I’ve never been a dog lover, until I fell in love with this particular dog. He’s a Lagotto Romagnolo, a lake dog from the Romagna region of Italy – we called him Dado, after aristocratic Alessandro ‘Dado’, Principe Ruspoli, the man said to have inspired Fellini to make La Dolce Vita. He’s one of the oldest breeds known, with the most incredible range – active, working, a gun dog and of course a water retriever. Nowadays in Italy they’re most often used for hunting truffles! But most importantly, he’s so tender with the kids. A true beauty, real grace, but he also loves a bit of rough and tumble along the beach, in the waves, chasing me about on the paddle board – any adventure, really! The ultimate gentleman’s companion.
Of all sports, sailing has to be one of my absolute favourites. So when I was invited up to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, I leapt at the chance.
Flying in over the Whitsundays is a spectacle in blues and greens and blazing white sand – and the brightly coloured spinnakers of yachts sailing around the islands. I was met at the airport by staff from the Qualia luxury resort, and whisked off to the hotel in an Audi S8 – growl! – to find my bags waiting for me in my pavilion nestled among the trees. The ‘pavilions’ are enormous, but still manage to give a relaxed, laid-back – very Australian – vibe. To have such quality service in the middle of tropical forest, is an incredible experience.
As was having my own Mr Porter buggy to get around in! With time to myself, I went paddle-boarding in the pristine water, looking for whales. Then, after a long bath and grooming I session headed to the Audi/Kylie Kwong dinner at Pebble Beach. Kylie’s food is so perfectly balanced, simple, wholesome and authentic. It’s always a treat.
After a relaxed breakfast on the beachfront, it was off on the paddle board once more. Then a quick duck into the Qualia Spa stocked full of my favourite Sodashi products. I really like the Clay Cleanser with Lime and the Calming Skin Boost gel (both smell strangely manly). Then to the Mr Porter x Charles Heidsieck lunch. It was very glam, some 250 people – a mix of locals, yachties, and a lot of Sydney and Melbourne types. I was wedged between Nicky Tindal (Nicky’s grandfather Bob Oatley is the grand patriarch, the owner of Hamilton Island, and of course the maxi yacht Wild Oats XI) and Alison Veness, editor or the Australian edition of 10 magazine – she’s always a pleasure)
After lunch I headed for a quick meditation/re-fuel at the pavilion, then to Pebble Beach for drinks on the sand, then out on Andiamo with drinks, DJ, a select gang. It wasn’t so much ‘gin palace’, more champagne and vodka and a group of the youngest, hippest and most adventurous on the Island – many of whom were finishing a week of Island racing before heading to Burning Man. This boat is built for entertaining – it’s wide, it’s flush from inside to outside, and it’s trimaran hull makes it very stable!
Race day! I headed out on Wild Oats XI. What a machine! This is the seven-time winner of the Sydney to Hobart, 100 ft of the highest tech, lightest weight, sailboat ever. It's like a giant sled, so fast! Skippered by legendary captain Mark Richards (who also created and founded Palm Beach Boats. Even Bob Oatley (aka Popeye) was aboard. When it comes to racing no one comes near Wild Oats, it was nearly lonely way out front there! Except for some whales teaching their calves some tricks. The fact the crew were so 'in sync' they were nearly silent added to that wonderful feeling of being alone on the ocean. Bliss.
Upon returning to dock, I headed out for a trail run up to Passage Peak (the highest point on the island, in fact, of the Whitsundays). I meditated on a rock looking over the islands and ran back for some quiet time in the pavilion before heading out for the Net-a-Porter fashion show. It was an incredible set up by The Projects with the catwalk going over the pool, great tunes, blazing beauties, and the clothes were good too! It was overall a pretty social event as you can imagine with a lot of lingering and chatting afterwards.
Thank you so much to Sophie Baker for inviting me, The Oatley Family, Qualia and Hamilton Island for making the stay a real gem. It was amazing to witness the Oatley vision in all its glory, it has to be seen to be believed.
January is perhaps my favourite month. The silly season over, the cogs have begun to crunch once again. And while Sydney city hots up (quite literally) Miranda, the boys and I hunker down at our holiday house in Tilba, right on the coast. For years now, we’ve enjoyed leisurely seaside walks, exploring secret little beach coves, and as the boys get older the chook-feeding and cow-milking and lamb-spotting only get more and more frenetic. And as the boys grow, so the community around Tilba gets more and more interesting, also. I spend a lot of time hanging out atMagpie Music, in Bega, a pleasure in itself but an even greater pleasure, to leave the irreal world of iTunes. At Wapego, Harry’s Oysters sends out some of the best, organic oysters; of a silkiness you’ve tasted nowhere before. And over at Bermagui, the Gelato Clinic is go-to destination on a hot day, or even a chilly one. (Miranda loves the hazelnut, me the coconut. Samson can’t go past the blood orange and Griffin, a man of simple tastes, enjoys the vanilla.) Mister Jones’ Coffee is the best cup south of Potts Point, and at Il Passagio my windsurfing buddy Tim Northam sends out some excellent and innovative Northern Italian dishes. Nine kilometeres south of Bermagui, Barraga Bay is the site of the biannual Four Winds Music Festival which presents a truly inspiring program of classical, indigenous and world music in what is effectively 30-acre open air ampitheatre, dubbed festival directors ‘nature’s concert hall’. The soon-to-be-completed performance space designed by Clinton Murray, constructed of massive pylons hewn from local trees, is impressively rugged yet almost humbly fades into its bush setting. Ticketsfor this April’s program are on sale now – I’d love to see you down there!
The other great thing about January, is that I get to jet between the South Coast and Sydney, working three days in town, and two down by the coast. It’s a great pace, one that inspires creativity, but also one that allows me to get a critical distance on my own practice, allows a greater view onto the big issues, unclouded. From where I sit, the year is looking good. Already, in the lead up to Christmas, I could sense the rumble of the machine beginning to turn, of the architectural sector shaking itself out of its doldrums. We scored some big clients towards the close of last year, and now it’s about setting things up to service them in a spirit of generosity and excellence. To use a surf analogy, I feel as if, when the surf went out those who remained alert, focused, poised for that next wave –whenever it chose to break – those guys would be in good shape. Hey, all I can say is, Surf’s up!