Faena District

Having been to Miami over a dozen times for both work and play (namely Art Basel for the latter), I usually found myself nestled into a hotel in South Beach, along with everyone else who escaped to this sunny enclave. This time however, I explored a new area, removed from the crowds and with a charm and distinction all its own. Ten minutes north of South Beach in Mid-Beach sits the recently coined Faena district, Miami’s latest It spot. Having experienced the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires, I could already envision the artful grandeur. Making a name for itself in late 2014 thanks to Argentian entrepreneur Alan Faena and his NY based business partner, this district includes two hotels and a performing arts theater.  I was eager to discover the historic boutique hotel Casa Claridge’s, or Casa Faena, once an apartment building built in 1926.

Upon entering you feel transported to another world, one in Spain or even Morocco. The luminous library in the hotel’s inner courtyard is well-equipped with literature and design books. I could easily have spent the afternoon here, or reading on the roof deck, but there was a beach umbrella calling my name. We quickly settled into our room, a spacious King with balcony and views to the beach, the next stop.

Little makes me happier than a shady spot in front of the sea. With so many festivals and activities going on during Miami’s high-season, we were still able to avoid the crowds and revel in what felt like a private beach. Once the sun set we headed to the laid-back Broken Shaker, a stellar bar nearby that opened in 2012, and dined at their new 27 restaurant. The next morning we were back on the beach, with just a quick walk to the Faena family’s latest addition, Hotel Faena, opened a year ago.


This modern hotel, a contrast to complement its historic predecessor, was just the place I’d like to check-in to for a few more days. Complete with gym, spa, pool and two gourmet restaurants, there was much to discover. And let’s not forget the neighboring Faena Theater, reminiscent of Old Hollywood. A destination unto itself, was there really any reason to ever leave the Faena District?

Le Negresco

My last trip to the Côte d’Azur was in March. I spent a little time in Nice but was eager to become better acquainted with this, the region’s capital. Aside from its Mediterranean climate, it’s a city of art and culture, another reason to fall in love with it. To properly immerse myself in the world of French art, where better to stay than at the historic hotel Le Negresco. Centrally located between Cannes and Monaco, it sits on the famous Promenade de Anglais. It is here in this National Historic Monument, that the French works of art from Louis XIII to modern art, have a home. I knew I would be in good company.

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Upon entering, the grandeur of this hotel is hard to describe. I’ve stayed in many beautiful hotels around the world, but Le Negresco is in a class of its own. The Versailles Lounge alone takes your breath away, with Louis XIV’s portrait, marble floors, hand-painted ceiling, and elegant furnishings. The fireplace too, is original. I could imagine the decadent events having taken place in this salon since Henri Negresco opened the hotel in 1913, now over 100 years old.

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Next I entered the Royal Lounge, centrally situated beneath a large glass dome. This is Negresco’s soul, and you can certainly feel it. Once an elegant ballroom, it’s now an elaborate event space, displaying portraits of French royalty, including Napoleon III. A stunning Baccarat chandelier provides the centerpiece. Fittingly, the hotel’s 93 year old owner Jeanne Augier’s portrait also has a place on the wall. After all, it is she who welcomes each guest to her home, which she has taken great pride in decorating. She lives on the top floor with her cat, and ensures that this private, family run hotel remains at the highest 5-star level in comfort and cuisine.

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A good friend from Nice had often spoken about the restaurants at Le Negresco, particularly the vibrant and colorful La Rotonde. It’s in fact an 18th century carousel with wooden horses circling the restaurant. My eyes opened wide in amazement as I entered this space and understood immediately why it’s such a warm and welcoming place dedicated to families. The terrace opens up to the sea and this is where I chose to have lunch, accompanied by the sun. Breakfast would be enjoyed in the carousel.

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Le Negresco is also known for its haute cuisine. Le Chantecler is Nice’s finest restaurant, with two stars in the Michelin Guide under the culinary expertise of chef Jean-Denis Rieubland. He defines his cuisine and style as “inspired by Provence, with the respect of its products and traditions”. This is THE place for French gastronomy, boasting a wine cellar of over 15,000 bottles, with woodwork dating back to 1751. After dinner you can unwind at the neighboring bar with live music and a good digestif.

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With each of the 96 rooms and 21 suites uniquely decorated with period furniture, I was eager to take a closer look. Mrs Augier being an art connoisseur and collector, walking through the hotel and up the four floors feels much like being in a museum, with artwork from Salvador Dali and Sonia Delaunay, tapestries from Raymond Moratti and sculptures from Niki de Saint Phalle, to name a few. And the rooms? Timeless perfection.

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I felt very much at home in my room overlooking the Bay of Angels and knew I would return to this Art Hotel called Le Negresco.

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high tea time

As the days turn shorter and winter begins to make its presence known, I turn towards the sweet side of life in Paris. Having sipped chai in nearly all of the five star tea salons, each one is an experience in itself. France does excel in its pastries after all, and having a sweet tooth, I’ll try any sugary concoction whipped up by a respected pâtissier. My most recent experience in l’heure du goûter, as the French call snack time, was by the skillful hand of Pastry Chef Cédric Grolet at Le Meurice, with world renowned Alain Ducasse at the helm.

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Joined by two gourmand friends, we sat in the elegant restaurant Le Dalí, and started our high tea with a glass of bubbly, French style. What I immediately noticed were Christophe Robin’s Little Indulgences, warm finger sandwiches prepared to order. How divine! And I hadn’t even brought my attention to the sweet portion yet.

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The trays were stacked high with homemade sweets and scones with cream, each more delicious than the next.

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As an unexpected bonus, the most delicious madeleines were served to us, fresh out of the oven. But what took the cake was the Hazelnut, a rich and chocolaty dessert that must be tasted to be truly understood.

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The afternoon was long and luxurious! Leah Walker, fellow traveler, donned her new rive droite tote in high style. Along with writer Mary Winston Nicklin, we indulged in a tea time to remember. Until next time, ladies!

Melenos Lindos

We arrived to Rhodes and immediately fell under the spell of its majestic medieval city, the largest walled city in Europe. We explored the tangle of roads which led to the Jewish Quarter and paid a visit to the impressive Archaeological Museum. But our main destination was the town of Lindos, an hour by bus and a world of difference.

IMG_0884Rising over the traditional white homes of Lindos sits an acropolis dating back to the 10th century BC. As we ventured up the hill, we arrived to our home, Melenos Lindos, what appeared to be a village within a village; a world of its own that I was eager to discover.

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night at the library

Once upon a time, in what now feels like another lifetime, I worked on Madison Avenue. Just down the street from my office sat the Library Hotel, and I would often pass it during my lunch break, wondering what lay beyond it’s scholarly doors, was there really a library? On this trip to New York, being an avid reader, I booked a room and planned to find out.

IMG_2479Stepping into the hotel feels like entering a library, books and card catalogs lining the walls.

IMG_2435_2What I soon discovered was that the concept of the Library Hotel is inspired by the Dewey Decimal system. As per this famous method of classification (developed by Melvil Dewey in the US in 1876) each of the 10 guestroom floors is dedicated to one of the 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal System. In turn, each of the 60 rooms are filled with books and art concerning their unique topic. With over 6,000 books, there is plenty to read!

IMG_2481 3The theme of our room was mysteries, how fitting for a mysterious night in Manhattan!

IMG_2488_2With an impressive view of the New York Public Library, I truly felt surrounded by literature.

IMG_2425Venturing outside, the city lights shone brightly, with regal Grand Central in the distance.

IMG_2476_2During the complimentary buffet breakfast we met fellow travelers from around the world.

IMG_2430_2Most enchanting of all are the views from the Writer’s Den and Poetry Garden on the 14th floor rooftop. By night it becomes Bookmarks Lounge, serving literary inspired cocktails.

IMG_2549Where better to read the New York Times or a good book, over a cup of coffee and a view.

IMG_2500_2I can’t wait to return to the Library Hotel, a literary haven in the heart of New York City. Next time the romance room?

Peninsula paradise

In 1908, at the height of the Belle Époque, one of Paris’s most luxurious hotels opened at 19 Avenue Kléber in the 16ème arrond. Hotel Magestic was among the most elegant addresses in Paris and certainly a place to see and be seen! In the decades to follow, this late 19th century Haussmanian building lost it’s luster as it’s hotel doors closed and instead it housed various organizations.

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It was in 2008 that Katara Hospitality group decided to restore the building and create in it’s grand space the Peninsula Paris. I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview of this, the first Peninsula Hotel in all of Europe, and the 10th in the world.

Kleber EntranceI arrived to a red carpet, jazz musicians and champagne flowing! Following a presentation on the building’s history and the meticulous attention to detail in the restoration and modernization process, we met the highly skilled chefs & pâtissiers in charge of the hotel’s six dining options. Executive Chef Jean-Edern Hurstel’s “farm to table” philosophy is certain to please many a palate.

L'Oiseau Blanc Terrace copyPerhaps my favorite of the restaurants is L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird) situated on the rooftop. Is it here where I met the Marchand brothers, the hotel’s fromagiers, and tasted an exquisite goat’s cheese with a hint of rose. Following this dairy decadence I was served a dessert that I cannot even begin to describe, a creation by award-winning Chef Pâtissier Julien Alvarez. With a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower, I could envision the many lavish evenings that were soon to come to life in this new found paradise.

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As I toured the hotel, I took note of the many historic details. Some of France’s finest artisans were hand-picked to restore this grand structure to it’s former glory. Needless to say, what resulted in the 6 years of restoration is the ultimate in French craftsmanship.

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On August 1st the Peninsula Paris will welcome it’s first guests, in regal style. And in the days to follow I will certainly be one of them, at the least sipping a cocktail on a familiar terrace.