Les Gets

Every winter I try to discover another mountain destination where I can breathe in fresh alpine air, dine on savory meals (including lots of cheese) and practice skiing. While last year found me in Courchevel, this year I became completely charmed by Les Gets, a Savoyard village in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France. What makes this village between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc so special is the intimacy you feel upon arrival. Les Gets is not merely an artificial ski station but a mountain destination filled with soul, all year round.

I immediately felt at home at the charming four-star hotel La Marmotte. Family run since 1947, the hotel is situated at the foot of the slopes and has in recent years expanded to include 63 rooms, four restaurants (including one in the mountains) and the luxurious Séréni-Cimes Spa. La Tapiaz hotel was added in 2011 offering an additional eight chalet-style rooms. I was impressed with the design and comfort of each of the unique rooms, ideal for a romantic getaway with plenty of suite options for families. And the restaurants… Aside from trekking up to the mountains for purposes of sport, no need to leave the hotel. Not to mention the spa where I could easily spend every evening between the hammam and jacuzzi. Heaven!

From La Marmotte I headed up for a tour of the landscape, this time via racket walk. Harder than it sounds!

With plenty of snowfall, the views were breathtaking! I could imagine the stunning scenes come springtime.

Appearing like an oasis was La Marmotte’s restaurant La Paika, high up on the slopes and well worth the climb to feast on traditional dishes and fish grilled on their wood-fire barbecue.

I forced myself to leave the hotel to explore the village, and stopped to buy a few local Haute-Savoie specialties, including cheese. Apparently my fondue feast at restaurant La Pivotte only whet my appetite.

What this gem of a village also has to offer is the impressive Mechanical Music Museum. Opened in 1988, this museum houses over 550 musical instruments from around the world, including chimes, street organs and mechanical pianos. Prepare to be both amazed and entertained! Yet another reason to plan a trip to the mountain haven of Les Gets.

Paris Picks : Spas

With the summer calm long gone, temperatures dropping and the bustle in Paris ever prevalent, it’s important to take time to relax your mind and indulge your body. Both as a visitor and a local, walking around the city all day will leave you inspired, albeit exhausted. I thought I’d share my favorite Parisian addresses (not connected to hotels) for relaxation from head to toe, foot massage included. Take note of these stellar Paris spas!

Free Persephone feels like stepping into Springtime, regardless of the season. This fragrance day spa features luxurious manicures and pedicures using all organic products, including Priti NYC polishes and all natural lavender scrubs. Scented with the owner’s own perfumes and a menu including tea and aromatherapy massages, you’ll leave beautified and relaxed, floating into the neighboring rive gauche.

Free Persephone // 66 boulevard Raspail 75006 // +33 (0)1 42 22 13 04 //

The first salon dedicated to the beauty of the face, body and hair, Carita was established over 50 years ago by two sisters. This ‘Maison de Beauté’ in the heart of Paris’s fashionable Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, is an address well respected by the beauty elite. Following a rehydrating and lifting facial treatment, your skin will feel recharged with vitality. Simply put, you’ll leave the spa glowing!

Carita // 11 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75001 // +33 (0)1 44 94 11 11

How better to spend an afternoon than in a steamy hammam followed by a body mask of volcanic clay and an organic argan oil massage? Step into this luxurious Moroccan setting in the rive droite, or their first location in Boulogne, and find your bliss. Les Cent Ciels will leave you counting the stars while nourishing your skin and soothing your mind.

Les Cent Ciels // 7 rue de Nemours 75011 // +33 (0)1 55 28 95 75

Your sense of touch will be heightened with a visit to Le Spa Dans le Noir, in the heart of Paris. What makes this sensory experience so special is the fact that you’re being treated in complete darkness (with an option for light), by a sight-impaired or blind massage therapist. Complete relaxation is the priority and the result, regardless of the massage you choose.

Le Spa Dans Le Noir // 65 rue Montmartre 75002 // +33 (0)1 83 95 46 77

Stepping through the portal of Ban Sabaï, you’re automatically transported to Thailand. Whether you choose a foot, hand, head or full body massage with all natural oils, your senses will accompany you on this journey to the Far East. This is the first Parisian address dedicated to traditional Thai massage, with several locations, some specializing in foot massage.

Ban Sabaï // 9 rue Saint Antoine 75004 // 46 rue de la Pompe 75016 // +33 (0)1 45 00 99 99

You can read more about these and other Paris spas in my latest feature in LUXOS Magazine (available in Paris) and find my top five hotel spas in Bonjour Paris. Happy pampering!

Perfume Inspired by Travel

I possess a strong sense of smell and simply adore perfume, but only very select scents. For the last few years I’ve been wearing Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel. I wasn’t planning on changing my fragrance until a trip to Courchevel last March. Testing a few samples of a perfume I hadn’t heard of or smelt before, I became completely smitten with the notes of a particular scent, which rarely happens. This is how I discovered Memo.

Little did I know, it was the perfect setting in which to become acquainted with a perfume company started by a couple that met on a ski lift. Clara and John Molloy are both avid travelers, he from Ireland and she from Andalucia, Spain. Together they set off on a journey to create Memo, a collection of scents inspired by their adventures around the world.

Why perfume? Fragrance has the same rite-of-passage dimension as travel, serving as a threshold between the known and the unknown. Smelling, breathing in a scent, is accepting to leave a safety zone in search of new sensations, and tying them to one’s personal experience. Fragrance kindles an excitement similar to that of a journey, a departure. It is about openness and abandonment. As a fellow traveler, I couldn’t agree more.

After writing a book on “noses” in 2006, Clara embarked on a voyage through the olfactory senses and Memo was born in 2007. For the last decade, Memo’s Les Echappées collection has been inspired by journeys from Asia to Africa including Manoa, Hawaii, Marfa, Texas and Granada, Spain. The scent that won me over was Lalibela, inspired by the mystical land of Ethiopia. This unique fragrance, with key notes of rose, patchouli and frankincence now joins me in Paris, Monterosso, The Hamptons, or wherever my adventures take me.

Visiting their flagship store off of rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, I discovered all eighteen luxurious scents, the most recent being Eau de Memo, a commemorative fragrance celebrating the 10th anniversary of Memo Paris. Just as their perfumes are inspired by travel, so too do they travel, now being available all over the world.

The expression that best captures the spirit of Memo is “The journey is the destination”. A perfume after my own heart.

Courchevel 1850

Last week I discovered the most chic winter destination in France. Courchevel is a ski resort in the French Alps. Part of Les Trois Vallées, it’s the largest in the world. Courchevel alone is made of up of three levels, the highest being 1850 meters up in the mountains. This was where we were headed. Having only skied in the U.S. and Italy, I was looking forward to the adventure.

Just over three hours after leaving Paris I arrived to hotel Le Strato, set high up in the mountains. This five-star alpine hideaway revealed stunning views of the Alps, with skiers passing by on the paths just outside my window. I was in snow-capped heaven! I breathed in the fresh mountain air as I settled into my luxurious room.

This family run hotel is one-of-a-kind. Opened in 2009 by “a young lady of over 80,” it was the realization of a dream for Jeannine Boix-Vives. It’s named for the Strato skis that had contributed so much to the Rossignol brand’s fame, a company once owned by Jeannine and her family. As she so wisely states “dreaming alone will not determine your destiny.” Every detail in the 25 suites is taken into consideration, from the elegant modern decor to the unique comforts (catching up on the news from the bathtub, for one). The unrivaled spa uses Sothys products and features two saunas, a steam-room, jacuzzi, gym and indoor pool. (My signature massage was heavenly!) I was thrilled too, to take an invigorating yoga class, adding to the bliss I already felt.

Symbolic of the three generations running Le Strato, family paintings hang in the library, dining room and along the corridors, complimented by wooden sculptures and artwork collected from around the world.

What makes Le Strato even more of a haute destination is its Michelin-starred gastronomy.  Restaurant Baumanière 1850 is run by Jean-André Charial (owner of the famous Michelin 2-star restaurant l’Oustau de Baumanière in Baux-de-Provence). With executive chef Lowell Mesnier working closely with chef Glenn Viel and Jean-André Charial, the food alone is worth the trip. Having already tasted Glenn’s cuisine on my visit to Baumanière, I knew I would dine like a queen. Every evening I looked forward to the gourmet feast following a cocktail at the cozy bar, live music filling the space. Breakfast in the same regal setting was an introduction into local tastes.

Ready to discover the mountains, I headed to the ski room for my gear, booked a teacher to guide me through the slopes and headed down the hill directly from the hotel. With many blue pistes to choose from, as well as a handful of red for those more advanced, I felt completely at ease. This was paradise!

Guided by the sun, we skied the smooth snow all the way down to the village and took the chair lift back up, with views of Mont Blanc in the distance. It took a few years, but finally I was feeling that ski high unique to those dedicated to the sport. I was elated and couldn’t wait to return with my expert Italian skier!

I even encountered art in the mountains during my first ever racket walk, a healthy alternative to skiing. “Doggy John” by painter and sculptor Julien Marinetti stands 175 cm at 2238 meters high.

Before the return to Paris I took a petit pause on the terrace, filled with gratitude at having experienced this tasteful family chalet that honored one woman’s life, while providing happiness to so many others.

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?

Weekend in the 8th

I’m of the opinion that in order to truly appreciate where you live, and not take it for granted or let it wear you down (yes, even Paris) you must once in a while play tourist.  So every year I plan a local weekend escape for my Italian and I. This year it was across town to Hôtel Daniel in the 8th arrondissement. This Relais & Châteaux haven hidden just behind the Champs-Élysées and steps away from rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoréis a four-star gem. We were looking forward to moving in!

Upon entering I felt as though I had been invited to a private home. The vibrant living room was filled with travel artifacts collected by the hotel’s owners during their journeys around the world, which I would soon discover ornamented all 26 of the unique rooms and suites. The decor revealed a unique combination of Toile de Jouy materials with chinoiserie-style motifs. Even the basket for my tea kettle looked like an artifact from the Silk Road.

Once my handsome date arrived we settled into our room on the top floor, overlooking the Parisian rooftops. We both favored the cozy loveseat with a view and knew that would be where we’d sunbathe while reading the morning paper.

On Friday night we happily caroused the quartier, feeling like we were indeed visiting from faraway. At the hotel’s recommendation we dined at 110 de Taillevent, where 110 wines are available by the glass. Impressive! It was a perfect meal on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, a nice change from our usual right bank eateries. For breakfast we opted not to part with the views, ordered room service and dined with the sun.

That day we went window shopping on the Champs-Élysées and explored the annual Christmas Market, vin chaud in hand. My Italian went running in new territory and I stopped by neighboring Gagosian Gallery, one of my favorites for stellar art exhibits. After tea time at our new home, we headed out once more for dinner, with no clear plan in mind, only to get lost in our new neighborhood.

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