Saturday. 23/7/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

At your service

A warm welcome is provided this weekend by the Monocle Concierge, who is on hand to answer your burning questions. Speaking of burning, the heat of summer is very much upon us but you can stay cool in seersucker and chill out in a Neapolitan ice cream parlour. Just be sure to avoid those internet-enabled sunglasses. To begin, there’s a glimpse into the life of Andrew Tuck, with a touch of Gallic flair.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

French connection

I was at a wedding reception, talking with other guests, when a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Your watch just fell on the floor.” I looked down and there it was, glinting on the stone terrace. The bracelet had come apart. I had not heard or felt a thing. Somehow another guest then spotted the errant tiny silver screw that had popped out. The watch is valuable for several reasons; I was lucky.

Over recent years I have been told elaborate stories by people who have had their watches stolen – usually along the lines of how someone bumped into them and suddenly their heirloom had vanished; or how thieves have learnt how to undo a watch without you noticing, even in broad daylight. Perhaps these watches were stolen, or could it be that, like me, they just had a screw loose (thank you, yes, we’re still talking about my watch). In short, could our love of a good mystery sometimes trump the banal truth?

Talking of mysteries, when I am not curled up with my book about the early life of Nietzsche or swotting up on post-industrial society, I can sometimes be found watching a TV mystery show of the Miss Marple or Poirot variety. We settled down with one at the weekend, Murder in Provence. It’s about as unchallenging as TV gets. Except, almost an hour in, one of the characters said something about how his grandmother had been English and I commented to the other half that it was a strange thing to say seeing as he was clearly English himself. “No, he’s French,” said the wise owl. “What about his partner?” I enquired. “French. They are all French. Everyone in this programme is French, they just speak English.”

I did feel a little foolish because, I admit, I had somehow thought that the nice detective, the murdered professor and the youthful killer had all just moved from, say, Surrey to Provence (it is a common relocation – even now you get so much more for your money, you know). In my defence, I would counter that Poirot would at least speak English with a hint of a Belgian accent, or occasionally say, “Monsieur!” But they were having none of it in this new programme. At one point I saw a man with a very large baguette, which is always pleasing but really, nobody seemed to even own a beret or have escargots for supper.

I thought I might have spotted a good counter-argument when an Italian character appeared and spoke English with an extra-cheese topping of his national accent. “So why does he speak English like an Italian?” I smugly chirped. “He’s Italian. They’re French,” said clever clogs in a clipped tone, which made me realise that the topic was closed.

We’ve decided to drive to Mallorca – via France, of course. It’s either going to be an exciting adventure or a nightmare of wonky navigation, missed ferries and motorway service stations but we are now committed. The list of paperwork you need to organise in advance is extensive and everyone you phone – if they even answer the call – still seems to be working from home and you hear that tell-tale echo of a bedroom-turned-office that makes you doubt that the interaction will end with any triumphal progress. And just to drive through France you must first purchase a breathalyser and high-vis jackets (don’t panic, only to be sported if your car breaks down).

I was running through the required kit list with the other half last night and kept adding in extras to keep him on his toes. “It says we also need Breton T-shirts, a packet of Gauloises and inscrutable faces.” But as I explained to my partner, if we fulfil all of these new demands, should the police stop us we will be able to say that, while it might sound as though we are speaking English, we are actually speaking French. Indeed, we are French and we would like to be on our way now please. And, what’s more, unlike in Murder in Provence, we will even look French.

The Look / Seersucker

Keep cool and carry on

Seersucker is the quintessential summer fabric (writes Jack Simpson). While its story spans British administrators in colonial India to barbershop quartets in New England, the modern wearer need not be a sucker to stereotype. Take Miles Davis (pictured), who looks almost illegally good in a seersucker blazer on the cover of his At Newport 1958 album. That festival took place at the height of summer and such a jacket would have kept Davis breezy while he did his thing: no wonder jazz fans called him the King of Cool.

Seersucker puckers, tightening a traditionally silk-cotton blend at different rates to crinkle and lift the fabric off one’s skin and increase air flow. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling cooler already. Originally made in India, its name derives from the Persian for “milk and sugar” (shir-o-shakar), due to the contrasting textures and original colourway worn as a white and light brown (cane sugar) stripe.

This well-travelled fabric also exudes a genteel worldliness and is better suited for travel than linen or an ordinary cotton blend. Due to its wrinkled appearance and ability to hold its shape, you shouldn’t worry about cramming your seersucker suit into a case before catching a flight. Nor should you be concerned about chasing a cab: this fabric is ultra-elastic. For a relaxed summer shirt, we recommend Portuguese Flannel or Universal Works, and for a modern version of the suit, take a look at the plain navy or traditional blue-and-white pinstripe options by Beams Plus.

How we live / Meta Ray-Bans

Shady business

You might recall, circa the middle of the past decade, the advent of Google Glass (writes Andrew Mueller). These were spectacles fitted with a rudimentary internet capacity. They were widely and deservedly mocked, their wearers derided as “glassholes”. Nevertheless, the idea will not submit to the unlamented death it merits. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is attempting to interest us, during this northern hemisphere summer, in Ray-Ban Stories. These are an internet-enabled edition of the famous Wayfarer sunglasses, now updated to include Whatsapp, among other software.

It is an awful idea, which will appeal primarily to awful people: those who believe themselves so important that they must be contactable at all times and so fascinating that they must always be prepared to broadcast whatever thought has most recently popped into their technology-swaddled head. The Ray-Ban Stories customer is someone who has missed the point that the sort of day on which you wear Ray-Ban Wayfarers is the sort of day you shouldn’t be gawping at a screen.

I’ll confess to a vested interest here. I am, by long-standing habit, a wearer of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. I believe them to be stylish, I know them to be robust, and I am not on any kind of retainer from Ray-Ban to say so. (I am open to reasonable offers, though. I’ve always fancied appearing in one of those old-school endorsement ads found in magazines circa the 1960s – you know, “The Foreign Desk’s Andrew Mueller sees the world through Ray-Bans!”). My concern now is that, should Meta’s wretched innovation prove popular, I may have to accompany my shades henceforth with a T-shirt declaring, “These are not that kind of Ray-Bans. What variety of total tool do you take me for?” or somesuch. And then I’d be the kind of person who wears T-shirts with slogans on them.

Monocle concierge / Your questions answered

Sage advice

Bienvenue. Please, take a seat. We know how difficult it is to get impartial, well-informed advice in this day and age. That’s why we’re opening the Monocle Concierge, which will be on hand every Saturday to answer your questions on all travel-related matters. First up, we have Saida, who’s writing from Zug in Switzerland.

Dear Concierge,
I’ve never been to the south of France. And it is a lifelong dream. I hate the crowds. Is there a part of Provence that is not packed?

Dear Saida,

Ask any Provençal and they will tell you not to bother with the coast in the peak of summer, when it all becomes a bit Tender is the Night-mare. May or September are the best months to visit, when the water’s still warm enough for a swim but children are firmly in school. In July and August, when most of France is on holiday, it’s best to head inland towards the Luberon mountains. Roussillon, an hour’s drive from Avignon, is a quiet town surrounded by beautiful countryside.

Image: Pierres D'Histoire

The red hills of Le Colorado Provençal, a former ochre quarry with a complex of tunnels and galleries, are just half an hour away and the surrounding lavender fields will still be in bloom, just. To stay? Capelongue in Bonnieux offers luxurious summer insouciance in spades. Set up like a Provençal village, the property is split by a country road that separates two pools, two restaurants and 37 rooms and suites. The food is an ode to local food (raw mackerel with ratatouille, artichokes and mullet grilled on an open fire) and comes with views of stunning sunsets. For a slice of old-world glamour, head to the Hotel de Tingry (pictured), an 18th century hotel particulier in the beautiful hilltop town of Ménerbes, which is also home to the vineyard Domaine de la Citadelle, which offers cellar tours and tastings. Enjoy.

If you have a question for the Monocle Concierge, please click here

Scoop of the Week / Chalet Ciro, Naples

Ice and easy

During these sultry summer months, our writers and correspondents have been reporting on their city’s freshest scoops: their best ice cream parlours. In Naples, our central Italy correspondent Laura Rysman takes us to Chalet Ciro.

Image: James Mollison

The Naples shoreline is dotted with snack stands (known as “chalets”) to serve the summertime crowds who congregate along the city’s sweeping harbour. Chalet Ciro, a landmark ice cream institution that opened in 1952, serves extra-rich gelato in classic, over-the-top Naples style: with cream added to the traditional Italian milk-only recipe. “Gelato in Naples is richer than in the north of Italy,” says owner Antonio De Martino. “We like things to be more intense here.”

In pursuit of that intensity, De Martino invented an equally excessive deep-fried cone. His cono graffa is inspired by the fluffy Neapolitan version of the donut, the graffa. Overlooking the marina, his clientele sits in wicker chairs surrounded by palm trees, served by bow-tied waiters, with gluttonous pigeons kept at bay by a pair of hawks that De Martino keeps on duty. Vittorio de Sica, Alberto Sordi and countless Cinecittà stars have enjoyed a cone at Chalet but the atmosphere is that of a small-town piazza, where everyone gathers for a pleasurable pause.
Chalet Ciro Gelato, Via Caracciolo fronte, Via Orazio, Napoli

What I’m Packing / Deborah Berke

Rest and restore

American architect Deborah Berke has designed dozens of commercial and residential buildings across New York (writes Monica Lillis). A professor at Yale since 1987, she was appointed dean of the university’s school of architecture in 2016, the first woman to hold the position. Here, Berke tells us about holidays on the Adriatic coast, her summer soundtrack and fresh figs.

Image: Winnie Au

Going anywhere nice this year?
Just back from a wonderful restorative week on the Croatian island of Lopud. No cars, lots of beautiful walks and long swims in the Adriatic.

What’s the first thing you pack?
Walking shoes, sunblock and a lightweight, all-black outfit that can go from a café breakfast to a seaside dinner. Chic and comfortable.

What will you be reading?
I read Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire from 2003 and devoured Hernan Diaz’s Trust, which is absolutely superb.

And listening to?
A wide range, from Gene Ammons and the old Cambridge [Massachusetts] band Morphinem to Bob Dylan. My daughter and her fiancé also introduced me to LCD Soundsystem and turned me on to the music of Cassandra Jenkins and L’Rain. I’m hooked.

Any podcasts?
I roam around a bit so it’s always changing. I do enjoy Sam Fragoso’s show Talk Easy and Brendan Francis Newnam’s Not Lost on travel and I’m a regular listener to 99% Invisible. [Historian] Adam Tooze does a podcast as well, Ones and Tooze, which is very good.

What food do you look forward to eating?
Fresh everything – especially fish, figs and tomatoes. And when I get back to eastern Long Island it will be more tomatoes and wonderful corn on the cob.

Aperitivo of choice?
Tequila. With lots of freshly squeezed lime juice and club soda on the rocks.

Any Mediterranean recommendations?
Marko’s Place on the Croatian island of Sipan in the Adriatic. Divine.

House News / Zürich Airport pop-up

Sky’s the limit

Monocle’s latest pop-up shop is landing soon. Opening on Wednesday 27 July at Zürich Airport, our newest airside retail space – on the way to the A departure gates – is packed with a full range of Monocle products and some limited-edition Swiss-made goodies. Keep an eye out for our rosé, Badi totes and, of course, plenty of fine print to keep you informed and entertained on your travels. Head to monocle.com/shop for more.

Find us at Zürich Airport, airside, Level 1; en route to the A departure gates.

Image: Conrad Brown. Concierge research: Lindsey Tramuta

Summer House Hunter / West Coast Modern

Built to last

In a city such as Vancouver, perched on the Pacific Ocean, it’s only natural to want a house that gazes out on the big blue. But if you live with a truly great sea view every day, can it lose some of its specialness? That was perhaps the question in the mind of mid-century Canadian architect Ron Thom when he designed the Geometric House in 1964, which is currently on the market for about CA$5m (€3.8m) and caught the eye of the Summer House Hunter this week.

The Geometric House was Thom’s tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright, whose low hipped rooflines fired the imaginations of homebuilders in postwar Vancouver. He designed the home for a naval architect, with a layout that subtly evokes a ship launching. A lesser architect might have put that view front and centre. Instead, Thom leaves you waiting, rising through each level of the house, through forested courtyards and enclosed cedar hallways, until the ocean reveals itself.

The house is listed by realtors West Coast Modern, which specialise in the limited stock of mid-century and modernist buildings found throughout British Columbia. “When we launched four years ago, 60 per cent of all modernist buildings in metro Vancouver were getting demolished after purchase,” says Trent Rodney, who founded the company to sell homes to those who would protect this legacy. Of late, he notes, the property market has been turbulent with price declines. “But the houses in our portfolio that are of architectural significance have provided buoyancy.”
westcoastmodern.ca

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