plane. It’s not just luggage either. Attracted to body odour and sweat, dirty clothing is a perfect hideout of these minute creepy crawlies.

Renowned for causing a skin rash in a line or zig-zag pattern. Bed bug bites are commonly found on the hands, neck, face, shoulders, legs and arms. Thankfully no disease is transmitted by their bite. However, unfortunately for some, they can cause extremely inflamed, itchy, red or blistered spots.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Travelers especially worried about bed bugs in any environment can invest in a plastic cover like the Bug Off Seat Cover.  On planes, it is also advisable to take your own blanket and pillow to use and stay eagle-eyed. Once on board, examine your sea. Make sure there is no evidence of dark stains or mobile bugs.

After one of the most recent reports, British Airways were quoted, ‘we are vigilant and continually monitor our aircraft’. Despite this, the company isn’t named in the Top 20 of the ‘Cleanest Aircraft Cabins’. Available online this resource lets you check before you book. Among the long-haul operators featured in the Top 10 are; Cathay PacificQatar Airways; Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

How serious is the problem?

For many, the evidence of infestation won’t be apparent until they reach their destination. Then it is a matter of conscience as to whether the incident is reported. However, planes are not the only potential source. Cinema seats, rental car seats, buses, trains, hotels etc., can also be infested.