06/12/12

Catch an Expeditious App and Put It In Your Pocket!

Geolocation is integrated into Fodor's City Guide apps.

Six cities have updated wanderlusting apps from Fodor’s Travel, who has announced the re-launch of their City Guide apps for iPhone and iPad (Nook and Android versions are in the works). The free apps now integrate partner functionality from Expedia, OpenTable and Ticketmaster, and are available for New York City, Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona and San Francisco. They offer geolocation features and interactive offline maps, which are powered by developer Red Foundry’s new Fusion Platform, the world’s first network uniting app developers and publishers with service providers.

Travelers can book hotels through the Expedia Affiliate Network, make dinner plans with OpenTable, and buy show and concert tickets through TicketsNow, Ticketmaster’s resale marketplace. The geolocation features allow sojourners to see what is nearby by interest—categories include what to see, what to eat, shopping, nightlife/arts, and where to stay.

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is a trendsetter's alternative to Little Italy in Manhattan. Photo by Paul Clemence.

I decided to take the New York City app for a test drive on my iPad, and it nailed my location quickly. I agreed with many of the “what to see” listings it put up, several of which I would recommend for tourists visiting NYC who want more than the usual suspects of places to see. One of which was Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which my pal and architectural photographer Paul Clemence has photographed so eloquently, as the above photo proves.

Fodor's City Guide Apps Offer OpenTable Reservations.

The “what to eat” suggestions were a bit all over the place but I did ask for the best recommendations in New York City without determining a culinary style, and the fact that they could narrow it down as tightly as they did impressed me! Shopping brought up everything from Betsey Johnson in SoHo to Beads of Paradise in the Flatiron District and the Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn, which I have frequented (and give the app a high five for referencing).

The oh-so-edgy tiki bar Painkiller wasn’t listed under “Nightlife & the Arts” (though I’ll admit, it would probably cause anyone who is less than an intrepid traveler to freak out when standing on the street in front of the bar’s address and see no discernable sign of a party until someone entering or exiting opened the graffiti panel serving as the venue’s door)-steamy! Pegu Club is there—excellent sourcing by featuring this mixology-driven venue, Fodor’s.

The Lower East Side has its own version of a hip, Parisian cafe for writers and filmmakers to hang.

Kudos to the travel experts for listing the Pink Pony on the Lower East Side. Any café with a mural of Arthur Rimbaud on the wall and a tagline like “Café Littéraire & Ciné Club” is high on my “kicky and quirky venues” list, which we locals pride ourselves in compiling for those times we want something out-of-the-ordinary. The Field Notes section is great—the perfect place for accumulating the lists you’d like to share with friends who will be visitng the same city or for resourcing your highlights the next time Hērmēs, the god of travel, wings you to the same town.

Sax in the City has only one request of the developers: I would like to have seen an easier search function for places by name. Those of us who travel frequently, especially travel journalists who are writing about cities, often go armed with recommendations for venues to experience. This app only allows search by previously determined categories unless it’s not obvious and if it’s not obvious to me someone using this level of technology for the first time wouldn’t likely find it. That said, these apps are definitely well worth the time it takes to download them. Off I go to Paris (if only)!

12/11/10
Bespoke Boxes for Storing Your Groovy City Guides

The Luxe Touch


Bespoke Boxes for Storing Your Groovy City Guides

Those of you who know me have heard me whining all week that one of the most fabulous trips I’ve ever been offered to Paris was derailed by a head cold. I know you’re all sick of it, cyber pals, but humor me for a moment while I wallow in self pity. For those of you who are just stopping in for the first time, forgive the melodramatics; the read will be worth the intro as I’ve got a few insider travel goodies up my sleeve.

At this very moment, I would have been in the presence of one of the world’s greatest chefs, Alain Ducasse, as he presented his new cooking concept “Essential,” a back-to-basics gastronomy that Chef Ducasse says takes a radical approach. “It takes courage to produce artlessly simple dishes by cooking elegantly,” he explains. “Like an architect that turns his back on flamboyance to achieve perfect harmony through austere lines.” If anyone can create simple elegance, that would be Chef Ducasse. Now are you getting the picture as to why I’m so disappointed to be sitting in front of my computer screen in Brooklyn?

As they liked to shout on those Ginsu knives commercials, “But wait!” I would have been staying at the incredible Hotel Plaza Athénée and I would have luxuriated in a spa treatment at the famed Dior Institut this morning. “But wait!”; that’s not all: I would be heading to Le Meurice this evening for cocktails at Bar 228 and dinner at Restaurant Le Dali, and I would have seen the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris yesterday. Hear that? It’s the sound of my heart breaking!

The Luxe Mobile App for Paris (and the Chic Guide)

How have I made myself feel better as I’ve gone through five boxes of kleenex? By playing with the Luxe City Guides new iPhone app for Paris. Well, a girl’s gotta dream! I’ve used the paper guides for a few years and I love how much information is packed into such a small package without sacrificing wit (and, when it’s warranted, snarkitude). The feisty first-take in each city always includes a tutorial as to a few phrases you’re likely to hear while in town.

Take the Miami edition, which I was carrying with me last week during the Art Basel/Design Miami mania: “Sorry, the sunbeds are all reserved” = “Honey, you’ve got more bush than Australia, ever heard of a wax…?” And who hasn’t bumped into this one in New York City: “Can I help you?” = “You look too poor to shop here and I have no interest in helping you now, or ever.”

My favorites, however, punctuate the opening page of the London guide, which I used during my trip to the UK a few weeks ago when I stayed at two beautiful Dorchester Collection properties, Coworth Park in Ascot and the Dorchester in London. Here are four phrases to help you decipher “Brit-speak”: “Really, how interesting” = “You’re boring me to death”; “Not bad” = “Very good” (Now I realize why they had a difficult time understanding me and vice versa! Not bad = Very good; really?) “Quite good” = “Rather disappointing”; and “Bob’s Your Uncle, Fanny’s Your Aunt” = “Voila!” They had to make me think of Paris again, didn’t they? Just when that fabulous trip to London had distracted me for a moment.

If you’re the hip/no-electronic type, you’ll love the cool bespoke boxes into which you can tuck your printed guides until you’re off on your next adventure. I hope to be back on the road before too long myself. Until then, I’m checking out the “Loves & Loathes” section of the Paris guide on my phone. Guess what? It says Le Meurice has the best luxe lunch deal in town. No kidding! Why don’t you just rub it in! Seriously, happy roaming everyone!

11/11/10
Gauguin's "The Loss of Virginity"

Savage Blood

 

During my UK adventure last week, I had one of the most sensually remarkable experiences of my life. You might surmise it was enjoying the opulence of the famed Dorchester in London’s Mayfair across from Hyde Park, and while that was truly a sumptuous experience, the mind-blowingly arousing escapade was visiting Gauguin: Maker of Myth, the new exhibition at the Tate Modern that opened the day I arrived in London. There were two other journalists on the press tour who wanted to see the show, Tara Weingarten and Alain Gayot.

I surmised that opening day tickets would be difficult if not impossible to get but the Dorchester came through and I was awed by the collection of paintings the Tate Modern had pulled together from museums, institutions and collectors around the globe. Most of my favorites of Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings were there and to have the opportunity to walk through room after room of his work was remarkable. When I saw the letters that Gauguin had written to Van Gogh, the sketches he’d inserted into the body of the text beautifully illustrative of his words (thanks to Gayot’s translating the French), I felt time falling away and a pinpoint of history exploding in the room. What a pleasure to see!

Yes, Jeeves, there’s an app for that!

I’ve long been fascinated with Gauguin’s Tahitian period. When I read Noa Noa, his Tahitian Journal, I was struck by how tortured the man had become by that time in his life, taking arsenic with regularity because he was struggling so. “For some time past I had been growing restless,” he wrote. “My work suffered under it. It is true that I lacked many of the essential implements; it irritated me to be reduced to impotence in the face of artistic projects to which I had passionately given myself. But it was joy most of all which I lacked.”

As I read how the further he entered into his fantasies, the more shattered they became, I decided to write a play called “Ghost of a Chance.” I was honored with a staged reading several years ago and received some excellent advice from the actors who gave their time and talents to the process. The exhibition has motivated me to work on it again. Happy sensual roaming everyone! If you get to London, don’t miss this show!

10/14/10
SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Handwriting on the Wall?

The New City Notebooks

Hi everyone: remember these fresh new Moleskine City Notebooks I took with me to Europe several weeks ago? I had a blast filling them with notes about London and Milan, and jotting down everything I didn’t want to miss given the jet-lagged fog I knew would accompany me back to the states! As I was zipping through the countryside on the trains between Lake Como and Milan, and Milan and Siena (with stops in Florence, of course), I was jotting down sensory information about what I was seeing through the windows. This means they’re not new anymore but that’s the beauty of a heartily used bound book that holds delicious and important memories.

Used and Improved?

At one point I decided to see how it felt to make some notes in my iPhone. Is there a difference between the typed and the handwritten word, I wondered, as I pulled the slim smartphone from my pocket? As I began typing, I thought about how I happen to like to see my own handwriting scroll along a fresh page; how very attached I am to getting everything down in ink. But as the dark letters appeared one-by-one on the yellow-pad background of the iPhone “Notes” application, the entries were pretty jazzy.

Now I find myself torn, asking myself if there will come a point when my back, which takes the brunt of all the flotsam and jetsam I carry with me when I travel, makes the decision? Lugging a suitcase and heavy backpack up and down train stairs has its physical challenges so there may very well be a point when the lighter electronics win out but I do not by any means believe the handwriting is on the wall for giving up my journals or my city notebooks any time soon! After all, I’ve never had a notebook lose a charge on its battery!

Always a Sucker for a Cool Font!

I’m heading back to England and France in two weeks so I’ll let the argument continue to play out as I zip between London and Trouville, France, then back to Brighton, England, on Rail Europe. Stay tuned my roaming compatriots as I’ll be making notes along the way–both handwritten and electronic! What’s your preferred way to take notes when you travel? I’d love to know!

10/8/10
Johnny Grey

Booking it to England

Johnny Grey

You all know what a sucker I am for books, and you might have guessed that any subject addressing a lack of soul in design would get my attention as well. There’s an event in Birmingham, England, this weekend that looks to be an interesting exploration of emotional design entitled “Home Is Where the Heart Is: Interior Design with Emotion.” Johnny Grey will join designer, writer and TV presenter Kevin McCloud; Habitat creative director Theo Williams; and designer, author and TV presenter Naomi Cleaver at Grand Designs Live on Saturday, October 9th at 1:15 p.m. to discuss the timely subject. The panel will be moderated by producer Aidan Walker.

Johnny’s talk, which he’s calling “Ten Books: Sources of Influence,” will explore his favourite titles and demonstrate how they have influenced his work as well as what value they offer to clients, designers and architects. They include, A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David Freeman; The World of Goods by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood; Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard; I’m Still Here by John Zeisel; Healing Spaces by Esther Sternberg; Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren; The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton; The Alexander Technique by John Gray; The Craftsman by Richard Sennett; and House as a Mirror of Selfby Clare Cooper Marcus.

“I want to spread ideas to designers and homemakers on ways of embedding soul and comfort, using new tools from brain research, psychology, art, food and the five senses via ten original and powerful books,” Grey says. “Over the years many books with powerful ideas do not find tipping points, and designers don’t have enough time to read and tend to stick design books. I’d like to see this change: I think we’d be all the better for it.”

Here’s a sneak peak as to what Grey had to say about Happiness during his presentation at Decorex last week.

09/27/10
Johnny Grey's "take" on the new cottage kitchen...

Johnny Grey on the Post-feminist Kitchen


Johnny Grey's "take" on the new cottage kitchen cupboard...

I’m at Decorex in London for the debut of Johnny Grey’s new furniture line for the kitchen (see earlier posts about his inspirations on Design Commotion and my Examiner page). As I was interviewing him this morning, he said something that I found so remarkable that I decided we just had to get it on video. The talented and soulful designer believes that we have now gone beyond the post-culinary kitchen—which he has advocated for quite some time—to the post-feminist kitchen. It’s a brilliant extension of his philosophy that a kitchen is a living room in which meals are prepared so they should be furnished like one.

This inspired the new line, in fact, which is truly furniture for the kitchen—something that many manufacturers claim without backing it up. The collaboration Grey has undertaken with some incredible artisans is brilliant. I’ll be bringing you other posts with videos of their take on design and collaborating with Grey. And, of course, we’ll have more video of the personable Grey dishing on kitchen design as we explore his ideas for one of the most important rooms of the home. It is, after all, called the heart of the home for good reason!

Talented tweeps Sarah Lloyd and Paul Anater have terrific posts of Grey’s new line on their blogs so check them out!