This summer it looked beautiful with roses, lavender and jasmine, sweet peas and peonies in bloom. Rose absolutely loves cooking and I do too now. We go to the fishmonger and the cheesemonger; last time, we went into Southwark Cathedral to look at the stained glass, and ended up sitting through a whole service. Saturday afternoon might involve a trip to the Natural History Museum or the Science Museum; not long ago we went to Tate Britain where the English National Ballet was holding a class for children.
Rose joined in and it was really sweet. My perfect weekend: Patrick Duffy, actor.
My perfect weekend: Edwina Currie, former MP and author. My perfect weekend: Matthew Williamson, designer.
My perfect weekend: Catherine Hakim, social scientist and author. It's all ancient Greek to me, Robbie Williams.
My perfect weekend: Jade Parfitt, model and presenter. As a child my weekends were quite different. I see now that it was an idyllic childhood.
When I left school I got a job in Sydney, Australia, teaching drama and cello at a boarding school. It was disastrous as the girls quickly got the better of me — I was more of a student than they were — so I left and went travelling before throwing myself into proper student weekends when I went to Oxford to read English. I lived in a house with three boys, like Wendy and the lost boys, and it was always crazy on Saturdays and Sundays — there would be so many people around. My plan after this is to downscale.
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Yet Emilia has one more blockbuster up her sleeve — Solo, the latest instalment in the Star Wars franchise, directed by Ron Howard. Set prior to the events of the original Star Wars film, it tells the story of "galactic scoundrel" Han Solo's beginnings. And once again Emilia portrays a strong woman — albeit with her natural dark-coloured hair.
Emilia plays Qi'ra, Han's childhood comrade and rumoured love interest. In true Star Wars fashion, the actor can't divulge much about her character's storyline. She's an enigma, she's mysterious. You know she cares for Han, you know they have a relationship, but more than that, you're kind of in the world of femme fatale. Emilia was introduced to Star Wars as a child by her adored big brother Ben.
I grew up watching them because of him. It was a bit like, whatever he thinks goes. Emilia Isabelle Euphemia Rose Clarke was raised in Oxfordshire; her father a theatre sound engineer and her mother a marketing manager. She recalls an idyllic childhood spent playing in the English countryside and making fairy dens. She was a happy-go-lucky child nicknamed "Milly" who loved to entertain her family. Emilia idolised her brother — the two are still "super close" — and was always trying to emulate him.
She begged her parents to send her to the same boarding school as Ben, St Edward's in Oxford, yet ended up not particularly enjoying the experience, feeling she was too arty and not posh enough for her peers. Growing up around her father's workplace of the theatre instilled a love for acting from a very young age.
Yet when she told her dad her ambition he responded that there was only one line she needed to learn: "Do you want fries with that?
Undaunted, Emilia applied to a bunch of drama schools upon graduating from high school, yet was rejected by all of them. I was totally intent on staying at an agriturismo, which we also had done on that same prior trip to Italy, although that time in Tuscany, in Greve in Chianti. Back then we were on a small working farm in spare accommodations, but the vineyard was charming and the food was incredible - fresh and prepared by the nonna - and it was an experience I wanted to recreate, but somehow with more parmesan cheese.
After fruitless hours trying to figure out what agriturismo would be any good based on close to zero information on the internet, I finally did a search for best small hotels in Emilia-Romagna and one of the ones listed was also an agriturismo. I had had visions of bringing WP to see sheep, but I ended up settling for a focus on vinegar when this place outside Modena had its own vineyard and made Lambrusco the local, lightly sparkling red, wine and balsamic the black gold of the region. I gave up my visions of walking amongst sheep and cows and pigs and settled for grapes and a steam room.
Opera 02 was just as beautiful in person as it looked online. Sweeping vineyard views with giant stone farmhouses dotted at intervals. One afternoon I spent a few meditative minutes in front of our wall-to-wall sliding glass doors leading onto our private patio watching a tractor in the distance plow a large field. I really want to come back in summer when you could sit out on your deck sipping Lambrusco during a long evening sunset, and use the infinity pool overlooking the vineyard, though who knows if we could afford the peak season rates.
The only downside of being at such a nice place is that the restaurant is quite fancy.
We took turns walking her around the lobby. The highlight of our time here was definitely the balsamic tasting that we went to at Acetaia Cavedoni. Oh man. Learning about the process used to make true balsamic vinegar DOP - the regulated stuff was totally fascinating. It really made me appreciate the process by which vinegar is aged, which is different than wine and involves annual checkups, condensation as the water in the product continues to evaporate, careful redistribution and acidity checks - aging it an active rather than passive process.
We tasted 25 year old vinegar and saw year old vinegar. We saw the vinegar that had been started when our tour guide was born by his father and the vinegar he started for his two children. We spent an amount of money on balsamic Christmas gifts spoiler that would cause me pangs of guilt if I had spent it on clothes. The next day we day-tripped into Modena proper to walk around.
The duomo was my favorite. There were stories carved in stone, two layers of prayer areas, ceilings high and low, and just generally a unique look to the place. The center of town was very cute. We were caught reservation-less on a Saturday for lunch, so we popped into a sort of charmless place that quickly filled with families and I was thrilled to have a huge, fresh salad Mike got the in-season pumpkin tortelloni with parmesan and balsamic, a very Modena meal.
Our final day at the agriturismo we popped into the nearby towns for a walk around and grabbed the last free table at a wine bar for lunch. Then we took the free tour of the winery and balsamic room at Opera 02 and manufactured our own casual dinner where we ordered two burgers to the lobby instead of the restaurant.