Friday, 18 December 2015

Snowy, sexy romance now on sale for 99 cents / 99 pence

It's that Christmassey time of year, when there's something so romantic about snow and cuddling up in front of a raging log fire. Weak at the Knees is a sexy, snowy romance set in the French Alps which is now on sale for the Christmas holiday period. 

US: http://www.amazon.com/Weak-at-the-Knees-ebook/dp/B00E4VC70W/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Weak-at-the-Knees-ebook/dp/B00E4VC70W/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1


Happy Christmas et Joyeux Noel to you all and wishing you a healthy, happy 2016!

Please click on the link below to return to Jo's website:
www.jokessel.com

Friday, 11 December 2015

A STAR IS BORN!

And no, this isn't a nativity story!

My thirteen year old daughter Nathalie has been composing songs since she picked up a guitar aged two. She performed the 'stripped down' version of her latest composition at a special Christmas concert last night and no matter how many times I hear it, the hairs on my arms stand to attention and my eyes moisten.

At the gig two teenagers were sitting behind me and after Nathalie's performance they were buzzing (and I was earwigging big time!) "How on earth did she write that, age 13?" one said. "I'd go out and buy that as a single now," her friend replied.

I am the proudest mum...EVER. And if you watch the video, I think you'll see why.

video

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Friday, 18 September 2015

48 HOURS IN SAN FRANCISCO - TOP TIPS!

Well, actually, it was more like 72 hours in San Fran, but one day was spent out of town, taking my ten year old daughter to Palo Alto, near Stanford University, so that she could go to American Girl (a well-known US shop who's San Fran branch is in the Stanford Shopping Center) which sells over-sized and over-priced dolls that she loves!! Expensive though they are, I kind of don't mind it, because she plays with them endlessly, really good, constructive play (making them clothes, role-playing, fixing their hair etc) and it beats being on an electronic device! Here are two of her dolls (see photo below): Julie and Hannah.

Right, back to San Fran itself. We booked an Alaska Cruise with Princess Cruises which left from San Fran and had a few days to kill before we set sail. We had an absolute blast. It's a great city, with a great vibe, which the kids all adored. It's not quite the San Fran of 20 years ago (it felt much more touristy than I remember and there was a noticeable problem with homeless people on the streets) but it was still a lot of fun and feels very European for an American city.

We stayed at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (a Kimpton hotel) on Powell Street - brilliantly and centrally located near Union Square, with Beefeaters welcoming us on a red carpet (see pic of a jet-lagged me with a Beefeater below). The property oozed with character and was very olde worlde - with sweeping staircases and huge chandeliers inside. Better still, they had complimentary tea and coffee in the morning at reception as well as a drinks reception with nibbles at 5.30pm daily. You could drink unlimited wine which was a lovely touch. A great way to start your evening.

A GREAT HOTEL TIP FOR IN AMERICA: We are a family of five, but there are rarely rooms which sleep five. Instead we booked what's called a 'double double'  (from £170.00 / $265.00) a night. It sleeps four, but we brought a cheap blow-up mattress with us and the hotel was happy to provide the bed-linen. I would absolutely do this again in an American hotel. It's so much cheaper than paying for two rooms and for a few nights we were fine all squeezing into one.

We arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and to keep ourselves awake we walked to Chinatown (only ten minutes by foot) and mooched around its fabulous shops before finding a very cheap restaurant on the main strip (a huge plate of ribs, rice and vegetables only cost us $16 and was enough to feed a small army!)

DAY ONE PROPER:
We started our day (we were awake very early thanks to jet lag) by taking a trip on San Fran's famous trolley cars (we call them 'trams' in the UK). The stop was right outside our hotel and because it was so early in the morning, there was nobody about and we got on to the trolley just fine. Wait until 10 am and there's a huge queue to get onto one.

We rode the trolley to Fisherman's Wharf and showed the children the sea lions lounging in the harbor and saw the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. We walked along the seafront, checking out the different piers and watched San Fran wake up. It was a lot of fun. From there we walked to Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world!) famous for being the scene for a car chase in the movie Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. It was then the children realized quite how hilly a city San Fran is! All the walking did our jet lag and thigh muscles a lot of good. We walked all the way to the Japan Center from there (again, to stay awake) and bought some incredible, cheap sushi from the Japanese supermarket which we ate al fresco in the Japan Center's park, complete with pagoda. That afternoon I wanted to do something my husband and I hadn't done on our previous trip to San Fran. So we took the train to the Golden Gate Park and chilled out there for a few hours. My children had brought their tennis rackets with and they played on the courts for free. Golden Gate Park is fantastic - a bit like London's Hyde Park - a vast yawning space for walking and lazing. We took a picnic dinner with (bought from Bristol Farm - an organic supermarket in Westfield Shopping Centre, a five minute walk from out hotel). Perfect. Talking about Westfield Shopping Centre - that's pretty perfect too, with an Abercrombie & Fitch and a host of other great shops everyone in the family will want to go to! Everything in the US costs a lot less than in the UK. At least that was the case at the time of writing this!

DAY TWO
It was the morning of day two that I took my daughter to American Girl (we took the Caltrain commuter train - the station was a 20 minute walk from our hotel) whilst my husband took the other two children to go shopping in Abercrombie & Fitch and also found a fun doughnut place! That afternoon we found another spot we'd never been to before. It was a lovely little beach very close to the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a secret haunt of locals and we were the only tourists there. It was heavenly. Lovely white sand, hot sun and an amazing view of 'that' bridge! That evening we ate at Westfield Shopping Centre. The basement is full of concessions offering different food and loads of tables to eat at. Some of my family picked take-out deli food from Bristol Farm. I got a gorgeous bowl of steaming hot noodle soup with vegetables from a Japanese stand.  

DAY THREE
Lots of people kept telling us about the Exploratorium Museum and that we really should go. It's a hands-on sort of Science Museum with lots of exhibits that you can interact with, from magic demonstrations to being part of a hologram. It was just amazing. We only had two hours to spend there, but we could have spent all day. The highlight was the Blind Maze. You have to pay extra to do it, but it is so worth it. Basically, what the maze consists of is a space you enter where you can't see anything. It's completely dark. You have to climb through tubes and across mesh and work together as a team whilst doing it 'blind'. It's about sensory deprivation and scary and claustrophobic though it felt at first (these were very cramped spaces and sometimes you had to duck as an adult so that your head wouldn't hit the ceiling), it was a unique experience which I'll never forget. Second time round it feels much easier, because you know what you're doing. 
After the Exploratorium Museum we had tickets to visit Alcatraz.  
TOP TOURIST TIP: DO NOT ARRIVE IN SAN FRAN WITHOUT HAVING BOOKED UP TICKETS TO VISIT ALCATRAZ IN ADVANCE. YOU NEED TO RESERVE ABOUT 6 WEEKS AHEAD OF YOUR TRIP, OTHERWISE EVERYTHING WILL HAVE SOLD OUT. 
This was the view of Alcatraz from the ferry which took us there.  

And this was what we saw whilst we were enjoying the inspired new audio-tour. 
My son Gabriel, 12, thought Alcatraz was one of the best things he had ever seen. He was captivated from beginning to end, learning about the history of the prison island, about the prisoners themselves and about the attempted escapes. Be warned, there is no food which can be bought on the island, so you have to take anything you might want to eat with you, but food can only be eaten by the dock. It's to control the problems they have with gulls. 
After Alcatraz we mooched to the Ferry Building which is along the esplanade, about a twenty minute walk from the Alcatraz pier. Here there's a whole lot of food stands and restaurants, some inside, some outside. We ended up in 'Gotts' which is a burger bar. We had a table out front in the sunshine and for a bargain $4.99 the kids each had a burger, fries and unlimited refills of their drinks. I sneaked out and treated myself to a clam chowder from a seafood stand within the building. Delicious. 
It was an amazing three days in San Fran and the next morning we took a hire car and went to Napa............more on that in another post!

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Thursday, 2 July 2015

What's it like to be the girlfriend/wife of Roger Federer?!

I don't know about you, but for me there's romance surrounding tennis. Whenever I think about tennis I think about Wimbledon, strawberries and cream, triumphs and disasters and yes, this year, heatwaves in SW19 too! I'm mad about tennis and was lucky enough to go to the French Open in Paris earlier this year in June:
Here I am, with Andy Murray (very small!) warming up behind me and just down below in the stand (although you can't see!) is Kim Sears - now otherwise known as Mrs Murray! She arrived along with Andy's coach, former French player Amelie Mauresmo, to take their seats and watch the match. Which Andy won incidentally....
Anyway, I've often wondered what it would be like to be the girlfriend of a tennis superstar - yes, I have dreamed of being married to Roger Federer in another life, but shush, don't tell my husband! Traveling across the world, getting to watch all those matches from the special box, it looks like fun, although perhaps it isn't always so. I can barely watch Murray play out those key points and often cover my eyes - so goodness knows how it is to be a girlfriend, watching the good and the bad, experiencing the highs and the lows, unable to cover your eyes in the full view of the public!
Anyway, if you're in the mood for a spot of tennis romance with a splash of strawberries&cream then check out these links:

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Now-our-Time-Jo-Kessel-ebook/dp/B00NH20XM8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410422296&sr=1-1&keywords=Jo+Kessel+now+is+our+time

US:  http://www.amazon.com/Now-our-Time-Jo-Kessel-ebook/dp/B00NH20XM8/ref=pd_sim_351_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=1E9TDVF642426QNTAKN0

As for me, I'm hoping to visit Wimbledon next Monday, where I'll hopefully get to see my secret hero Roger Federer, who, like me, has twins. See, we've so much in common - if only he knew!

To return to Jo's website please click on the link below:
www.jokessel.com

Monday, 22 June 2015

GETTING VERY SADDLE SORE AHEAD OF THIS YEAR'S TOUR DE FRANCE IN UTRECHT!

A few weeks ago I took my family to Utrecht in Holland for a sneak preview of this year's Tour de France, which starts in Utrecht on July 4/5th. We had so much fun. Utrecht is a truly underrated city - it oozes character and has some unexpectedly awesome (and original) museums, restaurants and vibe. Plus the added bonus was that we hired bikes, not just because we were lucky enough to have a sneak preview of the Tour de France route, but just to potter around town, living life like the locals do, on two wheels. In Utrecht cars are the enemy, which is a wonderfully healthy way to live in my opinion!
Anyway, for the cyclists and non-cyclists in you, check out this article on my time in Utrecht, which was published on the weekend in the Daily Mail.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-3132462/Scenic-rivers-palaces-starting-point-Tour-France-Utrecht-perfect-place-biking-holiday.html

What isn't made clear in the article is that this was a particularly green holiday. Door-to-door we never once got in a car. We took the tube from where we live in London to Liverpool Street station to catch the train to Harwich. From Harwich we took the overnight ferry to Hook of Holland with Stena Line. It was such fun. First we enjoyed a slap up gourmet meal in the onboard restaurant and then we all squeezed into a cabin together. It's really inexpensive (see the travel factbox in the article) and a great way to travel, waking up in the morning refreshed (I found the beds really comfy) and already in Holland. From the Hook of Holland we took a train (less than an hour into Utrecht) - and then we were there. It was all so easy, so green and so fun to do!

Whether you like two wheels, four, or walking, I cannot recommend Utrecht enough. It's one of Holland's undiscovered heroes, well worth discovering for yourself.

To return to Jo's website please click on the link below:
www.jokessel.com

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

British Tennis is Sexist and I'm Fuming!

I am so ANGRY! Yes, with a capital 'A'. It's not often that sport elicits such a strong reaction in me, but basically this is the story. I have boy/girl twins, age 12 years. They are both crazy mad about tennis and great little players too. The club they attend has a series of league matches with similar clubs starting from this weekend. My twins play in the 12 years and under's division. But the only tournament being offered is for boys 12 and under. Apparently there are not enough good 12 year old girl tennis players in the club to offer a team for a female tournament.No worries, I thought. My daughter can still play. Indeed she plays as well as, if not better, than most of the boys in the same age group in her club. But no, the league organizers, in their infinite wisdom, have determined that she cannot play in a boys tournament even though they are unable to offer an alternative. How, please tell me, is this encouraging GREAT BRITAIN to develop GREAT women players?!
It is NONSENSICAL and my daughter is extremely upset that she cannot play, even though chances are she would beat the boys.
Seriously, if I were to scream right now, it would be such a ferocious, shrill, bestial noise that chances are it would shake the foundations of the house and shatter the glass windows.
Any tips on what I should do and how I should handle this willingly received.
Should my daughter try stuffing her waist- length blond hair under a cap and pretend she's a boy?

Please click on the link below to return to Jo's website:
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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Guitar Star: Could my 12 year old daughter be the next Jimi Hendrix?!

Sky Arts in the UK is producing a new TV show called GUITAR STAR! They are looking for the next Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton and my daughter Nathalie who has been guitar-mad since she was 2 years old has just submitted her audition tape. Do YOU think she's got what it takes?!
I, for one, am a very proud Mom! Here's her YouTube link - please like it (if you do) and share!

http://youtu.be/AB6_RjPorFI



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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Worst Hair Day EVER - Family Drama in Barbados!

I've been quiet for a few months, but that doesn't mean I've not been busy! Far from it, I've been working very hard, writing a fourth novel (a move away from my usual genre) and globetrotting for British newspapers.
Sometimes it's nice to have a little light relief, which is why I wanted to share with you a video which was filmed in Barbados, featuring myself and my son. We went to test out a new children's drama club set up at a hotel south of the island (Savannah Beach Hotel) which has been pioneered by a famous British actress called Pauline Quirke.
We had an amazing time and my son realized that he actually enjoys acting, which was nice - and he/we really loved the whole experience. I mean, what's not to love about Barbados - especially when you can escape the grey, rainy dull winter in the UK for a few days?!
So, although I was wanting to hide this video - mainly because my hair looks truly, shockingly, embarrassingly awful - I thought I would share it. It's very uplifting and shows that looks really don't matter. What's important is having a good time - which we really did!
Happy viewing - and please let me know if you've had far worse hair days!


To return to Jo's website please click on the link below:
www.jokessel.com