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WORD OF MOUTH

Can't Miss Travel Tips for 2010

TS-four-seasons-beirut.jpg
The new Four Seasons in Beirut has 230 terraces

by Ondine Cohane

Is it really already nearing the end of January? Time to think about some can't-miss hotels, exhibitions and goings-on for 2010:

* The Irving Penn exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London starting February 18th. Penn passed away in October, and the retrospective pays homage to one of the most unparalleled photographers in history. Expect shots of notables from Truman Capote to Pablo Picasso.

* The new Four Seasons Beirut, which just opened its doors last week. I have had a bee in my bonnet about visiting Beirut for some time, and the debut of both the Four Seasons and the stylish Le Gray makes a sojourn even more tempting. Look for special weekend and opening offers.

* The opening of Eataly in New York City. There is still no official opening date for this behemoth, but expect the Manhattan outpost of this huge Italian gourmet market to give Whole Foods a real run for its money. Co-owner Joe Bastianich tells me that late spring seems the likely debut.

Continue reading "Can't Miss Travel Tips for 2010" »

WORD OF MOUTH

Retail Therapy in Paris

Collette_dt

Colette on Rue Saint Honoré
Photo: karl_hab / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


by Ondine Cohane

I didn't get to make my annual Paris expedition last year due to travels elsewhere and I really missed it especially for the killer shopping opportunities (among my favorite stops are Vanessa Bruno for dresses, Paul and Joe for chic separates and suits, Sabbia Rosa on the Rue des Saint-Peres for suitably silky lingerie, Christian Louboutin, natch, for the red-soled wonders, and Colette, that temple of all things cool).

Now there are two more stops to add to the pilgrimage: one of the city's coolest boutique owners, Maria Luisa Poumaillou, who has one of the sharpest eyes in fashion (she was an early champion of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen) has just opened second outpost, a stand alone store in the newly renovated Printemps department store. What's cool about this new boutique is that in addition to her glamorous handpicked selection from designers like L'Wren Scott and Roland Mouret, she is also coming up with her own first capsule collection which is sure to be a hit with the fashion set.

And then there is Merci, the new hot shop from the owners behind the children's brand Bonpoint for people looking for a deal on designer threads who also want to feel socially conscious--basically the way the concept works is that designers and collectors give some of their wares for free, then the store sells the clothes for less than retail prices, and the proceeds go to underprivileged children in Madagascar. Think Burberry, Chanel, YSL etc at a about 30-40 percent off their original price tag.  It's a shopping trip you can feel good about. Now I just have to figure out when to make the next trip.

WORD OF MOUTH

Goodbye 2009: Ondine's Favorite Travel Discoveries

by Ondine Cohane

Before looking ahead to the most anticipated destinations and openings of 2010, it is time to say goodbye to 2009 and ten of my favorite discoveries of the year:

* The rocky island of Giglio off the Tuscan coast. The clarity and the beauty of the sea here makes up for the parts of Italy's mainland, which have been marred by excessive development.

* Cartagena and the wonderful boutique hotel Agua. Next time I want to check out Tcherassi Hotel + Spa, the brand new property by Colombia's most famous fashion designer.

* Minetta Tavern. There were a number of excellent New York restaurants that opened in 2009, but my favorite had to be this restoration of a West Village classic by Keith McNally. The man has a golden touch and this reinvention has to be his most successful venture yet. I still dream of the potato sides.

Continue reading "Goodbye 2009: Ondine's Favorite Travel Discoveries" »

WORD OF MOUTH

New York Hotel Restaurants Now Home to Top Chefs

The-Breslin-Ace-Hotel-New-York
The bar at New York Ace Hotel's Breslin restaurant serves the full menu, from Scotch eggs to fried head cheese
Photo: Melissa Hom

by Ondine Cohane

A decade ago, a hotel restaurant was mostly an afterthought, the sad stomping grounds of weary business travelers and harried families who couldn't make it off site to somewhere better. But in the last few years particularly, an on-site eatery has become a property's star attraction drawing both well-heeled locals as well as discerning out-of-towners. This season it's Manhattan's turn for some new hotel joints helmed by some of the city's top chefs. Last week, for example, I checked out Danny Meyer's new Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel, an inspired take on a typical Roman trattoria. Two weeks before, I had dined at a similar spot in Italy's capital and I have to say that the food in Meyer's place was even better: classic pasta alla amatriciana (spicy tomato and pancetta sauce), lip smacking lamb chops "Scottadito," which literally means finger-blistering, and a delicious whole spigola, sea bass delicately cooked with olive oil and a touch of lemon. The place was bustling but friendly and the wine list excellent, albeit a bit pricier than its more humble Italian counterparts. This week, the restaurant is also launching its breakfast service.

But Meyer isn't the only New York celeb chef opening a hotel outpost. The new Breslin in the Ace Hotel, the latest from April Bloomfield (who made a big name for herself at the Spotted Pig and the late John Dory), will be on my must-stop list for the new year.

Continue reading "New York Hotel Restaurants Now Home to Top Chefs" »

BOLDFACE

The Best of Celebrity Travel 2009

Cooking with Top Chef finalist Fabio Viviani was a challenge, especially for this kitchen nitwit.

by Beata L. Santora

Ho, ho, ho! Merrrry Christmas!

The fat man has almost landed, which means it's time for us to look back at the naughty and nice of 2009, Boldface-style. So hitch up your mouse pads and think back to a simpler time when....

* We got the lowdown on smart travel with style-guru Clinton Kelly.

* We partied with celebs at the annual Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards (check out the winners).

* We said good-bye to more than a few bright stars (hope you're at peace, Michael).

* We praised do-gooding celebs, like Alicia Keys for her efforts in Africa, Kate Walsh and Paul Walker for saving our seas, Ed Norton for supporting the Maasai, and Ken Burns for showing us the magic of the National Parks.

* We cooked (somewhat successfully) with Top Chef pro Fabio Viviani (see above for proof).

* We got hitched during a Roman Holiday.

* We were baffled by the celebrity pairing of Bette Midler and 50 Cent.

* We realized that a plane with a naked supermodel painted on it is far better than a plane without one. Call us crazy.

* We traveled in TV Land to The Tudors.

* We discovered the solution to the economic crisis: celebrity weddings.

* We got fashionable on NBC Mobile.

* We found that there's more to Vegas than strippers and casinos. Check out its awesome deals on hotels off The Strip, on savory cuisine, on fab entertainment, and even on the hot newcomers!

What was your favorite celeb travel moment of the year? Let us know in comments.

WORD OF MOUTH

The Latest Grand Dame Revamps

_Milan_Principe_Lobby
The lobby at Milan's Principe di Savoia

by Ondine Cohane

One of the main hotel trends I have noticed in the last few years is the revamp of the grand dame properties. Basically after these places become a little fusty the owners inject a good amount of cash, hire a hot shot interior designer, add a few funky details like a great spa or bar, and voila the place gets a whole new round of buzz and a new generation of guests. Among the impressive models for this kind of reinvention (and there are lots more): La Mamounia's redesign by Jacques Garcia (Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston added to the celeb quotient when they went to grand opening over Thanksgiving), the Pierre's $100 million refurbishment and a new Le Caprice restaurant, the Plaza Athenée with its great Champagne bar, and the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat in the south of France. The Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles is currently closed for renovation, but I am expecting the same kind of buzz after its unveiling in 2011, with a new spa and villas among the additions.

Another recent debut that I am excited about is Milan's Principe di Savoia following a $50 million redo. Rock star designer Thierry Despont--who was behind other such reinvented classics as Claridge's and the Dorchester--has given the place new life, added some suitably sexy new suites, and brought in the former DJ from Miami's Delano to pump up the bar scene. But the centerpiece is a new rooftop pool with its great views of the city--and the Alps on a clear day. Of course, the fashion crowd is already jostling for a prime room for the spring shows.

WORD OF MOUTH

The 2010 It List

Kyrgyzstan_yurt
"A yurt's-eye view
of the Kyrgyzstan sky"
Photo courtesy of Concierge

by Ondine Cohane

It's that time of year again, the moment to unveil my annual It List for Concierge.com that features the destinations that I think travelers will (or should be) keeping on their radars in the upcoming year. Some highlights:

* A number of the places are spots that I would love to travel to myself, like Burma and Sri Lanka.

* Two destinations that have made big impacts on me: Colombia and Venice, which has a number of recent hotels and museums breathing some new life into the must-see city.

* Black Tomato's Clemmie Harvey turned me on to Kyrgyzstan. At first, I must confess, I was somewhat skeptical, but after a little research, I was completely convinced that it is an adventure person's dream: heli-skiing in the peaks of the Tien Shan mountains (with no other tourists around), horseback riding along the Silk Route. If I wasn't knocked up right now I would head there in a heartbeat.

* Cuba has been on my wish list for years. With a bill going through congress that might open up travel there, it seems like we might be legally able to make the journey in 2010.

Read my It List for more.

 
BOLDFACE

European Travel Movies, 2010 Edition

by Beata L. Santora

Have you noticed that each year, a fresh crop of European romantic comedies attempts to lure us to the theaters? Whether it's Mandy Moore Chasing Liberty in Prague, or Ethan Hawke metaphysically disrobing Julie Delpy Before Sunrise in Vienna, or even Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck taking a Roman Holiday, all these flicks have one thing in common -- silly Americans crashing headfirst into "foreign" European customs, and ultimately finding true love amidst the confusion.

This January two more films join the hallowed ranks of the European RomCom. In Leap Year, cutie pie Amy Adams hightails it to Dublin to propose to her stuffy boyfriend (per Irish lore, a thing proper ladies can only do on February 29). Of course, she gets waylaid by a handsome Welshman who turns out to be "the one."

When in Rome stars Kristen Bell as another perky American who goes splashing around the purported "Fountain of Love" in Rome in order to change her bad romance mojo. Things go haywire when a bevy of misfits falls for her while handsome Josh Duhamel smolders on the bleachers. He turns out to be "the one" as well. Natch.

The story lines of these movies are about as surprising as finding pulp in your OJ. But that's not the point. What keeps us glued to the screen in these formulaic tales is the luxurious European scenery. Whether the rolling Welsh countryside, the Roman forum, or the Maria am Gestade church in Vienna, the settings are the real stars (except in Roman Holiday -- Audrey owns that one).

What are some of your favorite European films? Tell us in comments.

WORD OF MOUTH

Mozambique: Gorongosa National Park Opens Back Up

Mozambique
When I visited Mozambique a
few years ago, villagers
on Gorongosa's borders were
already embracing alternatives to
traditional slash-and-burn farming.

by Ondine Cohane

One of the most memorable trips I have taken for Condé Nast Traveler was to Mozambique a few years back (read "A Once and Future Eden" from the December 2007 issue). The country was spectacularly beautiful, with barely developed tropical islands in the north and south (and some of the best diving I have ever experienced), vibrant cities like Maputo with its Afro-Portuguese influences, and huge tracts of park land at its interior. The richness of both the culture and the landscapes made Mozambique's devastating Civil War that much more poignant--although I was very heartened by the way the country was recovering.

One of the most inspirational of the places I visited was Gorongosa National Park, reputed to be the place where Noah left his ark and animals. Once a glorious wildlife retreat, it had been decimated by the war: most of the animals had been wiped out by the opposing armies who used them as bush meat. Even though the accommodation was very basic at the time, the place had an incredible amount of potential for eco-tourism. So I was very happy to receive word that after three years of restoration, the property has opened a new safari camp, the Explorer's Camp, with trips starting to run there with luxe outfitters like Caznove + Loyd. There are only four tents (so, a maximum of eight guests) with custom itineraries on foot to see the returning populations of elephants, lions and hippos (not to mention the amazing bird life) and to explore Gorongosa Mountain with its beautiful forest and waterfalls. I am so pleased that the destination is opening up for more visitors while being conscious of its impact.

Further reading:
* A Once and Future Eden: Recovered from a civil war and balancing the conservation of great natural beauty with sophisticated resorts, Mozambique is an African hope fulfilled
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide

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