We have all heard of behind the velvet rope, but how about behind the trump loi?  I just got a special peak at what’s been happening at Ritz Paris.   The cherished palace, which has stood every so gracefully at 15 Place Vendome for 116 years has officially passed the half way point in the highly anticipated and extensive renovation.  So, the countdown is now on for my beloved Ritz Paris to reopen its gilded doors.   I have been promised that the unprecedented renovation will evolve the Ritz into a new palace for today’s discriminating luxury traveler and everything from top to bottom will be changed, but somehow remain the same…which sounds absolutely perfect to me.  

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “When I dream of afterlife in heaven,the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz. It’s a fine summer night. I knock back a couple of martinis in the bar—Rue Cambon side. Then there’s a wonderful dinner under a flowering chestnut tree in what’s called Le Petit Jardin. That’s the little garden that faces the Grill. After a few brandies, I wander up to my room and slip into one of those huge Ritz beds. They are all made of brass. There’s a bolster for my head the size of the Graf Zeppelin and four square pillows filled with real goose feathers—two for me and two for my quite heavenly companion.”

We now just need to wait a little bit longer

À bientôt!

 

Turning 85 is no small feat!  The Leading Hotels of the World was founded in 1928 — Wow — just to give you some perspective, it was the same year as the Chrysler Building groundbreaking.  We had a whirlwind of a year celebrating this triumph at LHW and wrapped it up with a final birthday fete last Thursday.  We began the festivities earlier this year during Oscar week in LA, and it is only appropriate that we would close the celebration back in our home town of New York City. 

The party was a bit decadent even for New York standards.  First, the invitations were sent to guests accompanied by a fresh (and delicious) birthday cake–and not a little cupcake cake, but rather a real cake!  The party was held at Harlow in New York and guests had an endless feast of amazing food and there was plenty of bubbly to go around.  There was an over-the-top, travel-themed, multi tiered birthday cake and I can’t forget the gift bags…all filled with goodies from various LHW properties worldwide and a plethora of cool travel must haves.  

 

 

I guess the next milestone will be a 90 year birthday celebration.  So, I will look forward to just five short years and will keep you all posted on what’s happening at LHW in the meantime!

Happy Birthday The Leading Hotels of the World!

(Photos by Jason Russo)

Feeling splendid at Splendido!  (I couldn’t resist that one …)

Hotel Splendido, perfectly perched atop the picturesque tiny port of Portofino, was my summer retreat and splendid treat this year!  For those who have not been to Portofino, it is a lovely, little port town nestled into the Ligurian Coast on the North West tip of Italy. Hotel Splendido holds a place in history unlike any other hotel on the Italian coast. For decades, the famous and infamous have flocked to this magical place to experience the Italian Riviera at its best. Richard Burton reportedly proposed to Elizabeth Taylor at Splendido and the walls of the hotel proudly display endless photographs of past legendary guests. The property is surrounded by four acres of olive-lined tropical gardens and is a former 16-century Benedictine Monastery — with my namesake steeped in the history of the hotel, it is no wonder I was so smitten with its loveliness.

Hotel Splendido opened its doors as a hotel in 1902 and has managed to maintain the atmosphere of a private villa.  The entire staff is outstanding and upon arrival, Luca Chiesa, Head Concierge, was immensely helpful with all of my dinner reservations, excursions to the neighboring sites, and also with my travel plans after I left the hotel – grazie, Luca!  Vlad, the piano player, was also a big hit for all the hotel guests. The hotel’s famed al fresco restaurant, La Terrazza, was beyond splendid (again, I couldn’t resist).  The creative, regional cuisine and delicious bellinis were even more special while savored under the stars, overlooking the bay of Portofino and the Tigullian Gulf.

Just steps below the hotel’s entrance is a charming path that leads guests to the entrance of the harbor.  The harbor holds about eight mega yachts and dozens of sailboats, small fishing boats and fun little cruisers ready to whisk away visitors to neighboring ports of call.  The Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta, the promenade along the harbor, is bordered with lots of charming restaurants, bars and shops.  The Splendido Mare is the sister hotel and is nestled into the heart of the main piazzetta. The entire Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta and port can be walked from one end to the other (with time to take in the little side streets), in no time at all.

There are a few must stops along the way:

 

1.  Da Puny for dinner.  It is packed each night and no wonder! The food is amazing and it overlooks all of Portofino.  Tip: Have the hotel book in advance and prior to your arrival.

2.  Chuflay is just a few doors down from Da Puny and shares the same popularity, delicious food and charm.  Chuflay is Splendido Mare’s restaurant and it perfect any time of day. Also nice for drinks.

3.  O Magazin is another favorite. Unlike Chuflay and Da Puny, O Magazin is not on the piazzetta, but rather just along the water’s edge at the entrance to the harbor.

4.  L a Gritta Portofino is a few doors down from O Magazin and has a floating barge along the promenade. I had the best bellinis of my life at La Gritta – yum!

5.  There are a number of stores to visit: Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana and Pucci.  I also had some fun shopping in the Splendido shop.  I now have the most comfortable and cozy new blue Splendido bathrobe and slippers!  I ended up having to buy an extra suitcase to lug home all my new loot.

6.  Panificio Canale is Portofino’s famous bakery known for its scrumptious focaccia bread. The popular spot is over 100 years old and is obviously not for the carb dieter, but is worth the splurge.

7.  The Brown Castle is a short walk up the left side of the port and affords views out to the vast sea and also the Splendido, the entire port and the tiered mountains jutting into the sea to the South.

The hotel can assist with day trips.  There are many possible excursions, but I explored the following locations and would recommend all of them:

1. San Fruttuoso harbor (pictured left) is either a two-hour walk or a fifteen minute boat ride–I opted for the latter and was happy since it allowed me to see more from the sea looking onto the coast.  San Fruttuoso is a tiny, tiny sliver of a harbor just north of Portofino. When we arrived, the entire beach was covered with people sun bathing…I mean covered–not an inch of space.  It was funny to see so many people packed into such a small beach–maybe 200 feet from one end to the other.  Luca was kind enough to book chaises and lunch for us, and I went for a swim and then had a delicious lunch overlooking the crowd.  San Fruttuoso is most famous for its underwater statue of Jesus.  I didn’t take the dive, but I was told it is quite striking to see the bronze statue 50 feet below the surface.

2. La Cervara is a brilliant tiered garden surrounding a 14th-century Benedictine Abbey perched along a cliff just south of Portofino.

3.  Paraggi is a charming little bay just a 10 minute walk from the Splendido along a lovely pedestrian walkway.  Paraggi has several beach clubs and we went to Bagnifiore (upon Luca’s recommendation).  If you prefer a bit of solitude, ask the host at Bagnifiore to sit all the way at the end of the deck.  It is quieter and has steps down to the water.

Tutto Bene!

I am lucky to have Olivia Chantecaille as a friend.  Not only is she obviously a stunning, uber-successful fixture in NYC, but she is one of the kindest and loveliest women I know.   Olivia is the creative director of her family’s ground-breaking skincare and cosmetics line, Chantecaille.  Their products are known worldwide as the preeminent luxury line of technologically advanced, serious skin care–deeply steeped with natural botanicals and pure ingredients.  Their “Cause-metics” Collections have impressed me with such an unexpected and creative approach for creating awareness and fund raising for charitable foundations supporting all forms of nature.  Chantecaille is “Using Beauty to Change the World” and has been a staunch supporter of marine conservation and endangered animals.

I recently sat down with Olivia to get her insider’s travel tips.

Q: Olivia, you are not only one of New York’s great beauty and style icons, but you jet set around the globe for both work and fun and always manage to look so fresh and lovely–what’s your secret weapon for that travel puffiness and overall look of exhaustion that I always seem to suffer from upon arriving to my destination?  I need sunglasses regardless of rain or sunshine so not to scare the passport control guards with my weary looking eyes!

A: I agree with you that a great pair of sunglasses is a must! As I get older, I find that fatigue and stress show more on my face than before and I have to take more preventative measures.  Now, I don’t wait until I reach my hotel to put on a mask, I wear a sleep in mask that goes on like a cream and is completely invisible to keep my skin hydrated and protected throughout the flight.  I alternate between our Jasmine and Lily Healing mask and our Bio Lift mask, both literally save my skin, especially if I have to land and go straight to work.  When I am trying to sleep during a long flight, I like to use an eye mask made of silk to avoid any creases or irritation on my skin and underneath I sneak on two clear, gel eye patches from our Gold Energizing Eye Recovery Mask (launching in December). The seaweed gel patches miraculously eliminate dark circles, puffiness and wrinkles!

Q: We have travelled together and I remember several years back being en route to St. Barths and we were stuck on the tarmac at JFK for hours and hours and thankfully I had all my goodies to keep me occupied for these unanticipated delays.   For this reason, I always carry my “Bored to Death” bag (well more of a compartment in my carry on) which is my comprised of an iPad filled with books and TV series that I swear I am going to start and the few movies I have yet to see.  I also carry a soft-cover book for all the times when the flight attendants parol the cabin to make sure ALL electronic devices are turned off.  But, my pièce de résistance is a little clear bag I bought at Muji.  This little zippered pouch has been such a blessing in times of need.  I have managed to perfectly fit every plug, cord, adapter, head phone splitter, charger, portable charger and the list goes on into this little pouch–and the pouch is durable and clear, so I can see everything rather than digging for surprises.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been thankful for this little guy, and the TSA inspectors seem to appreciate the tidiness of all the electronics in one place.  So, what’s in your carry on that might surprise us?

A: Oh! I remember that flight, there was a horrible blizzard and the windshield of the plane had cracked from the cold and we waited over five hours on the plane for the airline to fix it. I am like you, I travel like I had lots of small children with protein bars, books, every magazine I haven’t read, movies, music and games on my iPad, a cashmere shawl and cozy socks in case the AC is blasting. I always have a pen from my last hotel visit to fill out forms, Clean Well all natural hand wipes, Rescue Remedy and essential oils for my nerves, and Altoids.

I design small pouches for the stores all the time and I have a few translucent ones which I fill with beauty products. I never trust the products on the plane since I know the cost of goods so I always make a point to bring my own lip potion, face and hand cream, rosewater spray and tons of glosses.

It’s a miracle I can even carry my bag.

Q:  Seeing as you are the face of Chantecaille, what are your travel beauty rituals and is there any advice you can give our readers?

A: Well my secret slipped out in your first question. I wear my healing mask as a cream to protect my skin from the ravages of flying and sneak gel eye patches under my silk eye pillow to offset five years of aging! My favorite trick is to spray my Pure Rosewater liberally on my face every few hours. It is loaded with anti-oxidants and moisture- great for my skin and the air around me. Most importantly, I make a point to drink water throughout the flight and avoid any caffeine. I would highly recommend wearing a heavier moisturizer during the flight and avoid makeup if possible and to bring lip balm and hand cream.

Q:  I know you had a world-tour honeymoon not so long ago and have been many places in your life, but what is on your list of must-see spots?

A: My husband and I have a long list of places we would love to visit.  A few of our top picks are the Maldives, Turkey, Argentina and Morocco. I would also like to discover more of the United States.

Q:  What is your favorite airline and what perks have you appreciated most from any airline?

I love to travel but have a horrible fear of flying, so any airline that can help alleviate any stress wins my vote! Most of my trips are international for work, mainly Europe and Asia. So I look for comfortable flat beds where you are not staring directly at another passenger, and since I have a hard time sleeping on planes, I like a wide selection of new movies. It’s usually how I catch up on the movies people are talking about. One of my favorite airlines is British Airways. From the moment you check-in, they try to make your experience pleasant and painless, I’m sure the British accent has a lot to do with it. I’m still waiting for a massage on board, but the best perk has to be an upgrade.

Olivia Chantecaille in front of Spanish Steps

Q:  Obviously I am a bit obsessed with hotels (hence this great pleasure to work with LHW)…you spend a lot of time in Paris- would you mind sharing your favorite Paris hotel?  And maybe sharing a hotel that you haven’t experienced.

A: My mother’s family is from Paris and I have spent many vacations there, also I studied at the Sorbonne and lived like a Parisian. It is one of my favorite cities in the world and probably the most beautiful. My favorite hotel there is Ritz Paris in La Place Vendome. My mother first brought me there when I was very young for my first ’grown-up’ dinner and from that moment I fell under it’s magical spell. The Ritz embodies the old world glamour and sophistication of Paris in every way; from the service, to the food to the rooms. Since my memorable dinner there I have stayed many times. I actually like to try different rooms and have a completely unique experience each time. I am anxious for it to reopen and curious to see how they could possibly have improved it!

When I go on holiday, I love to go somewhere new where I can learn about a different culture or somewhere remote where I can be on or near the water. I have always wanted to visit La Mamounia in Morocco. It is a legendary hotel and everyone I know who goes, loves it. I think it would be a memorable visit where I would also have the chance to learn about a very different culture that I’m sure would inspire me to create some interesting new products.

The other breath-taking hotel I would love to escape to is Katikies in Santorini. Being a water baby, this hotel seems to be all about the sapphire blue Mediterranean water. It strikes me as a wonderful place to forget about work and cosmetic laboratories and recharge my batteries. Hopefully I get to go very soon…

Thank you Olivia!

Andrew Saffir, Stephen Gaghan, Daniel Benedict

People always ask me, “How was Cannes?” and I always respond with–exhausting!  I got back last week from two weeks in what is perhaps one of the most surreal trips a person can experience.  I half joke when I respond with exhausting…the truth is the trip is exhausting, but worth every bit of lost sleep. Where else can I travel and absolutely need to bring at least five tuxedos, a bunch of suits, more shirts than one can imagine, shoes, shoes and more shoes and then casual clothing–bathing suits, shorts, gym clothes–the list is endless.  I did manage to over pack one suitcase and the bag arrived to my room in two pieces–fortunately with all my clothes somehow in tack.

 

 

 

I also managed to somehow pack all the luggage into my rental Mini Copper convertible–somehow!  Travel tip:

Consider the amount of luggage before booking a rental car.

The men at the rental car agency thought I was a magician getting all of the luggage into the back seat.

This year marked my 11th consecutive year visiting the Cannes Film Festival.  Yes, the festival is packed with movie premier after premier and glamorous, over-the-top parities, but I do still always manage to quench my wanderlust with some excursions along the Cote d’Azure.  First and foremost, premiers in Cannes are taken very seriously by all–especially at the Palais (the mecca of cinemas, positioned port side, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Croisette).

Croisette View

Black tie is mandatory for all and les Français treat every evening at the Palais as if it were a royal affair.  Not only is black tie mandatory, but gentleman are always required to wear tuxedos with bow ties (not straight ties) and black shoes (not blue).

People are often turned away at the door if the guards find ‘inappropriate attire.’  There are more photographers along the Croisette than film fans–and there are a lot of fans.  I have often looked out to a sea of flash bulbs and wonder how any actor sees a thing on the red carpet.

 

With Olivia Palermo

Which leads me to the red carpet…getting to the red carpet is impossible without an invitation to that evening’s premier and tickets are not easy to come by–even for those connected to the film world.   Once upon the red carpet the fairly tale begins…the trains on the gowns often run half the length of the carpet and the women all look beyond glamorous and the men usually try to look cool (some do and some don’t, but all try). The truth is that the red carpet is pretty intimidating for everyone.  Several years back, I remember leaving the Palais just steps behind Gwyneth Paltrow and as we walked outside and approached the red carpet and the long set of steps leading down to the Croisette the skies opened up and started pouring.  We all stood there watching the rain through the bright lights of the Palais and the flashbulbs of the photographers, there was loud classical music playing and everyone realized there wasn’t a parapluie in sight.  Gwyneth turned and said, “Why not?” – and then gracefully walked down the stairs of the red carpet, in the rain, with the music and lights in the background and I thought to myself – this is pretty amazing!

This year, The Great Gatsby opened the festival, and all movie premiers in Cannes are even more extravagant than one would expect; this one did not fail in extravagance.  I had seen The Great Gatsby in New York, but was thrilled to attend the opening night festivities and experience it Cannes style.  The after party was tented on the beach and was a recreation of West Egg, complete with a performance from Florence Welch, Champagne fountains, fireworks and a massive chandelier.

 

All but a few nights were spent at premiers in the Palais.  Just steps from the Palais and overlooking the Croisette is a Belle Époque masterpiece–The  Hôtel Majestic Barrière.  The Majestic is quite “Majestic” and is the perfect spot for a power lunch, a sunset drink, or a romantic dinner.  Fouquet Cannes is housed adjacent to the lobby and is quite a Cannes hot spot. Fouquet’s menu is very impressive and filled with delicious options for foodies.  I had the most incredible fish curry and my fellow diner had the largest and most incredibly delicious cote de boeuf I had ever seen–or tasted!  For the other nights “off” from movie nights.. one was spent at the restaurant at La Colombe d’Or in St. Paul de Vence.  This is one of my favorite restaurants in the world, La Colombe d’Or is an experience like no other.  Where else can one dine under Picassos and Calders, and have the most amazing food and wine.  There is a dining garden when the weather is warm and during the film festival it is the beginning of fraises des bois (strawberries?) season and the fraises des bois at La Colombe d’Or  are always so fresh and delicious!

Saint Paul De Vence

 

Another night “off” was spent at Tetou.  Tetou is a hot spot during the festival and is always star studded.  The restaurant is right on the beach in Golfe-Juan and the owners are kind and welcoming.  I can’t mention Tetou without also mentioning their famous bouillabaisse and grilled lobsters, along with their famous prices…it is a common joke during the festival that Tetou is not for the frugal.  The prices are not as friendly as the owners!  I also had an amazing dinner at the le Machou in the Old Town of Cannes which is a tiny, spectacular, candle-lit restaurant that is a must during any trip to Cannes.

My last night was spent at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco for a party to celebrate the Grand Prix. The Cannes Film Festival and The Grand Prix usually overlap so I don’t usually make it to the Grand Prix, but this year an invitation to the Prince’s Palace enticed me to Monaco for the night.

 

Yes, I did fulfill my James Bond fantasy but still missed not pulling up to the Palace in a Bond car–my little rental Mini was cute, but somehow didn’t quite add to the night…next time I think an Aston Martin is in order!

Please contact me for any suggestions for a trip to the Cote d’Azure–à bientôt!

Summer is almost here! So many options for summer travel and so little time…  For this blog entry, I would like to get your feedback on where to book my summer holiday.

Every summer I plan a trip to Europe and I typically alternate each year by going to one of my old favorites haunts and then somewhere new the following year.  I have tried some exotic spots, but love the Mediterranean–particularly Italy or France.  My alternating years have worked out well for me.  I know the places I love are there when I want them, but it’s so difficult to find a new spot to fall in love with and explore.

I usually get my fix of France with my annual trip to Cannes for the Cannes Film Festival in May, so Italy naturally seems like the perfect compliment just a month or so later.

Cannes

 

Grand Hotel Quisisana, Capri

I wrote about one of my favorite spots, Capri, in a previous blog.  For me, Capri is heaven…I love the people, the beaches, the food, the hotels and the shopping…you name it and I love it in Capri.  I did spend last year’s summer holiday there, so I am thinking somewhere new is on my itinerary for this year.

 

 

 

Truthfully though, there is nothing worse than returning from a trip and wishing I had gone somewhere else.  This has only happened to me a few times and many years ago, but it’s not a great feeling and certainly something I want to avoid this year.

One of the many great things about The Leading Hotels of the World is that the hotels are all special and, in one way or another, they all offer something unique and different.  I do have a sense of comfort knowing I am going to be staying in a fantastic hotel.  However, this leads me back to my initial question…where to go this summer?  Here is where I am researching now, in no particular order.  First on my list is the Rocco Forte Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily.

I have never been to Sicily, so naturally I want to go and see what everyone is talking about and do some exploring.  I also love all Rocco Forte hotels–all sublime!

Hotel Giardino di Costanza

And if I am in Sicily, I must see the Hotel Giardino di Costanza.  I have heard it is incredible and there are lots of sites to explore in the area.

So, Sicily does seem to be high on my list, but I have a hankering for Greece over the past few years and have been looking into both Santorini and Mykonos.

The Katikies in Santorini looks like something out of a film set…all white and perched high on the Caldera Cliffs over looking the brilliant blue sea–and a seducitve infinity pool calling my name!

Katikies

That leaves me with one other possibility on my list: Myconian Imperial Thalasso Spa in Mykonos.    Big decisions…the Myconian has a huge private beach and a world-class spa, not to mention beautiful white-washed private villas.

Myconian Imperial Thalasso Spa

Hmmmm…please let me know thoughts and advice!

Thank You,

Daniel

The first time I went to Los Angeles I was 12 and I went to visit a friend that had moved there from Boston.  I flew out there during my midwinter break – leaving behind the snow of Boston and landing in the eternal Spring of LA.

I thought my parents were completely crazy not to move there at that very moment.  I could have my bags packed in no time!  Yes, I would have missed my family and friends, but I plotted how I could arrange for loved ones to visit me in California and all would be perfect–a revolving door of house guests (a fun flop house if you will).  The icing on the cake was the moment I swam in my friend’s pool and looked down a cliff to see a neighbor packing up the car to go skiing!   Big Bear was only a few hours away!  Oh how I wanted to move to LA; Sun, skiing, surfing–you name it and it’s there!  My parents thought I was crazy and convinced me that all of California would be in the Pacific one day after some terrible earthquake, and that I would miss my East Coast roots–summers on Martha’s Vineyard, skiing the icy mountains of the North East, etc.  So, I continued on my merry way shoveling snow and bundling up for winter.  Nonetheless, to this very day, I still can’t stand winter.  I can bare it until December, but when the New Year arrives and there are three or sometimes four months of cold, snow, and sleet, I shiver and longingly look back to that first trip to LA.  Lucky for me, I now get to spend a few weeks each winter in LA – a home away from home if you will.  I’m determined to have a snow bird bi-coastal life and consider it a work in progress.

When I’m in LA, I explore as much as possible.  I love to go for long drives and poke around the neighborhoods in which I someday would like to live. I have a ritual of driving to the Pacific Ocean on each trip, and put at least one toe in the water–although the Pacific is always colder than any of my New England beaches.

I’ve outlined some of my favorite LA spots and hope they come in handy for you.

Lunch

1.  Joan’s On Third is my outpost in LA.  Honestly, I’m there for breakfast or lunch almost everyday.  Joan makes the most delicious food and I constantly crave it.  For breakfast, I love the banana french toast and homemade pop tarts.  Lunch is the rosemary maple glazed chicken breast with a Brussels sprouts salad for lunch.  There are loads of amazing take out dishes and there are cafe tables both inside and out for eating –LOVE JOAN’S ON THIRD, we need one in NYC!!!!  8350 West 3rd Street, LA, CA http://www.joansonthird.com

2.  Lemonade is delicious for quick and easy lunch.  There are several outposts with many great menu items.  It is a cool cafeteria style process where one chooses options and they are packed onto your plate.  9001 Beverly Blvd, LA http://lemonadela.com/location/beverly

3.  Soho House is private, but you can either become a member or go as a member’s guest! The rooftop restaurant is gorgeous and it is packed all day and all night.  The views are sensational and it is surprisingly comfy and relaxed.   Soho House West Hollywood, 9200 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA  http://www.sohohousewh.com

 

Dinner

1.  The Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower hotel is my absolute favorite restaurant in LA.  The food is delicious, the room is perfectly candle lit and I always bump into friends.  There’s a 1930s vibe with live music and it feels as if Cary Grant, Errol Flynn and Marilyn Monroe could all come strolling in at any moment.  I always have chilled oysters and they have the best omelet with creme fraiche and caviar – and everyone loves the burger.  They recently added an ice cream sundae menu where guests check off the flavors and toppings, etc–yummy!  Tower Bar, 8358 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA http://sunsettowerhotel.com/at-the-tower-bar

2.  Cipriani at Mr. C Beverly Hills is as great as Harry Cipriani in New York or Harry’s Bar in Venice.  I have been a big fan of Cipriani for years and always love my lunches and dinners at the New York restaurants.  A new Cipriani in LA is the icing on thecake!  I  always start with the baked tagliolini and then the chicken curry.  The Bellinis are a must!  The ambiance is beautiful and has the same burled wood and cozy seats as both NYC and Venice.  1224 Beverwil Dr, Los Angeles, CA  http://www.mrchotels.com/beverly-hills/beverly-hills-restaurant.php

3.  The Tasting Kitchen is my latest find.  Yum, yum, yum.  The roasted chicken is perfect and I know roasted chicken doesn’t seem to difficult, but trust me I love roasted chicken and it is hard to find the perfect preparation.  The mussels are a close second–so delicious.  Chef Casey Lane takes simple food to a new level, and that is a compliment.  The only thing basic here are the names of the dishes, and I love simple food cooked to perfection.  1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA  http://thetastingkitchen.com/index.html

4.  Giorgio Baldi in Santa Monica reminds me of my Mom’s home cooked Italian food.  The ravioli appetizer is perfecto and they prepare outstanding fresh fish dishes. I adore the butterscotch caramel pudding for dessert.  141 West Channel Road, Santa Monica, CA http://www.giorgiobaldi.us/about.htm

5.  Nobu Malibu is on the sand in Malibu.  The waves crash just feet from your table.  The architecture of the restaurant is gorgeous and the food is Nobu–sublime Japanese!  22706 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA http://www.noburestaurants.com/malibu/experience/introduction/

 

Pool at Mr. C, Beverly Hills

Sites

1.  The Getty Museum is spectacular and the views are as great as the artwork.  http://www.getty.edu/index.html

2.  The Griffith Observatory is also spectacular and free.  Try to go at night and check out the stars… the ones in the sky! http://www.griffithobs.org

3.  The Pacific Coast Highway is just at the end of Sunset Boulevard–literally the end.  It is worth driving to the beach on your first trip to LA.  The Pacific is awesome and I think everyone should put a toe in the water.  If time permits, drive to Malibu and see what all the hype is about.  It is truly a place where billionaires and surfers intermingle in harmony.

4.  You can get close to The Hollywood sign by car.  There are restrictions, but I was surprised how close one can get–check it out…I did a bit of research on Mapquest.

5.  Runyon Canyon is a beautiful spot for a “hike.”  It’s more of a walk up a steep hill than a hike, but the views are great and it is a pretty nice place to be at one with nature in the heart of LA.

6.  LACMA (Los Angles County Museum of Art) is a very cool and hip museum.  Don’t think snoozy European style museum, but cutting edge!  http://www.lacma.org

7.  The Hollywood Bowl opened in the 1920s and is still one of the coolest places to see a performance.  Check out their website before your trip and who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and one of your favorites will be performing: http://www.hollywoodbowl.com

8.  The shopping in LA is great and easy!  Most stores have valet parking and the natural start is Rodeo Drive, but don’t underestimate how many shopping spots there are in LA.  Starting on Rodeo Drive is smart and a must see even for those that hate shopping.  It is quintessential Beverly Hills–there are stereotypes for a reason!  I love Melrose for shopping and also have found cool stores in the coastal towns.  Keep in mind that shopping in LA from one area to the next takes driving time and there is always some of that famousLA traffic, so just add in a bit of time.  I found this link – it has a bit of everything for shopping and is a perfect tool to develop your shopping strategy; http://www.luxurylink.com/fivestar/los-Angeles/itineraries/7638930-shopping-hotspots-in-los-angeles

 

Enjoy LALA land!

Those who know me, know I love LA.  I call it LALA land because I always have a blast in LA and although NYC is my home, I not so secretly would love to have a foot in LA–or at least a toe.  When I found out that Condé Nast Traveler was throwing a birthday fete for The Leading Hotels of the World, I was keeping my fingers crossed it would happen in my LALA land—and, luckily for me, it did!   So, Oscar and his leading lady, The Leading Hotels of the World, both turn 85 this year and I was thrilled to celebrate their joint birthday party high atop the beautiful rooftop of Mr. C Beverly Hills.

It was a perfect night with the stars out in full force, both in the sky and in the ballroom.

The movie themed bash had multiple screens featuring 85 films in 85 Leading Hotels (my favorites are Goldfinger, Casino Royale and Ocean’s Eleven), there was a fully-loaded concession stand, a vintage popcorn machine (popping away), a photo booth and an over-the-top birthday cake (which I had to help move to a pedestal minutes before the party started–fortunately without dropping it!).

Over 200 guests came to celebrate the birthday bash!

 

Among the leading ladies were Naomi Watts (fingers crossed for her on Oscar night!), Eva Longoria, Minnie Driver, Michelle Monaghan, Giada de Laurentis and Katie Lee.  Happy 85th Birthday Leading Hotels and best wishes to you too Oscar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tucked into the heart of the Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière is the U Spa.  Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière is an Art Déco masterpiece perched on the corner of the Champs Elysées and Avenue George V and adjacent to the famous Parisian landmark Fouquet’s restaurant (established in 1898).  The hotel opened in 2006 and is comprised of several buildings surrounding a lovely central courtyard.  Jacques Garcia oversaw the design of the hotel and installed sound-proof windows and doors in all rooms and suites (helpful for silencing any Champs Elysées traffic din).  There are many rooms with stunning views of the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysées and  – my favorite — the Eiffel Tower.  All rooms feature separate dressing rooms and well-appointed massive bathrooms with flat-screen TVs and waterproof remotes — nice perk!  The hotel also features one of the few Michelin-rated restaurants in Paris, Le Diane, which has large windows that overlook the hotel’s charming courtyard.

Now back to the U Spa — naturally a Leading Spa!  I had the recent pleasure of escaping the cold of Paris and transporting myself to this oasis of tranquility and relaxation.  The U Spa is a 8,600 square foot sleek sanctuary of rich wooden walls, reflective mosaic tiles, dim lighting and crisp white flowing curtains all nestled into a hideaway from the hustle and bustle of The City of Lights. There is a sauna, steam room and seven large treatment rooms–all intimate sanctuaries amidst the larger spa haven.  There are several water therapy pools and one large swimming pool (one of the largest for a Parisian hotel).  The decor is crisp and sleek and the environment is warm and relaxing.  There is even a large relaxation area, adjacent to the pool for napping, reading, or enjoying tea and a snack.   I managed to swim a few laps and swam over to the labyrinth of a water trail that is part of the spa’s balneotherapy regime.

Overlooking the pool area is the sleek and modern fitness center.  It is just the right size and naturally shares the same cool decor vibe as the spa.  There are numerous body rituals in which to partake and the staff is very helpful in finding the best treatment or treatment processes for one’s needs.  The spa specializes in balneotherapy, and uses Sensai Kanebo International and Cinq Mondes expert massage and treatment techniques.  Parfait!

Whether one has five hours, five days, five weeks or five months in Paris, there is never enough time to see and do everything.   Paris is a city with endless gems to explore; the trouble is that with each turn there are more beautiful views, more unique shops and cultural attractions, and sadly, not more than enough time.

Several years back, I had a few hours layover at Charles de Gaulle and yearned for a Cafe de Flore coffee.  So we packed up a taxi with mountains of luggage, drove to Boulevard Saint-Germain, had the taxi wait and just sat for a coffee and croissant and then drove back, in typical Parisian traffic, to the airport and took off. Crazy? Yes, but worth it!

I usually end up in Paris a few times a year and while I truly love the city in all seasons, I do have to say that spending Thanksgiving in Paris is parfait!  I have spent about ten Thanksgivings in Paris and most Americans ask why another ‘Turkey Day’ in Paris?  Well for one, Parisians and expats alike love the excuse for a big festive Thanksgiving feast and there are always plenty of dinner invitations and options to get my fill of turkey and all the fixings.

 

This past Thanksgiving, I checked into Le Bristol Paris for the first time and was smitten from the minute I arrived.  I’ve been a devotee of the Ritz Paris forever and still can not wait for the doors to reopen, but now have some difficult hotel decisions looming for the future.  I used my Leaders Club Unlimited membership to arrange for a complimentary transfer from the airport to my hotel.  This is my only loyalty card that includes complimentary private car transfers! We were greeted at baggage claim by our driver and whisked to a private spot through a door next to baggage claim and within minutes we were off to Le Bristol.   Upon arrival at the hotel, we were quickly escorted to the perfect Parisian garrett room with views galore and three balconies (including one in the bathroom).  I later found out that the room was used in the movie Midnight in Paris, although it has since been renovated and is a perfect oasis of grays and blues with an enormous bathroom and enough closets for any of my fashionista friends to set up camp for weeks.

The staff of the hotel is what impressed me most.  Each employee interaction was charming and helpful, and most importantly their demeanor was genuine.  Just like one of my other favorite hotels, the equally sublime Hotel Du Cap, Le Bristol is a crown jewel in the Oetker Collection of masterpiece hotels and it has become one of my favorite Leading Hotels of the World.  Le Bristol has a super sleek and brand new La Prairie spa which I loved–try the traditional Russian Baniya treatment!

Also, make certain to bring a bathing suit and swim in the famous swimming pool; made entirely of teak, the shape of the pool is reminiscent of the bow of a sailboat–don’t miss the tromp-l’oeil of Hotel du Cap in the background overlooking the pool!

Chef Eric Frechon’s Epicure is Le Bristol’s magnificent Michelin three-star gastronomic restaurant.  The dining room is always packed and its large windows open on to the largest garden of the Parisian luxury hotels.

There are so many options for everything from sightseeing, to museums, to shopping, to dining, to galleries, to spas and the list goes on – without some framework, the trip may become daunting.  I have listed all of my favorite restaurants and brief descriptions for each below.   Also, research the museums and exhibitions prior to arriving in Paris and then simply ask the concierge to get tickets to the exhibitions you wish to visit – this is a must, otherwise the lines to get tickets will take longer then the viewing of the exhibition.  As for shopping, turn left or right…there are incredible stores galore.  Pick your starting spot and then build your shopping excursion by neighborhood.  Lastly, if this is your first trip to Paris, do see all the major sites.  I know it is a lot to take in, but it is awe inspiring and worth any blisters or aching feet.  Any concierge can make a concise list of the must-see spots and help plan your excision–don’t be shy about asking, this is what they do and a good concierge will know the hidden gems.

Remember, when planning lunch or dinner, always make a reservation!

A la prochaine fois!

LUNCH

Cafe de Flore |  Go anytime – day or night, breakfast or lunch, coffee, snack or late night drink. Great mix of Parisians and fashion people and just about everyone else. Perfect people watching.  http://www.cafe-de-flore.com

Cafe Marly |  A Costes brothers indoor/outdoor cafe at the Louvre – fun for lunch, snacks, etc.  Stunning views of the glass pyramid and always a comfortable place to take a break.  http://www.maisonthierrycostes.com/cafe-marly/accueil

L’Avenue  |  A Costes brothers indoor/outdoor cafe best for lunch. Very fashionable and fun.  Directly across from Dior on Avenue Montaigne (major shopping street with the best luxury shopping) and down the street from one of the most picturesque views of the Eiffel Tower.  During nice weather, the outdoor seating is great.  There is also a cozy upstairs dinning room.  http://www.avenue-restaurant.com

l’Esplanade  |  Located on the corner of Rue Rabert and to the left of Les Invalides.  A chic spot with comfy chairs and delicious food and super cozy.  I love the nems (Vietnamese spring rolls!!!).  http://www.zagat.com/r/cafe-de-lesplanade-le-paris-france?full_content=true

Spring  |  A tiny hidden gem that recently received unbelievable praise from critics.  American chef Daniel Rose creates unique dishes and the pairings in each dish are creative and noteworthy.  Very small and lunch reservations are easier to get than dinner.  http://www.springparis.fr

 

DINNER

Georges  |  Atop the Pompidou Museum. Supper modern, lofty with great views and delicious food.  http://www.centrepompidou.fr/en

Stresa  |  A small, clubby Italian spot which is popular with the celebrities/fashion crowd.  http://www.lestresa.com

L’Ami Louis  |  A famous institution known best for its incredible foie gras and yummy roasted chicken.  Very rustic and authentic.

Bar Mathis |  A small, clubby spot for locals and insiders.  It is tiny and always packed.

Ralph’s  |  In the Ralph Lauren store.   It is incredibly popular with Parisians for lunch or dinner–amazing for a big festive Thanksgiving feast–with all the trimmings.  There is a lovely courtyard with tables for outdoor dining during the warmer months.  http://ralphlaurenstgermain.com

Thiou |  Great Thai restaurant on the Quai D’Orsay.  http://www.thiou.fr

La Societe  |  An uber hot and chic Costes brothers owned restaurant off Boulevard St Germain, just a few doors down from Cafe de Flore.  The room is sexy and dark and the food is delicious–love!  http://www.restaurantlasociete.com

Brasserie Lipp  |  A beloved Parisian institution, just across from Cafe de Flore. Gets older Parisian society, celebs and tourists.

Ferdi   |  A trendy spot known for its burgers.

Kong  |  Very modern and ‘in’ rooftop restaurant with great views and a cool crowd.  http://www.kong.fr

Le Voltaire |  Another Parisian institution good for lunch or dinner. Fashionable restaurant on the Left Bank, that’s been around for ages (lots of designers, fashion people, etc.).

Anahi  |  Popular Argentine hot spot with a huge following from the fashion world–located in Le Marais district.