One of my movie heroes made a special visit to Chelsea over the weekend. Pedro Almodóvar, the film director who introduced Penélope Cruz to the world in his movie Jamon Jamon, in which Cruz also starred in her first film with Javier Bardem.

Almodóvar’s latest film, The Skin I Live In, starred Antonio Banderas whilst his next movie will star both Cruz and Banderas. In other words, Almodóvar dominates Spanish cinema. In fact, he has been the embodiment of Spanish cinema for decades.

Live Flesh was the first Almodóvar film I watched and it blew my mind. It stars Javier Bardem and is an adaptation of a Ruth Rendell novel: beautifully shot, great performances and really gripping.

Almodóvar is also an auteur, which are a rare breed nowadays. His films are visually stunning; his female characters have admirable strength and a fantastic sense of humour; and his stories tend to push the boundaries of our imagination.

So needless to say when I heard that he was doing a book signing at Taschen on Duke of York Square, there was no way I was going to miss it!

In fact, I arrived a bit early. Two hours early, to be precise.

There was no else waiting, so the bf and I sat across the way at Manicomio to keep an eye on the impending queue. It was hardly a chore with the Christmas lights on the Square to gaze at as other people sat around us, outside.

When other Almodóvar fans started to arrive at Taschen, we joined the line – and waited. And some time later, he finally arrived!

Me in my rain mac and scraped back hair – hardly glamorous – as he signed my limited edition copy of The Pedro Almodóvar Archives.

When he saw my name on the post-it: Mina, Almodóvar chuckled to himself and repeated “Mina”. For a split second I thought it was because of Dracula or one of the actresses he works with regularly. It wasn’t until I left the shop that I remembered Almodóvar is currently working on a biopic about the Italian singer, Mina. 😀

After Almodóvar signed my book, he turned round to shake my hand and wish me the best with my writing. He had a warmth that felt refreshing and comforting. No wonder the same actors want to work with him time and time again. It’s clearly not just about his talent.

I found the whole experience inspiring and I will always cherish the words written in my book:

And I’m sure it doesn’t have to be said that this book has now taken prime position on my coffee table.

Do you have someone you would love to meet? What would you ask them to write in a book for you? x

Seeing as we are celebrating Bram Stoker’s 165th birthday today, I thought I’d pull out a few photos from my visit to Bran Castle, otherwise known as Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania.

This was always going to be an inevitable trip given the scope of my imagination and my name, Mina: Mina Harker being the love interest in Dracula. When I was at school, I remember sitting on Whitby Bay and one of my teachers asking me why this place was so special. I remember him telling me that Dracula had arrived into England via Whitby (in the form of a dog) and that Mina was an important character in his story.

To this day, I still can’t remember why we were in Whitby or what we had done there as a class. But I do remember that conversation. So when I decided to travel around Eastern Europe during an Easter break whilst studying in France for my 3rd year at university, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Dracula’s Castle. I even signed the visitor’s book and wrote something like, ‘Mina has finally arrived. HA HA HA!’

The journey to Romania was beautiful. I had taken the train from Budapest to Bucharest and whilst the journey was a long one, I just loved gazing out of the window, at the Carpathian mountains, and finally settling down to reading Dracula.

From Bucharest, I had to take a train to Brasov – one of the most picturesque towns I’ve ever visited. Think the pastel colours of Notting Hill’s houses and place them somewhere surrounded by gorgeous mountains and trees. So beautiful!

The castle itself was a long walk up a snowy hill, lined with forests. And although it was Easter, the snow was just starting to melt. It was stunning and I finally made it to discover something that seemed like it was out of a fairytale.

The funny thing is that having grown up in Chelsea and having lived here for most of my life, I learned only recently that Bram Stoker had actually lived in this area too. He lived on Cheyne Walk and on St. Leonard Terrace, where there is a blue plaque in his honour. Apparently, he had also started jotting down the notes to Dracula whilst living in Chelsea whilst working at a West End theatre.

So I raise a glass to Bram Stoker, a writer who has fed my imagination in so many ways. It seems that he is also a Chelsea legend!

I finished reading One Day by David Nicholls over the weekend and OMG, I love this book!

Why? Apart from being such a fantastic and well told story, it also shook my world and reminded me of something very important.

What? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

This book really is a must-read and probably before the film comes out. Starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, the film will be shown on Cineworld screens from 24th August 2011. I’m not sure yet whether it will be on at the King’s Road or Fulham Road cinema for Chelsea but you can keep up to date with Cineworld’s programme, here.

And if you want to take a sneak peek at the film, here’s the trailer …

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