Spontaneous // Bold // Grateful
Hugo was born in Cannes, France during the ‘Swinging Sixties’… Since then he has combined his love of photography with travel and traversed the world for work and pleasure while photographing incredible subjects such as Her Majesty The Queen, Bill Clinton, Victoria Beckham and Michael Jackson! In 2011 he also took the official portraits at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding…!!!
As well as his glamourous photography commissions, Hugo’s travelling has been far and wide and (enviously) rough and ready! Here are some of his top tips:
WHERE TO GO
As a result of living in the middle of London, which I believe to be one of the great cities of the modern world, I prefer travelling to places that are definitely off the beaten track, preferably somewhere that nature thrives and the stars can be effortlessly enjoyed at night. In no particular order:
Darién Gap, Panama
I have been lucky enough to venture a few times deep into the Darién Gap (that untamed jungle between Colombia and Panama) to live with and photograph an indigenous tribe, part of the Embera people. It is a sweltering two day trek through parrot, snake and monkey filled mountainous jungle, with the serious added thrill-factor of hungry Jaguars and fully-armed drug-dealers. Living with the Embera in their secluded community, sharing their huts, bathing in their river, and eating whatever they eat (one special experience was deep-fried rat) is a rare and special privilege. My aim has been to understand how they live, work and play, and then come up with ways to ensure their survival and the continuation of their history, culture and traditions in a world that seems determined to encroach on their lives and their homeland.
Kamogi, Northern Kenya
Kamogi is a remote cattle ranch in the northern part of Kenya, where my mornings are spent riding a lazy but kind horse through the bush at dawn, stumbling across more wildlife that I can remember, although no one could ever forget the beauty of giraffes in their natural habitat. The idle sunny days are often interrupted by elephants who frequent the waterhole close to the house. There’s one sensible bachelor sentry guard-type elephant who is always there until the no-nonsense matriarch arrives with a cast of many baby, adolescent and nursing elephants, at which point the old guard makes a polite retreat. Hours and hours have been spent just observing these wonderful creatures. The evenings start with a frog chorus, followed by nights punctuated with laughing hyenas, the saw-like cough of lone leopards, and the signalling cough of hunting lions……heaven, unless you’re their prey.
Kensington Gardens, London
Travel doesn’t always have to be long distance and overseas, but can be the pure enjoyment of experiencing the simple things in life. Travelling by foot around Kensington Gardens with my trusted companions (a lurcher and a fox terrier) every morning brings me enormous pleasure, discovering new parts (trust me, it’s bigger and far more varied than you think), watching the seasons unfold in the trees and grasses, and the changes in the wildlife, some being permanent residents, others migrating through. There are meadows, copses, lawns, avenues, paddocks, hedgerows, heaths, woodlands, lakes, brooks and ponds. The wild flowers and grasses are impressive, and the range of animals astounding (from the obvious to the absurd), but it is the magnificence of some of the trees that really gets me, like the Spanish Sweet Chestnut with the spiralling bark, the Famous Five unique and beautiful (and impotent!) horse chestnut trees, and that tree with a hole the size of a small cave in its trunk that even a 6’2” 56 year old man like myself can squeeze into whilst playing childish hide&seek tricks on my dogs.
WHERE TO EAT / DRINK
Le Relais de Venise (Marylebone Lane)
Because the experience transports you to another time and another place, and the food is utterly delicious (there isn’t really a menu to speak of, everyone has the same; steak frites, and your always get a second portion or ‘seconds’ - unheard of in any other London restaurant, no?)
All four of my children are adventurous, imaginative and enthusiastic cooks, so a ‘night in with the family’ is nearly always a delicious and rowdy treat that seems to have no specific beginning nor ending - food appears amidst conversations, course after course, candles burning out and wine glasses scattered and shared, and if there is ever a pause in the conversation the dogs will start doing their own version of the Palio around the kitchen island, usually to tremendous applause.
The Cock & Bottle, London
A traditional pub around the corner from my home and studio in Notting Hill - a pub that has miraculously managed to remain ‘traditional’ in the true sense of the word, in spite of having a major over-haul a few years ago. Sitting outside in the summer with a glass and a dog is just the best.
I have a permanent love-affair with the whole of Italy, but this part of one of my absolute favourites. There is a small fishing village close to the Cinque Terre, whose name will remain my secret for a little bit longer, sorry! It’s a centuries-old collection of colourful houses and vineyards clinging to steep terraces, above a tiny harbour stuffed with fishing boats whose catch of the day you can enjoy in the trattorias. Additional bonus - Liguria is famous for its pesto sauce.
I have a thing about waterfalls (don’t we all? If not, why not?) Iguaçu Falls on the junction of borders between Brasil, Argentina and Paraguay are so breath-taking that nothing can prepare you for them. You literally cannot over-sell these falls. The size, the power, the nature, the noise, the beauty, the thrill, the never-ending-ness of it all. But equally delicious, scattered around in the local jungle there are some much smaller falls, tiny in comparison, and it you’re lucky enough to find them, you can shower underneath their gentle flow, whilst shiny dark-blue butterflies the size of a man’s hand float past you, monkeys chatter in the dappled sunlight from the trees above and comedic Coatis will sweetly try to steal anything edible from your belongings whilst you splash around the waterfalls. Top Tip - showering under an appropriately sized waterfall is guaranteed to cure even the most severe hangover, especially on New Year’s Day.
San Blas Islands
A collection of small palm tree strewn islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama - these jewel-like tiny white-sand islands in turquoise waters are so unimaginably beautiful that half the world has pictures of them as computer screen-savers. Difficult to get to, but even more difficult to tear yourself away. Think: hammock-duty at any time, snorkelling in the biggest bestest aquarium ever, stars so bright at night that you regret not knowing more about them, palm frond huts on an island that takes less than 3 minutes to walk from end to end, and fish cooked on an open sand-pit so fresh you probably helped a local Kuna-fisherman catch it.
BEST TRAVEL / ‘TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN’ MOMENT
I climbed to the open mouth of the active Volcano Villarrica in Chile with my wife and eldest two children, (aged 10 and 8). More than three hours climbing up almost vertical snow slopes, the family linked together with rope like true mountaineers, we arrived at the rim (only 10 inches wide in places, and 50 metres wide in others) to watch vast plumes of orange lava spit into the sky in front of us every fifteen minutes. In between eruptions, we played a kind of high-stakes pooh sticks, chucking rocks down into the molten lava below us to provoke the next eruption. We then slid down the side of the mountain on our bums at colossal speed, through the snow, using ice-picks as handbrakes, reaching the bottom in about 20 minutes. I know for certain that I would never risk doing that again, but there was a world-travelling explorers’ fearlessness that made it seem almost ‘normal’ at the time!
Always take a few cans of Spam with you into the jungle. Trust me, after days of eating roots, leaves and ‘other’ things, Spam becomes the Foie Gras of the Jungle. Top Tip: deep fried is best.
FIRST TRIP AFTER LOCKDOWN
Dar Arbala, Morocco
This is a haven of a home, belonging to some friends of mine, that sits south of Marrakesh, facing the majestic Atlas Mountains. It is traditionally beautiful, spoilingly comfortable, stuffed with local furniture and interesting artefacts, and you are treated like royalty from the moment you arrive.
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