“Something for the weekend?” – signs of the (Financial) Times

My preferred newspaper is the Weekend F.T.

It doesn’t come in a plastic wrapper full of unwanted leaflets, advertising stair-lifts and elasticated trousers.

More specifically, the Life & Arts section, and the magazine, which for nearly twenty years have prompted my travel plans, focus on restaurants reviewed by Nick Lander or exhibitions praised by Jackie Wullschlager; or, in an ideal world, both.


Last weekend’s well-thumbed Life & Arts

Florence, November 2000

It started in Florence, with the Trattoria Da Ruggero. Nick Lander described it as being a 10 minute walk beyond the Pitti Palace; on a rainy Monday night in November it felt more like half way to Siena.

We were greeted by an open fire in a very Tuscan wood-panelled dining room. There was a griddle on the coals, where they cooked our “Bistecca fiorentina”.

The staff were oblivious to the recent praise in the FT, but an Italian diner at the next table at least recognised the name of the paper.

Da Ruggero is open on Monday evenings, a rarity in Florence. When we visited, it didn’t accept credit cards, and it still doesn’t have a website.

Trattoria Da Ruggero, Via Senese, 89/R, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy

Madrid 2004

The Spanish Portrait: from El Greco to Picasso….

Outside the Museo del Prado

….by way of Velazquez, who created Las Meninas, (The Ladies in Waiting), arguably the world’s greatest painting, and the most enigmatic. Only one drawing survives by Velazquez, unusually he worked directly with paint. Standing in front of it is like becoming a participant, an experience movingly described by Laura Cumming in her book “The Vanishing Man. In Pursuit of Velazquez”

“You are here, you have appeared…. all these people looking back at you…. you have walked into their world and become suddenly as present to them as they are to you”.

The painting has never left the Prado since its return after being removed to safety in the Spanish Civil War; it’s worth the journey to Madrid to see it (and worth waiting for the crowds to take their selfies and move on).

There were 87 paintings in the exhibition, paying court to Las Meninas. I visited twice, spending longer than I have at any art exhibition before or since.


Tenerife, April 2014


El Burgado


I was in need of relaxation and some sunshine. In January, restaurant critic Nick Lander had described the most memorable location of a restaurant that he had visited in the previous year. It was El Burgado, at the northwest tip of Tenerife, where we sat under a canopy of fishing nets, between the mountains and the Atlantic surf, for a lunch of simple seafood and grilled fish. We returned the following evening for dinner….



El Burgado, Playa La Arena, Buenavista del Norte, Tenerife.


Paris, 2016 – 17

Paris has become a regular destination, and in November 2016 we visited the Fondation Louis Vuitton for the first time. It’s an astonishing architectural structure, designed by Frank Gehry. Our visit was prompted by Jackie Wullschlager’s review of “Icons of Modern Art; the Shchukin Collection”.

View of the Bois de Boulogne

Ahead of his time, Sergei Shchukin was a daring patron and collector of French modern art before the Russian Revolution. His collection was nationalised by Lenin in 1918, and in 1948 Stalin denounced it as “bourgeois” and had it removed from public view.

All the great names of early 20th century French art were represented in this exhibition.

Inside the Fondation


Dublin, 2017

“Inspiration & Rivalry”: Vermeer and the masters of genre painting in Dublin, the city of perpetual evening.

Dutch genre painters transcended and transformed humble domestic interiors into moments of stillness, bathed in light for eternity.

I was alerted to this exhibition in March 2017 by Jackie Wullschlager. Enthusiasm for a late spring Eurostar to Paris was swiftly blunted by a reference to the queue of 9,000 that formed on the opening day of this major exhibition at the Louvre. By the end of the page this was clearly a “must see”, and after it closed in Paris the exhibition was due to transfer to the National Gallery of Ireland in the summer, then to Washington D.C. in September.


Inspiration & Rivalry at the National Gallery of Ireland


It seemed a no-brainer to combine visiting with a catch up with a good friend in Dublin (who lives a handy ten minute walk from the gallery) and try out a couple of her regular haunts while we were about it.

Dublin, “where it’s always evening”. See my post http://www.amaroandtwisted.com/category/dublin/



Next stop: Amsterdam, for High Society


FT Life & Arts, 17-18 March 2018


High Society at the Rijksmuseum: a major exhibition of full length portraits by great artists: Rembrandt, Velazquez, Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Lawrence, Sargent, Manet and Munch.

“The guests are dressed to kill and have travelled far”.

Jackie Wullschlager has done it again. I’ve booked my ticket.

And a table at Rijks, the restaurant of the Rijksmuseum, which as far as possible uses ingredients from Dutch soil.

Rijks was reviewed by Nick Lander when it opened in 2015, and we visited during a trip to Amsterdam for the last must-see exhibition there, Late Rembrandt. That memorable visit was an opportunity to raise a glass to both reviewers.


https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/high-society – to June 3.












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