How many Harry’s? (Venezia 16)

In recent months a new bar has opened in Newcastle upon Tyne called Harry’s Bar.  My heart sank.  Another nail in the coffin of the brand.

You see there are lots of Harry’s Bars in the world, many of them as unoriginal and unremarkable as their Novocastrian namesake, but there are two that are more notable.  Independent of one another, yet each with their moment in history.

The first that I visited was the smoke-stained Parisian version, more correctly called Harry’s New York Bar.  Here the Bloody Mary, The Side Car and The Monkey Gland were first concocted, and in the downstairs Piano Bar George Gershwin wrote An American in Paris.  James Bond lost his virginity at age 16 after a night in Harry McElhone’s establishment.

The Harry’s Bar in Venice is a very different animal.   From the moment you squeeze through its narrow doorway into a world of highly polished table tops and white-jacketed waiting staff who will steer you to a table, rearrange the furniture to your comfort and present you with the drinks menu, you know that things are a little different here (and yes that includes the price!).  Owned by the Cipriani group, and named after an American to whom Giuseppe Cipriani leant money, this is where the Bellini came into being, and one of my favourite dishes; carpaccio.  Ernest Hemingway, who was also a patron of Harry’s in Paris, ordered the first Montgomery Martini here, a martini so dry it features 15 parts gin to 1 of vermouth.  I suspect he came back for more.

Harry's Bar
Harry’s Bar




The blog reverts to travelog mode again today as my work this week has taken me to Scotland’s largest city; Glasgow. I’ve been here before on a number of occasions, but always work-related, and so I feel I’ve never really got to know the city as well as its sister along the M8, Edinburgh. Those views that I did have always been overshadowed by a plethora of negative images that were the stereotypes of my developing years; militant shipyards,  tribally internecine football violence, razor gangs and Rab C Nesbitt! There must be more to Glasgow.

Though my work is in the financial district, my home for the week is in the more bohemian West End of the city, at the far end of Sauchiehall Street, which at about a mile and a half is one of the longest in town.

The West End provides plenty of evidence of the riches generated by Glasgow following the industrial revolution, with street after street of impressively large townhouses. Sadly many of these are showing signs of their age as stonework crumbles, fences corrode, and woodwork rots. Hidden gardens which were once a place of beauty behind the great stone facades and now neglected and home to refuse bins. This is a consequence of the change of ownership over the decades.

Change has come to Glasgow in much the same way as it affected my home in North East England.  I’ve come here to work with the staff of a financial services contact centre – which is how Sunderland tried to replace jobs lost in shipbuilding and mining.

The properties are no longer home to prosperous investors in shipping, mining, mills and industry; many are now student flats owned by landlords who will do the minimum to maintain them and so maximise their profit margin.

That is not to say that the area is completely run down for at its heart is a jewel. The great park that is Kelvingrove has much to offer, from its statuary and monuments, to its wildlife, and the opportunities it provides for recreation and relaxation. Like a miniature of New York’s Central Park it provides a home to a world-class museum and gallery, and it’s tree line is also punctuated by impressive surrounding architecture, for apart from the Kelvingrove Museum, the skyline is dominated by the impressive tracery of the spire towering over Glasgow University, and in the east by the Italianate campanile tower of Trinity College.

An hour’s walk had many rewards, and ended with one more. Just as I returned to my hotel I bumped into Ellie who is today’s portrait.


So have I changed my views of this monumental city?   Largely yes, although I was awoken in my hotel by the rousing serenade of a passing drunk on my first night.  Wonder if it was Rab?

Hang on to your hat!

Early in the film Unfaithful, Diane Lane‘s character does battle with gale force winds in New York City. Whilst this fictional storm is as nothing compared to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, it is enough to cause Miss Lane some problems with her dress (shame!) and ultimately blow her quite literally into falling for Olivier Martinez which is where the trouble begins as she’s married to Richard Gere!

High winds hit Sunderland today so I made for the town centre which was once notorious for its wind tunnel effect, to see what drama may ensue This was never going to provide a Diane Lane type wardrobe malfunction, after all “tracky bottoms” are de rigueur for many of the population, but I thought there might be the odd lost hat or two!

In the end I grabbed a few candids of frustration and desperation, including one guy who seemed to feel the need to hold onto his hair, though he didn’t look much like Wayne Rooney.

Eventually I met John who had the perfect solution to the conditions. His head covering was neither hair nor fabric, yet it was completely weatherproof. It was ink!