Japan offers a vast array of experiences. Sublime elegance and understatement are created by a country which seems to be on a joint mission to pursue perfection in even the tiniest of details. It is unique mix of traditions and exhilarating modernism which never fails to fascinate me. In Japan both past and future co-exist and it is this mix which represents Japan’s unique charm. It goes without saying that Japan is also a must visit for every true foodie to experience mouth-watering fresh food aesthetically displayed coupled with innovative cocktails offering intriguing taste compositions. You have come to food paradise!
This was my third time visiting Japan I spent an unforgettable time in Kyoto and Tokyo.
Kyoto is only a two and a half hour train ride from Tokyo however the two cities couldn’t be further apart. With its serene temples and gardens, Kyoto is the epitome of Japanese tradition. No other city in Japan represents this ancient culture more authentically. The city offers a vast number of temples and will leave you spoilt for choice. Wandering through the tiny alleys and shops instantly puts visitors back a hundred years. Make sure you carve out a few days to experience this fascinating city.
What to do:
The golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is one of the most beautiful temples in Japan. The Zen Temple’s floors are completely covered in gold leaf and set in a serene garden. Locals say that the temple is best to be visted on a rainy day, providing it with a particularly mystic ambiance. La bonne Vivante was in luck, it was indeed raining when we visited.The Pure Water (Kiyomizudera) is another famous temple in Kyoto. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall and was added to the list of UNESCO World heritages in 1994.
Whilst in Kyoto La bonne Vivante decided to attend a traditional tea ceremony. Camellia, the tea house of our choice is located in a former Geisha residence and the original layout has been retained. The tea ceremony as such was intriguing and followed the traditional routine of tool cleaning, preparing the matcha and serving the tea whilst accurately placing the rim. Who ever thought that having a cuppa could be so complicated!https://www.tea-kyoto.com/
La Bonne Vivante loved the end result and bought her very own Matcha tea set on the return flight back home.
Buy a Kimono
There is literally no better place to buy a Kimono than in Kyoto, the city of Geishas. Venture through Kyoto’s shopping district and you will find a few specialized stores offering handmade Kimonos.
I found a beautiful cream coloured kimono patched with gold in one of these tiny stores in Kyoto’s main shopping area.
Where to stay:
This is an easy one. When it comes to places to stay there really only is one option: a traditional Ryokan. For a truly unforgettable experience choose Tawaraya which is famed to be Japan’s most beautiful Ryokan. Booking a room is an adventure already. The Tawaraya has no email address and reservations are only accepted via fax!
Frequented by the likes of Hitchcock, Jean Paul Sartre and Steve Jobs the Tawaraya has become a true institution. Whilst not particularly noticeable from the outside, this gem reveals its beauty in the small details. The service is impeccable, its design is authentically minimalistic and the traditional Kaseiki food served by a personal waitress is a lifetime experience. Make sure you visit the adorable library which features Japanese art books and is so tiny that it reminded me of a dollhouse. Take a bath in the coffin like wooded tub, then get dressed in your Kimono, enjoy a 7 course Kaseiki dinner served in your very own suite and decelerate in your private garden. The Tawaraya isn’t cheap (be prepared to pay 1’200 Euros for one night including dinner for two) however well worth this lifetime experience. For reservations call: +81 75-211-5566
Imagine a beautiful alpine scenery bathed in sunlight, crisp mountain air and a full day of skiing ahead of you. Now imagine having all of this exclusively to yourself for an entire day. What a delightful idea! For the past 6 years, the Grand Tschuggen Hotel Arosa has been offering this experience to their guests and La bonne Vivante was thrilled to take part at this year‘s 7th “Private Mountain” event in collaboration with the watchmaker Parmigiani.
Once a brainchild of Leo Maissen, the Tschuggen Grand’s hotel director Private Mountain event has long become an institution attracting loyal guests, journalists and bloggers who plan their entire year around this special occiasion.
The Tschuggen Grand Hotel is a luxurious hotel which combines traditional elegance and old-world alpine heritage. It is set on the exclusive hilltop area of Arosa, which offers a stunning view of the grand mountain scenery. La Bonne Vivante had the pleasure to stay here twice and while there are certainly plenty of luxurious hotels in Switzerland, the Tschuggen Grand Hotel stands out for a number of reasons:
The service at the Tschuggen Grand Hotel is outstanding and very personal evoking an atmosphere of pampered luxury. The very friendly and efficient reception desk checked us in at no time and the restaurant staff was both professional and attentive. Our ski gear was stowed away in our ski lockers right away and when it was time to leave, our car was packed up immaculately. What struck us in particular was the personal level with which guests are attended here. We believe much of this exceptional service has to do with Leo Maissen who is a role model of hospitality and is involved in the slightest of details to ensure that guests are spoiled throughout their stay making it their “home away from home”.
Aesthetically pleasing, this Spa is a true haven for relaxation. Designed by the famed Mario Botta, it is an architectural gem, which integrates geometry, water and various materials on 5000 square meters providing a beautiful surrounding to while away the hours. Take a dip into the pool with its very own waterfall or relax in the mountain sauna or steam bath. This Spa is a perfect precursor to an active day spent on Arosa’s slopes or hiking trails. If you are looking for a treatment, we recommend the Tschuggen’s signature massage, which combines various massage techniques all resulting in blissful relaxation.
The Michelin starred Restaurant:
Gourmets are in luck; La Vetta, the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant offers contemporary, refined cuisine based on local ingredients. The kitchen, helmed by Uwe Seegert provides a changing menu according to available ingredients. Not to be missed!
The Tschuggen Express:
The Tschuggen Express was introduced in 2009. The hotel’s very own mini-train takes hotel guests up the hill and directly onto the slopes and hiking trails. The journey itself is a short 2.5 minutes making ski buses obsolete. With a gradient of 52% it is also a fun ride. Make sure to buckle up if you are seated on the right hand side of the train.
The private mountain experience:
After a sumptous breakfast, we got into our ski gear and took a ski lift up the Arosa mountains for a day of fun and snow. Our lift stops were sweetened by booths offering hot chocolate, wine and soup. Up on the mountain, the Tschuggen Grand Hotel’s team had arranged for a ski race including Archery and Can Throwing which we truly enjoyed. A group of nostalgic skiiers headed by Leo Meissen provided for an old-school alpine charm amidst perfectly manicured slopes albeit the lack of recent snowfall. A ski instructor was assigned to help us explore the wide slopes and provide discretionary ski lessons to those who hadn’t been on the skis for a while.
Another highlight was the launching of Parmigiani’s balloon up on the mountain top. We had lunch at Hörnli Hütte, a quaint, rustic mountain restaurant where we enjoyed hearty Älpermagronen. After a descent to the valley we completed our ski day with a delicious, hot „Aperol Spritz“. For many, this day represented the prelude to the skiing season and what a glamorous start it was indeed!
After a long day on the slopes we visited the Tschuggen’s Spa Oasis, relaxed our sore muscles and marvelled the beautiful interior design.
Re-energized and wonderfully relaxed, we dressed up in Dirndls and Leather pants to join the „Heidi and Peter“ Party which started with an apero, was followed by a delicous and hearty farmer’s meal and concluded with a fun night dancing to the tunes of the life band.
Wistfully, we say goodbye to the Tschugen Grand hotel. We had a truly fantastic stay at this very special hotel and vow to return soon!
Also referred to as the Switzerland of Asia Singapore is always worth a visit. While Singapore is a transfer stop over for some of the most splendid beach vacations such as Bali and Khrab,i it is an attraction in its very own right. With countless award winning restaurants, an Asian melting pot and the Marina bay, Singapore is definitely worth a visit. Now, its convenient small size allows for many of the attractions to be visited within a day or two. La bonne Vivante combined her visit to Singapore with a splendid beach vacation in Binan, Indonesia.
What to see:
Gardens by the bay which opens by the way showcases an array of trees, flowers and gardens in the center of the city. The Supertree hosts an Indochine restaurant. Marvel the view from upstairs. The entrance fee of 10 Singapore Dollars includes a soft drink.
Marina Bay Shopping Center includes a variety of top notch brands such as a gigantic Chanel store and Louis Vuitton’s island maison, an architectural gem. Also, you’ll find a large variety of great restaurants including my favorite Ding Tai Fun, the Taiwanese dim sum restaurant which offers beyond delicious dim sums filled with delicacies such as truffle and shrimps.
Where to stay: The Parkroyal at Pickering offers an amazing view of the city. The building, surrounded by lush vegetation is beautiful and also boasts an infinity pool with a beautiful view of Singapore’s skyline. The service is simply impeccable. I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else when in Singapore
From Singapore it is only a 1 one hour ferry ride to the island of Bintan to Indonesia. You can buy your ferry ticket right at the Terminal however make sure to be there at least an hour in advance. Getting to the ferry from Lagoi will only take 15 minutes and most resorts provide pick up service. Bintan is a quaint Indonesian island which offers a variety of water sports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling and stand up paddeling. It is also the perfect place for long walks on the pristine beaches of Lagoi, getting pampered and enjoying the Indonesian cuisine.
Where to stay:
The Banyan Tree is Bintan’s most exclusive resort set Bintan’s lush vegetation right on the beach. The quaint villas allow for a maximum of privacy and offer a great view. The 3 restaurants at the resort cater Indonesian, Thai and European cuisine. The Treetop Restaurant with an Indonesian menu and beautiful views of Bintan’s view was my favorite.
The Agsana resort just steps away from the Banyan Tree is a more economic option. The resort offers a great choice of complimentary activities such as Yoga and Jogging classes. The spa deserves special mentioning as it offers fantastic treatments such as a classic Javanese oil massage or an Indian head massage. The staff is skilled and very welcoming with a lot of attention to detail. Not to miss!
As a European surrounded by endless opportunities for a weekend get away, La bonne vivante found it incomprehensible that New York’s rich and famous who have the means to spend their vacation anywhere in the world would instead choose to flock in the Hamptons every summer. After all, there isn’t much more than large beaches and serenity to be found there.
Well, after spending a few days in New York La Bonne Vivante finally discovered the rather plain answer to this secret. If you live in Manhattan and spend your days in constant frenzy, queuing for a table at the latest hot restaurant surrounded by hordes of tourists and caught up in constant traffic no thought could be more blissful than that of peaceful nature, perfectly manicured gardens and wide empty beaches to share with equally stressed out New Yorkans.
We are ready for the Hamptons!
Where to eat:
Nick and Toni: No visit to the Hamptons would be complete without dinner at Nick and Toni’s which is an institution and has attracted A listers for many years. Hampton gossip has it that Richard Gear was seen flirting with a married women at a neighbouring table here. The restaurant has a pristine farmhouse charme with pretty outdoor seating. Try the Zucchini chips and whole fish which were delicious. www.nickandtonis.com
Montauk yacht club: Fancy a laidback lunch without any hoity-toity? The Montauk yacht club serves healthy salads topped with chicken or fish and burgers at very reasonable pricing. The ambiance is relaxed and the service is friendly. After lunch take a stroll through the yacht harbour or take a swim at the nearby pool. www.montaukyachtclub.com/
Main 75 in Southampton: Well, the only and thus also best bar in Southampton. Main 75 is also a restaurant however its unique selling point is its bar which serves a variety of cocktails and wines by the glass. http://www.opentable.com/75-main
What to do:
Beach bumming: This is one of the key activities in the Hamptons. Be aware though that there aren’t any beach clubs and you will have to take a sunchair and towels with you. If you are staying in Southampton, Coopers beach is one of the most beautiful.
Montauk: Take a tour to Montauk at the most southern tip of the Hamptons which is only an hour drive from Southampton and offers pristine beaches and a laid back atmosphere. Have coffee at the Montauk Beach Club.
East Hampton: The chic village is a bit larger than Southampton and great for some relaxed shopping.
Sag Harbour: Satisfiy your sweet tooth at Buddha Berry which serves yoghurts with what seems like the world’s largest array of toppings. After a stroll through this pretty village, have a drink at Hotel Americana, an institution in Sag Harbours
Where to stay:
While there are a few hotels in the area, true Hamptoners will stay at a friend‘s or relative‘s mansion. If you aren’t lucky enough to have aquantainces in the Hamtpons who will readily provide you with access to their splendid guest rooms, renting an apartment or house is the second best alternative.
One of the many benefits of a holiday at the Cote D’azur is that it offers a variety of beautiful towns to explore. Each of them have their very own charme. Nice, has a metropolitan appeal and is great for shopping, quaint Antibes offers the most breath taking views of Cap D’antibes and some of the best restaurants in the region, Glitzy Saint-Tropez is the jet set’s favorite destination and nearby Pampelonne beach has some of the coolest beach clubs in the region. However, if I have to choose a destination for a weekend trip it would have to be Cannes. Cannes offers a little bit of everything. The Croisette hosts an array of beach clubs and great restaurants right on the beach, there is a good selection of hotels to choose from and plenty of options for some bar hopping and clubbing. In short, Cannes is a condensed version the Provence’s precious charme. With a 45 minute drive from the airport it is also easy to get to.
Here is my list of things not to miss in Cannes:
Restaurants: There is large variety of restaurants by the beach. Try as many as you can as they are all excellent. My favourite is the Baoli restaurant.
Beach Clubs: There are many however La Bonne Vivante’s preferred choices ist the Martinez beach club.
Clubs: Baoli & Gotha Club are among the best clubs to frequent when in Cannes.
Hotels: Famous for its celebrity clientele the Martinez combines artdeco charme with classic exclusiveness. Having an apereitif at the hotels outdoor bar by the pool at sunset is an absolute must!
“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
There are large cities, metropolises, giant cities and then there is New York. No other city can quite compare to New York, the wealth of its diversity, the size of its skyscrapers, the creative buzz coupled with a never ending choice of bars, restaurants, clubs and stores. As New York constantly reinvents itself even locals struggle to keep up. At the same, traffic jams, long queues and the notorious impudence of New York’s residents can be nerve-racking. Yes, New York is loud, chaotic, crowded and yet it is also the most inspiring, energizing and exhilarating city in the world. La Bonne Vivante spent a great time in the city which never sleeps and is thrilled to bring you the hottest recommendations on where to eat, party and sleep …if you dare !
Where to eat:
Nomad: Discreetly tucked away on the ground floor of the Nomad hotel, this restaurant is one of New York’s hottest places to dine. Its dimly lit, opulent dining room has also become the living room of celebrities and New York’s in crowd who flock here at any given night. While the Nomad can’t boast any views, it offers a sophisticated, intimate and upscale ambiance, French menu and a large choice of cocktails. Also the service is impeccable. Don’t leave without trying Nomad’s signature desert “Milk and Honey” which is served with dehydrated milk (tastes much better than it sounds) and revives memories of childhood insomnia cured with a warm glass of milk with honey. We also love their signature cocktail “Into the Woods” which tastes like a refined version of a pisco sour. Be aware though; a few of those killer cocktails will literally make you go into the woods! Reservation essential. https://www.thenomadhotel.com/#!/dining/menus/dinner
Tao: Located at Meatpacking, this restaurant feels as if Bangkok just merged with Ibiza. We venture into the sultry basement and arrive at the gigantic, dim lit dining room bursting with people We are immediately captivated by the Asian decor and the large Buddha statue which changes its color and shape. The dining room can host approximately 500 people and while that sounds like a lot Tao does not seem overly crowded. Once you have taken your seat, the restaurant has an almost intimate feel to it and the music is loud enough for others not to overhear your conversations and quite enough to have a conversation without shouting at each other. Combine this with a delicious Asian menu full of all-time favorites and a knock-out cocktail menu, add a hot night club next door and here is the perfect recipe for a fun night out! Reservation essential.http://taorestaurant.com/
River Cafe: If you are in the mood for an upscale meal with a beautiful view, River Cafe might just be for you. Tucked underneath Brooklyn bridge, this romantic restaurant isn’t easy to spot at first glance. While the rest of Manhattan might be bogged down by uber-cool minimalistic decor the River Cafe remains true to its old-fashioned and decisevely French interior. The River Garden just outside the restaurant is pretty, the service is top notch however it is the view of Manhattan and the Hudson River which is the real star here. The 3 course lunch menu at 45 USD is a good opportunity to indulge in the upscale menu while marveling this incredible view.http://therivercafe.com/
Red Rooster: Tired of Manhattan’s boisterous dining options? Venture to Harlem for a relaxed dinner at the Red Rooster. Founded by Swedish celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, this restaurant has been highly acclaimed by celebrities and foodies alike. The ambiance at Red Rooster is warm, authentic and refreshingly unpretentious without the eye-watering bill at the end. The kitchen is inspired by American comfort food with a Swedish twist. Our favorite dish of the evening is the Hot Chicken and Waffle, a unusual yet delicious combination of a regular waffle and fried chicken. firstname.lastname@example.org
Kitchen: Restaurant Mogul David Burke’s Kitchen located at the James hotel is a great place for a laidback lunch in Soho. The restaurant’s terrace is a delightful, airy oasis away from New York’s buzz. Indulge in the restaurant’s great choice of comfort food. Do not leave without trying the cheesecake tree, pralines of cheese cake coupled with strawberries all beautifully decorated on a tree. Delicious! http://www.davidburkekitchen.com/
The Modern: Steps away from the Moma the Modern caters to famished art aficionados. This sophisticated restaurant offers a light a la carte lunch menu and an arty buzz while guests at neighbour tables discuss Pollock’s works or the latest art gallery opening. The service is appropriately refined.
La Laterna di Vittorio: This restaurant can boast a beautiful outdoor seating area covered by a glass ceiling and decorated with pretty lanterns which it derives its name from. Come here for lunch and indulge in a selection of light meal options such as quiche or smoked chicken which are served with a green salad. Laterni di Vittorio is also a very affordable option and the service is super friendly. http://lalanternacaffe.com/
Primi Bar: Fancy an Italian dinner in a relaxed atmosphere? Primi, located only steps away from Bowery hotel is an intimate Italian restaurant which serves Italian specialities with a small outdoor seating perfect for a hot summer night. http://barprimi.com/home/
Bars & Clubs:
Pensinsula: This chic roof top bar is located on 5th Avenue. With its stunning view it makes for an ideal place for an aperitif .http://newyork.peninsula.com/en/default
Gansevoort: The roof top bar at Gansevoort has a spacious terrace overlooking the meatpacking district. This is still a classic in New York and a great place for a relaxed pre-dinner drink before you head to the many trendy restaurants in the neighbourhood. http://www.gansevoorthotelgroup.com/
Standard: The Standard Rooftop bar might not be the prettiest however it is certainly one of the most famous roof top bars of New York. Even if you are not staying for a drink, it is worth taking the elevator to marvel the view.
Cipriani: Venture to Wall Street and have an aperitif at the Cipriani overlooking the Financial district.http://www.cipriani.com/
Tao Club: For a night out in downtown head to Tao club which is conveniently located next to Tao restaurant. The decor resembles that of Tao Restaurant and only the giant Buddha is missing.
Where to sleep:
The Intercontinental Barclay: Located in the heart of midtown, the Intercontinental Barclay is only a 5 minute stroll from the Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and 5th Avenue . The hotel has recently been refurbished. With its art nouveau decor, black and white checked marble floors and chandeliers, it exudes a special charm and takes us back to New York in the 1920’s. The concierge team deserves special mentioning as they are spot on, very patient and will go the extra mile to optimize your stay. Adrian planned out our entire day from breakfast, lunch, sights to mani pedi, dinner and a broadway show in a jaw dropping matter of minutes.
The Bowery hotel: This is where celebrities and A-listers put up at. The granny turned messy decor complete with crocheted tablecloths isn’t for everyone and the rooms are small, even for New York standards. Nevertheless, the location is great with a good choice of restaurants nearby. Go for a run at Washington Square Park which is located only a few kilometers from here.