Fear of a mirthless retail future, media in Marrakech, pigeons in Aarhus and the FCC in HK: an appealing assortment from all corners of the world.
Although our recent trip to Marrakech to meet Lebanese rockers Mashrou’ Leila was a lesson in grappling with the city’s many inconveniences, we were delighted to see the height of handiness: a sprawling news kiosk in the Ville Nouvelle. If you’re looking to pick up a copy of Die Zeit or Morocco’s weekly paper La Nouvelle Tribune on your trip, head to the Gueliz district.
As if the high street wasn’t hobbled enough by hiked-up property prices and overlong leases, we’ve noticed another disquieting trend to spoil a Christmas spree: automation. From Amazon’s promises of queueless shops (your card would be charged as you walk out) to self-checkouts in supermarkets, we’re all paying the price for these irksomely unstaffed retail spaces and fiddly shop-floor interfaces.
Think of the sales folk reliant on the wages from working in their local shop. Does your gift-buying really need paring down to another mirthless transaction with a backlit screen? Automated retail may speed up sales for retailers but a little humanity should still be a simple sell, an idea proved in part by the recent closure of several outlets of the automated Eatsa restaurant in the US (no appetite for it, apparently). Presence, and a little common sense, are the presents we should all be hankering for in 2018.
Miraculously the celebrated Aarhus city hall has remained in its original 1941 nick thanks to the Danish city council and a crack maintenance crew. While some of those on repair duty are on the conventional side (think brass polishers and clock restorers), high up in the hall’s clock tower we met another figure who’s played a key role in keeping up standards: a professional pigeon feeder who ensures that the birds keep on cooing in the tower. It’s a testament to the lengths that the city of Aarhus has gone to in respecting not only architect Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller’s beautiful building but also its feathered residents.
The enduring Foreign Correspondents’ Club (fcc) in Hong Kong stands apart in a city that’s seen many watering holes come and go. The fcc has been a haven for veteran journalists and globetrotters since 1943, largely thanks to its superb hospitality. On a recent visit a Malaysian entrepreneur who has been member since 1993 told us that no other staff in the city remember their members by name – and tipple – no matter how much time has passed since their last visit. We’ll drink to that.
In a sea of sombre black at the Style Bangkok Fair (the period of grieving for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was still being observed), we spied some attendees looking blue – well, indigo to be precise. Trim Thais embraced traditional hand-dyed indigo fabrics from rural Thailand and incorporated them into voluminous trousers and sharp shirts. The colour was perfect for anyone who wasn’t a mourning person.
The museum gift shop is a glorified temple of the knick-knack. So why are the shelves of many a London institution’s retail space increasingly getting stacked with manuals dedicated to the art of decluttering? We’re all for tidiness in the home but selling Marie Kondo and copycats at the gift shop is the high-culture equivalent of a Dukan dietbook at the patisserie counter. We’re not buying the hypocrisy: pass the bulk-buy postcard collection immediately please.
Could the US stem diabetes and its obesity problem by suspending the sale of pumpkin-spiced lattes, gingerbread smoothies and other calorie-laden beverages at branches of Starbucks, and other purveyors of whipped-cream-topped hot drinks? We think so.
Hotel and restaurant managers, and in-flight supervisors, need to find the courage to tell customers how to behave and not allow intrusive technology to get in the way of a pleasant breakfast or serene flight. No one wants to hear a conversation blaring out of a loudspeaker or be included in the background of someone’s smartphone-broadcast video conference.
A cellar stocked with Wetter apple juice to enjoy hot or cold.
Do people in Hawaii read? With just one Barnes & Noble remaining in Honolulu and no serious independent players, we’re getting concerned. Surely all those visiting Waikiki deserve a good shop at which to get their beach reads and a magazine fix.
German brand Zeitraum is worth a peek if you’re looking for some solid storage pieces for your bedroom.
A few more seasons of Follow the Money from the talented producers at DR in Copenhagen.
The little alpine enclave of Bad Gastein continues to generate buzz. Should you be lucky enough to get a decent Christmas bonus it might be worth a look if you’re in the market for a cosy chalet, sprawling apartment or shuttered grand hotel.