September 28, 2012

On My Radar Screen

Here are a few travel related items on my radar screen this week:

Photo by Matteo Tarenghi via Fotopedia

Photo by Stephane Sulikowski via Fotopedia

A new resort by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy in the Maldives
Photo of Sacco Heath by Brent Danley (Flickr)
Photo from MaiTai Collection
What an ingenious way to pack scarves when traveling - created by MaiTai Collection who has the MOST incredible collection of Hermes scarves (and also sells gorgeous scarf rings and fur collars)!

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
My sister-in-law, Jan, and three friends leave tomorrow on for a few days in London and Rome with a Mediterranean cruise in between. I want to wish them a Buon Viaggio!!! I can't wait to hear all the details when they get back!

September 27, 2012

Collections - Vintage Luggage and Travel Accessories

Do you ever dream of the days when travel was relaxing and luxurious, and all your belongings were carried by porters in leather steamer trunks and suitcases?
One of my hobbies is perusing auction houses and antique stores hoping to find interesting items. One of the things I always stop to look at are vintage luggage and travel accessories.  As travel once was a luxury for only a few wealthy individuals, many of the old trunks, luggage and travel accessories were made by very high end purveyors. They were pricey back when they were purchased and their value has only increased over the years.  Just for fun, I thought I would share a few items I found that are either currently for sale or coming up at auction in the near future:

Photo via
Greta Garbo's Louis Vuitton steamer trunk will be auctioned at  Julien's Auction in Beverly Hills on December 14th, estimated at $6,000 - $8,000.

Photo via 1st Dibs
Travel like Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney - two of  her Mark Cross alligator suitcases are available through 1st Dibs - price available on request.

Photo via Live Auctioneers
Act quickly and for an estimated 4,000 - 5,000 British Pounds, you can purchase this Edwardian silver and gilt fitted crocodile traveling case up for auction on October 3rd at  Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Photo via eBay
This gorgeous Vintage Hermes Travel Case is listed on eBay for a Buy it Now of only $14,999!
For those of us with shallower pockets, you can often find interesting vintage luggage in all price ranges (but arguably not of the quality of the items above)  at antique stores, flea markets, auction houses and eBay. Have you ever found any vintage travel items in your wanderings?

September 26, 2012

Wednesday Wanderlust - North Carolina Mountains

Photo of Great Smoky Mountain National Park via The National Park Service
Isn't this picture of Great Smoky Mountain National Park gorgeous? Keep in mind, not all fall colors are in New England - the mountains of North Carolina are spectacular in the fall, with the added bonus of being able to see the foliage down there after the leaves up north have already fallen.

September 25, 2012

Philip Johnson's Glass House ~ New Canaan, Connecticut

This fall, one of the places I want to visit is only a short drive from my home - Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. I have been talking about going for years and the tickets sell out fast, so I am buying tickets now for mid-October so I can hopefully visit at the height of the fall color.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Minima/Maxima
Check out this amazing Virtual Tour of the grounds surrounding The Glass House. Can you even imagine how pretty it will be with the fall foliage at it's peak?

Update (9/26/12) - I just saw this article from the New York Times last week about new exhibits at The Glass House.

September 24, 2012

The Art of Packing - As Inspired by the French


A reader recently requested a post on packing light and it made me start thinking about my own packing skills. I must confess, I am not great at packing. I usually end up taking too many things I don't need and, because I try to squeeze too much into a small carry-on suitcase, everything ends up wrinkled.  I have two trips coming up in the next few weeks, so I decided that this is the perfect opportunity for me to start perfecting my packing skills, and to share what I have learned in the process.
Of course, the first place I turned for advice is to my fellow bloggers. I read blogs written by some very impressive women, several of whom are experts on fashion and travel, and they have seemingly perfected the art of the "capsule wardrobe". Reading The Vivienne Files was an eye opener for me in terms of my wardrobe in general, and her posts on packing are excellent. She has an excellent sense of color combinations and how to start with basics and add a few pops of color to make a lot of different outfits. Tish at A Femme d'Un Certain Age also has some great posts on packing - a lot of them are about packing for interesting fantasy trips showcasing fashions, but one can garner a lot of packing advice from her ideas. One of my long time favorites is Mai Tai's Picture Book - I usually read her posts on different ways to wear your Hermes scarves, but she has some pretty savvy packing advice as well. The amazing Vicki Archer who writes French Essence sums up her packing technique as follows:
"What goes into the suitcase? That’s the tough stuff to decide and obviously changes depending on destination. Generally speaking, I try and think like a man when I am packing. I have always thought their ability to wear a suit to almost any occasion one of the great advantages of their sex. So that’s what I do…I choose my version of a suit…I pack a jacket, skirt, pants and or dress that is colour co-ordinated and that will take me anywhere. The pieces must be interchangeable and wearable with shirts and tees, flats or heels. My rule is one pair of heels and one pair of ballet flats – this footwear can take me from day to night, from appointment to party. My alternative handbag other than the Longchamp is a small clutch that fits my phone, a credit card and cash. In winter I add a couple of cashmere sweaters, in summer extra tee shirts. Two silk scarves, some costume costume jewellery to glam up the night time and that’s it…I’m done. I have the trench-coat for wind, rain and cold and the converse if I am walking miles. It is not the most exciting or varied of wardrobes but it works well for business trips and those holidays that are on the move and about the sightseeing."
What do all these amazing women have in common? They are all either French or living in France.  Leave it to the French to figure out how to look good without overpacking!
Because every person and every trip is different, I find that the "universal packing lists" are very hard to follow in practice. Obviously, you will be packing very differently for a week at the beach than you would for a business trip to Europe. However, it seems that a few basic concepts are universal. From all of my research, I have come up with the following tips:
  • Make your own packing list and then edit it down to what you really need.
  • Color coordinate everything  - select just one colour palette and make sure that all of your clothing conforms to these shades.  So no matter what you grab from your bag it will match something else and you will be able to create several new different outfits.
  • Call the place where you're staying and ask the if  they have a hairdryer, iron, ironing board, beach towels, bathrobes---basically anything that's bulky and that you'd rather leave at home.
  • Check the weather where you are going and plan accordingly. If the weather is changeable, pack a cashmere scarf to use as a wrap (and also can double as a blanket on planes or trains.)
  • Wear the heaviest items so they don't have to be packed in your suitcase.
  • Bring scarves and jewelry to accessorize - they are relatively light and easy to pack and can change the entire look of an outfit
  • Chances are you can buy anything you need where you are going so there is no need to plan for every contingency.
  • Pack Woolite packets and Downy Wrinkle Release - you can rinse things out and let them dry overnight. Wrinkle Release works wonders when things come out of the suitcase covered in creases.
  • Don't ever pack something you haven't worn before (especially shoes).
  • The cost of having a few things dry cleaned by the hotel (as pricey as it is) may be less than the cost to check a bag.
Please share any tips you may have for packing light. I am about to start making my list for my trip to North Carolina this week. Let's see if I can take my own advice!

September 21, 2012

On My Radar Screen

Paintings by Edouard Vuillard from the  Jewish Museum
Happy Friday!! What's everyone up to this weekend? I am hoping to catch the Vuillard exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York before it closes on Sunday and take a nice stroll through Central Park. Maybe lunch at The Boathouse?

Here are some fun and interesting travel related items that caught my eye this week ~
Photo by Geishaboy500 via Fotopedia
Did you know that Tokyo has been referred to as the "Cocktail Capital of the World"? Check out this list of tipsy places to vacation!

Do you remember this post about Side Tour,  the unique tour operator in New York? They are launching in DC and Chicago (woo hoo!) this fall and they are giving away a very cool trip to New York City. Who will you take with you if you win??     

Photo by Turkinator via Fotopedia
The Statue of Liberty is reopening next month. Have you ever been to the top? 
Photo from
How cute is this floral travel hairdryer? Note to self - order this before my next trip!
Photo via

What do you think of this advertising campaign to give bankrupt American Airlines a new look?I wonder if they will take the advice of their ad-men.

Here is a GREAT idea from American Airlines to use tablet computers on board to give people connecting flight information and other assistance.
Jet Blue will begin offering free wi fi on board starting next you think other airlines will follow their lead?

One more flight related item - here is a helpful chart to tell you what fees you will incur at different airlines if you cancel a flight booked with frequent flier miles.
Have a beautiful weekend, everyone!!!

September 20, 2012

A Leaf Peeping Guide to New England

Following through on the fall theme, I thought it would be fun to share some favorite fall foliage destinations around New England, as well as information as to when the different locations will be at their peak. 

Photo via
Connecticut - Literally in my backyard, driving along the Merritt Parkway (Route 15) running from the New York border to Meriden, Connecticut is an excellent way to see fall foliage at it's best. The tree lined parkway is listed on the US National Registry of Historic Places. Route 7 North from Norwalk will take you on a colorful scenic drive along the Housatanic River ending up in Kent, Connecticut, voted the #1 leaf peeping spot in the country by the readers of Yankee Magazine.  Stop at Kent Falls State Park for an easy hike to the top of the falls. Stay at the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut. Connecticut foliage is expected to be at it's peak this year the third week in October.

Massachusetts - Continuing up Route 7 into Massachusetts, you will enter the Berkshires, with some of the most scenic roads in the state. You will pass through Stockbridge and Lenox ending up in Williamstown.  While in Williamstown, visit the Clark Art Institute, an excellent small museum. Detour to the top of Mount Greylock, which at an altitude of 3,491 feet will provide you with sweeping vistas of Massachusett's fall splendor.  Nearby is North Adams, home to the renowned Mass MOCA, the highly touted contemporary art museum (if you go, the Sol Lewitt wall drawings are absolutely amazing). Stay at Blantyre or Wheatleigh in Lenox. Western Massachusetts foliage is expected to be at it's peak the second week of October. (Alternatively, Cape Cod is known for it's brilliant fall colors as well, expected to peak closer to the end of October.)

Photo via Yankee Magazine
Vermont -  From Williamstown, MA, Route 7 continues on into Vermont. In addition to the vibrant fall colors you will see along the way, try taking this drive around Bennington County, Vermont where you will see five covered bridges.  The town of Manchester, Vermont a little further north along Route 7 is the quintessential New England village; stay at The Equinox.  From Bennington, Route 9 known as the "Molly Stark Scenic Byway", will take you across southern Vermont to the New Hampshire border. Colors in Southern Vermont are expected to be at their peak the first weekend in October. If you prefer to go further north, the Green Mountains and the Champlain Valley will be spectacular in late September.
New Hampshire - Often referred to as the "best fall foliage trip in the country", New Hampshire's  Kankamagus Highway (the "Kanc") is a 34 mile road that cuts through the White Mountains, providing you with stunning fall vistas at every turn.  If you would rather not drive, take the Conway Scenic Railroad to view the foliage. Detour up to the top of Mount Washington, the highest peak the Northeastern US.  Stay at the Mount Washington Resort. New Hampshire is expected to be at peak color the first week in October.
Maine - For the best of both worlds, consider taking in the fall foliage along the coastline in Downeast Maine. The Acadia Byway will take you through Acadia National Park and across Mount Desert Island to the towns of Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor. Maine leaf peeping is expected to peak in late September/early October. Stay at The Bayview in Bar Harbor.

Photo of Cliffwalk via

Rhode Island - Although tiny, Rhode Island still offers some fall foliage viewing opportunities. Why not explore Historic Newport while viewing the fall colors along the magnificent Ocean Drive? Or stroll along Cliff Walk and see the Historic Mansions, the ocean and the fall colors. Fall colors in Rhode Island are expected to be at their peak the third week in October. Stay at The Chanler at Cliff Walk.
Yankee Magazine now offers an app for iPhone or Android to indicate when the leaves are at their peak in various areas - it can be downloaded here. The also offer an interactive foliage prediction map  that will be helpful in planning your fall travels.

Jetsetter has curated four lovely inns in the midst of some prime leaf peeping territory offering deals of up to 30% off.
For those of you who can't make it to New England this fall, check out this guide to Fall foliage in the rest of the US.

September 19, 2012

Best Deals of the Week

Here are some of my top picks for deals available right now:
Photo via Sniqueaway
Celebrate fall on Nantucket at Summer House Inn  from $149/night
Plan the quintessential fall getaway at the Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain in Vermont
Experience Endless Summer in San Diego at L'Auberge Del Mar  from $172/night
Photo via Four Seasons
Stay for free at luxury chains Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Park Hyatt - all three are offering free nights when you stay for as little as two nights at many of their city hotels and resorts - check with specific properties for availability.
Photo by Jean Bernard Reynier via Fotopedia
Book Low Fares to San Francisco on United for travel into 2013 (only $334 from New York!)
and then book a room at the The Huntington Hotel starting at $179/night
Score tickets to exclusive chef hosted events at the New York City Food and Wine Festival
Stay like a celeb at the Dream Downtown
Haven't seen it yet? Book tickets to Spider Man on Broadway
Best way to get around in NYC - Save 50% Off from Uber Car Service in Manhattan
Photo via Jetsetter
Plan ahead for winter ~ get a deal now at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek 
(deal extends into January - as low as $160/night)

Wednesday Wanderlust

Country roads, hot apple cider, falling leaves...what puts you in the mood for fall?

September 18, 2012

Back to School - Visiting College Towns

What is it about the crisp air of the fall that makes me want to take a road trip to a college town? Football, tailgates, wool sweaters, bonfires and falling leaves are all images that take me back to my college days.  Having spent much of the last five years looking at schools for my three children, we have traveled to fifteen different states looking at countless campuses and college towns.  It must be something about the environment of academia but almost all of them were places I enjoyed visiting and many are places I would recommend for a weekend trip whether or not you were visiting with a prospective student. Without claiming to be unbiased, my top five favorite college towns are:

Photo of the University of Virginia by Fotopedia
1) Charlottesville, Virginia - Home of the University of Virginia, my alma mater. None of my children opted to go here, but Charlottesville will always be one of the top college towns in my book (it also regularly makes the various top ten lists of best college towns). With the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the architecture of Thomas Jefferson, the campus is breathtakingly beautiful. The Charlottesville area has grown significantly since my years there and it is a vibrant community with many cultural and historic offerings.   On "The Grounds" of the University, don't miss the Rotunda, the Lawn or the stately Pavilions that line the Lawn.  Check out the dorm rooms on the Lawn where select students still live and must walk outside to get to the bathroom. While in Charlottesville, Monticello, Jefferson's home, is a must see.  Stay at the Boars Head Inn or Keswick Hall. Eat at The Virginian, a favorite with students and professors since 1923 or The Local.

Photo of Georgetown University via Wikimedia Commons

2) Georgetown/Washington, DC - While Washington isn't strictly a college town (although with five major universities there, it certainly could be considered one), the area of Georgetown is very much a college neighborhood. On the banks of the Potomac, the gothic buildings of Georgetown University take up 100 acres in the neighborhood.  Beyond the academic and cultural offerings of the University,  Georgetown is only a short distance from the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, the Capitol and all the other amenities of the nation's capital.  The majority of the museums in DC are free, making them easily accessible for students.  The area around the campus is filled with the finest shopping and restaurants in DC. Don't miss walking around the cobblestone streets with elegant rowhouses and along the historic C&O canal. The Washington Harbor area along the Potomac riverfront park is a  relaxing place to hang out on a pretty Fall day. Stay at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown when you visit. Eat and drink at one of the many restaurants and bars along Wisconsin Avenue and M street (we like Clydes - a Georgetown institution), but don't miss the cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake or the coffee drinks at Baked and Wired.

Photo of University of Colorado, Boulder via Google Images
3) Boulder, Colorado - Home of the University of Colorado, Boulder has become a mecca for people who love the outdoors.  Because of it's proximity to the Rocky Mountains, hikers, mountain climbers and skiers flock to the University and the town.  With a student population of nearly 46,000 out of a total population of 95,000, it is to be expected that there are a lot of student oriented activities in town. Many of those are centered around the campus and the Hill area near campus. Boulder is also home to several film festivals. One pleasant surprise about Boulder is the high quality of restaurants in the area - it seems to be a mecca for foodies as well as outdoorsmen. Be sure to check out Pearl Street - a pedestrian mall with many shops and restaurants with outdoor seating where you can observe the various street performers. The Dushanbe Tea House near Pearl Street is a great place to relax - it has a gorgeous hand carved and painted ceiling from Tajikistan. Stay at the St Julien Hotel and Spa. Dine at The Kitchen and don't miss breakfast at Lucile's.

Photo of Providence via Google Images
4) Providence, Rhode Island - Home to four colleges - Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence College and Johnson and Wales University, Providence isn't a town you often see on any of the "Ten Best College Towns" lists.  Since my youngest son just started his first year at Brown, I have recently spent quite a bit of time in Providence and, as a result, feel that it is a college town that is highly underrated. The College Hill area where Brown University is located is quaint and charming with many gorgeous federal style homes reminiscent of historic Charleston or Newport.  With RISD in town, there is the renowned RISD Museum along with a lot of fun, artsy shops. The Rhode Island Historical Society showcases Rhode Island's Colonial past.  We have been very impressed with the high quality of restaurant choices in Providence - maybe it's because of Johnson and Wales, the respected university for the hotel and restaurant industry, is in town or maybe academic types just love great food.  We have already found two excellent restaurants (Red Stripe and Parkside) and are looking forward to trying many more that have been recommended, particularly some of the Italian ones on Federal Hill, Providence's Little Italy.  There are several large hotel chains (Westin, Marriott, Renaissance) in Downtown Providence and several B&B's in the College Hill area, so there is no shortage of places to stay when visiting. Try to go in the summer or fall when WaterFire is happening - it is one of the most unique experiences I have had in a while - well worth a trip in and of itself.

Photo via Colgate University
5) Hamilton, New York - Colgate University is located in Hamilton, which is a very small town with not a whole lot going on beyond the University. I admit complete bias here as my daughter graduated from Colgate in 2011.  While she was there, I spent many wonderful fall weekends exploring the area around Colgate, so it would be crazy for me not to include it in my list of best college towns.  Hamilton is a quaint little town with probably the prettiest college campus in the country as it's centerpiece.  Because of Colgate's presence in Hamilton there is a lot more going on than in most small rural towns. What other town of 3,500 residents can say they had Bill Clinton speak there one year and the Dalai Lama the next? The Picker Art Gallery at Colgate and The Palace Theater performing arts center are two other cultural attractions in town.  In my opinion, the Central New York region is extremely underrated and is often passed over amidst all the other attractions in New York State. It is a beautiful area offering many cultural activities and gorgeous scenery. Not too far from Hamilton is the Earlville Opera House, the antiques shopping of Madison, historic Cazenovia and Cooperstown, with the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Fenimore Art Museum.  In Hamilton, stay at The Colgate Inn, which has been recently renovated, or a little B&B called The Guest House at Weathervane Farm, which is truly lovely.  Book way ahead if you will be there for family weekend, reunions or graduation. Go to Rusch's for lunch or the Hamilton Inn for dinner.  Be sure to stop in to Swank for fun and eclectic home decor and accessories.

Edit - Here are some top college towns in Europe.

September 17, 2012

The Traveler's Bookshelf - Guide Books

My guide book collection
In an earlier post, I talked about travel literature - all those lovely, well written books that inspire us to travel simply by the written word. Nothing will make you want to hop a plane to Paris faster than Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. But what about guide books? Everyone has their own style of traveling and there is probably a guide book that will satisfy every different style, but here a few that will suit just about anyone:

Knopf Map Guides - My number one recommendation - I don't like to travel to any new place without a Knopf Map Guide in my bag - it's good thing they make them for 44 cities around the world. They are a map and guide book all in one with manageable fold out maps. Each city is divided into six smaller maps so you do not get overwhelmed trying to look at a map of an entire city - you can focus on the neighborhood where you are. Each map has the sites in the area listed with concise descriptions, as well as recommendations for restaurants, bars and cafes and shopping. Their recommendations have not let me down yet. Small and lightweight, they fit easily into a handbag or pocket - plus you don't look like a tourist with a gigantic map unfolded trying to figure out where you are.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides - Their tagline is "the guides that show you what others only tell you". These books, which are available for a multitude of locations around the world,  have amazing photography and detailed descriptions of tourist attractions. They are often quite heavy given the wealth of information they provide, so I like to travel with the book but leave it in my hotel room. The night before I set out on my day's adventures, I read the DK in depth descriptions of the sites I will be visiting the next day so I will be well schooled on what I am seeing.  They also now have apps for IPad, IPhone and Android for ten major cities.

Fodors Guidebooks - I have always been a big fan of Fodors. They may not have the eye catching photos or detailed descriptions of the DK books, but their recommendations are always spot on. I have never gone wrong with a "Fodors Choice" restaurant or shopping recommendation. For good solid travel information, Fodors is the way to go.

Off the Beaten Path - These guides are great for traveling around the United States, especially for areas that you already know really well.  I have found some really interesting attractions that I never  knew existed in places where I have been many times. Perfect for day trips.

Great travel takes a little preparation - use these books as your reference point and you are on your way to an amazing trip.

September 14, 2012

NYC - On My Radar Screen

Photo by Bjorn Hermans via Fotopedia

After a week of posts on New York City I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface! Hopefully you have enjoyed a few of my favorite aspects of the city (of couse, I missed so many others like Central Park, New York Botanical Gardens and Yankee Stadium!).

Here are a few New York related items that are on my radar screen this week:
The 10 Best Bars in New York from Zagat
Two tips from everyone's favorite blogger,  Joanna Goddard, of Cup of Jo:
A great post by Sarah Tolzmann on her blog Note to Self about New York Film Favorites
A new book by Jamie McDonald explores Classic Mom and Pop Shops that still exist in NYC

Info on how to visit the 9/11 Memorial (you must book your tickets in advance)

An underground park in New York??

The East River Ferry is a great way to explore New York by water

Have a beautiful weekend, everyone!!

NYC ~ Literary Tour

From Washington Irving to the Beat Poets of the 1960's, Manhattan has always been a mecca for aspiring, as well as established, American writers. For my fellow bibliophiles, here is a literary tour of New York which will help satisfy your literary wanderlust:

Rose Reading Room at NYPL by Alex Proimos via Fotopedia
Begin your literary tour at the New York Public Library's Main Branch/Stephen Schwarzman Building (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street). Don't miss the stone Lions in front, nicknamed Patience and Fortitude during the Depression by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. One of the best ways to get a good feel for this NYC landmark is to take one of the  hour long walking tours led by docents at the library. The impressive Rose Main Reading Room is where writers, including Nobel laureates, have sat at the long tables to perfect their craft since the library was built in 1911. With it's majestic windows and chandeliers, one can easily imagine E.B. White sitting here writing his poem A Library Lion Speaks. Admire the murals depicting the history of the written word in the McGraw Rotunda and check out the Card Catalog Room, where there were once 9,000 drawers containing 10 millions cards. The Map Room is lined with vintage maps and globes and the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room has fourteen paintings by Richard Haas depicting the New York publishing houses. Finally, no visit would be complete without stopping into the Children's Center downstairs to see the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear that author A.A Milne gave to his son, Christopher, in 1921.
Upon leaving the Main Branch, walk along Library Way  a stretch of 41st street where every few feet there are quotations from a prominent works of literature, illustrated in beautiful bronze placques by sculptural artist, Gregg LeFevre.

Photo from The Morgan Library and Museum
Walk east to The Morgan Library and Museum (Madison Avenue and 36th Street). The Library and Museum was recently reopened after an extensive restoration and an extension by renowned architect, Renzo Piano.  The former private library of J.P. Morgan, The Morgan Library includes his collections of manuscripts and printed books, some in rare bindings, as well as his collection of prints and drawings. Among the highlights are three Gutenberg Bibles, an important collection of works by writers such as Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain and Herman Melville, and several classic early children's books. In 1998, a major gift to the library added The Carter Burden Collection of American Literature, adding to their collection works by authors such as Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Vladimir Nabokov, Gertrude Stein, and Tennessee Williams. Don't miss the spectacular multi-tiered East Room Library pictured above.
Head up Madison Avenue to  The Grolier Club (47 East 60th Street). A hidden gem, it is America's oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and contains a collection of over 100,000 books about books. As it is a private club, most people don't realize that The Grolier Club is open to the public by appointment. They also regularly hold special exhibits and lectures which are open to the public.
A few blocks away is  Argosy, Old and Rare Books, Prints and Maps (116 East 59th Street). In business for three generations since 1926, Argosy specializes in antiquarian and out of print books.
Dine at the Algonquin Hotel's Round Table (59 West 44th Street) where a group of young writers and critics gathered daily to critique the literary and cultural events of their time. They wielded tremendous influence over the post World War I literary scene, including Ernest Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald,  and, while they were at it, founded The New Yorker magazine.

If you want to stay in the center of the literary action in Midtown, book a room at the Library Hotel where the rooms are organized by the Dewey Decimal system and there are over 6,000 books for guests to enjoy.

Photo of White Horse Tavern, via Wikimedia Commons
In Greenwich Village and Chelsea, one can literally walk in the footsteps of New York's writers and poets, visiting some of their haunts and hangouts, while also experiencing some of the city's current literary highlights.
To see a truly hidden treasure, stop into the lobby of  New York University's Languages and Literature Building (19 University Place) to see At Home with Their Books by Elena Clement. Thirty feet wide by ten feet high, this remarkable mural contains six panels which depict intimate scenes of  the spaces where famous New York City writers composed their well-known novels, poems, or essays.
Over fifty bookshops used to line Fourth Avenue in lower Manhattan when it was known as Book Row. Today, they are all gone, along with the many other independent bookstores around Manhattan. However, Strand Bookstore (Broadway and 12th Street) still remains. Opened in 1927 and still owned by the founding family, Strand advertises "18 miles of books" on several levels.
At The White Horse Tavern (567 Hudson Street), you can have a drink where Dylan Thomas literally drank himself to death (after 18 shots of whiskey, he later collapsed and died) and Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson and Bob Dylan all held court.
Photo of Hotel Chelsea by Jason Kuffer via Fotopedia
Although currently closed for renovations, no literary tour would be complete without a stop at the infamous Hotel Chelsea (222 West 23rd Street), home of countless writers as well as musicians, artists and actors. This is where Dylan Thomas died after his drinking at the White Horse. It has been home to Mark Twain, O Henry, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Miller, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (who wrote On The Road while living there), Thomas Wolfe, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre and many other great writers. Rocker and writer Patti Smith memorialized here time living at The Chelsea with artist Robert Mapplethorpe in her recent memoir Just Kids.
To catch some rising New York literary stars, check out the Sunday Night Fiction at KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street) or events happening at the Poetry Project (131 East 10th Street).

September 12, 2012

NYC ~ Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Frick Collection

If I could go back to school and start over again, I would seriously consider getting my degree in Art History. Since it's unlikely that I will be going back to school any time soon, I have no other choice but try to learn as much as I can on my own. Luckily, living as close as I do to New York, there is no shortage of opportunities for me to expand my knowledge of the fine arts by visiting the many impressive art museums that call the city home.

Here are are two of my favorite art museums in the city and a few of my favorite things to see at each of them:


Photo of Metropolitan Museum of Art by Yang and Yun's Album via Fotopedia
How does one even begin to try to describe a museum as vast and broad reaching as the Metropolitan Museum of Art? As the largest art museum in the United States, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the Met for short) pretty much has it all...
From 8,000 BC to the present, the Met covers almost every type of art imaginable.  The permanent collection has works of art from classical Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, paintings and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and Modern art. Additionally, it houses an impressive array of African, Asian, Oceanic, Byzantine and Islamic art. The museum is also home to a vast collection of musical instruments, costumes and accessories, and antique arms and armor from around the world.
Clearly this is not a museum that can be visited in one day. I have spent many, many days wandering the halls of the Met and I am sure there are many things I have yet to see. A few of my personal favorites are the American Wing, the Wrightsman Galleries (French Decorative Arts), the Impressionist Galleries, and the Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries. One tiny gem that many visitors bypass is the Italian Renaissance Gubbio Studiolo, tucked in a corner of the European Decorative Arts galleries, it is a small room paneled in wooden trompe l'oeil intended to trick viewers' eyes into thinking the wooden objects were real.
Other than the permanent collections, there are always several special exhibits happening at any given time. The "must see" exhibit coming this fall is Regarding Warhol, Sixty Artists, Fifty Years beginning on September 18th. Another "do not miss" exhibit this fall is Tomas Saraceno's Cloud City (until November 4th weather permitting) on the roof of the museum where you can see the New York skyline reflected in Saraceno's reflective modules. Also, each summer there is a special exhibit by the Costume Institute  featuring famous fashion designers.
There are always concerts, lectures and special tours going on at the Met so be sure to check the calendar before you visit so you don't miss anything.
A few other tips for visiting the Met:  If you are driving into the city, there is a large self park garage under the museum. The entrance is just south of the museum on Fifth Avenue. This is also a great garage to use if you are going to any of the other museums in the area, going to Central Park or just hanging out on the Upper East Side. 
Also, there are several good places to eat in the museum, but my favorite is the American Wing Cafe which has light sandwiches and snacks. If the weather is nice, go up to the Roof Garden Cafe and Martini Bar and have a cocktail while enjoying the fabulous views of Central Park and the NYC skyline.
Photo of The Frick Collection by Henk van der Eijk via Fotopedia
Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 105th Street is known as "Museum Mile" because of the nine museums (including the Met and the Guggenheim) that are along it. In my opinion, however, there is one very significant museum on Fifth Avenue that isn't included in the infamous mile - The Frick Collection.  It is especially near and dear to my heart because my daughter was fortunate enough to intern at the Frick for a summer while she was in college. 
For anyone interested in European paintings and decorative arts, it should not be missed.  Located at Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street in the former home of coal and steel magnate, Henry Clay Frick, the Frick Collection is one of the finest small art museums in the world.  With six galleries, surrounding a beautiful interior courtyard, the Frick displays exceptional European paintings and sculpture. Additionally,the Frick houses many fine examples of 18th Century European decorative arts and furniture.  As a "house museum", many of the paintings and furnishings are still arranged according to Henry Clay Frick's original design. (My favorite paintings at the Frick are Vermeer's "Mistress and Maid" and Hans Holbein's "Portrait of Thomas More".)  None of the objets d'art are behind ropes or glass, giving one the feeling of just having wandered into the home of a wealthy industrialist. However, because of the way the items are displayed, no children under 10 are allowed in the museum. 

September 11, 2012

September 11th

Photo via Wikimedia Commons


Some days it's best to just pause and reflect quietly on past events.

September 10, 2012

NYC ~ Flatiron/Chelsea

When I moved to New York the only time anyone went to the Flatiron District was to go to ABC Carpet (which at the time only sold rugs and carpets). Chelsea was a fringe neighborhood you passed through in a taxi on the way uptown from the Financial District.  It's amazing how quickly things change! Both areas are among the most popular places to live and visit in the city.  A few of my top choices of things to do in these two neighborhoods are:

Photo of Eataly via The New York Times
Eataly - (Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street) Since this is one of my favorite places in NYC, I am planning on dedicating an entire post to Eataly at some point. I will give you the short version for now. Created by Mario Batali and Lydia Bastianich, Eataly encompasses over 50,000 square feet making it the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world.  You can eat at one of the five restaurants ranging from the more formal, Manzo, to the rooftop restaurant and brewery, Birreria. Or, grab a quick panini or gelato at one of the several take-away places. Make sure you take home a few or the Italian delicacies from the incredible market (I like to park nearby so I can pick up several bags of goodies). Also at Eataly is  La Scuola di Eataly offering classes on topics from seasonal regional dishes to wine pairings. Taking a class at La Scuola is at the very top of my NYC "to do" list.
ABC Carpet and Home - (Broadway and 19th Street) Don't miss this iconic six floor home goods emporium. Their three in house restaurants include ABC Kitchen, featuring organic cuisine by Jean Georges Vongerichten, Pipa offering Spanish tapas, and a branch of Le Pain Quotidien.

Photo via The High Line

The High Line  - (between 10th and 11th Avenues from Gansevoort to West 30th Street) This mile  long elevated park above the streets of the West Side was created by converting the old West Side  rail line into a public space.  Enjoy the walkway lined with wildflowers and other plantings while taking in the skyline views. There are multiple access points throughout the park.

Chelsea Art Galleries - The New York art gallery scene has moved from Soho to Chelsea. From 16th Street to 27th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, there are now more than 350 art galleries. If you want to attend an exhibit opening at one of the galleries, check out ArtCat - a calendar listing all the upcoming openings.

Photo of Chelsea Market by JPellgen via Fotopedia
Chelsea Market - (Between 9th and 10th Avenues and 15th and 16th Streets)  Located under The High Line, the old National Biscuit Company factory (where the Oreo cookie was invented) has been repurposed as a retail shopping and dining facility. Many of the original aspects of the factory have been retained, making this a fascinating area to shop and dine.  A couple of my favorite stores in Chelsea market are Bowery Kitchen Supply (anything you could want for a kitchen at half the prices of Williams Sonoma), Sarabeth's Bakery (delicious baked goods), Eleni's Cookies (gorgeous decorated cookies) and Ronnybrook Dairy (fresh dairy goods). If you are looking for a restaurant try Buddakan, Bar Suzette Creperie or Morimoto (home of Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto). Offices upstairs are home to companies ranging from the Food Network to Google.
These two neighborhoods are probably home to more top restaurants per capita than almost any other place in the world. In addition to the ones I already described, check out Craftbar, 11 Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern in the Flatiron district; and Cookshop, Del Posto and The Tipsy Parson in Chelsea.
If you are interested in staying nearby, The Standard High Line in the Meatpacking District sits right on top of The High Line, with stunning views of the skyline and the Hudson River.

I have only touched the surface of two very dynamic neighborhoods in New York. Does anyone have any other recommendations in Chelsea or the Flatiron district?

NYC Week

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years”
-Thomas Wolfe

This week, I am dedicating the blog to New York City.  While I have lived my entire adult life in the New York metropolitan area, when asked my favorite city, my answer is usually Paris or Rome because of the idyllic times I have spent in both cities. But, I have never commuted to work on a hot, rainy day in Rome, and I have never sat in rush hour traffic for two hours in Paris. For better or worse, New York is my home and is, ultimately, my favorite city. 
I moved to Brooklyn Heights as soon as I graduated from college and started my first job.  After only two years, I moved to the suburbs - first Westchester and, later, Connecticut. As a result, I don't "know" the city like many people who have lived there all their lives. At the same time, I have never been a "tourist" in New York (confession time - I have never been to the Statue of Liberty or the top of the Empire State Building).  I try to spend as much time in the city as I am able, but it is amazing how life tends to get in the way of the things we enjoy the most. I spend my days reading and writing about travel and, yet, I don't take nearly enough advantage of one of the greatest cities in the world that is right at my doorstep.
Over the next few days, I am going to share some of my favorite things to see and do in New York City, as well as a few that are on my "to do" list. I hope you will share some of your recommendations in the comments as well.