Thanks to my friends at The Ballet Bag for posting a link to some astonishing pics from Danish ballet star Johann Kobborg’s outdoor gala in Skagen, on the far northern tip of Denmark. Kobborg and some fellow Royal Ballet luminaries – Leanne Benjamin, Roberta Marquez, Steven McRae and more – performed in the open air on a stage close to the sand dunes that carry you out towards the sea. More pics here (by Morten Stricker).

Skagen is my favourite place in Denmark, one of those spots in which you breathe enchantment in the quality of the light. The Skagen Painters of the late 19th century thought so too – Peder Severin Krøyer, Anna and Michael Ancher and the group that massed around them, inspired by the confluence of land, sea, air and life in those long, low, ochre houses with their wooden beams and generous gardens. It’s no place to visit if you don’t want to spend every spare moment being reminded of the purity of nature. 

We went a few years ago (as you may have twigged, Tom has been a major Danophile ever since spending five years in the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra). After visiting the Anchers’ house, which is a superb museum today, we walked into the village and seemed to see those around us as if they had stepped out of one of the paintings, or maybe as if we had wandered into one. Stroll along the dunes to Grenen and you see the point at which the North Sea meets the Kattegat; there’s a line in the foam where the two waters collide and discuss matters amongst themselves. I loved Skagen so much that I set a chapter of Alicia’s Gift there just for the pleasure of being able to put it into a book.

The idea of watching such amazing dancers in full flight in a glorious and totally unexpected setting has much to do with what makes a perfect summer festival. But yesterday I saw a link to an organisation that’s declaring itself ‘Britain’s first classical music festival’ (notwithstanding the fact that the Three Choirs Festival is, er, a classical music festival, and was founded sometime around 1715 – or the fact that you can scarcely move in the UK countryside today without bumping into a classical music festival). It says it is offering ‘life aspiring’ [see me – Ed] performances by La Jenkins and Monsieur Watson amongst others. Does this new addition mean the first ‘festival’ a la Glastonbury? If so, well, if you fancy standing in a muddy field having to pee through one of those funnel things and listening to Russell Watson sing, then that’s just dandy. I’m checking out flights to Denmark for next time Kobborg and friends take a trip, assuming there will be one.

In the meantime, I’m doing a festive runaround this week, starting with Torre del Lago on Wednesday and then tackling a transalpine adventure by train to get to Verbier. Provided the WiFi works, I’ll be blogging the lot, so stay tuned…

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"