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)!

03/10/11

Pouring it on in Paris

During my last trip to Paris, I spent an afternoon sipping wine in Les Caves du Paradis, the former private wine cellar of Louis XV, at Ô Chateau. Our charming sommelier, Lionel Médoc, took a group of us through the in’s and out’s of identifying a wine’s clarity. He was a charming host, very knowledgeable about the French wines he was pouring that day. After obtaining a degree in oenology from Toulouse, Lionel told us he traveled the globe studying New World wines, trekking to Sonoma, Mendoza, and Australia. Even though his last name could pin him as a pure Bordeaux man, Lionel is actually the son of a Burgundian mother and he grew up on Reunion Island, near Mauritius. His charm during the several hours we spent swirling and sipping in the cellar with its graceful stone archways is evident in this video. Owner Olivier Magny has just opened a new wine bar, so be sure to stop in if you are in Paris anytime soon! Details are on the web site. À votre santé on this #WineWednesday, everyone!

03/3/11
By the Table; Verlaine is far left and a young Rimbaud is seated facing him.

The Rebel as Poet


By the Table; Verlaine is far left and a young Rimbaud is seated facing him.

During my time in Paris, I visited the Musée d’Orsay, drinking in the architecture of the former railway station from blocks away (and understanding why the museum bills the building, which was erected for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, as its first work of art). The locale on the banks of the Seine opposite the Tuileries Gardens is its second triumph. And its art collections, spanning from 1848 to 1914, is its pièce de résistance.

One painting in particular was pilgrimage-worthy for me: Henri Fantin-Latour’s By the Table. I’ve been fascinated with it since I can remember because the subjects in the composition are men gathered at the Salon of 1872, including Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud—an almost cherubic Rimbaud sitting facing his friend at the time. It was Verlaine, a more mature poet, who would eventually contribute to Rimbaud’s disillusionment, causing him to put down his pen at the age of 20. What a loss for poetry! One of my favorite quotes has been attributed to Rimbaud, though I have never managed to track down the source: “I’d rather be the poem than the poet,” he was reported to have said. I feel that sums up the level of dedication a true poet would have to his or her craft.

If you’ve never read Rimbaud’s story, it’s worthwhile. He didn’t have an easy life, and he wrote what he produced at such a young age, I can only imagine the quality of work he would have produced had he been writing as a mature poet. A great place to start if you also happen to like rock-n-roll is Wallace Fowlie’s book Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet. He compares the two renegades who did share a passion for stirring things up. I give you Rimbaud’s “Sensation,” a poem he wrote in March of 1870, nearly a century and a half ago:

Through blue summer nights I will pass along paths,

Pricked by wheat, trampling short grass:

Dreaming, I will feel coolness underfoot,

Will let breezes bathe my bare head.

Not a word, not a thought:

Boundless love will surge through my soul,

And I will wander far away, a vagabond

In Nature—as happily as with a woman.

Arthur Rimbaud

And Morrison’s “L.A. Woman”: …Midnight alleys roam…

03/2/11
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Of the Paris Persuasion

Was it just two weeks ago I was flitting around Paris with Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva? Uh-huh, and what a blast we had combing the Marche aux Puces and sifting through floor-upon-floor of goodies at Bazaar Hotel de Ville (She even cooked a sumptuous Parisian-inspired meal!) One of my favorite souvenirs from Paris is the tote bag she had made for me. Get a load of the close-up below and you’ll understand why!

About to Embark on a Diva-fied Day of Shopping (note the tote)!

This is the second year I’ve had the delight of touring Paris flea markets with Toma and I thought I’d pass along news about one of her newest offerings, customized Diva City Tours. I asked her to explains to RBD readers what inspired her to create seven-day gallivants chock full of more fun than the faint at heart could endure! She has a great group of Divas lined up for her Paris tour from March 7 through 13 and she will be posting news on her blog so be sure to stop in for a bit of voyeuristic pleasure Diva style! The Diva Dishes on Her New Explorations: The concept behind The Antiques Diva® & Co European Shopping Tours is simple: we combine the jet-setting lifestyle of a diva with antique shopping in favorite European cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and beyond. Our one-day tours have been wildly successful due to this formula of carrying a shopping sack in one hand and a champagne glass in the other! What differentiates us from most antique shopping tour companies is that we do not arrange group tours, shoving a bunch of strangers together for an inflexible, pre-set period of days. Instead, we cater to our clients travel dates, taking them by the hand on one-day tours that maximize their time with a private, one-on-one customized shopping experience.

While we do offer a variety of services for antique dealers and interior designers, we also offer shopping tours to mere mortals…letting our clients source European antiques and vintage pieces at addresses usually only known to the trade. We recognize that most clients don’t antique shop in a vacuum: while they want to shop les puce they are also visiting these cities to tour the destinations. All our Diva Guides are well versed on what’s hot in their city and thus we’re always making recommendations to clients on where to eat, drink, shop and tour; our Diva Guides are your best friend abroad. With our new multi-day Diva City Tours, we’re taking those tips a step further and offering clients a chance to see Europe through our mascara-laden eyes.

Frames at the Marche aux Puces

These Diva City Tours are usually four-day packaged trips whereby the Diva Guide takes the clients to a variety of must-see addresses in the city. In our popular Paris Diva City Tour we do cooking classes at the Ritz, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants and tucked-away bistros a tourist hasn’t touched. We shop both vintage and haute couture, see where Coco became Chanel, but then turn around and surprise clients by hitting the local grocery store where they can load up on innovative European products they’d never find in America or the UK. We visit out-of-the-way museums and when the day is done, we pop over to a friend’s apartment to have champagne and macaroons in a grand salon. The multi-day Diva City Tours are designed to show clients what their lives might look like if they lived in one of these international cities, as the next best thing to living in Paris, Antwerp, Berlin or Amsterdam is touring with someone who does! This tour comes with a WARNING, though: 3 of our last 10 clients decided to move abroad after doing the Diva City Tours!

Some of My Loot from BHV

Insiders Tip: Tourists traveling in Paris might be surprised to know that some of the best souvenirs in Paris come from the local hardware store. The department store BHV, or Bazaar Hotel de Ville, has a basement level bricolage store that serves up everything from those charming blue & white Parisian house numbers to gorgeous fleur-de-lys picture hooks to upscale Parisian tea towels, copper pots and a variety of accessories for the home.

02/14/11
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Passementerie de Paree

Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva, and Remy Lemoine (who was recently featured on one of my favorite sites, The Curated Object) with his passemanterie in Le Dome in Paris. Loving all this inspiring design after a day at the Marche aux Puces. So many great ideas, so little room in my suitcase!

 

02/8/11
The Tomb of Heloise & Abelard

Make It Personal!

The Tomb of Heloise & Abelard

I’ve been blazing around Paris soaking in a schizophrenic mix of historically significant writerly inspiration and modern-day Parisian glitz: it’s quite a paradoxical melange! Even the eye candy cuts its own broad swath, from beautifully dressed men and women to a luscious piece of iconic architecture at every turn (I will admit to being a sucker for the Neoclassical French style–the ubiquitous mansard roofs alone are enough to make me swoon)! I generally shy away from overtly touristy experiences when I travel but I’ve put them in the mix during this pilgrimage to the City of Light. They’ve been important points of inspiration sprinkled amongst the hours spent journaling in the cafes that once drew some of the most dedicated writers of all time. What I’ve done with each exploit is to dig deeper; to make each overtly obvious tourist escapade my own in some way.

Oscar Wilde’s Tomb

At the Pere Lachaise cemetery, seeing the tomb of Heloise & Abelard was as exciting as I thought it would be. I’ve been inspired by their story for ages. But seeing Oscar Wilde’s tomb was a surprise, as it taught me something important as an avid reader. Words in a book, regardless how well crafted they are, do not always do the thing they are describing justice if there is significant emotionality attached. I’d read in a number of books, including one of my favorites that I recommend to anyone before they travel to Paris, Metrostop Paris, that Wilde’s grave was one of the most popular in the massive cemetery, and that it had to be cleaned regularly because fans of his literature could not help but write on or kiss the slabs surrounding the writer’s remains. It was a sight to behold and one of the most moving outpourings of emotion I’ve ever seen–in as many different languages as you can imagine.

Kisses Gone Wilde

This limitation of description was brought home to me again as I stood in the study of La Maison de Balzac, the museum dedicated to the famous French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac. His petite writing table and roomy upholstered chair were placed in the center of the intimately-scaled room where the writer spent hours creating his novels and plays, nearly 100 of which make up La Comedie Humaine. He retreated to the tiny home that was an outbuilding of a larger residence, or a folly, to escape creditors during a low point in his life. He lived in the one-story dwelling nestled into a lush garden between 1840 to 1847. “Working means getting up at midnight every evening, writing until eight o’clock, having lunch in a quarter of an hour, working till five o’clock, having dinner, going to bed, and starting all over again the next day,” Balzac wrote. The writing table, which remains exactly where he had placed it, is where he proofread the entire La Comedie. He said that the desk was “the witness of my worries, my miseries, my distress, my joys, everything. My arm has almost worn it out with rubbing as I write.”

As I stood trying to imagine the mammoth creative energy that must have been unleashed in that room (before I had read this quote, mind you), the thing that struck me was how the table top had been worn down to the point that it had a significant indention in it where the writer had repeatedly run his arms over the wood as he drew wildly flailing lines to the margins of the pages he edited then scribbled in the updated text he wanted to include in the pages he had written. He had done so time and time again as the exhaustive display of edited pages proved. I stood in awe of this tiny table with sturdy turned legs, which had acted as the foundation of such great literary works. It is a memory I will treasure forever.

The door to Honore de Balzac’s study in Passy

Forgive me if I seem overly sentimental in this post: I really do dig this type of exploration so much! It’s like manna from heaven for this writer, who has been making a living as a journalist and author for the past 15 years, to let some of the chaos go and drop down into a deeper place. I hope that if you are roaming somewhere soon, you’ll be sure to find a way to make your experiences heartfelt. There’s nothing like it no matter where you are in the world! And, it just so happens to be #TravelTuesday so we should all be roaming where we want to!

02/4/11
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A Literary Paris

I’m in Paris, as many of you know, spending lots of time in the cafes where some of the greatest writers of all time have people-watched, scribbled into journals and/or edited manuscripts. I’m about to take my writer’s notebook from my purse and make some notes about the magnificent day I’ve had, bopping between Cafe de Flore, Shakespeare & Company, and my current locale, a seat on the sidewalk at Cafe Les Deux Magots. Tomorrow is a writing day. Wish me luck that the sonnets will start coming together in this fantastic city!
02/1/11
The Tomb of Heloise and Abelard

Love and #LetsBlogOff

The Tomb of Heloise and Abelard

I’m in Paris at last and I’m heading to Pere Lechaise, the famed cemetery, in a few minutes to visit the tomb of Heloise and Abelard, the doomed lovers whose story has stood the test of time because nothing could stop them from their longing to be together, even though they spent years apart and lonely in that vast devastation. What signifies love more than two people who never give up on their feelings for each other, even when everything in the physical realm is conspiring against them? I give you a poem today by my poetry professor at Vermont College, Tom Absher. It’s from his book Forms of Praise, which holds a series of poems written in their voices–missives to and about each other–that meld into one heartbreaking litany of unrequited passion.

II Living Alone

Abelard

After working all day in the fields

helping prepare the earth for seed,

I return to my room and wait for sleep.

I have almost given up on reading.

Watching the fading light soften the edges of things

I begin to let go of my loneliness.

A chair sends forth its thin shadow

like a thinker thinking of himself.

The sky runs through its last hues

and miraculously the chair, the room,

we vanish together.

Gradually I hear the monks talking in sleep—

they speak of their fathers, of women, of miracles.

I make the cross in the darkness

and may God forgive me I think only of you.

                             Tom Absher (from Forms of Praise)
01/26/11
The Actor Artaud in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" in 1928

Behind Every Curtain


The Actor Artaud in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" in 1928

If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribed to my blogs, you’ve likely been bombarded by my gushing about the fact that I’m writing a memoir, which I post weekly on The Road to Promise to coincide with #WriterWednesday on Twitter! Wednesday has come around yet again and I put my 60th post online today, one that finds me reading an article by Bruce Weber about Richard Ford’s ability to create unique characters.

It was 1988 and the novelist was one of the hottest rising stars in American literature at the time. Weber quotes Raymond Carver in the piece. He was a close friend of Ford’s, and he says about his work, “Sentence for sentence…Richard is the best writer at work in this country today.” I have a love/hate relationship with Ford’s fiction, but I’m a solid fan of Carver’s work, especially his poetry. If I’m ever stymied in my own work, I often pull Carver’s A New Path to the Waterfall off my bookshelf and read a few poems. There’s something about his voice that has a way of kick-starting me when I need a good push.

Today, I thought I’d share this poem from his book because its subject figures significantly in my history as a writer, a history that is being plotted on The Road to Promise as I continue to follow the material along.

Artaud

Among the hieroglyphs, the masks, the unfinished poems,

the spectacle unfolds: Antonin et son double.

They are at work now, calling up the old demons.

The enchantments, etc. The tall, scarred-looking

one at the desk, the one with the cigarette and

no teeth to speak of, is prone to

boldness, to a certain excess

in speech, in gesture. The other is cautious,

watches carefully his opportunity, is effacing even. But

at certain moments still hints broadly, impatiently

of his necessarily arrogant existence.

 

Antonin, sure enough, there are no more masterpieces.

But your hands trembled as you said it,

and behind every curtain there is always, as you

knew, a rustling.

Raymond Carver (from A New Path to the Waterfall)

Carver’s poem references the theories put forth in Antonin Artaud’s book The Theater and Its Double, one that I read during graduate studies at NYU when I had the great fortune of having William Packard lead me through a semester devoted to the aesthetics of writing. In Artaud’s chapter “No More Masterpieces,” he writes, “Masterpieces of the past are good for the past: they are not good for us. We have the right to say what has been said and even what has not been said in a way that belongs to us, a way that is immediate and direct, corresponding to present modes of feeling, and understandable to everyone.”

I’m heading to Paris next week so France is on my mind. I’m going to have more time to explore my deeper creative work during this trip as I hang out in the cafes where some of the greatest writers of all time have sat and scribbled their ideas, Artaud among them. I’ll be working on a book of poems and a play, and I hope my work will be infused with the level of immediacy and directness that he champions. I also hope to achieve something akin to Artaud’s brand of revitalization, even if it’s in the tiniest way.

He proposes that literature and the dramatic arts induce a trance just as the dances of Dervishes induce trance: “There is a risk involved, but in the present circumstances I believe it is a risk worth running. I do not believe we have managed to revitalize the world we live in, and I do not believe it is worth the trouble of clinging to; but I do propose something to get us out of our marasmus, instead of continuing to complain about it, and about the boredom, inertia, and stupidity of everything.”

I will feel him looking over my shoulder as I write (say) what has been written (said) in a way that belongs to me, ever hopeful that some aspect of my work might someday have an impact even while I realize that it will by then be “of the past” and therefore only good for the past. As to whether I’ll ever produce masterpieces, that’s for a future generation to decide, I suppose. I’ll be long gone but may the work live on! Happy roaming everyone! I’ll be posting from the City of Lights next week: stay tuned!

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!