Leisurely reads. Quirky tips. Meet your weekend BFF with the lowdown on the coolest art, culture, food, travel, TV shows, music and more.
Sep 25, 2021
It looks like it will be a rainy weekend in my part of the world, so my playlist is shuffling between dreamy Ben Howard and a live concert of droplets drumming down on the asphalt. I’ve pulled out the box of cinnamon picked up on my travels in Sri Lanka in the hope that it’ll inspire me to bake a squishy cinnamon cake. And I plan to dip into an old collection of Mary Oliver’s poems because lately I find it hard to focus on novels — does that happen to you? This Weekender is meant to remind you of the incandescent joy of leaning into longings, big and small, from scenic restaurants and movies that delve into the world of music to a bibliophile’s trail around the world that you might want to follow.
Sohini Das Gupta, Reporter
Meals with Magical Views
1 - The Rock, Zanzibar
There’s something transcendental about enjoying your meal with a side of succulent scenery. As the name suggests, The Rock in Zanzibar is perched atop a gigantic rock in the Indian Ocean and offers an ocean-to-table dining experience. From the restaurant, you can see the turquoise waves lap the shores of the glistening white Michamvi Pingwe beach, but even getting to the restaurant is an adventure. At low tide, you can go on foot, but you'll need a boat at high tide. Imagine dining on the terrace under twinkling African stars surrounded by sounds of the sea. The menu is as decadent as the location, offering platters of lobster, fish carpaccio and king prawns, followed by a coconut tiramisu or a pineapple flambe for dessert. The kitchen uses an array of spices, a nod to Zanzibar’s history as a melting pot of cultures on a major trade route, with Arab, Indian and Portuguese influences.
2 - Le Panoramic, France
From ocean to mountains is a dramatic shift and this one’s worth the dizzying ascent — by cable car! The name is true to itself, for few panoramas of sky and snow are as sumptuous as those seen from the Chamonix restaurant’s mountain-top tables, laid out at an elevation of 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). Gaze at Mont Blanc and the French Alps, which will be snow-covered in winter, or take in a vista of green valleys in summer. If fate assigns you the right table — it can get crowded — you’ll be watching paragliders take off as your ski-weary body soaks up the cheesy warmth of Savoyard cuisine. For picky eaters, there’s pasta and steak. For gourmands? Foie gras. The price might appear as steep as the perch, so it’s good to remember that it’s the view that you’re really splurging on. Le Panoramic is open only for lunch and snacks.
3 - The Grotto, Thailand
They had me at cliff dining. Burrowed away under an ancient limestone cliff on stunning Phra Nang beach, The Grotto is all about digging your toes into soft sand as you weigh the merits of rock lobster and squid ink linguini over crab fried rice, or opt to savor a slow-braised lamb shoulder. For vegetarians, there are mezze platters and kale and feta pasta. The southern Thai province of Krabi is less developed and more laid back than tourist-trail staples like Phuket or the full moon party island of Koh Samui. Here you can wash down your meal with tropical lychee or passion fruit martinis, or simply drink in the famous orange sunsets. It’s a place to linger, sharing a laugh and good food, all on the shores of the Andaman Sea.
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Everyone loves A Star Is Born and La La Land. But there are a plethora of good movies about music and musicians, from musicals and dramas to eye-opening documentaries. As a teenager, I adored the film Once. The John Carney gem explores a connection, both emotional and creative, between a Dublin busker (Glen Hansard of Irish band The Frames) and a Czech pianist (singer-songwriter Markéta Irglová) whose names we never learn. He strums guitar and sings edgy ballads, she plays a piano she doesn’t own. They start to collaborate on a song … and the metaphorical lilt of their honest-to-god conversations carries the movie forward. Sounds like Richard Linklater and his Before Sunrise movies, right? The film is at once soft and gritty, the artists’ idealism never too powerful to be unaffected by life’s stark realities. Music isn’t always glamorous and neither is love.
2 - ‘CODA,’ 2021
Like Once, the recently released CODAis a Sundance pleaser — it won the U.S. grand jury prize and numerous other awards at this year’s festival —but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of its cinematic triumph. CODA means “child of deaf adults” and Ruby, played by Emilia Jones, is the only member of her Massachusetts-based family who can hear. The 17-year-old high schooler is eager to break out of her small-town ennui, but something about Jones’ portrayal saves it from becoming a teenage angst cliche. The way forward becomes clear when she joins her school’s choir group, but how is a dream like that acceptable to a family who needs her to keep their fishing business afloat and cannot hear her sing? Directed by Sian Heder (who was a writer on Orange Is The New Black), CODA refuses to adhere to the stereotypes of either disability or coming-of-age films, and treats music as a pivotal force. The cast, the storytelling, the delicate balance of music and life: If there’s one movie you have to watch this year, it should be this. Play this.
3 - ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’ 2015
This Liz Garbus documentary is really about the incredible yet vulnerable human behind the celebrity, the revolutionary as much as the musician. Nina Simone lived a brave, political life, standing up passionately for her beliefs, from her involvement with the Black Panthers to her fierce feminism. But she was also plagued by substance abuse and mental health problems. What Happened, Miss Simone? tries to piece together these disparate elements, all of which made her the tour de force that she was. It’s striking that many of the questions about racial injustice the film shows Simone grappling with in the 1960s and ’70s are equally relevant today. Musically, the film is also a gold mine of concert footage, as performances and archival videos punctuate the storytelling — a real treat if you’re a fan. Have a listen to “Mississippi Goddamn,” which Simone wrote after the racist attack on Black schoolgirls in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.
P.S. Speaking of documentaries, don’t forget to tune in to the 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards hosted by OZY co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson, himself an Emmy Award-winning journalist, on Sept. 29th!
Medieval buildings rise like friendly specters out of this ancient fortress town north of Lisbon. Óbidos’ main claim to fame was once its wealth of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. There was also the charm of medieval fairs, operas and the annual chocolate festival. But since the inception of a literary project called Óbidos Vila Literária in 2011, the fairytale town with high-walled gardens also offers the romance of readingin an inimitable setting. A drive to rehabilitate its public spaces saw a number of historic monuments transformed into a network of bookshops and libraries, including the Livraria de Santiago, a former Gothic church. There is even a literary hotel! Little wonder that in 2015 UNESCO designated Óbidos a “Literary City.” In the era of the Kindle, the town’s thick physical network of book hubs allows one to hold, inhale and linger over pages, all while sipping on ginjinha, the local cherry-based liqueur.
2 - Al-Qarawiyyin Library: Morocco
Did you know that the world’s oldest continuously operating library was started by a woman? Al-Qarawiyyin library in Fez was established in 859 A.D. by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a rich merchant who’d dreamed of creating an enduring center of knowledge in the city. Its breathtaking interiors have protected about4,000 rare booksand some of the oldest manuscripts in the world, including a 9th-century copy of the Quran written on camel skin in Kufic, the oldest-known Arabic calligraphy. A woody musk permeates its maze of halls, where a fortuitous wrong turn can lead you to asecret roomunder a 12th-century wooden lattice cupola. In my head, it is Alice’s Wonderland come alive — with a glorious Arabic twist.
3 - Book and Bed: Tokyo
For a bookworm, this is an impossible list to draw up. I’m mentally cursing myself for leaving out Shakespeare and Company, the storied and story-packed Parisian bookstore; the breathtaking Old Library at Trinity College Dublin; and my favorite, Roald Dahl’s magical Great Missenden village in England. But if there’s one thing that literature teaches us, it’s to look beyond the obvious, and that’s how, my friend, we’ve arrived at Book and Bed in Tokyo. You’re looking at a hipster-on-a-budget, dream-come-true hybrid of hostel meets library. Lounge, read and repeat is the only mantra inside the whimsical den that offers manga, Murakami and everything in between. The interiors evoke a sense of fantastical excess when it comes to books, with “bookshelf beds” and chilled-out common rooms where you can meet other bookworms. Psst: Did you know that in one episode of theCarlos Watson Show, broadcast journalist and celebrated sports anchor Cari Champion revealed that her favorite book is The Bluest Eye? I want to find my nook in this book hostel, Toni Morrison in hand!
Big Little Treats
1 - Preen
Who said all your desires have to be measured and reasonable? Material cravings, when you choose to indulge them, can be therapeutic! If you’re in the mood to spoil yourself, start with this star-bright pair of 1 karat diamond cluster earrings that promise to make you shine even on the grayest of days. The elegant teardrop design is set in 14 karat white gold and goes with any outfit. Wear them to brunch with your gal pals, or generously gift them to one and you’ll be BFFs for life.
2 - Clean
So you were the talk of the party with your dazzling earrings. Now that you’re back home, what do you turn to for dazzling skin? Look no further than this Esteé Lauder foam cleanser and mask that deep cleans your party-stressed skin with love. The best part? You can use it daily as a cleanser, and then a couple of times a week as a purifying mask.
3 - Revive
The green tea sipping populace might be expanding dangerously by the day, but for those of us who’ve known the delicious company of coffee, nothing else will do. Brew your morning must-have in a jiffy with this snazzy Nespresso coffee maker, perfectly equipped to make a delicious cuppa Joe topped with lush white “crema.” It even comes with 12 coffee capsules to get you started. Go get your caffeine hit!
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