The secret in travel is that it is much harder to know the house, restaurant, shop or hotel that is delicious, small, well-run, character-filled, well-priced and under the radar than to know the 5-star alliance institutions, the celebrity chef restaurants and the branded shops.
Which is one reason – but only one reason – why those in the travel industry don’t make the effort. The other reasons are obvious…to find them takes real digging and to sell them is a financial disaster.
They are not always safe bets.
Which is why, therefore, we spend so much time on the back roads, so many hours trolling the web looking for what we think is special. And why those overheard conversation snippets in the airport lounge are worth remembering, and why those expensive European magazines are worth purchasing.
The finds we look for – and find – are not always perfect, we know. But we believe that imperfection, within limits, has its own charm.
And we thrive on the search.
Istanbul is one of the great cities and one to which travelers with diverse interests are drawn. There is certainly the romance and history, the architecture, the Grand Souk. But there is also the cuisine, fresh fish served simply at outdoor cafes in leafy neighborhoods, food stalls buzzing into the night and morning markets piled high with fresh produce.
There is one major problem with Istanbul, and that would be the traffic. With so much to see and do, it takes real logistical planning to circumvent the hours that can be spent in traffic, moving between the old and new cities, the Asian and European shores. We choose our hotels accordingly.
New on the scene is Stories Apart which offers three apartment buildings in one of the most centrally located neighborhoods of the city, each with an architectural history attached. With room configurations of all kinds and prices that fit nicely into the pocketbook, Stories Apart offer an alternative to the brand hotels that abound. Check on room size, check on view and check on noise levels – all of which can be problematic in small, city properties – but chances are you will light on a find that will make others jealous.
Luxury in travel is defined by
who you meet
what you see
when you have the encounter and
how it comes to pass…
a reward at the end of a taxing climb or, serendipitously,
a face to face encounter in a forest clearing.
Photo: Michael Lorentz
On 28th Street and Broadway, in what is known locally as Manhattan’s Koreatown, a wonderful Beaux Arts building has been repurposed. Formerly the National Cash Register building, this limestone gem, with graceful prow and topped by a gorgeous cupola, has become the NoMad Hotel. With interiors by French designer, Jacques Garcia, the hotel has arrived in New York with a wonderful old world, French feel. Comfortable, cozy, home-like, NoMad has 5 categories of rooms. The first four categories differ each from the other by about 40 square feet and bathroom fixtures (the claw foot tub has become an iconic image of the hotel); the suites sit one atop the other in the prow of the building with a wonderful sweep of gritty New York out the window.
There are some really special spaces at the hotel: The restaurant is in the hands of the chef of 11 Madison Park and is a very hard one to book; The library, a wonderfully enticing room that is open to the public; the rooftop cupola terrace, a seasonal restaurant bookable on the day of dining.
There is one other surprise here – Maison Kitsune from France. A beautiful shop that is a real culture shock in Koreatown.
On Thursday I attended a reception at the DVF space in Manhattan honoring the recipients of the 2012 Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards for their achievements in empowering women in their regions. Founded by Hilary Clinton 13 years ago, Vital Voices’ mission it to identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential. And extraordinary women they are, women of huge courage, wide vision, selfless investment, great humor. This is an organization to be part of for, to associate yourself with these visionaries, is to discover the potential within yourself that can then be put to service of others.
Read the stories of these women.
On the second floor of New York’s 45 rpm, the Japanese shop known for its relaxed, fun (and expensive) natural fiber, indigo clothing, is the in-house tailor’s workstation. A roughhewn table carries a matte black sewing machine that is flanked by jars of color coded, sized buttons. 45 rpm sweaters and shirts, always marked by an “R” somewhere near an often contrasting selvedged hem, also sport a selection of buttons chosen with a seeming whimsy. I have a blue and white striped sweater hemmed in red with 5 white buttons of varying sizes. A white raw cotton shirt has twenty tiny white buttons with one, peeking out red, like a fish’s eye.
With two retail outlets in Manhattan and over 4o in Japan, 45 rpm is that rare chain store that maintains a boutique, “special find” aura. The attention to detail is stunning for a mass marketed inventory. Even if one’s purchases become more sporadic, the items themselves build into a wardrobe of ever more beautiful, well loved clothing.
One of the joys of New York summers is the easier pace. And one of the signposts of the easier pace are lazier park lunches surrounded by children feeding pigeons, dogs playing on the hill, quiet citizens absorbed in a good book. Central Park, often called the lungs of the city, is also its beating heart, its passion point. There are so many beautiful corners in the park – we, who use it constantly, have our favorites – but one of them is in the east 60′s where the old trees cast their leafy shadows, where the glockenspiel from the zoo sounds the hour, where the sound of children’s laughter as they single file in to see the sea lions, mixes with a Madison Avenue work force striding to and fro.
So it is special to find the red cart – actually the tomato red cart – on the corner of 64th and 5th.
The nearby restaurant, Rouge Tomate, has relaunched its bright red, $30,000 food cart at the Central Park Zoo on Fifth Avenue and East 64th Street with a new menu that is intended to kick things up a notch.
Among the offerings: Amish Country chicken with North African spices, harissa, sweet peppers and onion, and minted yogurt ($8). And marinated portobello mushroom with Goodale Farms feta cheese, cucumber tzatziki and black olive tapenade. There’s also the chilled English pea soup with Meyer Lemon yogurt and the chilled spring garlic, leek and potato soup (both $5).
Oh yes, the whole wheat buns are baked for the cart by Amy’s Bread, and menu items are served with pickled Greenmarket vegetables on the side.
Get thee to Central Park for the cooling green. Get thee to the Central Park Zoo for wonderment and laughter. And go to the park for the tomato red cart’s delicious offerings.