This past January, just before lockdown restrictions ended in the UK and after almost 3 years of staying put in London, I finally boarded a plane and travelled.
Travel prep, testing and documentation was a mine field, just about enough to put you off from going anywhere. But with all the paperwork done and negative Covid test results confirmed I was Portugal bound taking with me my all new ‘Rena Go’ bag.
Well, I did design it to be a bag on the go, so only right to test drive it properly.
The airport was deserted, only 15 of us boarded the flight (I had to count), hard to describe just how alien it felt.
The flight was a direct flight to Porto, I was warned it rains a lot in Porto and it did exactly that. But I loved it, what a beautiful town, such friendly people and the bakeries… oh my, take me back.
The old port , bridges ,blue and white tile clad buildings and steep cobbled streets make it a fascinating town to visit and discover.
A 3 hour train journey which ended being a 5 hour journey from Porto to Lisbon was not great, if I am honest. The steep walk from the station up the hill to Alfama was picturesque. I’m not sure what I expected, but it certainly surprised me , so very quaint for a capital city, living in London you expect capital cities to be big and crowded.
One advantage of travelling during Covid was just how empty and quiet everything was. I understand Alfama is a bustling tourist district, not so when I visited. I appreciated the sunshine, views, colours and silence.
Lisbon is an absolute gem, beautiful, vibrant, interesting, tasty.. and if I’m talking tasty , a meal at Pharmacia is a whole different experience. Especially if you can sit outside on a sunny day. Don’t miss it!
There are plenty of short excursions to be had from Lisbon ( another reason I will be going back).
I managed to visit Cascais, a short train ride from Lisbon along the coast to this old fishing village. Inside the walls of the old city is the Cidadela Art District with it’s galleries and museums. It was too cold to swim in January but the white sandy beaches were beautiful all the same and the old port with it’s outdoor dining hub was buzzing.
Did the Rena Go pass the test drive?? the intention was to create a ‘down sized’ bag for the times… we live out of our phones after all so travelling with a big bag is unnecessary. We do need compartments for our phone, passport, masks, sanitiser, book… The Rena has just enough space for all these necessities plus a sewn- in key fob and card holder. With it’s wide, adjustable and detachable webbed cotton strap, I think we did good.
I was lucky enough to escape to Morocco for some winter sun. I have wanted to go for years and this winter break came as a complete surprise bought for me by my better half who decided I needed Time-Out even though I had not planned on having any.
3.5 hours from Gatwick to Agadir is really a very quick escape, we left at 4.30am on a very dark and very cold winter’s day and landed just after 14:00 hrs in full sunshine and 26c.
Before I start, I have to say just how much I loved Morocco: it surprised me, charmed me and I am definitely going again. I’m saying this first as possibly you might not think so from my initial observations, so please be sure to read till the end!!
On first impression and if I am honest, Agadir was not what I expected at all, it is somewhat of a building site. Turns out that in 1960 it was totally wiped out by an earthquake, so it genuinely is a building site. Not a single old building survived the earthquake: no blue walls, no small alley ways, none of that. Furthermore Covid seems to have dealt it a bitter blow. Our hotel , which was highly rated, was falling apart at the seams: from the lift that hardly worked (in fact we got stuck in it on our last day), to a very sad breakfast, no shower gel as it ran out and we were given shampoo instead. The gym, Sauna/ Hamam, hair and beauty salon closed down when Covid hit in 2019 they remain closed and left in a state of disrepair.
But the people who worked at the hotel were lovely, they did all they could and the best they could to keep it together and offer a heartfelt service. They worked extremely long hours, smiled and carried on, I have nothing but respect for how genuine they were.
Agadir is built around a very long bay, it’s not one of those ‘picture postcard’ beaches: no palm trees, no crystal clear turquoise blue water. But it is pristine, the beach and the sea are clean and with it being a bay the water is calm and perfect for swimming.
Was the food amazing?? No, not at all. We found a couple of reasonable local restaurants, that’s about it. What it lacked in good food it made up for with its bakeries. OMG, the bakeries are on a whole different level, French patisserie infused with hints of Moroccan flavours, can it get any better? Not in my books. The bakeries are open from early morning to late at night ,you can eat all your meals there, or just have a drink and people watch. I would go back tomorrow.
Tafarnout was absolutely my favourite bakery, can’t recommend enough.
Next door to Tafarnout is L’anice , if you ask me it has the best biscuits I’ve had anywhere, they are not cheap but they are worth every penny
And across the road Café La Fontaine is great for a late night mint tea and cake, sit upstairs on the roof and check out Agadir.
The only local restaurant I can recommend for its charm and fresh food was Rafiq,
Finally, I have to mention the Souk, the Souk El Had in Agadir is the largest in the area
Walk in through one of the gates and step back in time. This walled Souk is enormous, the nerve centre of Agadir, selling everything from furniture to freshly made Argan oil.
The stalls of Dates and Olives did it for me, just incredible.
The bus outside our hotel said ’32 Gone Surfing’ well, had to jump on it to see what this was all about. 15 minutes out of Agadir is desert on one side and the Atlantic coast on the other, lots of coves with white beaches ,big waves and a lot of surfers.
The final stop, some 30 minutes up the road is Taghazout and Taghazout is exactly what I thought Morocco would be like, even better. This small fishing village with its narrow winding alleyways lined with cafes, pottery , blue doors and plenty of sea food is picture perfect. The people are lovely, it’s very chilled, the beaches are fantastic, coffee is spot on and if you like freshly grilled fish , this place has it all. I can’t recommend it enough. We tried a fair few of the local cafes, all of them were great so I’m not going to recommend a specific one but I definitely recommend visiting.
I must mention the cats and dogs as there were plenty of stray cats and dogs everywhere. No matter where: beach, street, outside restaurants.they were constantly fed, kept hydrated and well looked after. I was impressed.
I even made a new friend who decided to enjoy the shade of my beach recliner
Finally, seeing as I am a bag lady 🙂 for those who asked about my Instagram pics, I travelled with my Full Circle Duo, of course I chose colours I thought would look great in Morocco. You can now get my exact Limit-ed Edition Duo from our website ( and in our winter sale, but be quick)
“I don’t think we could have stood the test of time had we not paid such close attention to what our customers want, what they buy or the direct feedback they provide us with. Covid meant we had to look and listen to your feedback even more to make sure we could keep our business alive. Our new AW21 bag collection has taken all we’ve seen; all we’ve learnt and all you’ve asked for and suggested to us into account.”
During lockdown we learnt how to be creative, resourceful and how to make the most of what we have at our doorstep and in our homes:
Walks to the park, discovering a new local beauty spot, queuing up for a take away coffee & pastry, learning something new, time spent watching and discussing Netflix
When lockdown ended but travel was restricted, we learnt how to Staycation and how to support and embrace local businesses.
Now that the skies, restaurants, workplaces and entertainment venues have re-opened did life resume to pre-covid normal or have we changed? adapted? developed new habits?
It’s hard to imagine that we can learn so much at Nadia Minkoff London through our online bag and jewellery sales, but we can.
Roll on Winter 2021 and we’ve adapting:
Our bag sizes have changed- we now ‘live in’ our phones and want smaller, lighter, more practical bags.
We’ve re-designed the interiors of our bags too- different compartments to make life easier: sewn in card holders, key fob holders, face mask pockets, more external pockets.
Our straps are wider, softer and kinder on the shoulders. And our colour palette? goodbye ‘seasonal’ and hello ‘all year round’. Seems we as people enjoy greater freedoms these days, switching things up, doing things our way, adding vibrant colours to our winter wardrobe and basic neutrals to summer one.
In 2017 I designed The Rena Bag in memory of my mother, it’s been a great, staple classic but needed to adapt to 2021. The all new Rena Go for Winter 21/22 is a great example of how we’ve adapted:
The Rena Go a fair bit smaller: at just under 2/3rds of the original Rena that’s a big drop in size!
The layout of the compartments and pockets in The Rena Go is designed to make everything visible at a glance- no need to rummage in the bag looking for that pen, lipstick, phone. But of course the all vital sewn-in key fob remains, you have no idea just how happy that key fob makes me, so useful!
Internally and externally we have maximised the space with a full size outside pouch and clever detailing inside
The new strap is a wide, soft cotton webbing. Not only is it comfortable so you can wear your bag crossbody or on the shoulder it is detachable so you can pack the bag away easily into a small suitcase if your flying light
The all new gunmetal plated hardware give compliments the modern, minimalist shape of the bag,but best of all will work with any jewellery plating be it gold, silver or gunemtal.
Since the first UK lockdown in March 2020 I have been developing our jewellery, handbag and small leather ranges based on limited colour palettes. I choose a palette that I feel fits the current season and the current mood.
Prior to lockdown my colour schemes would have been ‘fashion led’, I would have covered a broad spectrum with a mixture of both cool and warm colours with varying hues and intensities.
I now choose to explore a limited palette, I have discovered that exploring a limited palette creates harmony, clarity, evokes strong feelings and gets the absolute best from a colour.
Those who know me know Blue is probably my favourite colour, choosing to limit my palette not only to Blue but also to a ‘cool colour’ might seem an odd choice given that it is officially summer now ( I say officially as it doesn’t quite feel like summer in the UK as yet).
However, my association with Blue is one of warmth: blue skies, blue seas, blue horizons. Full of depth, never disappointing, dynamic and optimistic.
My design sensitivities have gone from ‘fashion led’ to ‘mood led’ over this past year, my colour palette tells both my story at this moment as well as my outlook.
Simply, this means that my first story for Summer 2021 is dynamic and my outlook is optimistic. Blue Summer, not Summer Blues.
Those of you who follow this blog will know I have documented my views of London in Lockdown since March 2020. London has been my source of inspiration since setting up my label way back when, but of course I never expected to see London during a pandemic: eerily quiet, empty, shut down, dystopian.
For us Londoners, local walks have been an opportunity to see London bare, an architectural backdrop without the crowds.
And just when I presumed this London landscape which was now becoming my familiar ‘new normal’ February 2021 arrived with heavy snow swiftly followed by a frost so deep I can’t recall ever seeing London like this.
Regents Park was frozen, with seagulls perched on the icy lake and ducks wondering along the frozen canal.
The reflection of the sun on the ice made for some beautiful metallic hues, so much so that it inspired my ‘After the Frost’ collection.
But…there was also warmth and happiness it came with music and Salsa right in the middle of the park, who would have thought? A nod to colour and life after the frost
Two weeks into 2021 and London has started the New Year with a lockdown. It’s hard to imagine London empty and shut down. I hope these photos from Bank , down to the Thames and onwards to Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Kensington capture the emptiness and beauty of this silent capital city.
For all the trials and difficult times I’m sticking with with ‘Hope’. Stay safe, well and creative, the days are getting longer, we’re on track for better times.
Hi, I’m Alice. I’m here on Nadia’s blog because Nadia gave me my first taste of jewellery-making back in July, through one of her online classes on Obby, and it’s now a minor obsession. But I have to own up to another obsession – food. Eating out never felt quite safe to me, even in those brief glory days between lockdowns, so I’ve sated my hunger through one of the only good things to have come out of the pandemic: restaurant DIY meal kits.
I’ve tasted my way through a few duds, so hopefully I can save you the same fate. Below are my personal top five (so far!) in no particular order.
Townsend, a modern British restaurant in the Whitechapel Art Gallery, had only been open for five weeks when the first lockdown hit. I think it’s really admirable how speedily they realised they needed to change things up to stay afloat.
A three-course meal from Town-send (cute name) for two people, including a bottle of wine, is only £40 – unbelievably reasonable in my experience (I’ve found London restaurant meal kits costing £40 for a main course!). There’s usually three choices per course. I’m on my third kit, and have had some amazing dishes. In Spring, I had a whole poussin in a saffron broth which was the closest thing I’ve had this year to eating in a fancy restaurant, and I got to eat it in my PJs at lunchtime, while watching Antiques Roadtrip. The cheesecake is the stuff of dreams, and the wine is that rare thing: a house wine that everyone likes.
Instructions are simple and easy to follow – most things just get heated in a pan on the hob. Portion sizes have been just right for me for a three-course meal, but the hungrier reader might want to kick off with some bread (or just add on a cheese course for a very reasonable £4.50 each).
They also sell produce and their own sauces and condiments online. The green sauce, elderflower cordial and olive oil are particularly good, and again, amazingly reasonable.
Three-course kit for two people with a bottle of wine, £40 + £5 delivery in London, £10 nationwide (both free on orders over £80)
Dishpatch sells kits from a range of well-known restaurants, representing everything from Thai to West African. Menus change each month.
We went for the November set menu, ‘The Italian Supper’, from Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano. I really like Café Murano in The Real World – great pasta, bread and antipasti, intimate setting, good value. The kit followed the trend, even though the intimate setting was my parents’ living room. The meal included focaccia with coppa ham, pumpkin ravioli, lamb stew, and panna cotta. Everything had that lovely rich, complex taste of slow-cooked Italian food – squishy, caramelised pumpkin, lamb you could cut with a spoon, focaccia oozing with olive oil. It was so good it was hard to talk or think about anything else while we ate.
The operation is slick – there’s a fancy website with amazing photography, the delivery process is polished, and you get a fancy brochure with the kit. Though it was a touch more complicated to cook than Town-send meals, because you need to juggle more pans, the result was worth it. Portion sizes are very generous indeed.
I also just like saying ‘Dishpatch’, because it makes me sound like Sean Connery (one of the sad losses of this year).
Meal kits for 2 people from £40, delivery £5.50 (or free with two or more boxes)
A confit duck burger from the Frenchie stall in the Southbank Centre streetfood market is one of my favourite treats. They’re so luxurious that my ex used to say that a burger took three months off your life – and it was six months if you also had the triple-cooked duck-fat chips with truffle mayonnaise. There is literally no way this meal wouldn’t be worth those six months. It’s like selling your soul in deeply pleasurable increments.
The Frenchie is selling a kit which makes four burgers. You toast a brioche bun and slather it in caramelised red onion chutney and truffle mayo, heat up some shredded confit duck in a pan, pop some raclette cheese on top to melt, drizzle with truffle honey, then scoop the lot onto the bun, scattering duck scratchings and rocket salad over the top. And then, if you are me, you inhale it all.
This is unashamedly dirty food, and it makes me very happy.
If you like truffle, add a bottle of truffle mayonnaise. I want to carry it with me everywhere, like some people do with hot sauce.
As far as I’ve found, Côte is the only chain restaurant that’s started doing meal kits – although they’re so simple to prepare, I’d actually call them very fancy ready meals. Very, very fancy. Kick off with pork rillettes and warm sourdough baguette, whip up Beef Bourguignon and potato puree in 20 minutes, and finish with crème caramel. How’s that for a Tuesday night?
There are great value set menus (currently £25.90 for two people, or £35.90 with a bottle of wine), and the food tastes very similar to a meal at a Côte restaurant. I particularly like the potato dauphinoise, and those rillettes, which do very nicely for a big lunch on their own. Portion sizes are pretty impressive. And I wonder why my waistline is growing.
Almost everything that needs heating seems to be oven-cooked, all at the same temperature, so it’s seriously easy to do, and the (recyclable) plastic sleeves mean there’s very little washing up.
You can also order individual dishes, charcuterie and cheese, meat, bread and pastries, drinks, and some pantry items. The bread’s particularly good.
Three-course kit for 2 from £25.90, delivery £4.95 (free on orders over £80)
Smokestak is a fancy barbeque restaurant, and the online shop sells the restaurant’s meats, pre-cooked and smoked and ready for you to heat. They also offer burger kits, sticky toffee pudding and pre-made cocktails
I opted for one of the feasting boxes. The contents have changed since I last ordered, but currently they each contain beef brisket and pulled pork shoulder, as well as very yummy condiments, like barbecue sauce and pickled cucumbers and chillies.
The meat was gorgeous – meltingly soft, gently smoky, very rich. The pickled chillies were a particular favourite, and since they came in their pickling liquor, they lasted ages. I used some of the pork to top a Spanish bean stew I made, some of the beef in burgers using my own buns – all very flexible.
You simply heat the meat in the oven, wrapped in butchers’ paper which is provided in the kit. It’s as simple as it gets, and someone else has done all that delicious slow cooking and smoking for you.
Burger kits to make four burgers from £27.50, feasting box for three to four £35, delivery £5.95 (free on orders over £75)
From the Norfolk Broads to the Norfolk Coast and up to Sheringham Forest, escaping London the weekend prior to the 2nd lockdown was the perfect getaway.
On what turned out to be a wild , blustery, winter weekend, complete with Covid restrictions, the solitude of Hickling Broad and Marshes felt like stepping into an Edward Seago landscape. The unique thatched boathouses on the canals, reminiscent of a children’s fantasy novel.
The picturesque village of Horning on the River Bure was empty, but the busy canal was still the place to watch the boats float by.
The ancient coastal fishing town of Cromer, famous for it’s fresh crab and fish & chips, picture postcard beautiful and full of charm. strolling along the beach and long wooden pier made me feel like i’d stepped straight into a Constable painting.
The winds were so strong that gate keeper at Sheringham Park advised the forest observation point was closed, not that it would deter me from a long walk, especially as this park was landscaped by Humphry Repton . Repton was known for creating new, free flowing landscapes with no barriers between the gardens and natural surroundings. he also said Sheringham was the favourite of the gardens he created and I have to say it is breathtaking.
Not to be missed, rain, wind or shine! The coastal views are amazing as is the clearing and views leading to Sheringham Hall .