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Spotted in Condé Nast Traveller (June 2007), the Electra Amsterdam has to be a future design classic.

Soon every serious loft apartment dweller will have one hanging casually on their exposed brick wall.

Based on the design of the Dutch city-bike, the Amsterdam looks retro but apparently rides modern. It is one of range of fab looking bikes, made by ELECTRA in the US, but available across Europe.

It's good to see the quality assured name of Shimano in the specs, although it's a bit daunting for me, a gear shift novice. But I'm assured that the three-speed Shimano gears are reassuringly simple.

You get a more upright ride than a mountain bike but bless them, a coat guard stops your bootlegs from getting chewed by the chain. You can choose from Classic or Sport styling, in red, black, blue or even buttercream.



What do you give a cyclist who has it all - the bike (with new saddle), helmet, club kit, gilet, socks, longs, shorts, warmers, tools, something tooth chain ring, magazine subscription?

Something extraordinary is required. Luckily, it can probably be found at RAPHA.

Rapha tells us that their "performance roadwear goes beyond simple function. Pared down styling, a tailored fit and quality construction make every product beautiful to wear and a pleasure to own".

And I'm reliably informed that everything (so far) is top quality. It wicks and it fits.

The highlight of the new Spring Summer catalogue is, for me, the Leg Shaving Kit. At only £130 ($220), you get the "finest badger brush with a chrome travel razor in a leather case". An indulgence ... probably. A design inspiration. No question.


5 MARCH 2007

The fabulous description of tapas was spotted in the Lonely Planet's World Food Spain guide,

"Tapas, the true tapas of Spain, are not merely things to eat. And they do not travel well. Like so much of Spanish gastronomy, tapas are indissolubly knit to the culture and soil of Spain.

Tapas are not a collection of recipes, or the shape or size of a morsel. They are an expression of a people and their unique way of living. They are not things to eat, but a way to eat them.

And yet they are even more. They are a way of visiting, and talking and enjoying. They are a way of being part of the community. A way of staying in touch and of staying sober. They are both symbol and substance of Spanish conviviality. They are intimate."

I think that's asking a lot of a tin of chick peas.

It's the social spirit of tapas that's interesting. I'll create my own version, using local produce - croquestas with Scottish cheddar and kipper. Tostas with black pudding. Brochetas with salmon and streaky bacon. And tartaletas with haggis.

Now just to find some friends ...

This book is FANTASTIC, by the way. There are great recipes, culinary anedotes, proverbs and and lot of food and drink.


When you grow up with something beautiful around you, it can lose its significance.

I spent six yearts studying in Glasgow, surrounded by the extraordinary architecture and design influence of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Mackintosh, architect, designer and artist, is celebrated around the world as one of the most creative figures of the early 20th century.

Mackintosh's contribution to modern architecture and design is unquestioned.

He is one of the most significant talents to emerge in the period which spans from the mid 1890s to the late 1920s.

To say Charles Rennie Mackintosh is to say Glasgow, in the same way that Barcelona is the city of Antoni Gaudí.

Their work goes beyond the artistic, it was revolutionary.

Although they never met, Mackintosh and Gaudi coincided in their daring and independence.



Livingetc writes, "You’ll be hard-pushed to find a cool, city-centre bolt hole that’s better value anywhere in the world. And when you see how much has gone into the design, it’s even more staggering.

There are bright colours at every turn and the furniture you’ll covet the moment you open the door.

From the enormous turquoise flora mural to the digitised classic portraits, the look of the place is as exciting as the city itself.

Colour, passion and art all collide in Madrid, just as it does at the Room Mate Laura, situated on Plaza de Las Descalzas Reales.

The angular mirrored side tables in the living rooms bounce light around in a dazzling way.”



If the endless grey of February is getting you down, take a look at how the Spanish beat the doldrums. They get out and party!

It’s carnival season now in Spain and that means plenty of music and dancing, food and drink, parades and fireworks.

The Canary Islands Carnival kicks off in the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with Latin sounds and fabulous floats (10–13 Feb 2007).

Since Carnival is all about making the most of the time before Lent, Barcelona embarks on an epicurean party. On Fatty Thursday – Jeuves Ladero - there’s a tortilla competition (until 25 Feb 2007).

Madrid’s party culminates on Ash Wednesday with the Entierro de La Sardina (or the burial of the Sardine), an ancient event that ridicules the tradition of burying fat to mark the beginning of Lent. There’s a healthy dose of the burlesque here (until 19 Feb).

Parades take to the streets of Malaga, featuring murgas or street bands, masquerades, quartets and choruses (until 28 Feb 2007).

Spain’s wildest party is reportedly in Sitges, the streets are packed with revellers ready to eat, drink and be merry.

At Vilanova I La Geltru, a seaside town in Catalonia, they have la meringada, a meringue war (23 Feb-3 Mar 2007).