IMG_0433Not a first timer in New York it was my first visit in December. New York emanates a very special charme in the festive season. Everything is beautifully decorated and you’ll listen to Christmas tunes in virtually every store. If you are not in the mood for Christmas yet I recommend a weekend in New York – you will return transformed

 

 

 

Where to shop

 

5th Avenue is quite the no brainer when it comes to shopping options in NY. This is a good place to start off your shopping ventures. You’ll find many of highstreet brands such as Victoria Secret, Ted Baker and the likes

Macy’s has it all. While it might lack the exclusivity of Barney’s or Bergdorf Goodman you will find some of the more affordable brands here

Barney’s offers a well selected variety of luxury brands and a to die for selection of shoes.

Bergdorf Goodman emanates elegance and class. This is where New York’s fashionistas shop and you’ll find fewer tourists than in the other department stores.

Soho offers a mix of some of the more edgy designer stores and regular high street brands

 

Where to eat

ABC Kitchen has become a trendy go to place and has been frequented by celebs and foodies alike. The interior is stylish and cosy and the menu offers playful dishes. The food is entirely organic.

 

Decoy in Greenwhich Village  –  The best places are discovered by accident. Unable to score a table at the Spotted Pig (no, we were not prepared to wait 2.5 half hours for a table at this non reservation restaurant) we explored alternative gastronomic options in the area of Greenwhich and discovered a real find. Specialized in Beijing Duck the restaurant offers great alternatives such as linguine with lobsters and tender beef filet. The service is forthcoming and the atmosphere in this tiny, wooden restaurant is very cosy.

 

Balthazar – An oldtime favourite Balthazar is crowded, loud and French in a very New Yorkan kind of way. The menu includes all the French classics and the wine list offers a good choice. In walking distance to the Broadway this is a good place for a post show dinner. If you are looking for a calm, romantic setting we recommend you go somewhere else.
The Modern – After a stint at the MOMA (a must see whenever I am in New York) stop by for a lunch at Moma’s restaurant the Modern which offers a clean and serene architecture, a concise menu of refined dishes and impeccable service. The menu changes however is seasonal and included risotto or linguine with white truffle which is shaved at the table – delicious. A perfect place to unwind from all the hustle and baustle and you are likely to run into some of the more intellectual celebrities of New York.

 

Where to go for a drink:

Le Bain at the Standard in trendy Meatpacking district is where the young and the beautiful flock. Steps away from Gansevoort it has taken its place as a hip place to hang out. On weekends the club is open until 4 pm.

Where to stay:

During the Christmas season New York’s hotel prices hit rocket heights. If you book last minute an apartment might be a good alternative and offers the  additional benefit of more closet space to stock up newly bought treasures . Check out  Sanctuary Apartments in New York’s Lower East Side.

 

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With Christmas around the corner, the hunt for the perfect gifts has begun.  While I was in Paris for work  I decided to combine pleasure with pleasure and explore the fantastic shopping opportunities in the city of love.  And for those with a guilty conscious at the prospect of spending an entire weekend with something as hedonistic as shopping we have some great ideas on how to include a doses of art, culture and great food as well.

Where to shop:

Champs Elysee is home to a Louis Vuitton Store the size of a supermarket. It also hosts many of the big street brands. Venture further down Champs Elysees and explore the Marché de Noël, then take a walk in the Jardin du Louxembourg and hop into the Louvre for a culture escape from the bustling stores.

For more upscale shopping head to Rue Saint-Honoré in 1st arrondissement where you’ll find the oldest Hermes store and a variety of Chanel Stores amongst many others.

 

La Fayette is home to any upscale brand you can possibly think. The window decoration is a sight of its own

Where to eat:

After an intense day of shopping these are the places where famished Fashionistas refuel:

La Fountaine de Mars is a bustling little Brasserie close to Chlamps Elysee. With its checked red and white tablecloth and French classics on the menu it doesn’t get more Parisian than that. The likes of Barack Obama and Sarkozy have been spotted here recently. Bring some deep pockets as this is not your low budget option.

Restaurant Petrelle is a super cosy restaurant in trendy Pigalle. With an eclectic décor and dozens of candles this is the place for a romantic dinner for two. The restaurant is also home to a cat and a dog who chill out here. The food does unfortunately not live up to the great atmosphere so there is room for improvement.

Restaurant L’Angelique is an off the beaten path, Michelin starred restaurant and  offers  an elegant interior and fantastic cuisine. Try the 6 course menu with wine pairing.

Where to stay: Hotel Belmont is a small and cosy 4 star close to Champs Elysee.

 

While you are there don’t miss the new contemporary art museum, the LV Foundation. The building was designed by Frank Gehry and is worth a visit.

 

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What better way to spend a girls weekend than with a road trip to Italy! My mom and I had a fabulous time in Verona, Venice and Milan. Read about it here:

 Home to Romeo’s and Julia’s famous balcony and the Arena, adorable Verona is a definite must visit in its own right. While Verona might not wow you the way Venice or Rome do, it can easy acclaim the title “Cutest City of Italy”. Everything is easily accessible by foot and the squares and little medieval alleys provide a picture perfect scenery which seems almost too perfect to be real. The list of sights is vast and to see it all you’ll probably have to put in two full days. In addition, Verona is full of great eateries.

Fontanina: This tiny restaurant is located just outside Verona’s center. The  Michelin starred restaurant is divided into 3 sections. The interior is very particular with pictures, nipnap and kitsch absolutely everywhere but it all just adds to the warm and very cosy atmosphere.

The menu is concise. We opted for the poached egg with truffle and onion soup. The texture was good however unfortunately the different tastes of truffle and onion seemed to compete and the relatively subtle summer truffle simply lost out. The fish was ok and the truffle pasta was good with a calorie friendly serving size. The crème brulee rounded off our dinner very nicely. Our food was accompanied by a rich Amarone from the region. While the ambiance is very particular, the food unfortunately fails to enthuse as much.

Our next stop was Venice (a 2 hour car drive)  where we spent a sunny day walking around the romantic alleys, shopping souvenirs and simply enjoying a day a la Veneziana.

In the evening we returned to Milan and had dinner at Giacomo – the bistrot that be. The neighbourhood was packed and we had some difficulty finding a parking space and ended up valet parking or to put it plain: We left our car complete with car key with guy named Francesco (a complete stranger to us) and were beyond relieved when we found Francesco and our car (still with tires) after dinner.  What is there to say about Giacomo? Unfortunately only one thing – It is overrated. We wil not return but nevertheless spent a fun last evening in this overpriced and slightly uncomfortable establishment.

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It might be the light, the blue water, the romantic alleys or the many canals – there is something about Venice that is simply magical. The world’s capital of romance attracts millions of tourists from all over the world and in high season the city is so packed that you constantly feel as if stuck in the middle of a gigantic open air museum. It is also one of the places where it is almost impossible not to be identified as a tourist doing touristy things and there are no unbeaten tracks to go to. Still, Venice might be overpriced and overcrowded but it is certainly not overrated.

What to see:

Since we are not first timers to Venice we didn’t visit all must visit places and frankly 36 hours would have been a bit short in time. Apart from some no brainers such as the Markus square and the Rialto bridge you should also not miss out on the following:

  • The Peggy Guggenheim Collection hosts some impressive works by Picasso and Jackson Pollok amongst others
  • Doge’s Palace feature Venice’s typical Gothic architecture

Take the Vaporetto to Lido if you’d like to spend a day at the beach. The lido offers a long sandy beach and it is also where the annual film festival takes place.

Where to eat:

Osteria Alle Testiere is a tiny restaurant in Venice’s Castello neighbourhood. The restaurant offers two seatings, one at 7.30 pm and one at 9.30 pm. If you don’t want to have to watch the time, opt for the later table. From the outside the restaurant is unassuming yet the many Michelin stickers and other awards on the restaurant’s window raise culinary expectations. The interior is simple and puristic and the service is friendly.

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The menu changes daily. On it you will find today’s catch. We opt for insalata carprese with gambas which is excellent and a turbot fillet with a lemon basil sauce (light and subtle in taste) and tuna steak with porcini which is good but lacks rafinesse. For desert the panna cotta with forest fruit is simple but good. In essence, alle testiere provides good and honest cuisine.

 

Calle del Mondo Nove, 5801 Venice, Tel: 0039 041 522 7220

Ad Fiore in San Polo offers what might be Venice’s most romantic table for two. If you can score the only table outside with a view on the canale you have sorted out all requirements for a romantic evening

Where to go for a drink:

Venice’s Harry’s Bar is legendary as this is where the Bellini was invented. Celebrities (including Hemingway) discovered the bar in the 60’s and made it famous and Sex and the City revamped the Bellini in the 90’s. Today, tourists, (mainly Americans) come to Harry’s bar drink a Bellini for 16.50 Euros and enjoy the bar’s shabby chic bordering just shabby atmosphere. Coming here is a must do for many Venice first-timers.

Bauer’s Bar – The 5 star hotel houses a stylish open air bar with a beautiful view. The bar is full people dressed to the nine so it is advised to change your Havaianas and shorts for something more “adatto” if you want to come here. A perfect place for a digestif.

Where to shop:

Il Mercante di sabbia offers artistic jewellery at affordable prices.

Calle dei Saoneiri, San Polo 2724

Where to stay: The hotel Violino D’oro’s great location in the middle of Venice’s swankiest shopping area and steps away from Markus Square is its biggest trait. The rooms are simple and the hotel’s staff is helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The French Riviera…Palm Trees, Rosé Wine, deep blue water, white beaches and beautiful people dressed up to the nines…what is not to love about this paradise in the South of France.  We can’t help swoon over the beauty of this jet set hang out which turns into a complete frenzy in July and August. Tourists from all over the world flock here to experience the “Savoir Vivre de la Provence”. You can also spot celebs from Cameron Diaz to Beyonce who cruise the Riviera on their Yachts. Beach Clubs at the Pampelonne Beach and the Croisette are booked out, tables are sought after and the night life vibrates. It is advisable to bring some very deep pockets as everything is slightly overpriced – and we mean more than usual.

Now, if you are not in the mood for some serious, hedonistic fun and a lot of see and be seen, we recommend you skip the French Riviera in the high season altogether. Head there in late September or May when it is less “fou”. For the rest of you, continue reading as we will bring you the very latest from Cannes to St. Tropez.

Cannes – With the Croisette, Cannes offers one of the most beautiful beach promenades of the Côte d’Azur. The Croisette is where you will find the most exclusive boutiques, beach clubs and restaurants of this swanky Riviera Town.

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Where to stay:

St. Martinez: Without doubt the most luxurious hotel in Cannes. This is where celebs and oligarchs put up at. The stylish, 5 star art-deco hotel also hosts a spa and Cannes’ first choice gourmet restaurant. If you always wanted to rub shoulders with Eva Longoria at a breakfast buffet your odds might be pretty good at the St. Martinez. Bring some petty cash though as this is certainly not a budget option. 73, Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes, France, 06400

Hotel Cezanne: Not quite as exclusive as the St. Martinez but equally stylish, this boutique hotel combines Hollywood glamour with modern design and offers a private beach. It is located at 5 minute walking distance from La Croisette, 40 Boulevard d’Alsace, 06400; +34 04 92 59 41 00

Restaurants

Palme d’Or: Hands down the most exclusive Gourmet Restaurant in Cannes. The Michelin starred restaurant caters to hungry celebs and oligarchs. The restaurant’s interior is classy and elegant and offers gigantic, comfortable seats  and you will never want to leave – well perhaps only once you’ve seen the bill. The menu provides a shock to the system even to a Swiss based foodie long suffering from notoriously expensive restaurants back home. 73 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France +33 4 92 98 74 14

If you’d like to eat by the beach, the countless beach clubs at the Croisette also offer dinner menus. Head to Z Plage at the Martinez for a stylish dinner right by the beach

If you’d like to combine dinner with a night out, head to the Baoli restaurant.

Port Canto – Boulevard de la Croisette – Cannes Reservations / +33 (0)4 93 43 03 43

Nightlife

For years, the Bâoli with its infamously difficult door has been Cannes most exclusive club. In 2014 some of its glamour might have faded however it is still an elegant club with a beautiful outside seating area which also hosts a restaurant. To get in make sure you dress the part – Bâoli’s uniform includes a white shirt and classy slacks paired with Todd’s for the gents and a Hervé Léger type dress and skyscraper heeled Louboutin’s for the ladies.

 

The Gotha has become Cannes new party hot spot and though it lacks Bâoli’s exclusiveness and elegance it is where the party hungry crowd heads to nowadays.

St. Tropez

This charming fisher village offers a cute centre with stylish boutiques, a port where you will find various gigantic yachts as well as restaurants and bars. You can easily spend a few hours in this adorable village strolling around the narrow alleys and cute little cafes.

First timers are ought to take a café au lait at the Sénéquier, St.Tropez’s most famous café with its signature red chairs and tables. Located at Saint Tropez’s promenade the Sénéquier also offers first class opportunities for some relaxed people watching.

 

Your next stop should be the Beach Pampelonne with its many beach clubs.

Club 55 is one of the most famous and star-studded beach clubs and also offers a restaurant. The simplistic, hippie like charme of this beach club has attracted wealthy tourists as well as celebs for decades now.

Make reservations early as Club 55 is notoriously packed. Don’t worry about parking, the beach club offers valet parking. If you reserve a sunbed make sure to get there early as staff only holds reservations until lunch time.

The restaurant offers bikini conscientious cuisine. There is a large choice of salads and fish. If you cannot resist a desert try the tarte tatin, it is godly.

43 Boulevard Patch, 83350 Ramatuelle, France +33 4 94 55 55 55

To escape the hustle and bustle head to Antibes. Antibes beautiful medieval town offers a relaxed, down to earth vibe. Stroll around the many small shops and the covered food market at Cours Massena at the heart of the village (open daily from 6 am to 1 pm except Mondays)

Les Vieux Mures is Antibes most romantic restaurant. It offers stunning views and an excellent cuisine.

25 Promenade Amiral de Grasse, 06600 Antibes, France +33 4 93 34 06 73

For some soul pampering head to the Eden Roc Champagne bar at the Cap d’Antibes hotel, the most romantic place at the Cote d’Azur. Go there for a sundowner overlooking the ocean and indulge in their menu of signature Champagnes.

Boulevard John JF Kennedy, 06601 Antibes, France, +33 4 93 61 39 01

Another hideaway is Saint Paul Vence, a quaint hilltop village approximately 30 minutes from Cannes. Stroll around the cobblestoned, winding alleys of this adorable village and indulge in the amazing view of the mountains and the sea. It also offers various stores where you can stock up on your olive oil and lavender supply as well as countless art galleries. Matisse and Picasso used to hang out here.

 

Have lunch at the St. Paul which offers an adorable terrace. 86 Rue Grande, 06570 Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France +33 4 93 32 65 25

 

86 Rue Grande, 06570 Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France +33 4 93 32 65 25

What to wear at the Côte D’azur:

The Côte D’Azur is all about an understated yet chic and elegant look. Leave those Missoni dresses and feather earrings for Ibiza and instead pack the following 5 must haves for a perfect weekend at the French Riviera:

  • Large pair of Sunglasses (preferably Chanel or Bulgari)
  • An airy Kaftan (check outDiane Fürstenberg’s latest collection)
  • Wedges or Espadrilles for the day
  • Stilettos and Louboutines for the night
  • Hervé Léger type dresses in pastel colors

Dont’s:

  • Animal prints on anything except a pair of Stilettos
  • Anything too glitzy and flashy
  • Anything (and we mean absolutely anything) by Christian Audigier or Ed Hardy

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Travel Review Seoul

Seoul, South Korea’s bubbly, vibrant capital is home to nearly 11 million Koreans. While Seoul might not instantly wow you the way Hong Kong or Bangkok do, it is difficult to escape its vitality and trendy vibe. Hastily rebuilt after the Korean war, most of Seoul can best be described as functional rather than aesthetically appealing. Nevertheless, new architecture projects indicate that Seoul has some very ambitious plans.

Restaurants – Anyone fancy some Kimchi?

Seoul’s cuisine might best be known for its ubiquitous Kimchi which is served anywhere and with absolutely everything. A paradise for carnivores and barbecue lovers, Seoul’s cuisine offers a great variety of dishes. Most popular dishes include Bulgogi ( a spicy beef dish) and Bimbimbap which consists of Rice, beef, steamed vegetables and yolk, all served with a chili paste. For those with an adventurous palate try Seoul’s street food, rich in flavours and spices.

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Restaurant Maple Tree

Tucked away in bubbly Itaewon, this restaurant offers one of the best Korean barbecues. The small menu features the restaurant’s classics – pork belly and aged Sirloin steak. The barbecue comes with a rich variety of salads, sauces and of course kimchi. The service is cordial and helpful and explains with a smile how to wrap meat in salad leaves to create an authentic Korean type taco to barbecue novices.

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Maple Tree 31-1 Samcheong-dong, Jongro-gu

A Taste of … Shopping

The area of Myeungdong offers a good variety of Korean high street brands. Curiously you will find more shops focused on skin care products than on clothes.

Check out Roem, one of Korea’s most popular women’s fashion brands with a great selection of affordable and stylish women’s wear.

Skin Food (http://eng.theskinfood.com) offers low budget skin care products with interesting ingredients such as broccoli or tomatoes.

Salt & Chocolate in Bukchon Hanok Village sells stylish ballerinas and other shoes all manufactured in Korea.

Sights

The Gyeongbokgung Palace is Seoul’s most popular site. Built in 1395 by the Joseon Dynasty it consists of various buildings and charming courtyards and slightly resembles Beijing’s Forbidden City in its layout and design.

A taste of  … Art

Seoul’s  Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) which opened in November 2013 showcases contemporary Korean Art (Zeitgeist Korea) and International installations and is not to be missed. The museum is conveniently located nearby Buckchon Hanok Village, a pittoresque historic neighbourhood popular with tourists.

110-200 30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu

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Leeum Samsung Gallery hosts a small but comprehensive collection of historic and contemporary art and features a well-rounded selection of art pieces divided into a historic and a contempary art space. The clean and stylish building resembles the Guggenheim and the contemporary collection showcases installations by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst and paintings by Mark Rothko and Gerhard Richter. The Gallery is located 10 minutes from Itaewon. A must see!

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747-18, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu

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