(I did a crazy tour of Europe at Christmas – Paris, London, Berlin & Rome and it was wonderful. But as soon as I started back at work, my motivation to post about all the things I did became rather daunting. So, I'm going to post about individual things as they occur to me now versus being chronological. So bare with me if my posts seem to jump around!)
If you want a boutique hotel in Rome with the hot new restaurant and a cool bar scene, this is not your place. If you're looking for something decidedly more calm and peaceful – Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli is worth a look. It was the last hotel I stayed at during my tour and my most favourite. A converted monestary, it's a pretty little gem of a hotel with a beautiful courtyard filled with lemon trees. Located in the Trastevere neighborhood in the west bank of the city – south of Vatican City, it's in an area crammed with character thanks to the narrow cobbled streets lined by medieval buildings that house tiny shops and restaurants.
In terms of location, we basically walked everywhere we needed to go within 20 minutes, so we never needed to take cabs or transit, which was ideal.
Overall, a charming hotel that was just the right fit for a quiet little Christmas stay.
This lovely bag was my secret weapon during my vaca. I rolled it up like a cigar enroute to Paris and then stuffed it later with all my purchases for the remainder of the trip. It was a perfect carry-on size and because of the glazed finish, every additional scratch and mark just added to it's buttery worn-in patina.
I've lost count of how many times I've visited Paris – the number is in the teens now, but even so, every visit is like my first. I never lose my sense of awe and delight. The city is just a huge advent calendar to me – every door opens to some wonderful new gift.
Knowing the backstory behind anything always makes it a richer experience, so it was a special thrill to eat at Corton so soon after enjoying A Matter of Taste at TIFF. You can see my previous post about Paul here.
MOOD: The look of the room is cool and dark – bit cave like at night with the lack of windows. Vibe in the room is quiet, intimate, yet friendly – not stuffy at all.
PRICE: The 9 course tasting menu is $155
WHEN WE WENT: Saturday dinner
WHAT: MB and I both had the 9 course tasting menu.
TRY: Whatever they put in front of you.
SKIP: Maybe only the chocolates, jellies and macaroons at the end because you might be ill from consuming so much. I indulged so excessively that by the end, I felt positively intoxicated with food. But, to be fair, I must disclose, that I did eat at Jean Georges earlier that very same day – so not entirely this menu's fault! I am a piglet! ;)
SERVICE: Consistent and pleasant but hard to understand the food descriptions at times given some softspoken staff.
REPEAT?: Without question, I will be visiting Corton on every subsequent visit to New York. It is a must. Side note: MB and I were walking through Tribeca a day after eating at Corton and saw Paul Liebrandt walking right in front of us (see photo above). I loved our dinner so much that I wanted to grab him and thank him personally but knew it would come across crazy, so I kept my distance and just smiled.
MOST NOTABLE: Being consistently surprised with every dish and the wonderful sense of discovery you feel as you try to recognize and deconstruct your beautiful and at times, abstract food. Paul's unshakeable commitment to excellence and creativity is so deeply evident with every new course presented – you can literally taste the devotion and artistry. The man is a genius. Am I gushing or what?!
ANYTHING ELSE?: Pastry Chef Shawn Gawle created a dessert that was so spectacular that I almost felt like crying while eating it. I realize how absurd and pretentious that sounds, but it was that good!
Please note that my photographs do not do the food justice!
I don't generally post about things I don't like on this blog. I tend to focus on the positive. But, given that I was in New York for this length of time, I feel compelled to mention where I stayed (client mandated & paid for) and give some brief but hopefully helpful feedback.
Don't stay at a Westin/W Hotel in Times Square. They are expensive and completely unexceptional in every possibile way. The decor is dated and cheap, the service is lacking and bored and the rates are ridiculous for what you actually get. They are simply put, tourist traps for the clueless.
Faced with finding a fun gift for a friend this weekend, I remembered an old stand-by that always pleases. Louis Vuitton City Guides are a fool proof option for friends that love to travel in style – concise, compact, reliable, useful and so pretty.
I bought my first set in 2000 and carried the Paris edition in my handbag the whole time I lived in France.
Found some charming video excerpts here about Paris & New York:
Every year, I make a point of visiting beautiful Sandbanks at least once to soak up the sun on it's fine, white sandy beaches.
If you've never been, you must go – it's a small slice of heaven on the east part of lake Ontario where the water is clean and the shoreline has a great sand bar that keeps you wading up to your navel for many yards out.
There is definitely a reason Wallpaper presented The Ace Hotel with a design award – it is very considered. Every detail has been worked over and it shows – it's a singular vision of hipster chic and a welcome change to an expected and pervasive (W/Hudson) hotel aesthetic that has become so ubiquitous, that urban travellers may forget where they are at times.
The darkly lit main foyer (you'd sware it was 11pm at night all the time) and seating area were packed no matter what time of day with a steady stream of intriguing, artisitc types all bathed in the glow of their digi-devices with friendly ACE staff milling about.
I enjoyed several very competant meals at the hotel's restaurant, The Breslin, and happily geeked out at No. 8a, the totally awesome and quirky gift shop – where I bought a bunch of cool Kaweco fountain pens.
The room was fun – it made me feel like a 18 year old boy with it's very heavy handed masculine vibe and hip, street accents crossed with vintage Americana. The massive King bed was very comfy but, again, the lighting was so dark, I could barely find anything in my luggage or see my face while putting on my make-up in the morning. The fully loaded, not to mention full-sized Smeg fridge screamed: "Party!!!" , which obviously reinfored the whole super cool dorm room mood.
Overall, I liked it. I'd recommend trying it for a night or two at least – it has it's charm.
All images courtesy of Wallpaper except for the first Hipstamtic – that one's mine ;)
P.S. Their website doesn't do the rooms or the hotel justice. Google other images to get a real sense of the space.
Yes indeed! I'm off to super glamorous Windsor today, (and yes I had to look it up because I had no idea where it was), to learn about Canadian Club Whiskey; it's rich history and how it's made. Since I'm not a big drinker at all and I'm traveling with a very cantankerous colleague of mine, this could get messy folks – just warning you now. Ta.
Since I've been doing research on Barcelona, I thought I would share the lovely series of books from Taschen that I like to refer to when visiting certain cities. All of the books (Paris, London, Berlin, New York & Barcelona) are so well designed and thought out and have beautifully illustrated covers and maps.
The Four Seasons in Florence, a former papal residence, is perhaps as close to the divine as a mere mortal can hope to get these days. Boasting a beautiful Renaissance palazzo, 15th century frescos and the largest private garden in Italy – I don't know how you can go home after and not want to set fire to everything you own.