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Lifestyle, Travel

A Dose of Opera & a Swig of Champagne in the English Countryside

July 19, 2011
Smack in the East Sussex countryside lies Glyndebourne, a family estate which houses six annual opera productions in its 1,200 seat opera house. Pretty sweet digs if you ask me. Being a member of Glyndebourne gives you an advantage getting tickets, which sell faster than home plate seats to the World Series. My parents were smart enough to sign me up for membership as a fetus and are now using me 25 years later to get them seats in the stalls. Unlike opera at the Met in New York or the Santa Fe Opera House, Glyndebourne has a unique charm and is an experience you have to try even if you aren’t an opera buff. 
Mind the gap, aka ‘the ha ha’
Like most operas, everyone attending Glyndebourne dresses to the nines, some outfits more questionable than others, and gather around the gardens and lawns of the estate for pre-opera bubbly. This all seems charming and lovely until you watch someone fall in “the ha ha,” the nickname for the end of the lawn where there is a sudden four foot drop designed to keep out cattle, sheep etc. ‘The ha ha’ makes you a bit cautious about paying too many visits to the drinks tent.
The drinks tent: not your average outdoor bar
Picking out the ideal picnic spot for your party is a true art form and worth arriving early before all the prime picnic real estate is bagged. You haven’t seen a five star English picnic until you come to Glyndebourne. White tablecloths, silver, a floral table arrangement and someone to hold your umbrella Puff Daddy style are NBD here. Once your table and champer hamper is set up, get the drinks flowing and let the good times roll.
Gold Moet best served chilled.

We do scrub up well, no?
After some bubbly and a photo shoot documenting yourself looking classier than usual, it is worth walking around the famous Glyndebourne gardens even if it means trading your stiletos for a pair of gumboots.

Galoshes go great paired with an evening dress
Where are the weeds?
You should also check out the organ room, which in addition to the fabulous acoustics (for the organ), sports the best door stop I have ever seen – I need one!

Busy at work keeping the door open
John Christie, founder of Glyndebourne, was clearly a classy guy with great taste, as seen by his memorial tablet held up by his two trustee four legged furry friends. 

The performance usually starts around 5pm, when everyone giddily abandons their picnic and heads into the opera house for that night’s performance, which is after all the reason for coming! A couple of hours basking in the music and everyone rushes out to enjoy the interval – aka your gourmet picnic. This is when you really hope the party you are with have splurged and you aren’t stuck left eating dry sandwiches and cold tea. 
Duckhams know how to picnic
Back for the second half of the opera and if you are lucky, the star that evening is the gorgeous opera pin up with a fabulous voice (yes, she does have everything), Miss Danielle De Niese. Hanging around for a much needed black coffee before hitting the road might permit a close up view and a chance to chat up your fave rave. 
Danielle might not be single but she’s ready to mingle
Getting to Glyndebourne isn’t too tough – catch a train from London’s Victoria station and enjoy a day in the English countryside sprinkled with culture for an unforgettable experience. Just don’t forget your champagne and galoshes.
Lifestyle, London

The Chelsea Flower Show In Full Blondon Bloom

June 1, 2011
Who knew that I would one day be boasting about having opening day tickets to a flower show. Turns out getting your manicured Chelsea hands on tickets to the British flower show of the year, The Chelsea Flower Show, on members-only opening day, is more impressive than getting into this year’s sold out Glastenbury festival. Unlike my mum who can turn dust to gold in the garden, I can barely keep a cactus alive, so going to a flower show with gardening fanatics was quite an eye-opening experience! No need to wear your best Royal Ascot hat and sky high Essex heels, since flower shows are filled with triple shot venti latte working woman flats (so you can cover more ground faster), and casual cool tweed jackets. You might want to disguise yourself in a fedora and oversized shades, since you’ll be elbowing the pearl necklace clad Chelsea grandmothers to see the plant of the year.. kid you not!
Opening day at the Chelsea Flower Show
Attending an elite flower show will quickly make you realize that:
  • Every avid gardener thinks their home-grown plant last year was “far better”
  •  You can feed your giant venus fly trap steak tartare
  • You probably won’t appreciate the flowers as much if you’re color blinde
  • Plants are judged on the duration of their “shelf life”
  • Old ladies are known for stealing exotic plants at flower shows!
  • Gardening gloves for the serious gardener start at £70
  • You can go shoe shopping at a flower show – score! 
  • Diarmuid Gavin is apparently a hottie in the horticultural world
  • After 10 minutes of discussing this year’s top gravel, you will need a pitcher of Pimm’s
Without further adieu, here’s a slide show of pictures from the Chelsea Flower Show, which will make your gardening thumb green with envy.
This year’s gardening trend: textured walls

Carnivorous plants – watch your fingers!
The benefit of glass flowers? They last longer!

Jackets made from flowers?! – MJ would have sold his antique collection for one of these
A chandelier orchid living room – looks just like mine at home
What’s hidden here? The make shift champagne bar. True story!
Test out your gardening skills and bring a bulb home?…
… or the new Hunter flats released @ the CFS
The glass ‘B&Q Garden,’ the tallest-ever garden to be on display @ the CFS
My favourite: ‘A Monaco Garden’
The Wild Swan” 2011 Plant of the year.. really
Made out of 100% flower
Just your average floral dining room arrangement
Garden sculptures went from modern..

to eye catching… 
… to downright terrifying
Loving this patriotic outdoor garden ‘lounger’ sofa
Tulips on steroids

Fields of lavender

 Will & Kate’s Seychelles honeymoon garden?

Tiki huts are apparently very practical for London gardens…
…so are these futuristic rotating outdoor orbs?

Shades needed for this gorg super-bright Nemesia

Now that I’ve seen the creme de le creme of green house production at the Chelsea Flower Show, I’ve come to realize that most of us could be spending a lot more time tending to our garden … and we could be receiving far superior floral bouquets. Watch out fellas, taking a girl to a flower show can really up the ante!