Valentino, Madonna and Andrea Casiraghi
Where to start with the most wonderful but of course slightly bonkers Christmas and New Year I think I have ever endured! Crazily Christmas now appears to start in November. Knowing my family and I were off to Europe for Christmas, I wanted to be as well prepared as possible. This meant present choosing and shopping were high on my agenda. Also I was well aware I was in charge of cooking three entire Christmas suppers during the two-week festive period, and my husband was still flying around the world for his work on Formula Electric.
I couldn’t resist an invitation to accept and attend a Christmas bash thrown by my great friend Jenny Halpern and her delicious husband Ryan Prince. My daughter Anouska and her French beau Maxime had come over for a pre-Christmas weekend and so I thought I was pretty safe. A heavenly red lacy Dolce & Gabanna seemed to do the trick and we headed off. The Princes really go all out for their parties and this was no exception. The list of friendly faces old and new was far too long to mention or now remember but upon finding one of my “starcrushes”, Pat McGrath, the legendary make-up wizardress, I was just happy to listen to her funny outtakes having just been with her in New York.
On the other side of the room I found another top make-up Queen, Charlotte Tilbury, with her new beau George Waud. They make a truly great eccentric couple and were in festive mode. Fashionista Natalie Massenet popped in as did Sir Stuart Rose and Jenny was being a perfect hostess. With E&O feeding us tasty morsels it was all going well. My huge downfall was straying off my usual tipple of champagne on ice – instead I got a bit gung-ho on the cocktails. Mistake 1. Anouska and Maxim were having a great time mingling with all my old muckers but at midnight decided to go home. Mistake 2 not going with them! By that stage I was thoroughly over excited, over peaked and in need of assistance, but of course ranting with my girlfriends made it all worth the crashing headache the following day! Will I ever learn…
My last Christmas obligation was to read at my cousin Nicola Bearman’s, beautifully organized Christmas Carol Service in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital and their Face Value campaign to help fund new craniofacial surgery. I was in great company at Christ Church, Victoria Road, but a bit daunted by my fellow speakers Sienna Miller, Anne Robinson, Bear Grylls and Spencer Matthews who all read beautifully, and Bear Grylls impresively wrote his reading himself. I was honoured to have been a small part in helping raise £18,000 for the best children’s hospital in the world.
With London done we flew to Italy for Turkey No2. My parents-in-law had been so amazing – three Christmas trees decorated to the hilt! Even a pop-up leopard skin beauty salon for Vivi! They are the kindest and sweetest people on earth and Violet is their treasured, slightly spoilt only grandchild. There were little children going mad on chocolate-smeared pannetone, presents being opened which I personally can’t bear unless it’s the 25th ! I was thrilled and relieved to get up at the crack of dawn the next day to set off for the snow topped mountains of Switzerland.
Gstaad is a picture perfect mountain village and our chalet for the holiday was cosy, slightly Ralph Lauren-esque and charmingly Swiss. It helps that it’s located literally bang in the centre of town, which my darling husband finds an absolute must. Anouska and her best friend Lulu arrived with mountains of luggage and her darling little dog Gigi. Vivi was so overexcited to have not only her big sister in residence but also a little dog for a whole two weeks I thought she may pop.
We were up and running ski-wise the following morning and as ever were just truly grateful to be on top of a mountain with crystal blue skies, whitened Christmas trees and enough snow to have a great day whizzing getting our ski legs back. That night was to be the first of many dinners.. Gstaad can be super social if you let it. Le Comptoir is one of our family favourites and our friend Sabina Barone, a good friend of the couple who own it, invited us and our great Ruski pals, Katya and Ruslan. We seemed to get through two magnums of red wine scarily easily…
Before I knew it Christmas Eve was upon us and that meant preparation of Turkey No3 – (No1 was in London with my Father and his amour Vivien). There would have been no need to panic if not for the small matter of designer Valentino and Giancarlo Giametti and their family being invited.
They are always consummate hosts and every detail is beyond perfect.. My secret weapon is of course Giorgio’s Mother, Marina, who drives in especially with all sorts of homemade Italian treats. My other friends and family are sweet and would tell me it was delicious regardless! Also our numbers had snuck up to 22! Our chalet is perfect but a sit down Christmas supper for 22 took some imagination and organisation… Of course we had finished the final tweak, lit the last candle, thrown a couple of extra logs on the fire and the jingly bell rang for the door. Why is no-one ever late?
I emerged in my new blue Paper London cocktail dress from my friend Cavan Linde’s new site, Cavan.com and of course she was the first through the door with her super husband Stefan and their son, Tine. Violet had her cousin’s Tatum and Amber in tow and they all disappeared upstairs to Playmobil heaven..
The Ruskis, my sister, Clare and her husband, Sebastian, and Valentino, GG and co were finally all assembled and we all seemed to fit – well with a little seasonal goodwill squeeze.
Giancarlo made a beautiful thank you speech to Marina and before I knew it we were up and sitting by the tree exchanging gifts. I have to bite my tongue a little as the Italian custom is to open presents on Christmas Eve, however Anouska and I stash ours under the tree pretending we have opened them all! As always once everyone has gone and the little ones are tucked up, as the hostess you finally want to have some fun! Luckily our Ruskis are always game and so on went some loud Bob Sinclair and we had a silly boogie until about 1.30am. Luckily I just remembered the most important part of Christmas Eve – leaving out the stockings!!
Christmas Day and of course skiing was not on the agenda… however a family lunch with our girls and the Lindes at the Grand Chalet was a very welcome break from my kitchen. Lastly we all hit The Palace Hotel, a Gstaad treasure,celebrating it’s 100th year, and with a crazy children’s party to boot.
Luckily I am married to a fabulous sporty Italian who was up bright and early on Boxing Day and took us all off to the glacier. It was an absolutely magical ski day on top of the world.
As if we didn’t all have enough fun, the one and only Patrick Cox arrived to stay with the Ruskis… that night we all went for rather too chic Sushi at the even swankier new Alpina Gstaad, hotel. It was one of those evenings where the service was shocking, the food mediocre and the bill outrageous… all wrong! My mood worsened when my once comfy trousers seemed to be having a battle with my body! I duly apologized and sent myself home…
The next day was another treat as I was asked to ski with the boys – not another girl in sight! Proud of myself doesn’t begin to cover it. Patrick, being a Canadian, was full of beans and a fabulous skier to follow. I of course couldn’t help but giggle when he finally hit the snow!
As I mentioned earlier Gstaad is almost as much about skiing and sport as it is about the social whirl! That night we bravely headed off into the night – a snow blizzard to put it mildly – to the Graffs incredible new chalet for a cocktail party. It was held by their pool and we were over 100 people, I hope that says it all! The nibbly bits were so delicious Patrick and I befriended a particularly cute waiter and were from that point fed on demand. I ran into Christina Estrada and the Nuttals, Harry and Dalit, I also found the pretty Heidi Bishop as we discussed little girls in ski school – all looking forward to New Years Eve.
We ended up for dinner at The Palace where Giorgio procured a table in the mad lobby, which offers the best people-watching ever. Next to us all the new Yummy Mummys, Margherita Missoni and Tatiana Santa Domingo with her fiancé Andrea Casiraghi, with stuning sisters Olympia and Fiona Scarry upping the glamour quota. I thankfully left Giorgio there but the next morning he was full of stories of dancing with John Travolta and naughty Ilias Psinakis in Gringo (the teens nightclub).
Finally the night of all nights arrived… New Years Eve. We have been rather spoilt for the last few years being invited to the chalet of Valentino along with Giancarlo and their tribe. It is of course uber elegant and the dinner is divine. Their New Year’s Eve party in Gstaad is legendary. We always take Vivi for an hour and then the party is just for us grown ups. This year they had included my whole family. My only hope was my sister would comply a little and wear a long gown – “out of the question” – and possibly some tights I said – “absolutely not”. So far so good. Anouska however outshone us all with her fresh flower crown. She looked sensational in her burgundy vintage McQueen, I was a proud Mama.
Valentino was chic as ever in a fitted tartan dinner jacket, while the ever perfectionist Giancarlo was busy introducing anyone who didn’t happen to know everyone.
Our good friends Geoffrey and Lulu Moore were there and as usual Lulu and I were in matching red frocks (it’s an Italian custom to have a bit of red somewhere for good luck). The heavenly Carlos Souza was already in Brazillian mode and instagramming furiously. Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and his lovely wife, designer Georgina (Marchesa) were in party mode while looking after her charming parents and I was rather thrilled to meet a new starcrush of mine, Tabitha Simmons, the newest shoe Queen. Sad that at my age I can still feel schoolgirly about someone! Madonna and her crew duly arrived in their black dance clothes. I must say she did have a spectacular white fur coat for her entrance but would it kill her to wear a dress?
Supper seemed to be over in a blink and suddenly it was the 2014 count down! New Year was duly kissed in properly. Their DJ was amazing and surprise surprise we were into another serious dance off. The only scary bit is getting dragged in to the Madonna danc circle! Bless her, Christina Estrada did and was actually rather good. It’s definitely not my forte and I headed for the balcony to watch the fireworks. Personally I liked Madonna’s little girl Mercy’s shy routine the best. Within half an hour the chalet was full to the brim with other guests who had come from house parties to greet Valentino and Giancarlo. The naughty ones are always the most fun, so Principe Emanuele Filiberto and his sassy French wife Clotilde Courau, along with the Polanskis was a good start. I found myself a quiet corner to have a catch up with the seriously chic Giulia Caltagironi, who was in emerald taffeta Oscar de la Renta no less. When David Furnish arrived we caught up until Patrick Cox and Tara Bernerd finally made their entrance. As with all the best parties, those boys really know what they are doing, my lips have to remain zipped but please trust me it was a riot…