Tag Archive | "London"

When the Going was Good: Our 30 Favorite Trips in 2013

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The incredible team that puts together Everett Potter’s Travel Report every week is a well-traveled bunch. So asking our contributors about their favorite travel moment in 2013 produced joy, angst and lengthy answers, as well as the inevitable,  “Just one?”

Herewith are some highlights from our travels in 2013.

F8

BRAZIL

Riding a horse out of dense Brazilian rain forest and into a clearing where the Atlantic came into shimmering view, during a modified version of the horseback-and-hiking trek between two of my all-time favorite hotels, Fazenda Catucaba and Pousada Picinguaba. I was with the owner on a scouting mission for what will eventually become a two-day trip from the mountains to the sea (he’s hoping to get it going next year), with stops for gourmet picnics with the fazenda’s homemade cheese and breads and a night of glamping in a safari-style campsite, though virgin UNESCO-protected forests so untouched that we walked much of the way behind state park guides wielding machetes to break a path. – Ann Abel

 

f9

CHICAGO


I’d never really thought of going to one of the country’s biggest cities to unwind by a pool until last winter. My husband, daughter and I wanted to fly off to a beach for a relaxing winter getaway, but her UChicago break was too short. Our solution: we booked a mini-suite at the Four Seasons Chicago and promised ourselves we wouldn’t let the fact that all of Chicago was at our doorstep entice us to get into urban mode. Happily we kept our promise. The hotel’s Roman-columned pool, with a huge Jacuzzi and light streaming in through the skylight and floor-to-ceiling window wall let us forget how cold the Chicago winter was. We ventured out once to walk to one of the museums and take a shopping stroll down Michigan Avenue. But mostly our weekend consisted of lazing on the lounge chairs, swimming in the warm pool, and sipping cool drinks in the graciously-sized Jacuzzi. Oh yes, and enjoying room service. Pina colada anyone? - Geri Bain

 

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NYC

By far it was taking my first solo trip with my son to New York City. For his birthday if there was anywhere he could go in the world, where would it be? “New York City,” he said and pointed to it on the map next to his bunk bed. “It’s my favorite place in the universe.” We spent one epic day and night in the city — stayed at the fun and funky Ace Hotel in Midtown (“What’s a record?” he asked while playing with the turntable), hit the NYPL’s Children’s Literature Exhibit, the Nathan Sawaya Lego Art exhibit, rode the subways (“Better than a rollercoaster!”) and had a fancy dinner downtown at Chef Ryan Hardy’s Charlie Bird. And to celebrate the big day? An appearance in the Today Show crowd, a stroll through the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center, lunch and gelato at Eataly and “The Lion King” on Broadway. Even the train rides in and out of the city were a hit. More importantly we got to share our love of travel, discovery, food, people and art  together! – Amiee White Beazley 

 

F10

CANADA CRUISE

Just back from my best travel experience this year–sailing out of my home port, New York City at night (a thrill!) and cruising up the Atlantic coast to Canada on Regent’s Navigator.  All of the stops were fun–Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saguenay, Quebec and Montreal, but the real surprise was visiting familiar close-to-home places like Newport and Bar Harbor that I’ve loved on land but found a treat seen from a new perspective, as ports of call.  - Eleanor Berman

 

F11

FLANDERS

Out on the road, every year has its special moments.  The Belgian province of Flanders, just beyond the center of Ypres, is where some of World War I’s bloodiest fighting occurred and where many events of the Great World War I Centenary will be celebrated in 2014.  Standing in Essex Farm Cemetery, beside the mossy bunker of the medical station where Lt. Col. John McCrae, a doctor, penned his poem, “In Flanders Fields,” I gazed out at the lines of headstones and could almost see those long-ago battlefields and hear his famous words: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the headstones, row on row.”  – Monique Burns

 

F 1

COLORADO

My best travel story of 2013 was staying up Little Woody Creek Valley with a recently-sited mountain lion, in a guest house once visited by Margaret Thatcher. The former Prime Minister happened to die while I was staying there, so each time I went for a walk, I imagined the mountain lion might appear and I’d suddenly find myself having tea with the Iron Lady in the ever after. - Melissa Coleman

 

F12

MONTEREY, CA

One of the most memorable moments of our family trip to Northern California last summer took place during a guided sea kayaking tour of Monterey Bay. Just at a spot where the winds got strong and paddling got a little rough, a rollicking band of sea lions and harbor seals swarmed around us and started clowning around for what seemed to be our amusement.  Seals were playfully nudging our kayaks and diving in between us.  Sea lions pups were leaping out of the water and striking funny poses midair.  It was hard to take our eyes off of them.  Talk about the greatest show on earth! -Jessica Genova

 

F13

PERU

The Andean Explorer, PeruRail’s luxury train service between Cuzco and Puno, is the greatest surface transportation trip I have ever taken in Latin America — and certainly the best choice for traveling to or from Lake Titicaca. The journey is not short — a full day, in fact — but the 10 hours go by quickly. One reason is the excellent entertainment: two different bands and dance troupes, featuring music and folklore from both the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Andean plateau, perform in the morning and afternoon. A leisurely lunch consisting of regional specialties is included in the train fare, as is afternoon tea. Following lunch, the talented bartender in the observation car gives lessons in mixing Peru’s classic cocktail, the pisco sour. The scenic highlight of the journey — best enjoyed from the open-air rear car — is watching the sunset over Lake Titicaca, framed by the majestic peaks of the Bolivian Andes.  The staff provides friendly and attentive service throughout the journey; and given the international make-up of the train’s passengers, there are many opportunities to strike up interesting conversations with fellow travelers from many different countries. Cuzco and Machu Picchu are deservedly the leading tourist attractions in this part of the world; but Lake Titicaca — the highest navigable body of water in the world, and home to the fascinating people who live on the lake’s artificial floating islands — is a very worthwhile excursion. Especially since getting there is now half the fun. – Buzzy Gordon

 

F14

BRAZIL

Return to Brazil – from the toucans flying overhead, monkeys rustling the trees and up-close mists of Iguazu falls from our base at the newish Orient Express Cataratas – to the chic cobblestone streets, stylish boutiques, great dining and fabulous beaches of Buzios – to the always touristy but for a very good reason Christo in Rio, along with climbing up the base of Pao de Acucar / Sugarloaf Mtn. Bring on the Olympics and World Cup! - Cari Gray

 

F15

ALASKA

You’ve just marveled at Alaska’s great receding Mendenhall Glacier and have heeded the ranger’s suggestion to head to a nearby stream. Even forewarned, you’re still startled by the sight of the bear pushing purposefully through the high grass toward the shallow water.  As if scripted, she enters the stream. Snatches a slow moving, spawning salmon.  And drops it in the grass maybe 15 feet from your privileged perch on a fenced, raised boardwalk built expressly for this moment. Her two cubs join her, but get little of this catch, as the sow bites hungrily into the fish.  You’re so close that you hear the salmon bones crunching.  - John Grossmann

 

F16

MINNESOTA

Mall of America…where else can you ride a roller coaster, see a movie, eat in any one of 60 restaurants, witness a wedding in a Vegas-style marriage chapel, shop for Chanel, buy naughty lingerie or a hockey stick and have any part of your body pierced? Minneapolis itself was an eye-opening experience for this admitted New York City snob.  - Shari Hartford

 

F2

HONOLULU

While checking out the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, my husband and I ventured up to the hillside cactus and succulent garden on the campus. Pretty wonderful we thought. And then we discovered the “po.e.tree,” a virtual tree of poems written by visitors and clipped onto a hodgepodge of branches. (See if you can find mine in the pic.) Best part, though, was spotting Moriso Teraoka, a 100th Infantry Battalion Vet who founded the garden in ’88 with a donation of plants and still helps to maintain it with a battalion of volunteers (that’s him hiking up the stairs). Sweet guy for such a prickly project. - Linda Hayes

 

F17

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

I’m not one for life-sized, wax replicas of historical figures. But in the Yusupov Palace on the Moika River in St. Petersburg, the waxen likenesses of the men who attempted the murder of Rasputin– and of the infamous Siberian “Mad Monk” himself at the end of the table–changed my mind. There, in the dark and creaky basement, the aristocracy will give the huge, fire-eyed peasant poison enough to kill a horse….but not, it turned out, to kill him. Instead, the seemingly indestructible mystic will undergo one of the most bizarre and protracted demises in history. It’s a mesmerizing and memorable stage set. - Dalma Heyn 

 

F3

THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Floreana was the highlight of our family trip to Ecuador. Spent one perfect day viewing century-old tortoises, dining at a ranch with descendants of the island’s first settlers, and then snorkeling by ourselves with mega-sized sea turtles and none-too-shy sea lions. -Steve Jermanok

 

F18

AMSTERDAM

My Best 2013 Travel Moment was witnessing, firsthand, the power of travel to heal. In June, still reeling from the death of my mother and difficult ongoing divorce negotiations, I went to Amsterdam to do two stories for EPTR. Just being airborne gave my spirits a lift; experiencing a healing Watsu spa treatment gave me the first chance to unexpectedly be in touch with my mourning and the gifts of my mother’s life. New vistas, new energy, new perspective and new hope for the future sound like a lot of baggage to put onto a four-day trip, but that’s what happened. Travel expands and travel can help the healing process. I discovered that, and am grateful for it. - Mary Alice Kellogg

 

F19

LONDON

I rented an attic apartment atop a house in the Kilburn section of northwest London for two weeks – very basic, but light-filled, quiet and equipped with a small kitchen and bath – and spent my days writing, looking at art, and walking, walking, walking as I discovered areas and aspects of the city that, despite having visited nearly a dozen times before, were previously unknown to me. It was, far and away, the most enjoyable travel experience of my life. - Marc Kristal

 

F20

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CA

Last April, the ski writers association held its 50th anniversary meeting at Mammoth Mountain, in California. The day I arrived it seemed like spring and I was concerned about having enough snow. O me of little faith! The first morning, I awoke and discovered that a storm overnight had covered the mountain and our base area with a blanket of new snow. We skied joyfully the next few days (though it was a tad windy!) On one particular day, I skied with a retired ski writer who spends many of her days in Vermont. She was not just beautiful to watch; she was swift. I had trouble keeping up with her. When I asked how old she was, she said in a conspiratorial voice: “I’m 84, but I don’t want people to know.” I replied: “You’re my hero!” - Grace Lichtenstein

 

F21

THE LOIRE VALLEY

Even though I’ve lived in Paris for years, I hadn’t done a long, comprehensive trip of the Loire Valley chateaux in many years, so it was a huge pleasure to rediscover their magnificence during a week-long trip this past May, the perfect time for visiting this part of France. I especially loved Chenonceau for its fairy-tale elegance and Villandry for its magnificent gardens and history–it was restored by a passionate couple–Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish nobleman, and Anne Coleman, a Pennsylvania steel heiress, who met while studying medicine in Paris. Other great finds were the Restaurant Olivier Arlot in Montbazon and the superb wines of the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups by winemaker Jacky Blot in Montlouis. - Alec Lobrano

 

F22

PRAGUE

I expected to be overwhelmed by Prague’s wealth of baroque, art nouveau, and gothic buildings. But I was speechless when I discovered cubist architecture unique to the Czech Republic. In 1911, Joseph Gočár designed the Herbst department store, now the landmark House of the Black Madonna and the Grand Café Orient where I had a cubist donut. Those prismatic architectural forms also welcomed me, a privileged houseguest, to my friends’ flat. - Julie Maris/Semel

 

F6

RAROTONGA

We’re on Rarotonga, a reef-ringed isle in the middle of the South Pacific. Rarotonga has palm trees and beaches and tropical fish, but it’s best known for its church singing. We go to church. The singing is magnificent; harmonies that start with a couple of men in a back pew, then ascend through the pews and climax with the choir. I’m floored with the beauty. That’s the first revelation. The second comes when I notice what one of the choir ladies is doing during the sermon. Happily, Effin Older caught the moment with her Canon. – Jules Older & Effin Older

 

F23

SPAIN

Tapas crawl in San Sebastian, spiritual heart of Spanish tapas culture. - Larry Olmsted

 

F7

SANTA FE

The highlight for 2013 has to be our July visit to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. This colorful gathering of some 150 artisans from all over the world–Korea, Israel, Mexico, Tajikistan, you name it–lets market-goers get up close and personal with the men and women who bring their wares and sell them on the spot. So you’re free to strike up a conversation with a woman from the Ok Pop Tok weaving collective in Laos, or a wood carver from Mexico who’s been proclaimed a national living treasure. One day we attended a lecture and demonstration of Tuvan throat singing, which turned out to be both fascinating and remarkably moving. (Quick: Can you find Tuva on a map?). Even better, the artisans are given the tools to return home and work in their villages to build solid businesses from their traditional crafts. All in all, we look forward to making it an annual pilgrimage.  - Tom Passavant & Karen Glenn (photo)

 

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KAUAI

The view over Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Kauai must be one of the wondrous in the world, a backdrop of rugged mountains that form the Napali Coast, a dragons’ back covered in green. This is where my wife, daughter and I went on a short voyage on a handmade sailing canoe, crafted and captained by a local guy named Trevor Cabell. Trevor took us snorkeling among 250 pound sea turtles and provided commentary on a 60-something local surfing legend as the guy caught the biggest wave of the day, 50 yards from where we floated. Then Trevor hoisted sail and off we went on a thrill ride across the waves racing into Hanalei Bay. With the extraordinary green background, it was not hard to imagine Polynesians sailing the Pacific and approaching this same shore. Covered in salt spray, we seemed to be  flying over the breaking waves, as Trevor guided the outrigger using his paddle as a tiller. When the canoe finally touched the beach, I realized that what felt like a journey had been merely a two hour trip on the Bay. That’s when you know that the going is good. – Everett Potter

 

Oscar Wilde sculpture

DUBLIN

An unexpected breath of joy in colored stone: A leafy retreat in Dublin’s Merrion Square shelters a beloved memorial to Oscar Wilde, nonchalantly lounging on a massive boulder in a natty green jacket with quilted red lapels and cuffs, looking at his long-time childhood home across the street at 1 Merrion Sq. Nearby, Wilde witticisms, graffiti-like, cover two black obelisks, to wit, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” - Joan Scobey

 

F24

NYC

New York City — where I’ve lived twice in my adult lifetime—once again welcomed me like an old friend in 2013. My husband, Joe, and I explored Manhattan from stem to stern, including a tour of the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid at Pier 86, a stroll along the Highline elevated park and a preview of the poignant and powerful 9/11 Memorial.  We made a delicious detour to Chef Mario Batali’s Eataly, browsed the beautiful book collection at Rizzoli and meandered through Central Park on perfect fall days. You can go home again, even if just for a holiday. - Julie Snyder

 

F25

JAMAICA

My most memorable travel moment of the year was rafting in Port Antonio, Jamaica. A “captain” on the log raft beside us was coaxed into singing the “Banana Boat Song (Day O),” a traditional Jamaican folk song made popular by Harry Belafonte.  The gentle soft crooning combined with the murmuring sound of the mini rapids of the river was soothing. (At least until the person next to me decided to sing along.)  - Gerrie Summers

 

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OREGON

I was on a ski trip to Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor last March. The nearest hotel was about 20 miles away in the town of Bend. I didn’t relish the idea of driving that far every day to get to the slopes, but then I didn’t know the highway ran straight through the Deschutes National Forest. Massive rocks, towering trees, and sweeping vistas at every turn. Hope to do again soon. – Bill Triplett

 

F5

AMSTERDAM

Best  Moment:  Standing with my wife in late July afternoon sunshine looking at our new home in an old canal house on Amsterdam’s Herengracht Canal. – Richard West

 

F27

SAN JUAN, PR

Paddle boarding with my bride — this was our 25th anniversary celebration — in Condado Lagoon, San Juan. Manatees with Ben Turpin mustaches (Note to 16th-century sailors: You really thought they were mermaids?) kept rising to the surface, where they lingered so we could get a good look at them. From there we went to Roberto Trevino’s Bar Gitano, a tapas bar in the Condado. Who knew they’d have soshito peppers sauteed in olive oil and salt? We polished them off and then drank way too much, but what the hell, great food + a great lady. - Ed Wetschler

 

F28

PARK CITY, UTAH

This June, I finally understood what local say about Park City, Utah – you come for winter, you stay for summer. I discovered the wonders of mountain biking on terrain I’ve skied so many years. And I dined on Main Street with 2,300 others one summer’s night to experience the resort’s fine cuisine. – David McKay Wilson

Smart Deals: The Royal Child at The Athenaeum Hotel, London

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Queen Elizabeth making sandcastle at Craigwell House in Bognor, on view at The Athenaeum Hotel in London this summer.

Queen Elizabeth making sandcastles at Craigwell House in Bognor, on view at The Athenaeum Hotel in London this summer.

What’s the Deal: In a summer that will include HM The Queen’s Coronation Anniversary and the birth of a Royal baby, The Athenaeum Hotel, in the heart of  Mayfair within sight of Buckingham Palace will offer its own celebration. Between Saturday, June 22nd and August 31st, the Athenaeum will be hosting an exhibition of more than 40 rarely-seen photos of the Royal family’s children, from Victorian times to the present day. The ‘Royal Child’ exhibition, curated in partnership with Royal Life Magazine, includes a striking, never-before-published image of HM The Queen making sandcastles in Sussex at the age of four (see above). On weekends until the end of August, guests will be able to view the photographs over a sumptuous afternoon tea in the Hyde Park suite and listen to the insights from Royal photographer Ian Pelham Turner and Helena Chard.

 What’s the Backstory: The Athenaeum’s Royal Summer Afternoon Tea will include honey roast ham with Royal Park honey, arugula and red onion marmalade sandwiches, along with Royal drop orange blossom scones with rich Devonshire clotted cream and homemade English strawberry jam. Not to mention traditional British cakes and pastries, including Victoria sponge cake with Royal icing, Battenberg cake and English strawberry tartlets. The Athenaeum was named 2012 winner of the Top London Afternoon Tea award from the Tea Guild.There are two sittings per day at weekends, priced at £60 (approximately $93) per person.

 What are the Details: The Royal Child’ Photography Exhibition and Royal Tea accommodation package starts at $823, based on double occupancy, and includes  a deluxe room, two places at the Royal Child afternoon tea and two tickets for Buckingham Palace – The State Rooms and Garden Highlight Tour. Rates include full English breakfast daily, all drinks and snacks from the mini-bar, tax of 20%, free meals for children under 12, one-way transfer from any London airport for a three-night stay or round-trip for a five-night stay.  Subsequent nights are $579.

 Booking: Call 800-335-3300 or visit www.athenaeumhotel.com/

Europe This Summer: Airfares Up, Hotel Rates Down

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EiffelTower

By Larry Olmsted

There has been a lot of talk the past six months about rising airfares, here and abroad, but summer vacation season to Europe is when leisure travelers typically get sticker shock, with peak season fares ratcheted up.

The bad news is that fares are higher this summer to the most popular western European gateways. But the good news is that in most cases the increases are pretty small, not enough to make travelers change plans. For instance, according to leading travel booking website Orbitz.com, flights from the US to Dublin jumped all of 1% from summer 2012 to summer 2013, meaning you will pay on average $8 more than last year. Hardly a game changer.

But the most notable thing for summer travel is that in some European markets hotel rates are down so significantly they make up – or even surpass – any airfare increases. Read more at Forbes.com

 

DSC_0067-150x150   Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com

 

Smart Deals: David Bowie & Radisson Blu Edwardian, London

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David Bowie & striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour 1973Design by Kansai YamamotoPhotograph by Masayoshi Sukita© Sukita The David Bowie Archive 2012

David Bowie & striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour 1973
Design by Kansai Yamamoto
Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita
© Sukita The David Bowie Archive 2012

 

Smart Deals: Radisson Blu Edwardian, London, a collection of stylish London, has partnered with the Victoria and Albert Museum to offer their guests tickets to the “David Bowie is” exhibition, which runs from March 23rd until  July 28th, 2013.

The Backstory: ‘David Bowie is’ will feature more than 300 objects including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, photography by Brian Duffy; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell; visual excerpts from films and live performances including The Man Who Fell to Earth, music videos such as Boys Keep Swinging and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974.)

The Deal: The Radisson Blu Edwardian, London “David Bowie is” package includes; overnight accommodation and breakfast for two, plus a pair of open tickets to the “David Bowie is” exhibition (worth in excess of $128) from just $257 per room, per night.

Fine Print: Taxes are extra. The package is available at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Vanderbilt, Mercer Street and Hampshire hotels. Exhibition tickets are valid for any day or time, and include fast-track entry.

Booking: Visit www.radissonblu-edwardian.com/davidbowieis

 

 

Our Grand Tour – First Stop, London

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Jenny Keroack (left) and Geri Bain, on the Grand Tour.

She Said; She Said

By Geri Bain & Jenny Keroack

Inspired by the grand tours of aristocrats past and the more recent adventures of TV’s Gilmore Girls, 18 year old Jenny Keroack proposed that she and her mom, travel writer Geri Bain take their own grand voyage. This summer the two set out to share as much of the Old World as thirty days would allow. Setting out from London and finishing in Barcelona, they recorded their favorite places and activities. Jenny’s are in italics while Geri’s are in regular type. Read about their adventures, explorations and all the schleps in between. The following is their first installment, logged from London, England.

We decided to jump right into our new time zone with a busy first day in London and neither jet lag or the on-off drizzling rain were going to stop us. After a quick check in at our hotel, we walked to Westminster Abbey, continued on to the Imperial War Museum and kept going until 10 p.m. that night.

London’s May Fair Hotel

Settling In: From the May Fair Hotel, we walked everywhere–from Bond Street (about five minutes) to Trafalgar Square (about 20 minutes) to the Globe Theater (about 45 minutes). We loved the location, but the best part of staying at the May Fair was its feeling of intimacy and pampering. The front desk clerks and concierge greeted us each time we returned “home” and pitchers of flat and sparkling water and apples in the lobby were a welcoming touch. We never made it to the spa but we enjoyed the international mix of fellow guests at breakfast and afternoon tea and keeping our eyes peeled for celebs at the bar. It was also fun knowing that the Bachelorette TV show had filmed a recent episode here and celebrities like Pink have made this their base in London.

Fighter planes inside the Imperial War Museum.

Imperial War Museum (IWM London). We entered a grand atrium filled with fighter planes hovering in the air and war vehicles on the floor– some open to exploration. My reason for coming was the “Secret War” exhibit, where the double lives of England’s undercover agents are revealed in the guns, gadgets and other personal items along with film snippets and interactive displays. Jenny was drawn to the walk-through World War I trench exhibit, realistic to the stench and sounds of war. Having just seen the movie War Horse, the recreation of trench life with life size model soldiers and video clips, felt quite impactful.

The National Gallery: I’ve always been captivated by Greek and Roman mythology, especially the more romantic characters like Zeus, Cupid and Minerva. I found a ton of paintings depicting these and other characters at the National Gallery. One room actually had three versions of Paris awarding the apple of beauty to Venus. If I lived in London, I’d spend a lot of time here. The collection spans from the 13th century to the present, and amazingly, as in most London museums, there’s no admission fee..

Shakespeare’s Globe is a faithful reconstruction of the original open-air playhouse.

Shakespeare’s Globe: When the narrator of Henry V spoke about “this big wooden O” (referring to the circular wooden theater) Jenny poked me and said, “this wouldn’t make sense anywhere else”. She was right. The Globe is a special place to see Shakespeare’s work and, as in the Bard’s time, seeing plays there needn’t be expensive. Standing room, which fills the center of the open-air theater, costs only £5. More expensive seating under the thatch roof keeps viewers dry and comfy. Since it rained quite heavily the night we went, we were glad we’d bought seats. The music–lyres, recorders and drums–added to the historic feel. All that was missing was spectators in period dress and ripe fruit being thrown on stage to make us really think we’d traveled back to Elizabethan London.

Piccadilly Circus: Not even kidding, I would go to a place called Piccadilly Circus just because it’s called Piccadilly. That said, its name is not the main attraction. It’s essentially a much more charming version of Times Square and in the center of a great shopping area. What struck me most about the Piccadilly area was that you would come out of a store, bags in hand, and be staring at some black marble statue and behind that would be some neon sign and behind that would be a strikingly beautiful Victorian building. The blend of old and new—and the shopping–definitely warrant a trip.

A mounted sentry at Horse Guards Arch.

London by Bike: We used the same company, Fat Tire Bike Tours, as on our last trip to Europe and were not disappointed either time. The owner told my mom that their tours consistently use a basic script that each guide personalizes. The guides are funny, nice, and take you to the main sites such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster. They also tell interesting stories, such as one about the statue of George Washington at Trafalgar Square that actually stands on Virginian soil because Washington said he would never set foot on British soil again.

Next stop, Oxford.

 

Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.

18-year-old Jenny Keroack wrote for the Observer Tribune from 2009 to 2012 and has been published in the Riverdale Press and Elegant Lifestyles. She was a researcher/blogger for the N.Y. League of Conservation Voters last summer and will be studying political science at the University of Chicago this fall.

Letter from London: June Masterpiece

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Masterpiece exterior depicting the façade of the Royal Hospital Chelsea

By Sallie Brady

“Where is the tent?” asked one fair-goer. “I thought this fair was in a tent.”

“You’re standing in it,” replied another.

It was the opening gala three year’s ago now of the inaugural edition of London’s Masterpiece Fair.  Held in a stunning custom-built marquee, the facade so well replicated the red brick architecture of Chelsea, most visitors thought they were housed in bricks and mortar.

This is not your ordinary antiques affair. Founded by a handful of London’s tip-top antique furniture dealers, the idea was to combine the absolute finest of art, antiques and jewelry with luxury goods and some high-end whimsy. So, this year, you can shop for a bronze cast of Rodin’s The Kiss, never before on public view, selling with the Sladmore Gallery; or come home with a rare 1,000 B.C. Egyptian sarcophagus coffin, complete with its mummy board being sold by the Safani Gallery; or drive away in the custom Rolls-Royce that the British carmaker debuts here annually.

Prince Harry contemplates a Monet

There is also antique furniture, 20th-century design, contemporary photography, antiquities, paintings, sculpture, vintage jewelry, ceramics, even a collection of 600 mechanical pencils from the Victorian era that is being sold as a set by John Bull Antiques. Any takers?

Of all the fairs of London’s Season, Masterpiece draws the most glam clientele with the likes of Elton John, Paul Smith, Prince Harry, Uma Thurman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Princess Michael of Kent, Tom Ford, and Anish Kapoor wandering the airy aisles. Entry is L20; June 28 to July 4.

Jumeirah Carlton Tower London

 

Where to Stay:London hotel rates can be frightful and too often I’ve booked one of those too-good-to-be-true on Travelocity and drained my bank account on taxis journeying back-and-forth to Siberia. A decent rate in a good location with value-added extras can actually be a good strategy. Jumeirah CarltonTower is a five-star in Knightsbridge within walking distance of Harrod’s,Sloane Square, and a fast taxi to Masterpiece. The Jumeirah brand, which is out of Dubai, and might not be as well known points west, is always top-notch. This hotel also offers something extraordinary for London, The Peak, a serious health club that includes a generous pool with laned swimming under an airy glass atrium, as well as Jacuzzis and steam rooms; a rooftop state-of-the-art gym, also enclosed in glass; and a golf simulator and swing coach. Jumeirah Carlton House guests are complimentary members for all sans the golf. For anyone who wants to keep consistent with a workout, shake off jet-lag, or just have a warm soak after a day of hideous English weather, it’s bliss.

 

Jumeirah Carlton Tower; Cadogan Place; 011.44.20.7235.1234; Pre-booked rooms starting from L180.

 

A Late-Night Bite in Chelsea: MostLondon restaurants don’t serve dinner after10 p.m.. Always trying to push out my day–and of course, originating from a slightly earlier time zone–it’s nice to discover an eatery that serves late. PJ’s Bar in Grill inChelsea is a convivial English take on a brasserie, where you can order anything from Loch Fyne oysters to steak frites to moules provencale. The owner’s vintage polo kit collection hangs about, as well as a massive World War I airplane propeller. Monday through Saturday PJ’s closes at12 p.m., with last order taken at11:30 p.m.; on Sunday last order taken at10:30 p.m. for11 p.m. closing.

P.J.’s Bar & Grill; 52 Fulham Road; 011.44.20.7581.0025.

Traveler’s Tip: Don’t stop for lunch before coming to Masterpiece. The fair’s pop-up restaurants are mini-mes of some of the poshest tables in the English capital. At Le Caprice you could find yourself dining next to Mick Jagger or Prince Harry, and there’s also Scott’s Seafood, Harry’s Bar, and the Mount Street Deli–Princess Alexandra–the fair patron and Queen’s cousin–fancies their brownies.

Sallie Brady writes about travel and also covers the international art, antiques and design markets. A former editor at GQ, House Beautiful, This Old House, and travel editor at Bride’s, she contributes to Conde Nast Traveler, ForbesLife, Veranda, Art & Antiques, Business Traveler, 1stdibs.com, New York Spaces and has contributed to Esquire, The New York Times, Travel+Leisure.com, and other publications. Previously she was the New York correspondent for the inflight magazine for British Airways’ Concorde passengers.

 

No. 11 Cadogan Gardens, London

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The hotel’s discreet exterior, in the heart of posh Chelsea. Courtesy of No 11 Cadogan Gardens

By Ann Abel

While splashy new hotels like the Bulgari and the Corinthia battle it out for pre-Olympic prominence, the under-the-radar hotel-ification of No. 11 Cadogan Gardens offers proof positive of the charms of British reserve and discretion.

The 54-room hotel is nothing if not discreet, holding onto its heritage as a private club for Victorian elites even though it’s now a public hotel owned by the same family that runs the more established, conservative Cadogan hotel nearby (famously the site of Oscar Wilde’s arrest for gross indecency in 1895). A rabbit warren of dark-wood-paneled corridors and spiraling staircases, the place has an air of rakish glamour: it’s clubby, posh, and perfectly suited to its tony Chelsea environs.

No. 11 Cadogan Gardens’ “mirror room,” one of the hotel’s many alluring spots for a small meeting or dinner. Courtesy No 11 Cadogan Gardens.

There’s also just enough cheekiness, the form of pink chandeliers, vintage black-and-white photos of celebrities behaving badly (I was disappointed to learn that these were purchased from a Hollywood dealer, having initially convinced myself the stars been photographed at No. 11), and so many mirrors that when my property tour led me to the “mirror room,” one of many glam spaces for small dinners or meetings, I had to laugh. It’s an alluring room, though, and made me wish I’d had a half-dozen Londoners I’d needed to hold court with.

The guest rooms are individually decorated and range from the demure beige room I was given (no. 208) to the wildly seductive Valesques Suite, with its red-velvet-draped four-poster bed and red velvet coffee table. (There are also four private apartments with their own garages.) Their bathrooms belie the building’s late-19th-century roots, as they’re on the snug side. (Historical charm, right?) I found mine more than comfortable but rarely spent time in it, preferring the serene, modern drawing room with its enticing fireplace during the day and the sexy, film-noir-ish bar after dinner. Let the hordes clamber for trendy points; the quiet members-only vibe suited me just fine.

The hotel had been open about three weeks when I visited in early June, and already the service was beyond seamless. The front desk staff escorted me every time I got lost looking for the restaurant (in the basement), and a bartender raced up two flights of stairs to adjust my room’s thermostat himself after I’d asked if the heat was still working. (This was England in June, after all.)

A wood-burning fireplace makes the drawing room a cozy spot for tea.Courtesy No 11 Cadogan Gardens

There are flashier addresses in London, hotels that feel more state-of-the-art and cutting-edge, with epically scaled spas and Michelin-starred chefs. But ultimately, many of them could be anywhere. No. 11 Cadogan Gardens struck me as something much more precious and rare: a place that could exist only in London.

Rooms: £225–£1,600 plus VAT. +44-(0)20-7730-7000, cadogan-hotel-london.com

 

Ann Abel has written about travel more than a decade. She was a senior editor at ForbesLife and the executive editor of Luxury SpaFinder. She has also written for Robb Report, Modern Bride, Girlfriend Getaways, Tablet Hotels, and Equinox’s Q blog. When not traveling, she is learning to fly at Trapeze School New York.

Theo Randall, London

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Theo Randall

By Marc Kristal

If London’s culinary scene has improved in recent decades, at least part of the credit must go to Theo Randall, who spent seventeen years at Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray’s now legendary Italian restaurant The River Café, many of them as head chef. In 2006, Randall struck out on his own, opening his eponymous establishment at The InterContinental Park Lane – which, two years later, won the London Restaurant Award in the Italian cuisine category. Apart from remaining ever-present in his kitchen, Randall offers seasonal master classes focusing on different aspects of Italian cooking, is one of the chefs headlining the city’s four-day Taste of London food festival at the end of June, and remains hard at work on his second book. And like Mark Hix, for Randall, it’s all about the ingredients.

 

THEO RANDALL: I don’t have an Italian bone in my body, but I’m very engrossed in the whole Italian philosophy of food. It’s all about the produce, and not mucking about with it too much so you can actually taste what’s there. I use the best things I can find in England. But if you cook Italian food, you need to have Italian vegetables, things like tomatoes and wonderful peppers. The buffalo mozzarella we have comes in twice a week from Naples.

MK: The restaurant’s in its sixth year – how has it evolved?

TR: Restaurants are very organic – they kind of grow. You have an idea, but it takes a bit of time to really create it. You want it to feel comfortable, inviting, great food and professional but friendly service – you want the right kind of atmosphere and that depends on the kind of people you employ. And over time that has happened.

MK: Why did you choose to open at the InterContinental?

TR: I’d been thinking about leaving the River Café – I felt I needed to do something myself. But it took a few years – it was the usual story, you either lose the site or you lose the investor. I was talking to this chap and he said, ‘You’ve got to come and have a look at this site, it’s in a hotel.’ It wasn’t what I was looking for, really, but it just seemed like such a great thing. I really liked the team here, and having your name up in lights on Park Lane is quite an accolade. And I thought, you know, I can’t turn this one down, this is too good.

MK: How do your master classes unfold?

TR: They’re very good fun, not too serious – it’s more a kind of ‘cooking with Theo.’ We start at 9:30, everyone comes in and has a coffee, and we have a little chat about what we’re going to do. And then they come into the kitchen and we start cooking. After they’ve had me chatting at them for a couple of hours, we have a wine tasting, and after that they’ll have a three-course lunch with wine, and then they finish about 4 o’clock – it’s a lovely, leisurely day.

 MK: That sounds almost as delicious as Taste of London.

 TR: The Taste of London in Regents Park is billed, this year, as the greatest restaurant festival in the world. It’s big – 80,000 or 90,000 people come over four days come, and 36 of the best restaurants in London have pop-up places.

MK: One of them will be yours?

TR: Yes, and we’re also doing a five-course menu for San Pellegrino, for their VIP enclosure there. It should be fun. Very busy.

MK: You’re working on your second cookbook now. What about the process do you enjoy?

TR: My mother’s an artist, and she was an art teacher for many years, and her teaching side has rubbed off on me. I love teaching people. The thing I always say is that cooking’s all about confidence, and the more you cook, the more confident you become. That’s what I try and give to readers – not a book about myself, but one for people, that they can learn from. If you’ve got a cookbook in the kitchen covered in tomato sauce and olive oil, then you’ve succeeded.

 

Visit Theo Randall

 

   Marc Kristal is an architecture, design and travel writer. Kristal, a contributing editor of Dwell and a former editor ofAIA/J, and has written for The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Wallpaper, Surface, and numerous other publications. In 2003, he curated the exhibition ‘Absence Into Presence: The Art, Architecture and Design of Remembrance’ at Parsons School of Design, and in 2009 he was part of the project team that created the award-winning Greenwich South planning study for the Alliance for Downtown New York. His books include Re:Crafted: Interpretations of Craft in Contemporary Architecture and Interiors (2010) and Immaterial World: Transparency in Architecture (2011), both from The Monacelli Press. Also a screenwriter, Kristal wrote the film Torn Apart.  He lives in New York.

Hix Belgravia

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Mark Hix of Hix Belgravia, at Belgraves, London

By Marc Kristal

A generation or so ago, back before Ian Schrager and his late partner Steve Rubell transformed ho-hum hostelries into scene-making destinations, the thought of having dinner in that most unappetizing of places – a hotel restaurant – was inconceivable to all but dowagers, unadventurous tourists, and guests too jet-lagged to stagger out. Equally unimaginable, back then, was the possibility of finding haute cuisine in London – as the protagonist of Martin Amis’ comic novel Money so memorably put it, ‘The French, they say, live to eat. The English, on the other hand, eat to die.’

What a difference a generation makes: today, some of the world’s best restaurants can be found in hotels, and London has become a great culinary capital – conditions highlighted by two of the city’s more memorable dining spots, one a few months old, the other an institution in its sixth season. This week, Hix Belgravia.

Hix Belgravia, which opened in February, is the second most recent offering (surpassed on May 23 by Tramshed) from the seemingly ubiquitous Mark Hix, known for his personal, ingredient-driven interpretation of English cuisine, who since 2008 has opened nine restaurants and bars in London, as well as producing multiple cookbooks and writing regular food columns for Esquire and The Independent. His Belgravia venue, located on Chesham Place in Belgraves – the first European venture for the design-forward, North American-based Thompson Hotels group – represents a new culinary direction, according to Hix.

 Mark Hix: In Belgravia, because it’s a bit more of an international market there, I decided to open the menu up a bit – pasta, risotto, et cetera. So it’s not confined to just being British.

Marc Kristal:  But the focus, as with your other restaurants, is still on the quality of the raw materials, as it were.

 MH: Yeah, exactly. I don’t take a bad ingredient and try and spice it up. I take a good ingredient and don’t do anything to it.

MK: I had a superb pork chop when I dined there. Where did it come from?

MH: It’s Moyallon pork, from Ireland. County Armagh. No fancy breeds or anything, it’s just naturally reared, well fed pork – the meat-to-fat ratio is very good.

MK: How did you prepare it?

MH: Just on the grill with salt and pepper. Nothing fancy.

Hix Belgravia

MK: Why did you want to open up in Belgraves?

MH: I took a bit of a tumble here, it wasn’t exactly a planned business move. I know a lot of people who live in the area, and they said, ‘Why don’t you do something around here?’ And suddenly this opportunity came up, and here we are.

MK: You’re almost as well known for your contemporary art collection as for your cuisine. How did you go about building it?

MH: I always work with artists who are friends of mine. What I do is a sort of a swap-sie. They give me a piece of their work, and they have a tab at the restaurant.

MK: I understand that you’re responsible for the very impressive art display in Belgraves’ public spaces.

MH: The stuff in the lobby is from a friend of mine who’s got a gallery around the corner, called 11 [at 11 Eccleston Street]. I thought it’d be a sensible thing to have a local gallery that changes the work in the lobby every so often, and then the stuff in the bar and the restaurant I’ve commissioned the artists to do.

MK: Which artists did you commission?

MH: I’ve got a whole mixture, including Mat Collishaw, Rachel Howard, Keith Tyson, Miranda Donovan. And I’m using the artists’ work on the menu covers as well.

MK: Have you installed artwork in your new restaurant, Tramshed?

MH: I have a very big Damien Hirst, a cow with a chicken on its back, in formaldehyde, right in the middle.

MK: Very appetizing.

MH: Yes, very – it’s quite a cute-looking cow.

 

    Marc Kristal is an architecture, design and travel writer. Kristal, a contributing editor of Dwell and a former editor of AIA/J, and has written for The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Wallpaper, Surface, and numerous other publications. In 2003, he curated the exhibition ‘Absence Into Presence: The Art, Architecture and Design of Remembrance’ at Parsons School of Design, and in 2009 he was part of the project team that created the award-winning Greenwich South planning study for the Alliance for Downtown New York. His books include Re:Crafted: Interpretations of Craft in Contemporary Architecture and Interiors (2010) and Immaterial World: Transparency in Architecture (2011), both from The Monacelli Press. Also a screenwriter, Kristal wrote the film Torn Apart.  He lives in New York.

 

 

Letter from London: The Olympia Fair

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The Olympia Fair, London

By Sallie Brady

For more than a decade now I’ve set off around this time to do London in June. The Season,  as it’s known, typically includes Ascot and Wimbeldon and Henley, but also some of  London’s top art and antiques fairs. The tradition goes back more than 75 years when the British aristos dusted off their pearls and left their dogs and stables at their country piles to head into London to shop the antiques fairs, maybe for a pair of Chippendale chairs, an English watercolor, or a Chinese snuff bottle for the collection.

As a journalist covering the art and antiques markets, as well as travel, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the London antiques fair world. What I’ve learned is that you don’t need to be a collector or have a big bank account to enjoy an antiques fair. Most are staged in pleasant settings, have excellent pop-up restaurants where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch or maybe a flute at the Champagne Bar, and there’s no shortage of beautiful things to admire. An antiques fair is a great place to train your eye and also learn by chatting up dealers who never tire of discussing their stock–even if they know you’re not a potential buyer. This month we’ll visit all three fairs with Everett Potter’s Travel Report.

Today, June 7, while the Queen is no doubt resting her feet after her Diamond Jubilee marathon weekend, the 2012 London fair season gets underway when the Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Fair opens and runs through June 17. Held in the Grand Hall of an airy Victorian exhibition pavillion at Earls Court, Olympia has been going for 40 years now and is the most democratic of the June fairs, with pieces that range from L100 to L1 million, being offered by almost 200 dealers.

Some of the treasures at The Olympia Fair, London

This is a very English fair, with lots of English furniture dealers, along with clocks, jewelry, ceramics, glass, and wonderfully quirky things such as fossils, antique canes with ivory dog heads, campaign furniture, even aeronautica -– think a Boeing 727 Pratt and Whitney engine transformed into a mirror. There are also plenty of painting and sculpture dealers, especially modern British art, and some great examples of 20th-century furniture and lighting. And for anyone who still has Jubilee fever, you can go home with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee fan that was signed in 1887 by 42 members of the royal families of Europe who were attending her Jubilee banquet. Sophie Dupre is selling it.

Advance tickets L10, at the door, L14.

Room with a view at the Hilton London Kensington

Where to Stay: For a number of years now, the Hilton London Kensington has been my go-to London hotel, not just when I am visiting Olympia — because it’s just a short walk away — but also when I need reasonably priced accommodations in a pinch–especially off-season. While it’s not in the West End or Knightsbridge, the hotel is in Kensington along Holland Park Avenue and its many bus routes. Anyone with a car will appreciate that the hotel is outside of the congestion-charge zone. Travelocity consistently offers specials here, and the recently refurbished rooms are comfortable and function well. Use your Hilton Honors Points to book an executive room, a good value with inclusive wireless and access to an executive lounge that serves a complimentary hot full English breakfast buffet; sandwiches and cold meats and fruit and cheese at lunch; and a full bar and hot and cold canapes in the evening.

Hilton London Kensington 179-199 Holland Park Avenue; 011.44.207.603.3355

A Good Pub: Just a 10-minute walk from Olympia, The Jameson, on 43 Blythe Road in West Kensington (011.44.777.870.7000) is a discovery. Owned by a pair of saavy Irishmen who have also run pubs in New York, The Jameson is a locals’ favorite for the convivial atmosphere and outstanding pub food that is freshly made and reasonably priced. Try the very generous beef burger; the Bombardier ale-battered cod, served with mushy pieces and a bucket of chips; or the full English breakfast that’s served all-day long.

Traveler’s Tip: If you do stay at the Hilton London Kensington or in this area, and you’re headed to or from Heathrow, you’ll save by using a local car service, rather than a black cab. Call Brown’s Private Hire: 011.44.(0) 20.8749.5555.

  Sallie Brady writes about travel and also covers the international art, antiques and design markets. A former editor at GQ, House Beautiful, This Old House, and travel editor at Bride’s, she contributes to Conde Nast Traveler, ForbesLife, Veranda, Art & Antiques, Business Traveler, 1stdibs.com, New York Spaces and has contributed to Esquire, The New York Times, Travel+Leisure.com, and other publications. Previously she was the New York correspondent for the inflight magazine for British Airways’ Concorde passengers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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