Tuesday 12 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 12/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: TFL

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Pedalling ahead

As I cycled home a few nights ago, I shared a smile with a fellow cyclist that broadened into a wide grin. We were passing each other on a once-perilous roundabout in west London’s Hammersmith whose improvement works were finally complete after months of painstakingly slow construction. A gleaming new set of protected cycle lanes and traffic lights had been revealed on a stretch of the capital that British broadcaster Jeremy Vine once described – and I couldn’t disagree – as a “scene from Ben-Hur”.

And when I left my house this morning the roadblocks had finally been cleared from the two-lane cycleway right outside my building. The first half of my commute has thus become a dream. Then I hit Kensington High Street, which remains a Formula 1 and Tour de France race combined into one. That street is part of a separate, Conservative-run borough that is resisting London’s plans to create cycle highways across the city – which is bizarre considering that, just this spring, its own Tory-led national government announced a fresh £200m (€236m) investment in walking and cycle lanes across the UK.

I write this in part to remind you of the cycling craze that took off this time two years ago at the height of the pandemic. (Never mind toilet paper: remember when you couldn’t buy a bike in shops?) Many cities built temporary cycle lanes to meet increasing demand and created plans to make these permanent. Now, two years later, when a lot of people seem to have carted their bikes back to their dusty sheds, we’re finally seeing the results. So even though pandemic-era restrictions are (mostly) over, can I plead with everyone to give cycling another try and keep up the pressure on local councils to finish the job? I’m pretty sure that it’ll put a smile on your face too.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s news editor.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Albania

Committed allies

Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, travels to Brussels tomorrow to meet Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, and shore up the Mediterranean nation’s ties to the alliance. The two leaders are expected to discuss plans to set up a naval base at Porto Romano that will be built and co-financed by Nato and Albania. Alongside the military facilities, it will also include areas serving private vessels. Albania, a member of the alliance since 2009, is also reconstructing the Kuçovë air base (pictured), south of Tirana, for Nato use. “This is a demonstration of Albania’s commitment,” Richard Shirreff, Nato’s former deputy supreme allied commander, tells The Monocle Minute. “For Nato, it’s an important strategic naval base in the eastern Mediterranean. For Albania, the port will be a stabilising influence.”

Image: Matteo de Mayda

Design / Italy

Opening doors

The Procuratie Vecchie building (pictured) in Venice was closed to the public ever since it was built in 1538. But a newly completed renovation of its interiors by David Chipperfield Architects Milan (DCAM) seeks, in the words of its founder, to “return the building to the people as a place to love and a font of inspiration”. The building now includes striking new staircases, a rooftop pavilion and a new auditorium.

Beyond these, DCAM opted for a soft touch, revealing the various architectural interventions made to the building over its long history. The first and second floors have also been turned into offices to help return workspaces to the centre of a city that has long been dominated by tourists. While international visitors will no doubt discover the building too, the transformation is aimed at the city’s residents. DCAM’s efforts are an invitation for Venetians to reclaim their city and embrace a more hopeful future.

Read the full story of Procuratie Vecchie’s public reopening in the July-August issue of Monocle on newsstands now.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Russia

Digging in its heels

The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), a Russia-backed secessionist territory in eastern Ukraine, will open an embassy in Moscow today. The ribbon-cutting comes amid fierce fighting on the ground in both Donetsk and Luhansk, where Ukrainian commanders have announced a large counter-offensive. The embassy will be the first overseas mission of a region whose autonomy, or lack thereof, was used as the pretext for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

It is unlikely to be followed by many others, since the DPR is currently only recognised by Russia, Syria and fellow breakaway states Abkhazia and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). Yet the names of both supposed statelets are already a part of Moscow’s diplomatic scene: the city’s council recently renamed the squares outside the US and UK embassies after the DPR and LPR. It’s the latest sign that hopes for a negotiated solution to this conflict involving a full Russian withdrawal from eastern Ukraine are slight.

Image: Alamy

Travel / Mexico

Warm welcome

Mexico is experiencing a strong rebound in tourism this summer, with 51.8 million international and domestic visitors expected to travel to and across the country in peak season. If the projections are correct, it will have welcomed a record number of foreign guests by the end of the year. Among the top destinations are Cancún, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Maya, all of which have reported hotel-occupancy rates of more than 70 per cent for the months of July and August. And people are still keen to visit the clear waters of the Quintana Roo region (pictured), even though some of its beaches have been blighted by a large amount of seaweed this year.

According to Mexico’s secretary of tourism, Miguel Torruco, one of the reasons that the sector is recovering in the country faster than elsewhere is its decision not to close its borders during the pandemic. A determination to maintain international links, even in times of crisis, appears to have made it easier for Mexico to meet demand as travel picked up again.

Monocle 24 / The Big Interview


The award-winning photographer has turned his camera on political figures and global superstars, including the Obamas, Prince and Muammar Gaddafi. He discusses his work and what it was like to be an inch away from Vladimir Putin as he captured his photograph.

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Côte d’Azur

Nestled in the hills above Nice, Casa Sallusti is a permaculture farm and hotel that was created to show how you can still enjoy the good things in life while taking care of the planet. We visit its founder, Isabella Sallusti, and meet the young folk who are working at the farm, having decided to swap the city for slow-paced living.


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