Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: December 2019

Jow, the French e-grocery app — which combines recipes, recommendations and online grocery ordering — has raised $7 million in new funding.

The round is led by Stride.VC, alongside Caterina Fake and Jyri Engeström from Yes VC, and Shan-Lyn Ma, the co-founder and CEO of Zola. Previous seed backers, DST global partners and eVentures also participated.

Launched in 2018 and now supporting five of France’s leading grocery retailers (Monoprix, Carrefour, Auchan, Chronodrive and E.Leclerc), Jow’s app claims to let you complete your weekly online food shop in as little as a minute (once you’ve been on-boarded, of course).

It does this by creating customised menus, tailored to each user and household, and then automatically fills your online shopping cart with the required ingredients. The idea is to answer the question: “what’s for dinner tonight?” while providing a more cost-effective alternative to recipe kits such as Blue Apron or HelloFresh, and less reliance on take-outs from the likes of Deliveroo or Uber Eats.

“Doing your weekly shopping online can take you up to one hour,” says Jow co-founder and CEO Jacques-Edouard Sabatier. “You waste a lot of time looking for the right product category, sub category, scrolling through hundreds of references, you finally find your product, put it in your cart, and repeat this process up to 40 times (the number of items in your cart)! It’s a horrendous experience, with no added value at all for the customer.”

That’s in contrast to brick and mortar grocery shopping, argues Sabatier, where there is an opportunity to “feel, taste and smell the products.” He says it’s the terrible user experience of grocery shopping online that has limited its e-grocery growth. Jow aims to change that.

“Jow creates a customised menu, just for you, with simple and delicious recipes,” explains Sabatier. “Our food recommendation engine considers your tastes, your kitchen appliances, whether or not you have children and checks the availability of the ingredients in your supermarket. Jow then automatically fills your cart with all the ingredients you need to cook the meals.”

In addition, Jow offers a customised list of your repeat purchases, and its recommendation engine claims to help you choose the exact quantities needed to avoid waste. You also can check out with a single click, and the app will synchronise with your chosen supermarket delivery or pickup service.

Noteworthy is that the app’s recipe-to-cart feature represents on average 75% of the products Jow users add to their cart. Staple products such as toilet paper, beverages, toothpaste etc. make up the remaining 25%.

The app is free for end users, seeing the Paris and New York-based startup generate affiliate revenue from supermarkets that want to use the service to acquire younger, mobile-first customers. The business model is asset light, too, as Jow is largely built on top of the existing infrastructure and capabilities of larger supermarkets.

“Apart from the 50x improvement on the e-grocery funnel, it’s unbelievable to see that to date, in a world where you have tailored and recommended experiences around music, video etc., you have no strong recommendation engine or experiences around food,” adds Sabatier.

In addition, the startup believes that more broadly it has created a mobile e-grocery experience that actually works. “E-grocery is one of the only e-commerce segments where desktop still prevails,” says Sabatier. “[Bucking this trend], 90% of Jow’s customers shop using their mobile devices, the experience is so smooth and fast that you can do your weekly shopping in just one minute on the subway or the bus.”

Read more:

In the decade that was simply the worst of times, we went from Downton Abbey dross to a swaggering masterwork about the first modern lesbian. Costume drama has loosened its corset at last!

As a lens through which to view the past, period drama is the obstinate, headstrong girl! of British culture. If you want to get all Jane Austen about it, which of course you do. The genre most blindly beloved by the country has spent decades stubbornly shooing history away with a gloved hand in favour of a more manicured (read: posh, white) version of how we used to live. Backpedal to the comparatively sunny uplands of the late Noughties, when New Labour was in its death throes and phone hacking at News International crowned its head (OK, not so sunny). What were we saluting our slippers to on a Sunday night? Cranford! That confection filled with candied dames force-feeding cats laxatives to retrieve lost Victorian lace. Not exactly representative of the times. More like hitching up its skirts to escape them.

In contrast, the 2010s which to take a hammer to the Dickens quote was simply the worst of times were when period drama finally loosened its corset. When a genre characterised by nostalgia cast open the Georgian shutters to the realities of race, class and sexuality that had always been there. Sort of. It was also the decade that launched with Downton Abbey. Yet this, too, was in perfect keeping with the 2010s ever-rising levels of polarisation. In what other 10-year span might we have entered stage-right with Julian Fellowes elegant post-Edwardian drama, which ran for six buttoned-up seasons and culminated in the promise of a film only Americans could love. Then exited stage-left with Gentleman Jack, a sly, swaggering and deeply sincere masterpiece about a Yorkshire woman dubbed the first modern lesbian, directed by the Andrew Davies of the 2010s. Our new crown: Sally Wainwright.

It was in Wainwrights skilled northern hands that period drama shifted into the tanking present. Became raw, bleak, true, subversive, funny in the most off-kilter British sense. In To Walk Invisible, her stunning account of the three pinched years in which the Bront sisters wrote the novels that made them famous, we got a version of then that was viscerally now. There was poverty, alcoholism and not a marriage in sight. Everyone looked cold, all the time. In Gentleman Jack, Wainwright proved she could pull off a romp while crafting cliffhangers out of the trials and tribulations of 19th-century coal mining. Consider the high romantic finale, tuned in to by millions, that saw Suranne Jones roguish Anne Lister and her beloved, Ann Walker, declaring their love atop a windblown Yorkshire hill. Dont hurt me. Im not as strong as you think I am, Lister said, before adding with a soft-butch stoicism never before seen in a primetime period drama slot, Well, I am, obviously. As an antidote to the badly-acted costume drama playing out in parliament, it was perfect.

A soft-butch stoicism never before seen in primetime period drama … Gentleman Jack. Photograph: Aimee Spinks/BBC/Lookout Point/HBO

Most awkward, unsurprisingly, was the insertion of race into a genre that for half a century has been almost exclusively white. In Vanity Fair, the Sedleys servant, Sam, was black and, though not fleshed out enough, a great character: proud, dripping with contempt, endlessly ignored. His silent presence for such lines as better than sending him back to India into the arms of some dusky maharani, better than a dozen mahogany grandchildren foregrounded the everyday racism of the time without falling into the trap of anachronism. Howards End, the BBCs simultaneously old-fashioned and highly timely adaptation of EM Forsters great novel about Englishness, just about walked the line between representation and tokenism by making the Basts an interracial couple, and giving the Schlegels a black maid. These were changes so incremental they often felt uncomfortable. Nevertheless, they made the Merchant Ivory version seem as long ago as the novel. The race problem in period drama, as it was termed, was better addressed in series that focused on black and Asian history from the outset. Like The Long Song, a stellar adaptation of Andrea Levys Booker-shortlisted novel set during the last days of slavery in 19th-century Jamaica. It was intelligent, ambitious, heartbreaking.

Intelligent, ambitious, heartbreaking … The Long Song. Photograph: Carlos Rodriguez/Heyday Television

Turning to sex, which all period dramas must in due course, Harlots was a microcosm of 2010s confusion. On the one hand, it was your average sauce-fest inspired by the sex trade in Georgian London and overflowing with ever more purple euphemisms for cockstands. On the other, a criminally overlooked post #MeToo feminist triumph, created by and starring women and for once, focusing on the brutality of prostitution without reducing it to a load of actually quite sexy sex. At times it could be both at once, and I didnt know whether to be enraged or enjoy myself, which was probably the point. A similar discomfort was induced by The Crown, which was so sumptuous, eye-wateringly expensive, and bloody well done that you had to applaud, even while an actual royal was stepping down from all 230 of his patronages over his association with Jeffrey Epstein.

Read more:

(CNN)Every year, Angela Young’s family sends out themed holiday cards to family and friends, but they decided to go out of this world this year.

View this post on Instagram

Surprise! We did a video with this year’s holiday card! We channeled the ultimate trio #thebeastieboys and one of my all-time favourite music videos, “Intergalactic” for inspiration. Getting those work suits in child size was a lot harder than you’d think. Director: @smcleod DOP: @christianflook Special Thanks: @unreasonablestudios Track: “Intergalactic” #beastieboys

A post shared by Angela Young (@_angelayoung_) on

The original video shows the hip-hop trio walking through a city rapping through a fish-eye lens as a robot dances and battles a character with an octopus head in background.
Young’s recreation features her family in the same gear as the Beastie Boys posing around Toronto landmarks such as Union Station, Yonge-Dundas Square, the convention center, a subway train and the grounds surrounding the CN Tower, according to CNN network partner CTV.
    Young told CTV the entire video was shot in less than two hours in November and the editing took about an hour.
    “We’re a super-creative family and we love doing stuff like this,” Young told CTV. “I think it’s a great way to bond.”
    Young initially posted the video to Facebook, but then a co-worker recommended she put it on YouTube where it has garnered over 250,000 views. The caption on the video says it was inspired by the 20th anniversary of the original “Intergalactic” music video release.
      A video editor herself, Young told CTV she was 13 when the original video premiered.
      “It really ignited a lot of creativity in me to want to make videos on my own,” she said. “And so now 20 years later to be able to make a video like this with my own kids is mind-blowing. I just love it.”

      Read more:

      Airbnb has well and truly disrupted the world of travel accommodation, changing the conversation not just around how people discover and book places to stay, but what they expect when they get there, and what they expect to pay. Today, one of the startups riding that wave is announcing a significant round of funding to fuel its own contribution to the marketplace.

      Domio, a startup that designs and then rents out apart-hotels with kitchens and other full-home experiences, has raised $100 million ($50 million in equity and $50 million in debt) to expand its business in the U.S. and globally to 25 markets by next year, up from 12 today. Its target customers are millennials traveling in groups or families swayed by the size and scope of the accommodation — typically five times bigger than the average hotel room — as well as the price, which is on average 25% cheaper than a hotel room.

      The Series B, which actually closed in August of this year, was led by GGV Capital, with participation from Eldridge Industries, 3L Capital, Tribeca Venture Partners, SoftBank NY, Tenaya Capital and Upper90. Upper90 also led the debt round, which will be used to lease and set up new properties.

      Domio is not disclosing its valuation, but Jay Roberts, the founder and CEO, said in an interview that it’s a “huge upround” and around 50x the valuation it had in its seed round and that the company has tripled its revenues in the last year. Prior to this, Domio had only raised around $17 million, according to data from PitchBook.

      For some comparisons, Sonder — another company that rents out serviced apartments to the kind of travelers who have a taste for boutique hotels — earlier this year raised $225 million at a valuation north of $1 billion. Others like Guesty, which are building platforms for others to list and manage their apartments on platforms like Airbnb, recently raised $35 million with a valuation likely in the range of $180 million to $200 million. Airbnb is estimated to be valued around $31 billion.

      Domio plays in an interesting corner of the market. For starters, it focuses its accommodations at many of the same demographics as Airbnb. But where Airbnb offers a veritable hodgepodge of rooms and homes — some are people’s homes, some are vacation places, some never had and never will have a private occupant, and across all those the range of quality varies wildly — Domio offers predictability and consistency with its (possibly more anodyne) inventory.

      “We are competing with amateur hosts on Airbnb,” said Roberts, who previously worked in real estate investment banking. “This is the next step, a modern brand, the next Marriott but with a more tech-powered brain and operating model.” These are not to be confused with something like Hilton’s Homewood Suites, Roberts stressed to me. He referred to Homewood as “a soulless hotel chain.”

      “Domio is the anti-hotel chain,” he added.

      Roberts is also quick to describe how Domio is not a real estate company as much as it is a tech-powered business. For starters, it uses quant-style algorithms that it’s built in-house to identify regions where it wants to build out its business, basing it not just on what consumers are searching for, but also weather patterns, economic indicators and other factors. After identifying a city or other location, it works on securing properties.

      It typically sets up its accommodations in newer or completely new buildings, where developers — at least up to now — are not usually constructing with short-term rentals in mind. Instead, they are considering an option like Domio as an alternative to selling as condominiums or apartments, something that might come up if they are sensing that there is a softening in the market. “We typically have 75%-78% occupancy,” Roberts said. He added that hotels on average have occupancy rates in the high 60% nationally.

      As Domio lengthens its track record — its 12 U.S. markets include Miami, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Phoenix — Roberts says that they’re getting a more select seat at the table in conversations.

      “Investors are starting to go out to buy properties on our behalf and lease them to us,” he said. This gives the startup a much more favorable rate and terms on those deals. “The next step is that Domio will manage these directly.” The most recent property it signed, he noted, includes a Whole Foods at the ground level, and a gym.

      Using technology to identify where to grow is not the only area where tech plays a role. Roberts said that the company is now working on an app — yet to be released — that will be the epicenter of how guests interact to book places and manage their experience once there.

      “Everything you can do by speaking to a human in a traditional hotel you will be able to do with the Domio app,” he said. That will include ordering room service, getting more towels, booking experiences and getting restaurant recommendations. “You can book your Uber through the Domio app, or sync your Spotify account to play music in the apartment.

      And there are plans to extend the retail experience using the app. Roberts says it will be a “shoppable” experience where, if you like a sofa or piece of art in the place where you’re staying, you can order it for your own home. You can even order the same wallpaper that’s been designed to decorate Domio apartments.

      Ripe for the booking

      Although Airbnb has grown to be nearly as ubiquitous as hotels (and perhaps even more prominent, depending on who you are talking to), the wider travel and accommodation market is still ripe for the taking, estimated to reach $171 billion by 2023 and the highest growth sector in the travel industry.

      “Airbnb has taught us that hotels are not the only place to stay,” said Hans Tung, GGV’s managing partner. “Domio is capitalizing on the global shift in short-term travel and the consumer demand for branded experiences. From my travels around the world, there is a large, underserved audience — millennials, families, business teams — who prefer the combined benefits of an apartment and hotel in a single branded experience.”

      I mentioned to Roberts that the leasing model reminded me a little of WeWork, which itself does not own the property it curates and turns into office space for its tenants. (The SoftBank investor connection is interesting in that regard.) Roberts was very quick to say that it’s not the same kind of business, even if both are based around leased property re-rented out to tenants.

      “One of the things we liked about Domio is that is very capital-efficient,” said Tung, “focusing on the model and payback period. The short-term nature of customer stays and the combination of experience/price required to maintain loyal customers are natural enforcers of efficient unit economics.”

      “For GGV, Domio stands out in two ways,” he continued. “First, CEO Jay Roberts and the Domio team’s emphasis on execution is impressive, with expansion into 12 cities in just three years. They have the right combination of vision, speed and agility. Domio’s model can readily tap into the global opportunity as they have ambition to scale to new markets. The global travel and tourism spend is $2.8 trillion with 5 billion annual tourists. Global travelers like having the flexibility and convenience of both an apartment and hotel — with Domio they can have both.”

      Read more:

      Signatories including Ron Chernow and David Blight write: We have concluded that Donald J Trump has violated his oath

      More than 700 American historians have called for the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump.

      We are American historians devoted to studying our nations past, began an open letter posted to Medium, who have concluded that Donald J Trump has violated his oath to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

      Two articles of impeachment will be voted on in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. They concern abuse of power, in Trumps attempts to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals, and obstruction of Congress, in his refusal to allow key aides to testify in impeachment hearings.

      Despite extensive evidence laid out in those House committee hearings, the president denies any wrongdoing.

      The articles are expected to be approved, virtually on party lines, setting up a trial in the Senate in January which Republican senators, nominally impartial jurors, have said will be swift and run in close cooperation with the White House and will ultimately acquit the president. Democrats have cried foul.

      Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both survived Senate trials. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, before he could be impeached.

      Brenda Wineapple, author of The Impeachers, about the Johnson trial, signed the open letter, as did Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, and Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton aide and author of The Clinton Wars and so far three volumes of a five-volume life of Abraham Lincoln.

      President Trumps numerous and flagrant abuses of power are precisely what the framers had in mind as grounds for impeaching and removing a president, the historians wrote.

      Among those most hurtful to the constitution have been his attempts to coerce the country of Ukraine, under attack from Russia, an adversary power to the United States, by withholding essential military assistance in exchange for the fabrication and legitimisation of false information in order to advance his own re-election.

      President Trumps lawless obstruction of the House of Representatives, which is rightly seeking documents and witness testimony in pursuit of its constitutionally mandated oversight role, has demonstrated brazen contempt for representative government.

      So have his attempts to justify that obstruction on the grounds that the executive enjoys absolute immunity, a fictitious doctrine that, if tolerated, would turn the president into an elected monarch above the law.

      Among other signatories who cited revolutionary authorities including George Mason and Alexander Hamilton were Ron Chernow, Pulitzer prize-winning author of biographies of Hamilton, George Washington and Ulysses S Grant; Eric Foner, the author of seminal works on slavery; David Blight, author of a Pulitzer prize-winning life of Frederick Douglass; and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge and She Came to Slay, a new biography of Harriet Tubman.

      The University of Liverpool historian Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire, a history of Britain and the American civil war, also signed the letter. So did Ken Burns, the documentary maker whose work on the civil war, the west, jazz, baseball, country music and Vietnam, among other subjects, has made him a pillar of US public life.

      Collectively, the historians wrote, the presidents offences, including his dereliction in protecting the integrity of the 2020 election from Russian disinformation and renewed interference, arouse once again the framers most profound fears that powerful members of government would become, in Hamiltons words, the mercenary instruments of foreign corruption.

      The letter was co-ordinated by Project Democracy, an advocacy group which last month released a similar letter signed by more than 500 law professors.

      It is our considered judgment, the historians wrote, that if President Trumps misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does.

      Read more:

      If you’re looking for a European vacation that hasn’t been covered extensively by Instagram yet, I highly recommend a trip through Switzerland. Perfect for a honeymoon or a family occasion, Switzerland is a trip you can do basically any time of year, though it will look a lot different depending on when you go. Everything in Switzerland is more expensive from December to March, which is considered “the season”. However, if you go during this time, the Lake Como extension of the itinerary doesn’t really work, as many hotels there shut down in the winter. So if you still want to do a Northern Italy leg in winter, other options would be Milan or the Italian Alps for skiing.

      I went on a mother-daughter trip in mid-October, so I have to make a disclaimer that some of this itinerary reflects mom-is-paying prices. But we’re not *that* fancy, so we tried to go a step up from a millennial budget and a step down from the most expensive options. One caveat is that the food in Switzerland is pretty expensive in general, and we had very few meals that were under 100 dollars once drinks were involved (every meal).

      Switzerland is pretty small so it’s easy to fit in a few cities in one trip. Driving wasn’t horrible, although some of the cliffside roads can be a bit windy and intimidating if you’re not a great driver.

      We organized the trip so we could stay everywhere two nights, giving us a day of travel where we would stop and see cool sh*t along the way (never more than a four-hour distance in one day), and then spend one full day without traveling in the place we were staying. I would characterize a Switzerland trip as mostly walking around looking at sh*t and eating, so it’s not like you need a ton of time everywhere unless you purposely want to settle down and relax for a more lengthy stay.

      We flew direct into Zürich and rented a car without spending any time there, but these are some recommendations I was sent in case you want to vary this itinerary.


      Activities: Lindenhof Park, boat ride on the lake, walk along the Bahnhofstrasse (shopping street), Great Minster Church, Sukkulenten Sammlung (botanical garden), try Rosti (a Swiss potato dish which is kind of like potato pancakes and hash browns combined); go to rooftop bars (Widder Hotel Bar, OOO Rooftop, Old Crow, CLOUDS Bar, Skybar, Griederbar rooftop, Quai 61) and Laderach (for homemade chocolate).

      Hotels: Glockenhof Hotel (central location, not horribly expensive); more expensive options would be Savoy Baur en Vile, Park Hyatt, Widder Hotel, Dolder Grand, Baur au Lac

      Restaurants: Brasserie Lipp (classic), Sprungli (also a chocolate place; expensive), Klingers, Caninetta Antinori, Bindella, Kronnenhalle (old school and famous), Lindenhofkeller (steak), Saltz at the Dolder Grande, AuGust at the Widder Hotel


      We spent two nights in Lucerne and stayed at Chateau Gutsch, a castle built in 1859. For such an old building they take great care of it, and even though our original room had kind of a musty smell, they upgraded us to a suite that was really nice and smelled totally fine. The hotel was extremely clean and was recently redesigned by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, who also designed Kylie Jenner’s living room.

      When we got to Lucerne, we were pretty tired from traveling so, for dinner we just had drinks and appetizers at the Gutsch Bar outside on the patio overlooking the city. Not cheap, but a nice atmosphere and they had a huge cocktail menu.

      We spent the next day exploring the city, walking around the Old Town mostly and along Lake Lucerne. There are a ton of cute places to eat along the river; we went for fondue at Restaurant Schiff which was great (plus other options below). The city is very pretty and you can easily get a feel from walking around for an afternoon. See the Chapel Bridge, a hyped up statue of a lion (kind of an icon in Lucerne tbh), and a lot of stores that sell watches.

      Other hotel options: If you’re looking to splurge on a hotel for Lucerne, the most consistent recommendation I got was for Buergenstock Resort, which is actually several hotels on one property and slightly above/outside the city, meaning amazing views; also Villa Honegg (next door to Buergenstock), Hotel Montana (city), Grand Hotel National (city), Park Hotel Vitznau (outside city).

      Other restaurants: Ammos, Little Swiss House, Hotel Des Balances, Olivio, Barbatti, Scala, Hotel Schweizerhof

      The next day we drove from Lucerne to Adelboden. On the way we stopped at Lake Lungern for literally the most gorgeous lake I’ve ever seen, both in real life and on the explore page.

      We also stopped in Interlaken (approximately an hour from Lake Lungern) because we heard there was a cute chocolate shop we had to go to…and also because we wanted to check out what the town was like. I wasn’t particularly obsessed with the town but the chocolate shop (Funky Chocolate Club) was the world’s most perfect abroad-girl trap.


      Adelboden is a low-key tiny town with incredible views, so the main draws are the mountains and outdoor activities. It’s a ski town in the winter with schnitzel-y vibes. We stayed at The Cambrian, an adorable, modern hotel that wasn’t insanely priced, which the owner claims “really took off due to Instagram.” Overall, I’d highly recommend this hotel.

      When we got there, we spent some time at the pool before dinner at Alpenblick Restaurant and then spent the rest of our night sitting on the deck at the Cambrian having drinks.

      The next day, we had reserved outdoor activities and hiking (aka leisurely walking). We took the cable car up Tschentenalp (one of the Alps) for some even more incredible views. Then we drove about 10 minutes to Engstligenalp, an even higher Alp. They have golf and restaurants at the top of the mountain, as well as a hut with raclette, a food where you watch someone put a ton of melted cheese on top of bread and vegetables and then eat it. Different from fondue where you dip the things into the cheese.


      Crans-Montana was sort of similar to Adelboden but felt a bit more ritzy, while still not at all pretentious. It’s also in a more French area of Switzerland, while Adelboden is more German influenced. Don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about?

      We stayed at LeCrans Hotel and Spa, which was literally a perfect mountain hotel with lodge vibes. It’s ski-in/ski-out in the winter and we’re already planning another trip back there. Not #spon, just loved it. The service was unreal and they gave us a double room upgrade so we ended up with a large balcony and fireplace in the room.

      For dinner our first night we ate at the restaurant in the hotel, Le Mont Blanc, which had a ridiculous tasting menu of foods I can’t even name. It’s Michelin-starred so it wasn’t cheap, but the overall price was relatively lower than many of the other restaurants we went to given what we got for the price. This is how I justify financial decisions to myself.

      The next day I decided to chill at the hotel and go to the spa and pool, while my mom went into town for the day. We had dinner at La Desalpe, the classic spot in Crans village for traditional Swiss food. So good, so much cheese.

      The next day we took a four hour drive from Crans to Lake Como. We drove through Passo Della Novena right on the Swiss border and finally got to see some snow. We didn’t realize we’d be driving through this climate surprise but it was so incredible and truly a highlight of the trip. Also, they do amazing snow maintenance on their roads.

      On the way, we stopped at the Foxtown Outlets in Mendrisio, very close to the Italian border. It had amazing designers with genuinely worthwhile discounts. Like Gucci shoes for 200 dollars, plus you can claim the VAT, so I basically made money on this trip.

      **An option if you want to continue in Switzerland and skip Lake Como would be to drive to Montreaux, a small city that’s famous for having a music festival and a castle on Lake Geneva. So, we spent an hour exploring the Chateau de Chillon for 25 Swiss francs pp (yes they are on their own currency because these neutral bitches are not in the EU). The castle basically looks like Kings Landing, at least according to the fellow tourist who kept screaming “GAME OF THRONES!” In addition to Montreaux, an alternative would be to visit the town of Gruyeres and do a tour of Maison Cailler, a v famous chocolate factory.

      Lake Como

      We were only there for one full day, but it was enough time for a fall trip when the weather isn’t great for lake lyfe. We stayed at the Palace Hotel in Como, which was a good price even with the George Clooney Tax, aka the premium for being anywhere your phone will pick up the Lake Como geotag. It wasn’t especially lux, but totally nice enough for the time we spent there. However, if you go in the summer and want a longer and more relaxing vaca, this is a destination where a hotel would be worth a splurge or total wipe-out of your Chase points.

      We got to the hotel pretty late with post-outlet fatigue, so we had dinner outside at the hotel bar. The food was okay but still tasted amazing since we had pretty much only been eating squares of chocolate since breakfast. Had we not spent almost five hours at Foxtown (45 minutes of which we were just lost inside the mall trying to find the parking lot), we would have gone to the town of Bellagio to walk around and have dinner (recommendations for various Como towns below).

      The next morning we woke up late and went to Villa d’Este, an iconic spot worth exploring because it’s gorgeous, but beware the pretentious vibes and excessive botox from the clientele. To get into the villa you need a reservation, so we made one for lunch at Veranda. The food was so f*cking good, but if you don’t want to spend 45 euro on 30 bites of penne, you can just as easily eat at the terrace bar (but still make a reservation at Veranda just in case so you can get in). We explored the gardens for about a half hour after lunch and waited for the boat tour we had arranged to pick us up at the Villa d’Este dock.

      Boat ride: We were expecting it to rain the day we were there, but luckily it didn’t so we booked a last-minute boat tour. Having done no research prior, I just googled a boat tour and found a great guide through Lago di Como Boat Tour. The driver’s name was Giacomo, who was extremely nice and knowledgeable about everything on the lake, and also said he drove John Legend to film the “All Of Me” video. It cost 400 euro for two hours, though it’s completely possible you might find something cheaper if you don’t book totally at the last second and you actually put in the research. Many of the hotels on the lake also have boats you can take yourself included in the price.

      Villa Balbianello: 16th century villa where Star Wars was filmed with gorgeous gardens. Costs 10 euro to tour the gardens only, or you have to book a guided tour to go inside. We just looked at it from the boat.

      Villa Carlotta: Another villa with beautiful gardens, next to the Grand Hotel Tremezzo

      After dinner we took the windy, very skinny roads up the mountain looking for dinner but nothing was open until 7, so we went to La Piazzetta in Cernobbio (v good, cute garden area). After dinner we stopped at Gelateria Sottozero for our one and only gelato of the trip. It was standard but amazing, though if you’re looking for “the best” gelato, I was recommended La Fabbrica del Gelato in Lenno.

      Other Recommendations

      Cernobbio: Il Gatto Nero, Albergo Pizzeria della Torre, Pizzeria Giardino (more casual), Ristorante Materia, Trattoria del Glicine, Harry’s Bar

      Varenna: Il Cavatappi, La Passerella (gelato)

      Tremezzo: Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Al Veluu

      Bellagio: Bilacus, Babyaga, Ristorante La Terrazza, Bstyle Bellagio, Salice Blu (celebrity chef), Enotecca Principessa, Aperitivo et al (wine bar), La Punta

      Como: The Market Place, La Colombetta, Caffè Teatro, Gelateria Lariana (near ferry)

      Locanda Dell’Isola Comacina: a three-hour lunch experience on the only island in the lake; fixed menu with all-you-can-drink wine and they put on a show about the history of the island at the end

      Transportation: If not driving, the best way to experience Lake Como is on the lake itself and to take the ferry between different towns. They only run every 30 minutes and be sure to get there early in case there are lines to buy tickets.

      We flew out of Milan Malpensa. This is only worth the mention because if you rent a car, it would be criminal of me not to explain how to return it. There is no attendant, so you just leave it at Terminal 2 in a poorly-marked lot (which is impossible to find), then drop your documents and keys in a box nearby. Sounds simple, right? Well, no one is going to explain this to you beforehand. Then you have to take a shuttle bus (also hard to find) from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1, where you’ll be greeted with some of the longest airport walks you’ve ever known. Bon voyage, betches.

      Read more:

      From an awkward scene with a knife to an A-listers comeback with the sounds of Fiona Apple, Guardian writers pick their favourite big screen bits of the year

      The ride Ford v Ferrari

      Photograph: Merrick Morton/AP

      In Ford v Ferrari (AKA Le Mans 66), Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) has been tasked by the Man in the guise of Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to build a racer that can beat those rotten eye-talians who think they are better than us. Shelby can do it, but he needs Letts to get off his back with the rules and regs and let his genius soar! (Ayn Rand would love this movie.) After some comedic business, Ford winds up in the test vehicle alone with Shelby, who zooms him through sphincter-clenching turns at incredible speeds. When he slams the brakes, Ford sobs.

      At first you think the scene is just to mock the unmanliness of this pencil-pushing suit. Then it changes. Shelbys velocity has so rattled Fords emotions he explodes in grief that his late father cant see his name on such a powerhouse, and in deep sadness that hes not a man of vision himself. He recognizes in Shelby everything he isnt, and it floods out his eyes and nose. It is a weirdly tender moment, reminding us that even comedic baddies in a dad film are people, too. JH

      The strip Hustlers

      Photograph: Barbara Nitke/AP

      Jennifer Lopezs dazzling pole dance caused a ripple of gasps around the screening room where I saw Lorene Scafarias clever con movie Hustlers. Its not just that J-Lo looks so great for her, or anyone elses, age. And its not just that the moves required for this dance are so demanding, she later released a YouTube video of the rehearsals in which she gazed horrorstruck at her own bruised thighs. Its mostly that its a very old-school star move: the flaunting of talent, professionalism and charisma that we associate with a routine by say, Fred Astaire. But also, Ramona is the films central enigma and this moment, her first appearance, sums up the movie.

      Her gymnastic display inspires something more tangible than mere lust: admiration (from an overawed Constance Wu), and financial reward. Ramona hugs those dollar bills close to her heart as she strides off stage. The choice of song, Fiona Apples Criminal, is as prophetic as her payoff line is prescient: Doesnt money make you horny? PH

      The arrival Homecoming

      Photograph: Parkwood Entertainment

      A quote from Toni Morrison, some grainy analog establishing shots of the Coachella grounds, and then: it is time. The camera dollies up to a drum majorette who taps out a count, mean-mugs for a moment, and then blows her whistle to summon the demi-deity known as Beyonc Knowles-Carter. The director of photographys choreography works in perfect tandem with the dancers as one continuous shot pulls forward while they twirl out of the way to reveal Queen B, so resplendent and regal that both the nickname and the crowds slavering idol-worship of her instantly make sense.

      To the strains of a HBCU-styled marching band, she strides down a catwalk to the stage with one foot in front of the other to maximize the swing of her hips. She might as well be walking on water, so supremely in command of this massive spectacle that she reminds us why we talk about pop stars in religious terms. CB

      The evaluator Marriage Story

      Photograph: Netflix

      As rapturous as the reception might have been for Noah Baumbachs shattering divorce saga Marriage Story on the festival circuit this fall, no one could have predicted its instant virality earlier this month when it landed on Netflix. But while Adam Driver and Scarlett Johanssons devastating argument became its most memed moment, its the lighter, yet still astute, set piece involving a court-appointed evaluator that made the biggest impression on me.

      Its a perfectly calibrated sequence of awkwardness with Drivers theatre director Charlie painfully determined to show that hes a stable parent but knowing, as his soon-to-be-divorced wife says earlier on, that outside observation on any given day would reveal flawed parenting. This tension lingers throughout as he tries to bury his instinctive reaction to his sons gentle insolence while trying, unsuccessfully, to seek some humanity or humour from the unknowable visitor Nancy Katz, played hysterically by the standup comic Martha Katz. Im not sure if another line has amused me this year quite as much as Charlies son asking him to do the thing with the knife over dinner in front of an understandably suspect Nancy and silently raging Charlie. Uncomfortably brushing it off, he eventually decides to explain his trick but it goes horribly, stomach-churningly wrong and he ends up bleeding profusely while trying, yet again, to pretend everything is fine. Its gruesomely, outrageously funny and a reminder of Baumbachs ability to make drastic yet effortless tonal switches. BL

      The karaoke Booksmart

      At a graduation eve party in Booksmart, one of the most criminally underseen movies of the year, shy overachiever Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) sits on the floor in a crowded room, sloshing through the end of her drink and admiring an overconfident theater friend belt out Alanis Morissettes You Oughta Know on a karaoke mic. Amy, out for two years but inexperienced, spends most of the film careening from confident and brash, in the presence of best friend Molly (Beanie Feldstein), to tongue-tied in front of Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), her crush of two years; when Ryan hands her the mic halfway through the song, the sound cuts out a fever pitch of nerves. But then Amy crushes it, nailing the songs ending and revealing to her classmates that, low-key, she can sing.

      This scene does an impressive amount in about a minute, namely: live out the fantasy that has occupied about 65% of my daydreams since age 13 (I cant sing), prove that Dever has ARRIVED, salute an ultimate banger of a song. But it also captures the warm invincibility at the bottom of your first drink, the high of leaning into someone elses confidence or of unlocking that fearlessness in yourself the type of finely observed, wild yet grounded fun that made Booksmart one of the most resonant high school movies in a long time. AH

      The fuckbox – High Life

      Photograph: Allstar/Alcatraz Films

      When Claire Deniss desolately beautiful science-fiction nightmare High Life premiered at the Toronto film festival, the fuckbox scene became a brief but intense meme for the few on film Twitter who had seen it: in a film that was hard to describe and distil as a whole, it was the salacious detail singled out to pique others interest. Thats a reductive way to tease a film prickling with so many layers of philosophical and sensual detail, but once seen in context, its also an entirely indelible image: Juliette Binoche, nude and scar-torn, entering a space-borne masturbation chamber, straddling a dildo seat and riding it until, as Lil Nas X might say, she cant no more. Performed with abandon by Binoche and shot with visceral candour by Denis making a tensing, thrashing map of the actors back alone its one of the most extraordinary sex scenes in modern cinema: an expression of female erotic autonomy that outlasts any early quips about it in the memory. GL

      The crying Midsommar

      Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy Stock Photo

      Ari Asters Midsommar is a portrait of how a toxic relationship quietly, but surely, unravels. At first its subtle: Florence Pughs Dani frets that she overburdens boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) with her own drama and mental health issues, and that her need for emotional support is unattractive. When her whole family dies suddenly, shes desperate to hold on to Christian. She appeases. She apologizes. She stifles her cries after Christian and his friends subtly pressure her into taking shrooms, as specters of her dead sister haunt her.

      The whole film is about Dani feeling silenced and invalidated by a man who views himself as the saddled victim. Thats why its so weirdly refreshing when, in Midsommars terrifying climax, the Hrga women embrace Dani for who she is, cupping her face and encouraging her to sob as loudly as she wants. Crouched on the floor, they cry as one, and as their wails reach a communal crescendo, you see Dani finally finding some measure of healing. Sure, its a crazy Swedish cult, but there Dani finally finds someone who actually acknowledges her agony. GS

      The tai chi – The Farewell

      Photograph: AP

      The quiet sentimentality of Lulu Wangs charming sleeper hit shines brightest for me in a scene where twentysomething Billi (played by Oscar-buzzed Awkwafina) and her grandmother, Nai Nai, practice tai chi outside.

      Nai Nai coaches her granddaughter through some of the movements, lightly nagging Billi about practicing tai chi everyday in that cute, but kind of annoying, manner family members are known for. Its obvious Billi has no plans of practicing tai chi after this scene and doesnt deem it particularly useful. Then Nai Nai proudly and confidently credits the martial art for her continuing good health, a big smile on her face. Thing is: Billis grandmother has terminal lung cancer but does not know it. So Billi performs the tai chi movements with a renewed energy, owed to the strange mixture of guilt, sadness and stress she feels over the secret illness. She pushes out bad energy and inhales good, yelling out an awkward, meek Hai!

      An hour later, at the end of the film, we see Billi walking down the streets of south Williamsburg. Shes still upset over her grandmothers cancer and visibly overwhelmed and stressed. Out of nowhere, she stops in the street, takes a deep breath and yells out a loud, reverberating Hai! The circularity of the moment Billi going from disinterest in tai chi to seeking relief through it highlights how our families can arm us with specific tools to handle the stressors of life. It reminds me of the hours me and my late grandmother would spend putting together 1,000-piece puzzles. As a kid, I was confident I would never take part in such a boring, odious activity as an adult. Today, its my favorite pastime. AW

      The confrontation The Souvenir

      Photograph: Bbc Films/Allstar

      Generally speaking, scenes in which lovers kiss and make up following an infraction are joyful affairs. They come at the close of a movie, following heart-rending misunderstandings that have left a happy ending in jeopardy. Thats not the case in The Souvenir. After months of casual, incremental borrowing to fund his heroin habit, Anthony (Tom Burke) stages a robbery at the flat of young girlfriend Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne). This is purely to bankroll smack not the luxe trip to Venice they embark on soon after, which she pays for, and during which she twigs what hes done.

      When they return to London, Julie asks and Anthony admits. But hes not sorry. Hes wounded she has brought it up his abhorrent behaviour compounded by this cavalier attitude. Youre shocked, and relieved surely shell give him the boot?

      And she quietly forgives him. Anthonys arrogance and obfuscation, his hurt words about only doing what he needs to, in a world she wouldnt understand, which hes protecting her from, fall on appalling open ears. Blame is smoothly shifted. Repentant Julie strokes his foot and forgets her heirlooms.

      Joanna Hogg shoots the confrontation in one static shot; the couple sitting opposite in armchairs, until Julie bridges the gap. The viewer knew the truth would out and assumed it would be a bigger scene. That its not moves the relationship into new territory. You can no longer underestimate Anthonys actions or his hold over Julie. The moment she reaches out in supplication is the chilling heart of a fairly scary film. CS

      The knife fight John Wick 3

      Ignore the whys (the film-makers did); basically, its Keanu Reeves versus a bunch of faceless goons in a surprisingly tooled-up antiques shop, and for me, one of the most exhilaratingly gruesome action scenes in recent memory.

      It starts with a few gunmen, easily dispatched, but things really kick off when Reeves and an opponent realise they are in a corridor of glass cases packed with all manner of bladed weapons. So much glass-smashing, knife-throwing, shooting, stabbing, punching, kicking, grunting and limb-twisting ensues, you can barely keep track. It is brilliantly choreographed and executed, but whats so great is how messy it all looks. And painful. Nobody is neatly killed. Knives miss their targets. The deaths get ever-more cartoonishly horrendous. And the scene ends with a flourish: the last, wounded assailant sits groaning in the foreground; from way back down the corridor Reeves hurls a final axe, which, of course, hits its target in the side of the head. The first time I watched this scene I laughed out loud in horror and admiration, which was kind of awkward as I was sitting on a crowded plane. SR

      The heroin Pain and Glory

      Photograph: Lifestyle pictures/Alamy Stock Photo

      Painfully clean-living as I am, I have never understood why so many films I like feature the consumption of heroin. Christiane F, Trainspotting, The Souvenir, Permanent Midnight and of course, the champ: Requiem for a Dream. Now we can add another to the list: Pedro Almodvars autobiographical reverie Pain and Glory. Now, most films posit heroin as a one-way ticket to the morgue, or at least to total social dysfunction; for Almodvar, though, it seems to be the next best thing to an after-dinner mint. His alter ego Salvador (Antonio Banderas) appears to handle it all with remarkable ease, using it to soothe his emotional worries and act as a vehicle for remembrance. Experiencers of the real thing may have a different view, but I presume Almodvar knows what hes talking about. Its quite the eye-opener. AP

      The brow mop Amazing Grace

      Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy Stock Photo

      Sydney Pollacks lost concert movie Amazing Grace was finally brought out this year showing the live filming in 1972 of Aretha Franklins gospel album of that name at New Temple Missionary Baptist church in Watts, Los Angeles. Franklins calm and restraint at the centre of this boiling cauldron of musical energy is compelling. The most startling moment involves her father, the Rev CL Franklin, who addresses the congregation and then, while Aretha is actually singing, he rushes forward to mop her brow. Was this the sort of thing he used to do when she was a little girl? Is it touching that he does it now? Or weirdly dysfunctional and coercive? Either way, it is a compelling image in a remarkable film. PB

      Read more:

      Remember when Kevin Spacey to his sexual assault allegations on Christmas Eve in 2018? Well, buckle up, because the disgraced House of Cardsactor is back with a sequel video. Apparently, this is not only a new holiday tradition that no one asked for but also an ongoing YouTube series.

      In this new, one-minute video titled KTWK, the first upload on his channel in exactly one year, Spacey greets viewers from beside a crackling fire. Donning the persona and southern drawl of Frank Underwood once again, he looks directly into the camera and wishes viewers a merry Christmas. In case you were wondering, Spacey said hes had a pretty good year and that hes grateful to have [his] health back.

      Spacey goes on to say hes made some serious life changes. Then, in possibly the most cringe-inducing bit of dialogue of the decade, he professes his intention to cast [his] vote for more good in this world in 2020. This may be another attempt to undercut his current unfavorable reputation due to several sexual assault allegations. Maybe its simply a play on Frank Underwoods political status. Regardless, its corny.

      The video, unfortunately, gets worse.

      Responding to disbelief from an imaginary audience, Spacey says hes dead serious. Then, perhaps most disconcertingly of all, he offers the following advice to viewers: The next time someone does something you dont like, you can go on the attack but you can also hold your fire and do the unexpected. You can kill them with kindness. Cue ominous music.

      The use of the word dead herealong with Spaceys skin-crawling pauses before and after saying kill them with kindness is unsettling. One of Spaceys accusers recently died, resulting in the case being formally dropped. While the anonymous accuser reportedly died of cancer, the morbid convenience of the situation (for Spacey, at least) spawned conspiracy theories that the actor was somehow responsible for the death.

      At best, this is profoundly poor wording on Spaceys part. At worst, this is his twisted way of referencing his accusers death. Either way, this carefully-crafted monologue is a truly bizarre PR stunt for someone in Spaceys position. Since things can only get weirder from here, well just have to wait to see how Spacey follows this up in 2020 with the inevitable part three.

      Read more:

      The film Richard Jewell promotes the trope that women sleep their way to the top. Its sexist, insulting and nonsensical

      Sign up for The week in patriarchy, a newsletter on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday.

      Scoops for sex

      Want to make a name for yourself in journalism? Its easy really: just get your kit off and sleep with a source. Female reporters do it all the time in order to get exclusive stories, according to the sentient jar of hair wax otherwise known as Fox News host Jesse Watters.

      Watters made this disgusting, and completely ludicrous, claim on Wednesday while discussing the backlash to Clint Eastwoods new movie Richard Jewell. The film is based on the real-life story of an eponymous security guard wrongfully accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games and portrays a female journalist sleeping with an FBI agent in order to land an exclusive story.

      Heres the thing though: there appears to be absolutely no evidence that the journalist in question, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reporter Kathy Scruggs (played by Olivia Wilde), slept with her FBI source in order to break the story that Jewell was a suspect in the incident.

      Lets just recap that shall we? Warner Brothers made a movie about a man whose reputation was unfairly ruined by a careless FBI and a media ecosystem more interested in rushing out a good story than establishing the truth. And, in order to spice things up, they casually besmirched the reputation of a female reporter. Because, as we all know, women arent three-dimensional human beings in the same way men are. Their reputations dont matter. Their stories dont matter.

      What makes all this even more infuriating is that Scruggs isnt even around to stick up for herself; she died in 2001. The AJC, however, has staunchly defended her and asked Warner Brothers to add a disclaimer to the film acknowledging the whole sex-for-information thing was a fictionalization. Warner Brothers has refused to do this, issuing a statement saying it was based on a wide range of highly credible source material.

      Im highly skeptical that there is any credible evidence that Scruggs slept with her sources. If there was, then I reckon it would already be in the public domain. After all, theres nothing the world loves more than slut-shaming women. Just look at Katie Hill. Just look at Monica Lewinsky. Just look at Janet Jackson, whose career suffered for years after the world caught a glimpse of her nipple at the Superbowl.

      The conversation around Richard Jewell, and Watters sweepingly sexist comments, serve as yet another reminder that women are damned if they do and theyre damned if they dont. They dont get excused for their sexual transgressions in the same way men do; they get branded for life. Whats more, women dont even have to sleep with anyone to get labelled a slut or accused of using their sexuality to get ahead. As the editor of the AJC has noted, the idea that women sleep their way to the top is the worst kind of trope. And not only is it sexist and insulting, its nonsensical. After all, if women everywhere are cynically sleeping their way to the top, wouldnt there be rather more women at the top?

      Megan Rapinoe calls fucking bullshit on that

      The soccer star, who was recently named Sports Illustrated sportsperson of the year, is not impressed by a study that shows #MeToo has made men scared to hire women. Well, women are afraid to be raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, kept out of jobs, fired from jobs, moved laterally their entire career, Rapinoe said. Honestly, I call fucking bullshit on that.

      Harvey Weinstein reaches $25m settlement with over 30 women

      The New York Times reports that the settlement, which would bring multiple civil lawsuits to an end, would be paid by insurance companies. Weinstein himself wouldnt have to pay a single penny out of his pocket or admit wrongdoing. But this doesnt mean he gets to dodge accountability: his criminal trial will start early next year.

      Finlands Sanna Marin becomes worlds youngest serving prime minister

      Marin, 34, is Finlands third female prime minister. She was raised by two mums and was the first person in her family to go to university. Theyre clearly doing something right in Finland: Marin heads a coalition containing four other parties all of which are led by women.

      Finnish finance minister runs dodgy Instagram poll

      Theyre not doing everything right in Finland. Finance minister Katri Kulmuni recently thought it would be appropriate to run an Instagram poll on whether Finland should repatriate just children or children and mothers from Isis camps in Syria. Andrew Stroehlein, European media director at Human Rights Watch tweeted: A state should respect the rights of its citizens in all cases, not put life-and-death decisions about those citizens to a public referendum on social media. Whats next, public hangings based on the volume of stadium cheers?

      Chilean anti-rape anthem becomes international phenomenon

      In case you missed it, do watch this incredible Chilean protest song.

      Women are majority of US medical students for first time ever

      Which is a big deal because studies show that women do better when they are treated by women. Theyre more likely to survive a heart attack and theyre less likely to have to return to the hospital for more treatment.

      Brazilian man pretends to be his mother to take driving test

      After Heitor Mrcio Schiaves mother failed her driving test for the third time, he had a brilliant idea. The 43-year-old would dress up as his elderly mother and take the test on her behalf. Alas, he was found out. And, to add insult injury, the driving instructor says he failed the test anyway.

      Thousands of penis fish wash up on California beach

      Somehow this feels like a really fitting end to 2019.

      Read more:

      The holiday season can be a lot. You might need something to make you feel better. This post doesn’t have it. But it does have some pretty terrible bitcoin Christmas music parodies that you can endure!


      In fact, the same account has made a bunch of similar pieces of musical fanfiction, proving the point that bitcoin fans are like other traders, but with fewer friends.

      Take one for the road:

      Now go get offline and spend time with someone you love.

      Read more: