Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

My Intoxicating Gap Summer – and I Don’t Just Mean the Rosé

September 6th, 2019
A Lot of Places!

My contractor thinks I’m nuts. He just laughs at me every time he sees me with a suitcase

I don’t know how you do it. Where are you going now? Neil asks, as he spots me on the sidewalk outside my new London bolthole with my trusted Lipault wheelie bag.


That sounds relaxing

For three days.

He laughs,

I don’t know how you do it. I’d hate it.

And to be honest – why not be honest, right? – I was secretly dreading my summer travels before they began, wondering whether I am too old to be lugging a suitcase to these far flung spots, sitting in crowded airports with the world and their wives. But once I hit the road, I fell in love with the freedom and constant change – my gap summer. I felt like I was 16 again, without the travelers’ checks.

St Tropez to San Francisco, the Balearic Islands

to Shelter Island,

Ischia to Sonoma, I covered  a lot of beautiful territory. And all of it I did to spend time with people I love – girlfriends, Stretch, my family. They make me happy.

The older I get, the more I know what matters to me, and just as importantly, what doesn’t. Life gets distilled to its essentials. Turns out I am not the only one thinking this.

My friend Dani told me that her mother gave an 80th birthday party in Melbourne recently, and invited only women, not even her brother. Talk about knowing what you want and doing it. Husbands had to drop their wives off at 6pm and pick them up again at 8:30. Only Dani’s husband David made the cut because he plays the piano and what’s an 80th without John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”?

I bumped into my friend Karen the other day. She was sitting on a street bench on Lexington Avenue in New York with her two dogs, who she loves very much, but are cramping her style. She’s itching for freedom, she’s itching to do what she wants, what makes her happy.

I think back to when I had three little kids, a double stroller and a dog,  walking them to school every day, said Karen. Estrogen must have been coursing through my veins. I was so nurturing. Now, forget it. I just want to do my own thing. I googled the life expectancy of my dog last night.

Perhaps actress and new role model Kristin Scott Thomas summed it up best  in this scene in Fleabag below:

For anyone unfamiliar with the TV series, I so envy the binge watching ahead of you, especially Season 2. Fleabag, written and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the main character, is a hilarious, touching, witty love story about a woman who has no filter and is trying to navigate life after tragedy. It’s a love story between Fleabag and herself, Fleabag and her uptight, unhappy sister and Fleabag and a hot priest. It is definitely not a love story between Fleabag and her fantastically awful, passive aggressive stepmother played by Academy Award winner Olivia Colman.

Anyway, back to the relevant scene, 58-year-old Belinda, a successful business woman played by Scott Thomas and Fleabag are talking in a bar after an awards ceremony. Scott Thomas is dispensing some pearls, namely that while the menopause stinks the aftermath is…

fucking wonderful. Yes, your entire pelvic floor crumbles, and yes, you get fucking hot and no one  cares. And then…. You’re free, no longer a slave, no longer a machine with parts. You’re just a person… It is horrendous but then  it’s magnificent.

I couldn’t agree more. Getting older has its minuses – dimply thighs, random chin hairs, wrinkly elbows- who loves those? But obsessing over them is such a time waster, and I don’t have as much time as I used to.  Mortality is a great awakener. I’m starting to notice (and make note of) good tombstones.

On my gap summer I barely wore any makeup, lathered my face with sun block, wore  unflattering head gear and avoided mirrors.

I felt liberated. I was doing what makes me happy – biking, exploring, reading novels, writing, laughing and hanging with my nearest and dearest. And avoiding what does not make me happy – sceney parties,  people who takes themselves too seriously, inauthentic people, having to succeed at all costs, fearing failure, envy and weak coffee.

And for those of you who were expecting this to be a travel blog, forgive me for getting super sidetracked.

Here are my top 3 pics from my gap summer:

Mezzatorre in Ischia, what the island lacks in charm, this pretty hotel makes up for with its picturesque seaside views, chic, simple interiors and delicious food and drink.  Go for 3 days of total unwinding. My suggestion: Visit buzzy Capri first and then hire a boat and motor over  to Mezzatorre. Flop on a sun lounger with a good book and a cold Aperol Spritz.

Ibiza- If you go there, don’t miss charming town Sant Gertrudis- great coffee (Bar Costa and La Petit Table our faves) and shopping spots, especially Es Cucons

and The Rose

And finally- Sonoma – we went to a lovely family wedding


We stayed at this heavenly find

request bungalow Dolce (our favourite, but all are charming)

hiked in nearby Jack London State Park and had zen massages across the street here

Goodbye sweet days of summer

September, 2019