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)!

09/20/11
Toma Clark Haines definitely knows la dolce vita!

The Antiques Diva Does Italia!


Toma Clark Haines definitely knows la dolce vita!


We’re speaking Italian on this Travel Tuesday with some exciting news. Our ONLY choice for European lifestyle tours, The Antiques Diva, is expanding to, you guessed it, Italia; and Toma is already working her magic on the romantic language by saying, “Buongiorno Baby” to anyone wanting to come along for the Tuscan ride!

Tuscan tastemaker Susan Pennington will create and direct the tours, which will amble through the best venues in Florence, Sienna, Arezzo and Lucca (here’s a feature in Belle Inspiration). A British expat living in the heart of Tuscany, Pennington was once an antiques buyer for Harrods in London and an auction-house specialist in New York City. She’s lived in Tuscany for the past two decades, running Montestigliano, a local agriturismo business known for its sumptuous Tuscan-style luxury décor.

Word up, Diva fans; this is Toma’s sixth country, and the list of destinations for gallivanting is impressive: France, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany and, now, Italy. Where’s my passport? Did someone say the University of Bologna is calling?

P.S. We understand there is a spot of royalty in The Antiques Diva’s future. Check in at adroyt in the next week or so and we’ll fill you in!

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!

09/10/10
Hilda Glasgow certainly had a flair for fashion illustration.

Always in Fashion: Hilda Glasgow’s Art

Hilda Glasgow certainly had a flair for fashion illustration.

One of my favorite perks from being a design journalist is getting to know the photographers who shoot the rooms that end up looking killer-good in magazine spreads. One such gifted shutterbug is Elizabeth Glasgow, who was the eyes behind most of my pieces for Distinction Magazine and a collaborator on a number of shoots I produced for Coastal Living. You might say she’s the prime example of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” as her mother, Hilda Glasgow, was equally talented but as a top fashion illustrator from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Glasgow’s eye for glamour is unmistakable…
“She was a woman ahead of her time,” says Liz, who has lovingly preserved her mother’s drawings and is just now bringing them back into the public realm. “She was born in 1913, and graduated from Pratt Institute in NYC in 1933. She illustrated the cutting-edge mid 20th century fashions of that time for magazines such as Vogue and a variety of high-end department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Best & Co.” Liz is offering Hilda’s original pen and ink drawings as gicleé reproductions–the perfect case of a daughter’s talents preserving and advancing a parent’s (I like that enormously!). Each order is custom printed on a heavyweight archival paper that mimics the original paper. They are available in four sizes ranging from 9″ x 12″ to 2′ x 3′.
You can see them here on Liz’s new site The White Cabinet (follow her on Twitter here). Fans of fashion that play out in the classic movies such as “Funny Face” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and is defined by that little black dress, will find these vintage illustrations simply irresistible. I thought this would be the perfect interior-design-cum-fashion related item to catapult us all into fashion week. And to see the embodiment of the level of glamour Hilda was capturing, here’s a little clip of the personification of it.
I’ll be stopping by Jason Wu’s post-runway-show cocktail party this afternoon at the invitation of Brizo Faucets to meet some of my favorite tweeps. Will give you a report in a timely fashion! Happy catwalk-ing everyone! Postscript: Elizabeth did a blog post about our post (thanks, Liz!); find it here.
08/17/10
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BeeLine II to Debut Soon

I’m at Bunny Williams’ design studio for a peek at the latest offerings in her furnishings collection, the new introductions called BeeLine Home Collection II, which she’ll launch at High Point in October. She’s been in Honduras working on the line, with which she is taking a very hands on approach, down to the finishes she’s choosing for each piece. “I’m putting together a collection that I expect to stand the test of time,” says the inimitable designer. “It will be eclectic, just as the interiors I design are.” Judging from the richness of the detailing I see in the images, the line will also have her signature warmth and gracefulness. Fans of her aesthetic (and especially those who love to visit her NYC shop Treillage) will soon be able to shop online.
03/25/10
Toma Clark Haines

Channeling Your Inner Diva

Toma Clark Haines

When The Antiques Diva tells you that she will have you shopping until you drop, you had better believe her! Accessories goddess Patty Otis Abel and I spent a day in Paris with the daring Toma Clark Haines, the Diva herself, and were just about to the point of crying uncle when she breezed us right into The Ritz and straight into the Bar Hemingway! After one of head barman Colin Field’s French 75 cocktails, which he claims are the perfect balm for soothing fretful feet after a day of shopping or sightseeing, we were nearly as good as new.

As a design journalist, I had been hearing about the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, Paris’ famed flea market, for years. Some of my favorites among the homes I’ve covered were either filled with or accented with personable finds from the market, and I’d always dreamed of going myself. One of the reasons I had wrangled Patty into accompanying me to Paris (which, I’ll admit, was not a difficult task!) is that I don’t speak French and she does. But even with her language skills, we knew that trying to go it alone with tasks as intricate as price negotiations would be a mistake.

I learned about Toma through Carmen Natschke, The Decorating Diva, when she featured both of us on her kicky site that serves as one of my favorite surveys of what’s hot in design (I’ll be featuring her Look Books in a future post). I knew the minute I read Carmen’s write-up that Toma was a gift from the antique-shopping gods and I was right. We formulated a plan and Toma rang our buzzer at 9 a.m. the morning our adventure was to commence. It was non-stop action from that moment on and I was thrilled to hang on for the ride!

 

Patty and I were staying in an apartment in the 2nd arrondissement so Toma planned our route to take us to the Porte de Vanves Flea Market first, as it was on the way to the other venues she had planned for us. Toma calls Porte de Vanves the “other Paris flea market,” and Patty and I both nabbed great finds there. She also took us to a Vide Grenier, which literally means “empty-your-attic sale.” These are neighborhood flea markets that dot the city on weekends. After a quick lunch, she guided us to our most magnificent stop: Les Puce de Paris, or Clignancourt as some people call it, referring to its location at the city’s perimeter in the Porte de Clignancourt.

There are so many facets to the hulking market that it would have been impossible for Patty and I to have made sense of it on our own. Two thousand vendors are spread out through thirteen districts and 7 miles of alleyways! Toma had identified three districts that she felt would suit our needs the best, just one of the ways her expertise made the experience manageable. I hit the usual sensory overload that I always reach during such stimulating experiences, but I never once felt lost during the nearly 10 hours we moved through the city and its renowned markets.

The backstory is that we had such a great time thanks to Toma’s bubbly personality and positive attitude that Patty and I both walked away from the experience feeling as if we’d made a new friend (see for yourself here). Once our antiquing adventures were finished, we freshened up at The Ritz before hitting the bar. Thanks to Toma’s urging, I’d packed one of my prettiest scarves, which I tied around my neck, instantly feeling an elegance befitting Paris and our storied locale.

When Colin ornamented our drinks with a fresh flower that he said he chose to compliment how he perceived our personalities, it felt like the icing on the cake. Getting to bring two very special finds home from Paris is the decorative marzipan curlicues! To schedule tours, visit Toma’s web site; to keep up with the latest, she had an informative blog. Happy antiquing all you Divas out there!

03/22/10
Flowers at George V

On Elegance

The Eiffel Tower

As I nestled into my seat on the Air France flight to Paris, the word elegance came to mind and never left it during a six-day trip that was one of the finest adventures of my life thus far. I don’t fly business class often so when the stewardess handed me the printed dinner menu and I saw that the airline’s sommelier had handpicked wines to accompany the meals—from champagne and Languedoc Blanc to Bourgogne Rouge and Bordeaux Rouge—I thought to myself, “Thirty-thousand feet isn’t heaven but it’s seeming pretty darned close!” It wasn’t just that I was seated in the front of the aircraft that made it an elegant experience. I have been in business class on other carriers and had yet to be served Camembert and Brie on a beautiful cheese leaf onboard an airplane! The tiny bottle of olive oil on my tray was shaped like the Eiffel Tower. I actually kept it as a souvenir because I’m a total sap for such finely considered aesthetic details. The steak, served with horseradish-spiked potatoes, was pink and tender, and the crunchy asparagus tasted earthy as if it had just been plucked from the ground. This was only the first physical manifestation of the truism “the French really know how to live.” [

The Louvre

From the stately beauty of its neoclassic architecture to its shockingly clean and chic arched metro stops clad in white subway tile, the city lived up to its sophisticated reputation. So did the experiences that unfolded during my time there. Sometimes it was the grand gestures that stood out, but often it was the subtleties of an experience that made an impression. I was traveling with my friend Patty Otis Abel, who began her every-six-hour-pink-champagne rule our first evening there. We were ensconced in a settee at the beautiful Bar 228 at Le Meurice on the rue de Rivoli across from the Tuileries Garden. A crisp Sancere in my glass and Rosé Champagne in hers, we toasted our good fortune at having one of the most luxurious settings possible for our first drinks in Paris—being bathed in soft candlelight, nestled into sumptuous leather and treated like royalty by the bar’s manager William Oliveri was simply the cream.

Flowers at George V

The next afternoon—while strolling through the lobby of another storied property, the George V—we marveled at the floral arrangements created by the hotel’s artistic director Jeff Leatham, who orders 9,000 blooms each week from the Netherlands to make his fragrant creations for the public spaces. The attention to quality and freshness truly showed. That day, tall clear and jeweled-green glass vases were filled with white orchids and bisque-colored heather, the intermingling of which created an interplay of whispery, texturally-rich paleness against the intricately veined marble of their surroundings.

Another experience at the hotel came to symbolize the pinnacle of elegance, as it brought with it the realization that the French understand the art of making a meal into an event worth savoring. After our tour of the George V, we had the exquisite pleasure of feasting on Chef Éric Briffard’s tasting menu at Le Cinq (where we had watercress soup that was dreamier than I could ever have imagined). The variety of flavors and the ways in which they were combined during the meal had us wondering how the next dish could possibly top the ones that had come before, but they always did. We also dined at Le Relais Plaza in the Plaza Athénée, which was nostalgically beautiful with its interiors designed after the ocean liner Le Normandie.

Chef Phillippe Marc’s interpretations of Alain Ducasse’s lauded fare were served in sensual waves of tasteful abundance within the buoyant setting. To be honest, I had expected these meals in two of Paris’s “starred” restaurants to be among our finest experiences but whether we were eating dishes prepared by a Michelin-tapped gastronomic luminary or in a corner café sharing a ham and cheese sandwich on a crunchy baguette, we didn’t have an unmemorable meal.

Museo Carnavalet

During our only weekend there, for example, we decided to spend Sunday morning at the Place des Vosges, which had been one of Patty’s favorite haunts when she lived in Paris. We left our apartment at around eleven, stopping in to visit the Musée Carnavalet, which was once the home of Madame de Sévigné, France’s first woman to collect and publish her letters. This was a pilgrimage for me, as I’d read biographies of her and most of her letters, which were written during the reign of Louis XIV. The museum held a retrospective of French history during her time, and I loved seeing the artifacts and knowing I’d walked along the pavers where her elegant slippers had once trod. With a buoyed feeling of having touched history, I strolled beneath the expansive colonnades that surround the park at Place des Vosges.

The moment turned magical when I heard the stains of one of my favorite Django Reinhardt numbers wafting across the plaza. We followed the sound to a trio of musicians named Borsalino and stood listening to their cocky renditions of the French jazz artist’s tunes. After stopping in at a few shops that caught our eye, we came across a brasserie with cheerful red café chairs and tables on the sidewalk. The energy was lively but intimate inside so we decided it would be the perfect spot for brunch. [

A colonnade at Place des Vosges

We ordered the prix fixe and were delighted when the waiter placed pale plum-colored kirs in front of us. Our courses began with a delicious lentil salad and a half bottle of wine. As we progressed through the fresh, flavorful fare, we lingered in the cloistered atmosphere—talking, laughing and, as it turned out, crying our way into the afternoon. No one reached for our plates before each of us had completed our courses, no one offered us the check before we asked for it and at no time did anyone make us feel as if they needed our table for another guest, though the restaurant was teeming with customers. This, I believe, is the hallmark of a civilized, cultivated culture.

Patty remarked as we were leaving: “You’ve just had a true Parisian Sunday afternoon!” The brasserie was La Place Royale; it was simple and elegant, and I was in love with every moment we spent there! I’m guessing you might be asking, “Why in the world would two women with Paris at their disposal be crying on a glorious Sunday afternoon?” We were remembering the person who had introduced us. My first next-door neighbor in New York City and Patty’s decades-long best friend was Steve Hogan. From the minute he met me, he said he had a friend I simply had to meet because he knew we would hit it off. Needless to say, we did. Patty and I knew we’d be thinking of him as we made our way through the adventures that Paris offered us, but we didn’t know just how present his essence would be.

The relization began as soon as our first day there. Fresh from the airport, we dropped our suitcases at our apartment in the 2nd and, literally, hit the ground running. Our first task was getting to the Centre Pompidou, which we decided to do on foot. We were on our way to see an exhibition by one of Paris’ hottest designers Patrick Jouin, who was meeting us there. I have no idea why, but about halfway there I blurted out that the song “Volare” was running through my mind. We laughed because not only is it not a French song, it is a pretty corny Italian one at that! As we frantically searched for the next street sign pointing our way to the Boo Boo, which seemed to appear and disappear in no orderly fashion that we could tell, Patty remarked that if Steve had been with us, he’d have known the etymology of the word Volare, the cultural significance of it and quite possibly why it had popped into my mind!

Bar 228 at Le Meurice (photo by Guillaume de Laubier)

That evening, while we were sipping our drinks in Bar 228, we were reminded of that moment when an ensemble of musicians gathered around the grand piano and suddenly began playing “Volare.” Patty and I froze in stunned silence as they sang the word Volare, then abruptly stopped and moved on to another song. It would have been so much less remarkable had they continued the song through its rhythmic end, but they didn’t. It was as if they simply changed their mind without further ado!

These seemingly small but powerful occurrences happened again and again while we were there. The thing is, I would never have thought of Steve in the context of elegance had I not written this, but it is fitting. Yes, he was always the first one to knock a drink over at any given get-together because he loved to talk with his hands, and his gestures were sweeping and expressive. He also had a loping gate that made me run to keep up with him when he was excited, which was most of the time. But there was something groundedly ethereal about him, if you’ll forgive me the made-up word and the oxymoron.

Flowers at Au Jardin de Mexico Fleuriste Decoraeur

During one of my first weeks as his next-door neighbor in New York, I heard a noise in the hallway. When I peered through the ocular eye tamped into my door, I saw him leading an elderly woman up the flight of stairs to our floor. When they reached our landing, he smiled at her and handed her a bouquet of flowers. She smiled back, saying thank you in an odd-sounding accent, as he led her into his apartment. He later told me she was a Russian linguistics coach. Of course, I thought. He was eternally learning a new language—could, in fact, master one in about a week. He was simply that brilliant. But it was the fact that he’d taken the time to buy this elderly woman flowers that touched me. Who does that for a language teacher? I never did.

As it turns out, he bought her a bouquet every week, explaining when I asked about it that he did so because she’d lost her husband not long before the two of them had met and she felt alone for the first time in her life. So I bring these memories of Paris to a close by celebrating that among the treasures I found in The City of Light are happy memories of Steve and a remarkable time with his best friend, whom I now count among my cadre of closest compatriots.

[I was comped airfare and some of the meals reviewed in this article during my trip to Paris, though the consideration received no special treatment in terms of coverage.]

03/3/10
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Marvelous Marqueterie de Paree

Remy Lemoine and Lison de Caunes with the Sogni Tieback

One of the most amazing things about social networking (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) is that it’s now possible to meet creative beings from across the globe (and to get to know about them and their artistry) without ever setting foot in their countries. This is how my connection with passementerie designer Rémy Lemoine began—an avatar of a beautiful tieback on Facebook that caught my attention. While in Paris, I was thrilled to spend time with Rémy. Fellow-writer/blogger Patty Otis Abel and I hopped on a bus with the designer to travel to the Left Bank, where we saw the beautiful straw marqueterie creations at Ateliers Lison de Caunes.

Lison is a third-generation marqueterie artisan who not only repairs furnishings that have felt the wear of time and too many hands but also creates incredible contemporary furnishings using the environmentally-friendly material and techniques that haven’t changed for centuries. Rye straw is shipped in bundles to Lison from Burgundy. Colors are achieved by soaking the thin reeds in watery dyes; then the natural material is sliced open, flattened and glued onto a surface for a shimmering effect and a finish that is incredibly durable. I asked the artisan to demonstrate the technique, which she does in this video. Lison manufactures some of Rémy’s most popular tiebacks, including a marqueterie version of the Sogni, the shape of which came to him in a dream (sogni is the Italian word for “dream”).

About collaborating with Lison, he remarks, “When the best Ouvrier de France [craftswoman] in straw marqueterie demonstrates her love for the matter, she allows us to witness the birth of a brand new challenge, an unprecedented demand on quality, and an implementation of the French savoir faire. She applies the same techniques as wood marqueterie to rye straw, a 17th-century French tradition that gave us cases, chests, boxes and nice pieces of furniture.” Rémy compares the straw marqueterie tradition to the Living Treasures of Japan, which are honored for their preservation of the ancient arts. I couldn’t agree more… I also had the thrill of walking through Patrick Jouin’s exhibition, La Substance du Design, at the Centre Pompidou while I was in town. See what the visionary had to say about his work, the show and the devil on my International Design Examiner page!