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!

 

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!

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!

I have loved hotels for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I thought it was revolutionary that I got to stay in rooms that had a stocked refrigerators filled with all the treats I wanted (albeit a minibar–at the time this seemed almost space-age), and the ability to pick up the phone and get things sent to the room at any time–and if there was a pool at the hotel, then that was simply the icing on the cake.  I remember staying at a ski resort when I was about twelve that had an indoor/outdoor pool with a wall that one could swim under, to go from hot to cold–I loved it and thought this was simply the coolest hotel ever.  After hours of back and forth…cold to hot…hot to cold…I was told the “Spa” was closing shortly.  Spa?  I was at a spa?  I then asked the attendant what else the “Spa” had.  There was the obvious, steam and sauna, but they also had a cold plunge, an apres ski lounge and a light therapy room.  The only light therapy I had known of was something about photosynthesis from science class about plants and had no idea I could have light therapy too!  So, here at the age of twelve is where I can trace my first steps into a fondness for spa life!

The next day I skied from dawn until dusk and then raced down to the “Spa,” directly from the slopes.  I didn’t want to miss a minute of neither skiing nor spa time. With my legs burning from skiing, I was now prepared to get in all the benefits before the facility closed for the night.  I limited my indoor/outdoor swim to a mere hour so I could take in the steam and sauna and light therapy room.   Mind you I was only twelve and every posting on the walls noted that no one under 18 should use the facility without supervision; however, I’ve been  6 feet tall since I was twelve, so I guess the staff thought I was older–fine by me!

Now we must fast forward,  more years than I care to admit, and here I am as an adult with the same love of spas and I am off to The Setai Fifth Avenue!

I spent the afternoon at the Auriga Spa at The Setai Fifth Avenue, New York–sublime! Auriga is not only my new favorite spa in NYC, but may possibly be my favorite in the United States.  The facility is over 11,000 square feet and can easily keep you busy–just relaxing for hours. The spa is divided into men’s and women’s sanctuaries for changing, showering, relaxing etc (each with privacy as well as a private steam and sauna).  Then there is a communal area for both men and women with the most incredible Turkish Hammam (which rivals any I have visited in Istanbul) with charcoal and black iridescent mosaics tiles on the floor, walls and ceiling and massive white marble slabs to lay on under a ceiling of tiny twinkling lights cleverly hidden within the tile work to create the most incredible light therapy I have experienced.  In this dimly lit hammam, the ceiling becomes a night sky and lying directly under it is like watching a massive sky filled with shimmering stars.  It is quite a special and unique experience.  This light therapy is very much intentional and ties into Auriga’s celestial theme.

The staff takes a holistic approach to wellness, ensuring your body, mind and spirit are carefully nourished.  “We invite you to travel…transform…transcend. Come tap into the celestial rhythm,” is their mantra.

Auriga’s body therapies are based on the varying energies of the lunar cycle and are meant to not only create an experience ideal for a desired outcome, but to also tap into the phases of the moon and how they relate to our body’s rhythm.   Allow enough time to experience all the spa has to offer.  Along with the Turkish Hammam is the center of the spa, a spa vitality pool for hydrotherapy and relaxation. Also, there is the most incredible ice room.  This room is covered from floor to ceiling in green glass tiles with a sink in the center of the room filled with ice and fresh rosemary sprigs.  There are several impressive individual showers with lights, music and water jets coming from all angles–very cool.  Just beyond the hammam is a lounge area for napping and snacking–there is a spread of fresh fruit, delicious snacks, various drinks and a collection of teas. There is even a tea sommelier upon request.  Lastly, the fitness center is modern and fully stocked and the Julian Farel Salon is conveniently located adjacent to the Spa.

The Leaders Club introduced a new benefit last year called “hometown benefits.”  Members in over twenty cities now have on-property hotel perks, without even needing a room reservation.  For example, Leaders Club members in New York receive 30% off spa treatments at Auriga, as well as a 30% discount off hair and make-up services at Julien Farel at the Setai Fifth Avenue!

Auriga truly is a very special place and I’m looking forward to reserving my next spa treatment very soon!

Rachel Roy, designer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother, designs to inspire women to feel smart, confident and individual.

Originally from California, Rachel attended college in Washington DC. Upon graduation, Rachel pursued her passion for design, and moved to New York City to work freelance; styling magazine shoots and music videos.

In Fall 2004, she applied her sophisticated aesthetic to her own collection, RACHEL ROY, which debuted in department and specialty stores for Spring 2005. With striking silhouettes, a sophisticated color palette and inventive pairings which transition from day to evening, Roy has garnered editorial acclaim in publications such as Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, W and Vanity Fair.

Presently, RACHEL ROY NEW YORK has grown to include four full collections each year, and in June 2008, created a joint venture with Jones Apparel Group Inc. in the hopes of expanding the wholesale business globally, introduce new product categories and open stand-alone stores in the United States and abroad. To date, the RACHEL ROY collections are available at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and top specialty stores worldwide.

 

Time seems to stand still in Capri.  

I have been visiting the island for many years and aside from the new storefronts, the newer style, cute open-air taxi cabs and some extra-large mega yachts, the island looks the same as it did in the photos from the 1950′s with Jackie O and Brigitte Bardot strolling the slippery stone streets.  

Il Riccio Beach Club & Restaurant

Qui si sana means “here one heals,” in Italian, and Capri is the perfect place to do just that. While I love all the Morgano Hotels (Scalinatella, Casa Morgano and the Grand Hotel Quisisana), one of my favorite activities is simply sitting at the bar at the footsteps to the entrance of the “Quisi” after dinner and watching the Italians stroll through town.  Nowhere else in the world does one see such a colorful array of clothing on both men and women – Palm Beach doesn’t even come close! While red pants on men seem to be de rigueur, there is every shade of yellow, blue, orange and green…oh, and I almost forgot purple (that is, shades of pale purple, bright pink, watermelon, lavender, bright purple, and the list goes on).  That’s just the pants – there are also molto color options for cashmere sweaters and scarves and suede driving shoes – yes, tutti color options are open in Capri, and combinations of any and all are encouraged.

 

The same can be said for the ladies, but simply add more prints – Pucci, Missoni, and the like. This summer, the chicest of chic women are all wearing Faraone Mennella jewelry. Rather than just having color options in clothing, the woman strolling through the Piazzetta and up to the Capri Palace and then back down to the main thoroughfare in front of Quisi are all donning truly magnificent colorful pieces from my friends behind the company Faraone Mennella – Amedeo Scognamiglio and Robero Faraone.  Their beautiful new flagship boutique is located just a few steps away from my favorite restaurant Aurora, at Via Fuorlovado 23.  Their collections are beautiful and everyone is abuzz on the island over their new shop.  

 

My Farone Mennella Friends in Capri!

 

One of the best things about Capri is that the stores are open late, so you can shop before and after dinner. My recommendation is to do your clothing shopping prior to pasta at dinner and reserve your jewelry shopping for after dinner.  I love Russo Uomo (right next to the Quisisana) for men’s clothing. I also love 100% Capri right across from Faraone Mennella.  Just about every Italian designer has a shop and naturally Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana, Kiton and Tod’s are my first stops.

La Fontelina Capri

A trip to Anacapri is a must, as is a visit to the Capri Palace. It’s absolutely beautiful and the entrance looks into the depths of the swimming pool. Very fun! Also in Anacapri are many quaint and beautiful stores selling locally produced linen clothing.  And now for the food…yes, the food.  For lovers of Italian fare, there is no shortage of delicious spots…in fact, that is pretty much the only option for dinner – Italian!  I had dinner one night at Villa Verde (very popular open air spot) and the waiter recognized half our table as regulars and started taking our dinners orders. I turned to my friend Amedeo and wondered if there were no longer any menus and he replied that he never needs a menu since all the restaurants in Capri have the same dishes – which is only half true. I love La Fontelina and Da Luigi for lunch (both swimming / lunch spots directly under the iconic Faraglioni rocks).  I also adore the newly redone Il Riccio for lunch which is the beach club below the Capri Palace (check out the dessert buffet!).  Il Riccio is also open on weekend nights for dinner.  No trip to Capri is complete without a trip to Da Paolino (set amidst a lemon grove turned ristorante).

If you haven’t been to Capri, you must go. Tutto bene!