Saturday 13 July 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 13/7/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Wish you were here?

“So, would you recommend Mykonos?” Now, usually when you get asked about a holiday destination that you know in detail, the answer is either a resounding “yes” or some clear warnings about the hygiene levels or unsavoury people that hang out there (yourself included, possibly). But when anyone asks me about Mykonos – a dozen visits to my name – I always pause and sometimes just fail to offer a committed reply.

Why the reluctance to becoming a fully fledged ambassador for somewhere I seemingly can’t stay away from? Well, Mykonos town at night heaves with cruise-ship trinket-buyers who seem to be perpetually discombobulated by the town’s labyrinthine network of alleys. The retail scene is increasingly pitched at a crowd presumed to have lost all sense of taste in the heat. Restaurant owners have become giddy with their pricing; having watched Narcos, I imagine Pablo Escobar was charging less per kilo for his wares than the restaurant owners of Mykonos are requesting for their scaly catches.

Yet while other Greek islands may have nicer beaches and fewer avaricious traders, that’s not the point. And so, despite all of the above, I still come back to this place.

I am typing this on the terrace of a quiet modernist hotel looking down on to a garden of fondant-fancy pink oleander, flame-red hibiscus and palm trees jiggling in the breeze (you can suffer from terrible wind in Mykonos). And just beyond is the sharp blue sea being whipped into soufflé-soft waves. All I can hear is sea, rustling leaves and doves.

And that’s the Mykonos trick. You can have two very different holidays here – and even alternate them from one day to the next. Today you could take your scooter down the rough track to Fokos Beach where there are no sunbeds, no beach clubs and just one restaurant: the cute and amazing Fokos Taverna. It lures you in again and again with sunny food and the team somehow remember you from year to year. Then tomorrow you could head for lunch at Spilia in the east of the island. It looks across a perfect bay where yachts drop anchor and people head to the restaurant in ribs, or simply dive into the water and swim to their table. There’s a DJ and, likely, dancing once rosé o’clock strikes. These two places couldn’t be more different but both are sublime.

Mykonos is also a place of beach clubs made for every taste. There’s the chilled (well, in daytime anyway) Alemagou and the now Soho House-owned Scorpios, which at night is rammed, beautiful and filled with a party crowd drawn from Beirut to LA (someone modestly arrived by helicopter when we went).

Now, there are many travellers who will find the jumble that is Mykonos perplexing, wishing there was a little less litter and fewer squished kitties on the roads. Or maybe they’ll hanker after a Greece of goat herders and simple living (although even that is still to be found in Mykonos). And I get it. Yet what can’t be beaten is the blue cloudless sky, the breeze on your face as you head back to the hotel from a day reading and sleeping on the beach and the knowledge that tonight could be a fun night out or a moment of calm. It’s an island that is changing, and fast – and who knows, perhaps the affair will come to an end.

But anyway, just to be clear: I really am not recommending it. No way. And definitely don’t blame me if you find yourself dancing on a table, clapping your hands out of rhythm and wondering if you should take up Greek dancing.

Image: Alamy

Report / Smell

A nose for culture

How do you capture the scent of a work of art? This question was put to French parfumier Officine Universelle Buly, which has been working in collaboration with the Louvre for more than a year to produce eight scents inspired by pieces in the museum. Ramdane Touhami, owner of the fragrance house, enlisted the help of eight of the industry’s most perceptive noses to create perfumes inspired by the likes of the “Venus de Milo” and Gainsborough’s bucolic “Conversation in a Park”. The latter has been interpreted by Dorothée Piot as a delicate rose-scented aroma. The perfumes are only available to buy from Officine Universelle Buly’s pop-up shop (open until January) in an old postcard booth at the Louvre.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Good call

Summer had its official start on Monocle’s editorial floor last week as editors and writers, sound engineers and designers squeezed their lithe beach bodies through the tiny window that allows them a bit of sunny downtime before they return to produce a September issue, four Summer Weekly newspapers (on newsstands from the second Thursday in August) and relaunch our radio station. Unlike my colleague at the top of this dispatch, I haven’t gone completely horizontal in the eastern Med. Instead I’ve opted to stay a bit closer to home and maintain a gentle work rhythm; I feel it’s essential to stay a bit limber with an intense wave of work heading our way.

I’ve been on a little tour across the Alps that’s allowed for pit-stops to meet clients, sunny mornings to catch up with colleagues in Asia and a couple of days in Merano to visit our outpost on Dantestrasse and plan for our big summer party. (If you happen to be in the region in mid-August, please join us; sign up to our Monocle Bulletin newsletter if you’d like an invite).

It only takes a slightly chilly, sunny weekday morning to convince you that this is one of the best places to spend the summer and before long you find yourself venturing out on longer walks and plunging in for more daring dips. On Wednesday I decided to venture up to one of the larger swimming lakes and set up base camp for the day – towels, magazines (get the new issue of Salon to put you in a proper summer mood), books (thank you, Mr Von Holtzbrinck) and various potions from assorted Beiersdorf brands. With my travel companions in tow, we were all set for the day. This being Switzerland, we were also well catered for – surprisingly good coffee just steps away.

Under cloudless skies we caught up with the papers, wrote the odd email, tucked into our books and went for plenty of circuits around the lake. Occasionally I glanced up from my reading to spot little curiosities of alpine life: an enormous hawk circling for his lunch over a thick, fluffy meadow and a perky brown squirrel darting around a chunky wooden bench looking for crumbs. I returned to my trashy thriller and just as the lead character had the courage to gently open the basement door and venture down the stairs, I felt the ground shake ever so slightly. I didn’t pay much attention but then I felt more pounding and what could only be an approaching herd. I tensed and looked up, expecting a charge of mocha-tone Swiss cows. To my surprise it was a swarm of Swiss primary and high school students. Scores of them.

There were plenty of spots around the lake for them to settle down but they clearly liked the co-ordinated hues of our towels, chairs and swimwear – in seconds we were surrounded. The teacher in command told his group to not get too close to other people lounging but this was largely ignored as towels were laid out, layers pulled off and sun lotion applied. I tried to go back to my book but was conscious of our increasingly compromised territory. How long would it take for me to be annoyed by the land-grab? Was the teacher going to establish stricter border controls? Or should I simply treat this as a unique opportunity to observe a Swiss sub-species at close range?

At first glance they didn’t seem all that different from similar groupings you might find across the border in Austria or Germany: sporty attire, a couple of good haircuts, serious trainers, gangly legs, board shorts and bikinis. Huddled into little groups, they tucked into their backpacks to pull out apples and grapes; a few started to throw around a ball, here and there some were in their books and others were gathering for a swim. But there was something wrong with this picture. Yes, the range of ages was a bit strange (eight to 18) but that wasn’t it. I surveyed the group again, scanning for a clue and suddenly there it was – or wasn’t, in this instance. Was it possible that 60 students could be gathered in the summer of 2019 and not a single one was on a mobile? As I zoomed in on backpacks and pockets looking for tell-tale bulges, the crowd started to make their way down to the lake. But where was the girl posing in her bikini for Instagram? Where were the boys gaming? Where were the groups hunched around an iPhone watching something stupid on Youtube?

This was far more exotic than the circling hawk and the squirrel – 21st-century youth untethered from technology. As most Swiss schools have a ban on mobile-phone use, this little scene was not surprising. But the more I observed, the more I realised that a strong sense of social capital was also at play: there was no shouting, no blaring of music, no mess and no obesity. With the sun beating down, my mom suggested it was time for us to grab a dip too.

“Should one of us stay behind to keep an eye on wallets and valuables?” I suggested.

“No,” replied mom. “You can trust this bunch 100 per cent.” She was right.

The interrogator / Edition 20

Jessica Johnson

Jessica Johnson is executive editor and creative director of The Walrus, a Toronto-based magazine dedicated to longform journalism, poetry and fiction. Since 2003 it has become one of the most treasured names in Canadian media, winning countless awards. Its pages have featured the brightest names on the country’s literary scene (Margaret Atwood, among others).

What news source do you wake up to? Apple News: I immediately check if they selected one of our stories to feature. After that it’s a round-up of various topics but I usually start with Canadian politics.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? French press if there’s time. I get Stumptown beans when I’m in New York and bring them back to Toronto. They set off the security machines because of the density of whole coffee beans.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I listen to Spotify but my taste is varied: folk, rock, classical, disco. My own algorithm is pretty weird and I’m not concordant with my own taste from day to day.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? I’ve been relistening to Rihanna and “Work” with Drake is stuck in my head. I listen to one artist for a while then move on. The last was Lucinda Williams.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? I’ve subscribed to The New Yorker since I was five – my grandparents got us a subscription. I love Cook’s Illustrated. Dinette is beautiful on the intersection of food and culture. Nouveau Projets won magazine of the year at the Canadian National Magazine awards. This might sound weird but Men’s Health is my favourite women’s magazine: full of nutrition and exercise tips, relationship and career advice.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser? It’s changed over time. I like browsing more now; as a magazine editor I want to see everything in the market in situ.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? In Toronto the go-to place is Type.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Sofa: I’m usually reading. Since Trump’s inauguration I’ve re-read old books to escape. Right now I’m reading society novels set in the UK about 100 years ago. There are a lot of class parallels to now.

What’s the best thing you've watched of late and why? I haven’t had as much love for a show since Outlander ended. I find it hard to follow what people say is amazing; there are too many good recommendations out there. It’s better to find things on your own.

Sunday brunch routine? My speciality is homemade granola or scones.

What papers and periodicals will be spread out around among the viennoiserie? Currently my kitchen table has the Mueller report, a stack of New Yorkers, and a Nerve book called something like “365 Sex Positions” that I found that in my neighbour’s giveaway pile. I often bring home local newspapers, literary magazines and weird flyers.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? Nope and I haven’t for years. If I need to hear about something I’ll find out about it; our entire staff is connected 24/7 through Slack. This is a problem too: I often feel that we’re too plugged in.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? When I’m ready for sleep I put the phone in the kitchen to charge overnight. If I’m unable to sleep I might read a book; I find that’s the best way to deal with the overload of the modern world.

Image: Brian Guido

Culture / Listen / Read / Watch

Seeing red

‘Rouge’, Yuna. Malaysian popstar Yuna spends a lot of time in Los Angeles and it shows: there’s plenty of care-free Californian cool on her latest record Rouge. Two years in the making, this breezy album embraces 1990s pop and funk, with just enough hip-hop and R&B to make it delightfully danceable. Star collaborators Little Simz and Tyler, The Creator feature but it’s the duet with G-Eazy on the single “Black Marquee” that’s irresistible.

‘Kamala House, BV Doshi’, Apartamento Publishing. In 1963, young architect BV Doshi undertook his fourth commission. It was his most formidable to date: a home for himself and his wife on a modest plot of land near Ahmedabad, India. The home that the Pritzker laureate built – and still lives in – is now considered a pillar of modernism. This slim flick-through from Barcelona-based Apartamento shows the space in cheery use, complete with an intrusive peacock and squeezy Dettol soap by the sink. High-minded modernism meets everyday living.

‘I Love You, Now Die’, HBO. An intelligent, profound approach to true-crime stories has become director Erin Lee Carr’s trademark, making her a rising star in the world of documentary film-making. Here she delves into the story of Michelle Carter, a US teenager accused of driving her boyfriend to commit suicide via text messages. The subject matter is grim but Carr’s thoughtful touch goes beyond sensationalism to explore teenage obsession and the effect technology has on it, only to reveal that there’s always more depth to people than expected.

Outpost news / Cyprus

Sun, sea and stress

It’s hugely popular with tourists come summer but Cyprus, a former UK colony, has its fair share of political tensions to fuel the country’s press. A longstanding dispute with Turkey, which illegally occupies the nation’s north, regularly makes headlines. The Cyprus Mail launched the day after the British council’s Cyprus Post folded in 1945; today it is the nation’s only surviving English-language daily. “My father saw a gap in the market when he launched it,” says current managing director Kyriacos Iacovides. The periodical has since introduced more pages and is distributed to a readership of 2,000. We talk to Iacovides about women’s football and freedom of movement for popstars.

What’s the big story making the news? A Turkish ship has started drilling in areas considered the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. It’s a mess.

Best headline? “Women play great football, get over it”. There’s been a lot of moaning about how the women’s world cup is not as good as men’s football and how women don’t know the rules: [this piece] pulls all the complaints apart.

Best picture? We carried an image of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the new Greek prime minister, with his arm around the leader of Cyprus’s ruling party, Averof Neophytou. Neophytou is smaller and Mitsotakis has arm around him – they look like father and son.

Down-page treat? Recently a singer of ours was criticised for going to the north of the island to perform. We don’t recognise the Turkish northern territory. The southern press accused her of being unpatriotic for going, the irony being that almost the entire crowd there were Cypriots visiting from the south.

Weekend plans / Morocco

Home and dry

Spending a night in the desert is an idea that seems destined for comic failure, a self-imposed hardship for the sake of derring-do and a glimpse of the Milky Way. But it’s worth it, especially when done properly – and you needn’t stray far. Scarabeo Camp is an hour outside Marrakech in the Agafay Desert. Owned by Belgian couple Vincent T’Sas and Florence Mottet, it has somehow managed to elevate camping to a new level of luxury. Guests kip in private, opulent Bedouin tents, ride camels in the morning and enjoy Moroccan syrah by candlelight come sundown. All modern amenities are present (no latrines, we promise) but the set-up is minimalist enough to conjure feelings of real adventure and escapism, à la the efforts of a 19th-century archaeologist. Most guests stay for a night; some just pop in for a long dinner and chinwag by the fire. If you suddenly decide it’s not your cup of tea, fear not: a Scarabeo jeep will have you back in town before the sand in the timer has stopped falling. Now that’s service.

Wardrobe update / Smock

Hot property

Smock, the in-house brand of Los Angeles shop Mohawk General Store, is bringing its breezy Japanese-Californian aesthetic to Brooklyn. Throughout July, the brand will host a pop-up at Williamsburg’s Pilgrim Surf + Supply. New Yorkers already appreciate Smock’s lightweight fabrics and generous, roomy silhouettes: Brooklyn is the brand’s second-largest market. “I think of Smock as a resort collection,” says Kevin Carney, the brand’s co-founder. “You can dress it up or down. You can wear it to Palm Springs or in the city. It’s a warm-weather uniform.” Snap up a cactus-print T-shirt and dream of the desert.

Modern etiquette / Edition 14

Can I tell the woman next to me she smells?

OK, we have been here too. Last week on a flight to Zürich we were feeling all smug as the crew prepared to close the plane’s door. Why? The seat next to us was empty so there would be space to spread our mobile office. But just at that moment, a woman darted onto the plane, taking her seat next to Mr Etiquette. Then the mist descended. She hadn’t dabbed her wrists with her favourite fragrance, she’d been hosed down with it. We tried using the overhead air nozzle to waft it away and coffee to mask the stench – but to no avail. Could we have said anything? Sadly that would have been even ruder. But we were secretly pleased when she wrapped herself in a blanket to defend herself from the nozzle chill – a metaphor for our frosty mood.

Monocle Films / Madrid

My life as a minibus

We hop aboard the M1 in Madrid to see how the nifty Wolta Rampini offers a helping hand to those who need it most: residents in the steep, historic borough of Lavapiés.


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