February 13, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Bobos in Paradise. The latest and greatest "it" neighborhood in Paris, a magnet for chic trend-setters, artsy creatives and bobos alike, recognizable to movie buffs as the setting for Audrey Tatou's stone-skipping-antics in Amelie. The 10th Arrondisement's Canal St. Martin is the place to be, and Chez Prune, the place to be seen. (Chez Prune, 71, quai de Valmy) A buzzing, convivial ambience, complete with brooding bearded artists and haute couture-clad fashionistas. The plates of charcuterie and fromage, accompanied by peche kir, are simply divine.
The beautifully restored 15th century mansion makes its debut this month, the second luxury hotel on the island of Mallorca for the Stein Group. Close to Palma de Mallorca and the Mediterranean Sea, in a prime location overlooking the surrounding countryside, the Gran Hotel Son Julia offers 25 guestrooms, equipped with state-of-the-art features (marble bathrooms and giant plasma TVs) while still preserving many of the original historical details. Also on the premises: spa and wellness area, gym, indoor and outdoor pools and a choice of restaurants. Take advantage of the special opening rate of EUR 75 per person during the entire month of February, when the island is covered in flowering almond blossoms.
In the dark, dismal throes of winter it's easy to fantasize about the antithesis: St. Pete's lively White Nights of Summer, when sunlight dances over the pastels of the city's buildings, lingering late into the night and inspiring people to flood the streets in understated celebration. A journey to St. Pete's is a once-in-a-lifetime must. The time to go? During the last 10 days in June, when darkness never falls, and the White Nights festival showcases ballet and dance. The city is aesthetically marvelous and steeped in culture, history and romance. Footbridges grace winding canals, framed on either end by majestic statues, and haunted by musicians drinking beer and playing guitar under the stars (or—in the case of the summertime—the endless waning sunlight).
Sites to see: With its huge dome standing proud over the Petersburg skyline, St. Isaac's Cathedral is even more extravagant on the inside: its interior a mix of marble and mosaic. The Hermitage Museum rivals the Louvre, with its overwhelming collection of art housed in the grand imperial palace on the banks of the Neva river. The Russian Museum, located in the former Mikhailovsky Palace, offers a breathtaking collection of works by Russian artists. Or follow the steps of famed Russian novelist Dostoyevsky, or his character Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. The city is rich in the literary haunts of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy.
February 9, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The French are supersizing it. In the small, historic seaside port of Rochefort, near La Rochelle on the country's Atlantic coast, expert craftsmen have undertaken an enorme project: the reconstruction of the 65 meter ship that carried the legendary General La Fayette to join General Washington and the American leaders in their fight for independence in 1780. When it was first constructed, the Hermione required 11 months of work by hundreds of skilled workers; its reconstruction will take 10 years, and cost $10 million. This is the ultimate symbol of Franco-American fraternity, and an emblem of France's past naval strength. And a brilliant museum to visit, off the beaten path in France.
February 8, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
That's right, the charming city of Aix is paying tribute to the great artist—this is the father of modern art we're talking about!-- all throughout 2006. Indeed, Cézanne's light-filled paintings have become inseparable symbols of the Provençal setting they depict, the landscape that helped create the artistic genius that influenced Cubism, Fauvism and abstract art. Head to the south of France for the spectacular exhibit Cézanne in Provence, which features over a hundred of the artist's works, with 80 oil paintings and 30 water colors—all associated with the region around Aix. Now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and showing at the Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, from June 9 - September 17, 2006. Additionally, starting April 8th the Tourism office will be operating a shuttle bus service to tour special Cezanne sites, including the studio at Les Lauves, the manor at Jas de Bouffan, and the quarries at Bibemus. The Cézanne 2006 season also includes performances, concerts, exhibitions, and music and dance. To really do it right in celebrating Cézanne's Provence, shack up at the Villa Gallici, an elegant paradise (and destination hotel) just 10 minutes from the town's historical center. (Where you can sip an aperitif on the statue-flanked terrace, overlooking the pool and Florentine gardens, before indulging in the evening's gastronomic feast.)
Villa Gallici, Official Site
Villa Gallici, Five Star Alliance
Here it is, the key to the signature Irish Coffee served by the experts at Dublin's most luxurious hotel. What better way to kill the chill of a cold winter's night.
The Merrion Irish Coffee
Jameson Irish Whiskey - 35 cl and a drop for good luck
Strong freshly brewed coffee (caffeinated or decaf)
2 Brown Sugar Cubes (depending upon required sweetness)
50 m. Heavy Cream
3 Coffee Beans
Fill a cafe latte glass with a handle with hot water and leave to warm. Brew a pot of coffee. Empty the water from the glass and place the sugar cubes inside. Caramelize the sugar by pouring a few drops of Whiskey over them and gently light with a long match. Only let it burn for a few seconds so that the sugar just begins to caramelize. Pour in the measure of Whiskey and fill with coffee to within one inch of the rim. Ensure you keep a teaspoon in the glass at this stage. Stir well and ensure the sugar is completely dissolved to avoid a grainy texture when drinking. Place the cream in a clean cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until whipped. Using the back of the spoon, gently pour the cream into the glass. Garnish with three coffee beans and serve.
And according to the good folks at The Merrion:
On a typical winter's evening, The Merrion might serve up about a dozen Irish Coffees to patrons. However Stephen Lynch, Assistant Manager for the Drawing Rooms and Bar No. 23, reports that about two-and-a-half years ago, he and his staff prepared 150 Irish Coffees in an hour and a half much to the pleasure of the entire French Rugby Team who had taken up residence in the hotel bar that evening.
The Merrion, Official Site
The Merrion, Five Star Alliance
It's not too early to start planning your summer getaway. And why not think the UK countryside? Here's a favorite spot that the mags gush and rave about-- Harpers & Queen (Nov 2005) ranks the Summer Lodge as one of the 100 Best Places in the World:
With deckchairs scattered on sprawling lawns and trays laden with afternoon tea, this wisteria-clad Relais & Chateaux hotel in the beautiful Dorset Downs feels delightfully English – an atmosphere that extends into 24 extremely pretty, individually decorated rooms and suites.
X-factor: The lovely indoor pool, which is housed in a glass conservatory that looks out on the kitchen garden.
The room to choose? Why the master bedroom, of course. Room One was originally designed for famed writer Thomas Hardy and boasts a magnificent open fireplace and four poster bed overlooking the beautifully manicured English country gardens. Though you can't go wrong with the Ivy Cottage and its private hot tub in the courtyard garden.
Summer Lodge, Official Site
Summer Lodge, Five Star Alliance
Leave it to the NYT to spill the secret: Rome in wintertime just can't be beat. Off-season hotel rates, end of season sales means shopping galore, the perfect lack of gawking crowds, and a plethora of (warm) indoor cultural activities. Where to stay? The stunning, historic Hotel de Russie (this is one of Rocco Forte's many European gems) boasts gorgeous terraced gardens and central courtyard, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city near the Spanish Steps. And the Spa—with Turkish steam bath, hydropool, jacuzzi and sauna—ain't too shabby either.
Hotel de Russie, Official Site
Hotel de Russie, Five Star Alliance
This is it. The sports event of the year and fans are already going nuts. Our advice? Get ready, set, and book those hotel ressies ASAP before rooms book up for the June games (scheduled June 9-July 9). The official site is loaded with info about this year's World Cup and its host cities of Hamburg, Hanover, Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, Dortmund, Leipzig, Cologne, Frankfurt, Kaiserlautern, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Munich. Our picks:
In Hamburg, head for the Raffles Vier Jahreszeiten which has been the city's symbol of impeccable service for over a century. The furnishings are exquisite: 16th and 17th century Flemish Gobelin tapestries, Baroque cupboards and Renaissance chests. (The mags Travel and Leisure and CNT also love this joint, and its kick-ass spa is listed as a Leading Spa by LHW.)
In Berlin, which is just hopping with trend-setters these days, there are a plethora of worthy establishments, including the Kempinski Hotel Bristol (with its kickin address), the Radisson SAS (with its 25 meter AquaDom cyclindrical aquarium in the lobby), and the beloved favorite, Schlosshotel Im Grunewald, the historic castle hotel that offers only 54 exclusive rooms and 12 suites, designed by the one and only Karl Lagerfeld.
In the heart of Bavaria, you simply can't go wrong with Munich's Mandarin Oriental or the Bayerischer Hof, dating from 1841 and now the country's largest privately-owned hotel (with central location and rooftop pool to boot).
Now get moving.
February 4, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
As we've come to expect, the NYT shines in this superb piece about going to Turin for the Olympic Games. Cultural sites you can't miss, transportation once you're there, and all the Olympic events and venues...