Cesar Manrique wind mobile
Now that the nights are drawing in and winter has come a-knocking, my thoughts are turning to warmer climes. For a guaranteed dose of sunshine, my money’s on the Canary Islands – Lanzarote to be precise. Here’s why…
Lanza-grotty Or Lanza-hottie?
Many moons ago, I used to live and work on the island of Lanzarote. It’s got a real Marmite factor – people either love or hate it. Reason being, it’s incredibly volcanic. Unlike some of its siblings, like super-lush Gran Canaria and La Palma, this Canary isle is incredibly rocky and barren. In fact, it looks a lot like the moon. So much so, it was was used by NASA as a testing zone for the lunar buggies and once doubled up as an alien planet in an episode of Doctor Who. While some people are turned off by the scorched backdrop – dubbing the island ‘Lanza-grotty’ – I adore it. When teamed with the traditional white sugar-cube houses, the scenery takes on a sleek, almost monochrome effect. To my mind, it’s very much Lanza-hottie.
Los Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote
But the landscape is just part of my Lanzarote love affair. I’m also a big advocate of the island’s most famous son, the artist and designer, Cesar Manarique. A contemporary of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, he is one of Spain’s foremost modern artists. His handiwork can be seen across Lanzarote. He went on a crusade to safeguard the traditional look and feel of his beloved island – ensuring the tourist concrete jungles that blighted neighbouring Tenerife et al never befell Lanzarote. It’s down to him that there are no high-rises on the island. He also expounded the marriage of art with nature. This lead to him spearheading a number of funky design projects, including a series of kaleidoscopic wind mobiles, a grotto-come-lido complex, and a restaurant fuelled by a the heat of a volcano.
I recently wrote a post for the Thomson travel blog about Senor Manrique and his Lanzarote legacy. You can read it here.
I used to live in Paris and, a Frenchman aside, I picked up a thing or two about the City of Lights during my time there. Here’s my favourite city break hotel…
Hotel Crayon – 25 rue du Bouloi, Paris
No trip-ette to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre. Either that, or a mosey round Place du Tertre, the one-time village square where Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh and Picasso used to hang out. With all this talk of art, what better place to call home pour le weekend than the aptly-named Hotel Crayon? I stumbled upon this place by chance – an internet booking blunder, truth be told. But what a great little cock-up it turned out to be.
Reading up in reception
Hotel Crayon is a dinky little hotel, with just 27 chambres to its name. All the rooms are decked out in loud and proud hues. My room, for example, was painted slut red. And while the chambermaids were doing their thing, I managed to get a sneaky peek at some of the other rooms – the lime green number just opposite me looked pretty cool.
The slut red garret room
French ‘art’ AKA porn
Boutique and bijou
As well as a Warhol-esque palette, the rooms are all kitted out with vintage furniture that’s been given a 21st-century makeover. The focal point in my bijou bathroom was an antique, Versailles-like vanity unit that had been customised to support a butler’s sink.
A certain Julie Gauthron is the funky French designer behind the hotel’s look. She even made sure the corridors were given the pop-art treatment with wallpaper that wouldn’t look out of place in well, Wallpaper* magazine, and room numbers woven into the pile of specially-commissioned carpets.
The great thing about the Hotel Crayon is, despite all its grand designs, it manages to sidestep that aloof, ‘art gallery’ feel that plagues so many boutique hotels. Instead, this city pile gives off the kind of warmth you usually only get at a guesthouse. Throw in the fact that it’s just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Louvre, not to mention the Louvre-Rivoli metro, and you couldn’t ask for a better citybreak bolthole.