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As Matt and I were shopping for Christmas gifts this weekend, Matt pointed out that Halle, our youngest, didn’t have a proper copy of Madeline.  I loved Madeline as a little girl, when Paris was still – literally and figuratively – a world away.  So we picked up a copy.  Matt mentioned that the author and illustrator, Ludwig Bemelmans, was the man that our favorite bar in our favorite New York hotel was named after.  (How I never made this connection is beyond me, but pparently everyone on the planet was hip to this but me.)  In any case, it makes me love Bemelmans Bar and the Carlyle even more. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dome Mention It

10/27/2008

Quite possibly the most beautiful room in new York City, Café Pierre (or the Rotunda) at The Pierre hotel is a perfectly executed exercise in lavishness. The trompe l’oeil murals created by American artist Edward Melcarth play backdrop to the most fabulous afternoon tea this side of the Thames. Have some Earl Gray with a lover under the dome and discuss the 253-room hotel’s luscious history (including tales of founder Charles Pierre and original financiers Otto H. Kahn, Edward F. Hutton, and Walter P. Chrysler,) its infamous bankruptcy in 1932, and eventual purchase by oilman J. Paul Getty for $2.5 million in 1938.

If the top of the building looks familiar its because it was modeled by archtects Schultze and Weaver (The Breakers Palm Springs, The Waldorf-Astoria, The Sherry-Netherland) after Mansart’s Royal Chapel at Versailles. Permanent residents in the few apartments have included Elizabeth Taylor, Viacom entertainment company chairman Sumner Redstone, Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed, and the late designer Yves Saint-Laurent.

In 2005 The Pierre was acquired by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, an India-based global chain of fine luxury hotels and resorts, yet it still retains its forever charm. I spent the night of my birthday there right after the purchase so I can attest to it.

Mystic Itzá

10/26/2008

I first visited Chichén-Itzá about six years ago and cannot fathom why the entire United States is not obsessed with this major mystical and architectural wonder located a mere 1500 miles from downtown New York City. Perhaps it’s the Mayan blood I have running through my veins, but I’m pretty proud that while Europe was still in the midst of the Dark Ages, these amazing people had mapped the heavens, evolved the only true writing system native to the Americas, and became masters of mathematics. They invented the calendars we use today. Without metal tools, beasts of burden or even the wheel they were able to construct vast cities across a huge jungle landscape with an amazing degree of architectural perfection and variety. The Chichén Itzá complex is unbelievably extensive and includes ancient temples, pyramids, steambaths, sacred watering holes, a marketplace, and a mindblowing observatory. Their legacy in stone, which has survived in a spectacular fashion at places such as Chichén Itzá, (and Palenque, TikalTulum, and Copan), lives on as do the seven million descendants of the classic Maya civilization – including me!

Given this insanely rich history, and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it astounds me that most people I know have never heard of one of the greatest (and conveniently located) Pre-Columbian centers our hemisphere has ever known. So next time you are planning a long weekend in Cancun, rent a car and take a drive 150 miles down the coast, drop your bags off at the magical, sustainable, and impeccably green Hacienda Chichén, and educate yourself, man.

Hempel Worship

10/22/2008

Quite possibly one of the most brilliant placemakers of our time, Anoushka Hempel is my idol. The former British 60’s actress-turned-hotelier and designer has created four absolutely unparalleled hotels (including my favorite hotel ever – Blake’s in South Kensington, London) and a slew of restaurants and retail stores (including Louis Vuitton in Paris and Van Cleef & Arpels in Brazil, Goa, Istanbul, and Las Vegas.) Her style is impeccable and untouchable in my opinion. She has this God-given way of creating the most magical environments that are so lavish and fantastical, intoxicatingly decadent, and yet unbelievably cozy and warm. Everything she touches turns into 24-carat gold. She has even designed clothes for Princess Diana and Princess Margaret. I want to swim in her head.

 

Oh, did I mention she was a Bond girl? Sigh…

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Matt and I recently took the fam to his favorite summer destination, and (we’re convinced) future “Hipster Hamptons.”

Wildwood – a Jersey Shore gem full of enough mid-century motels to make any design nerd drool. You can get your fashion photographer, vintage freak, and family man alter egos off at the same time – not to mention secretly indulge in the most awesome rides, waterpark slides, skeeball contests, malt vinegar fries, and orangeade the the Garden State has to offer. Go HERE.

Georgia Rules

07/17/2008

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I’ve wanted to visit Savannah for as long as I can remember, so after reading a recent Domino (yes, I know) article on Georgia’s oldest city, I convinced Matt to take me to the home of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I fell in love.

Now I have always been a sucker for city squares and antebellum architecture, and I loved Charleston when I visited… but Savannah blew me away. Along with Charleston and New Orleans, it is one of only three antebellum cities not burned to the ground by Union troops during the Civil War. General William Sherman spared Savannah from his fiery march to the sea because of its beauty and thus leaves us with one of the most carefully preserved colonial cities in the Americas. The perfect balance of haunted romance set against glorious live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss are my dream setting for a romantic weekend away with my honey.

We stayed at the stately Mansion on Forsyth Park, which is magnificently situated on Drayton Street directly across from the Forsyth Park Fountain and a lovely stroll away from the best shops and cafes in town.

By far my favorite place was the five floor Alex Raskin Antiques set in the magnificently ornate Hardee Mansion on Monterey Square. Rita Konig describes it perfectly: “Wandering in this shop, in the historic district’s largest house, is like being allowed to roam in a home that is in a state of perfect decay. The scale is amazing— glorious drippy chandeliers and wonderful old wallpaper on high-ceilinged walls. It is the place that gives the truest sense of Savannah at its most romantic and eerie. There are rooms full of cupboards and dressers, and more curiosities than you can imagine…

Antique shops abound and next in line is a store I wished I’d opened myself, The Paris Market & Brocante on Broughton Street, the city’s hippest shopping stretch. Sort of like a general store for the senses, you can get everything here from lemonade and cupcakes to the rarest coffee table books, vintage shell collections, Mexican candles, Santa Maria Novella toiletries, vintage signs, and more. Just down the street are a string of other cool shops including a terrific and affordable vintage store and a bargain basement Marc by Marc Jacobs emporium!!!

I could go on and on about all the wonderful discoveries on adjacent Whitaker Street, stories of haunted houses and Civil War legends, but that would spoil the fun. The best part about Savannah is what you stumble onto when you’re just strolling around – like the unlikely home of Girl Scout Founder, Juliette Gordon Low!

Read up HERE.

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Last year on our first trip to Paris together Matt and I stayed in the spectacular Hotel Ritz on the Place Vêndome. Everything about the Ritz is incredible – from the spectacular suites named after the likes of Coco Chanel, Chopin, and Marcel Proust, to the Bar Hemingway where you can sip cocktails in the same room as James Joyce and Jean-Paul Sartre once did, to the perfectly rose-infued body lotion in the bathrooms (which I stole from the maid’s trolley), to the insignia emblazoned shoehorns and ashtrays (which Matt stole from our room.)

With more impressive footnotes and expensive chintz than you can poke a stick at, the Ritz is still NOT my favorite place in the world. In fact, I could not get out of there fast enough to make it over to 18 Rue Royale, where a simple mint green can become a lifelong obsession.

Ladurée, the legendary Parisian tea salon is more than a magnificent French pastry shop. Ladurée is to macaroons what what Philip Treacy is to hats, what Mary Quant was to color, what the Taj Majal is to mausoleums. I’m not exaggerating. For weeks I tried unsuccessfully to paint our bedroom the same color as Ladurée’s lovely little napkins, but I ruined Matt’s shorts and we ended up with a room better suited to Beth Israel’s ER ward. It’s white now. LADURÉE. Go there.

Hotel Ritz

LADURÉE.