MY BEAUTIFUL, GOURMET WEEKEND IN LONDON !

HERE MY STEPS. TAKE A LOOK!
Everyone wants to visit the UK’s busiest city, but aside from the main tourist sights, what is there to see? How do you get from one place to another in this huge place? Need an insider’s perspectiveI want to share a ‘ NON TOURISTY TOURIST’ perspective on what to see in the Big Smoke! If you want to visit the mainstream attractions like the London Eye, Tower of London and Madame Tussauds then, of course, you should go for it!
They’re lots of fun.
BUT………
There’s another fascinating side of the city that goes far beyond the usual tourist highlights. I want to share some quick tips that real Londoners enjoy to make your time there truly memorable!
Friday:
First things first, get accustomed to the TFL (Transport for London) website and buy an oyster card from your nearest station: it’s the most affordable way to travel.
You arrive early afternoon and want to see as much as possible this weekend! Head towards Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark ship, hire a Boris bike and cycle under the Thames. At the other side, enjoy the view and take a left towards Canary Wharf to get a sneak peak of all the city’s penguins (the crowds of businessmen in suits). If shopping and city life is your thing, the Canada Water shopping centre is your new best friend. Enjoy all of the main high street shops, in addition to some more fancy brands! The restaurant ROKA in Canary Wharf has a beautiful view of the city from a great height, and serves delicious food and cocktails.
If you prefer the scenic route, continue along the river you’ll reach some cobbled streets (difficult for cycling: it’s going to be a bumpy ride!) with quaint English pubs before arriving at St Katherine Docks. Dock your Boris bike somewhere and catch your breath before the evening adventures begins. There aren’t many places I’d recommend more highly than Frank’s bar in Peckham on a warm evening to really appreciate the atmosphere of London. Opposite the station lies a formerly disused multi-story carpark, which now hosts Frank’s Bar on the roof! Affordable drinks (for London) and a view over the whole city!
For my first night in the city, I went exotic and choose a great restaurant in Portobello.
Outdoor, a flashing red neon sign says Japanese Gastropub, just below a mysterious face of a mysterious woman. Is she a geisha? Is she crying or praying? Let’ s go inside. Previous doubts ended as soon as I found myself embraced by UKAI’s cosy and warm atmosphere . A welcoming bar to the front and an open kitchen restaurant in the back. It looked loke a nice mixing of Japanese design with Italian flair and some traditional British pub features black and white photo portraits give an art gallery feeling, while Japanese artwork and foliage painting decorate walls and ceilings the rooms adorns the walls; furnished with causal wooden tables and filtered by an amber lighting that warms up the rooms.

 

The big surprise was to briefly chat in italian with the head chef Alex Verros or should I calling him Alessandro, as he’s Italian born, like me.

Alex, who previously worked at Roka and Nobu, told me about his passion of mixing different cultures and ingredients, like his native land North Italian truffles, to South Latin accents, to British influences, not afraid to combine simplicity with complexity. I started with a warm, inviting and comforting wonderful salmon miso soup, served with tofu, seaweed and spring onion. Then I beg Alessandro to surprise me. And he did. Between his choices, my favorite were the kampachi salad, with thin slivers of tender cobia white fish, drizzled with yuzu truffle and rocket, a dish that Alessandro likes to pair with galapeno and the prawn tempura maki. From the menu, I would like to mention also some signatures dishes as the truffle white tuna tataki, the lobster tail tempura and his ceviche, where Japanese flavours meet South American tradition. In addition to a generous choice of sushi, sashimi and nagiri and of course the beef robata dishes that Alessandro loves to cook in person, lighted by the fire grill fireworks .

 

 

 

 

Impossible not to ask such a nice host a souvenir picture…
‘Let’ do it at my robata grill, said Alessandro, it is my favourite spot in this place’ ‘Certamente!’, I enthusiastically answered, and, both risking a fire attack, I shoot the pic.
A hot moment of an unforgettable dinner.For more info
UKAI
240 Portobello Rd, London W11
Phone: +44 20 7792 2444

Saturday: Grab brunch or food from every country you could think of at Borough Market (get off at London Bridge station) and wander around the stalls and old backstreets. Head down the steps on London Bridge and walk left along the river, passing lots of cute English pubs, the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern gallery (many free exhibitions for lovers of the creative).
Stop by the National Theatre mid-afternoon for any last-minute discount tickets, or sit and enjoy the view of Big Ben or the London Eye from the South Bank. There are often pop-up bars or street performers there too!
Now you can carry on over the Jubilee Bridge towards Trafalgar Square and the West End. On sunny days I would highly recommend taking a left turn before Covent Garden and checking out St James’s Park, where you can find most people in London enjoying the weather and nature. If rainy England is sticking to its infamous title, head towards the National Gallery: free entrance and some of the most breath-taking paintings and sculptures you’ve ever seen!
Covent Garden is the perfect place for an evening out. From Sushi to Greek, Burgers to Quinoa, the choices are endless. There is also the option of trying out an old English pub or one of the trendy new bars the city is popular for. If you’re planning a late night, Oxford Circus is only twenty minutes away by foot, where you can party until your heart is content!
DINNER TIME!
I choose Tredwells, a Marcus Wareing restaurant and winner of AA’s London Restaurant of the Year.
Great location, excellent service and a breathtaking menu signed by the charming Chef Chantelle Nicholson, Tredwells showcases the very best in British seasonal produce  Located in the trendy Seven Dials area, right in the heart of Covent Garden, the venue boasts two bar areas serving seasonally inspired cocktails, cementing Tredwells’ reputation as one of the best drinks venues in Seven Dials. the restaurant sets over three floors, while the mezzanine and lower ground floors are available for exclusive hire.

Potato and rosemary bread, salted whey butter

 

 

I went for lunch, tried several of Chantelle proposals and found them all perfectly cooked and pleasantly tasting, starting from the beginning with a great potato and rosemary bread with salted whey butter till the end, indulging in a delicious fig mousse.

 

 

 

I noted, and photographed my choices and my recommendations.
After lunch, I meet with Chef Chantelle, obviously in her kingdom,the kitchen, and chatted oh her life, her love for cooking and her first solo cook book Planted.

Where your passion for food comes from?
It’s all because of the love of my New Zealand garden, so rich of herbs and vegetables and my two aunties who were great cooks Probably since that tender age I wanted to be a Chef, but…story of my life, I went to university to become a lawyer.
So you forgot your culinary passion?
Not really , while studying, I got a job at the local café, waking up at 6am on Saturday mornings to bake muffins, then proudly becoming a kitchen hand in the restaurant of a small hotel that also had a garden…
A garden? Here you go…
Yes, my passion for fruits and vegetables was there again, learning about seasonal food, how they grow, and the ecosystem of the garden. I remember picking up herbs super early in the morning…

Slow cooked lamb belly, beetroot, brioche

What happened to the lawyer?
Well, I passed the bar in my law exams and ready to become a layer , but the still enchantment of the kitchen was always in my head…Coincidentally I enrolled the amateur cooking competition Chef Search, run by Gordon Ramsay. I made it to the final six, and was offered to work at The Savoy, London.

Sweetcorn mousse, cornbread, pickled mushroom

After that?
I have co-authored Marcus’s cookery books and in 2015 worked with him consulting on the movie Burnt. Then Marcus Wareing asked if she’d join Pétrus, his two-starred restaurant, as a junior sous chef in 2006, followed by The Gilbert Scott in 2011 and from 2014 I was in charge of as group operations director of the entire range of Marcus Wareing restaurants. Now I am back to my passion: cooking! I am proudly the chef patron at Tredwells created by the genius of Marcus Wareing.

Swiss chard pancake, turmeric, coconut, cashew

Your new book ‘Planted’
Is not a book about veganism, it is about tasty dishes, made without animal products. You will find recipes for a plant-based cooking, focusing on plant based cuisine that deliver taste and creativity. I like to celebrate produce, seasonality and food that taste good.

Gloucerstershire pork collar, bacon jam, peas, broad beans, courgette

Chantelle, what will I always find in your fridge?
Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables and a bottle of a great New Zealand Chardonnay!

for more info
www.tredwells.com

Sunday:
The perfect day for a relaxing walk around the local parks. Check out Dulwich’s Horniman Museum, a small childhood favourite of mine with beautiful botanical gardens, before riding on the banana bikes through the peaceful Dulwich Park. Then take a well needed rest and sit in the garden of the Woodhouse pub, sipping your ale (if you dare) and enjoying your roast dinner. If you still have time after doing all of this, then firstly, congratulations; you’re super efficient! Brick Lane, Camden and Liverpool Street would be my next recommendations. If there’s a day to spare, you can’t pass up the opportunity to go to the Harry Potter Studios cast some spells!
SUNDAY IS …. Brunch time!!!!
I discovered Trangallán.
It’s a word from Galicia, Spain for a kind of bohemian artist.
This so called ‘gastro-cultural space’ certainly has that bohemian feel, with its shabby chic-flea market furniture contrasting with rich glass chandeliers and vintage objects all around. The menu changes frequently boasting imaginative dishes revealing a good deal of skill and creativity. Add an easy-going welcome from the stuff and the super cool owner–chef, who came at my table to say hello while sipping a delicious 2016 Albarino Igrexario de Salar and snacking some succulent Manzanilla olives.                                                        I followed his suggestions and went for a very traditional tortilla made of eggs and potatoes. Perfectly browned on the outside, still tender within and served at room temperature. I asked if that is the way that tortilla should be served, medium warm not hot. They told me that is a Spanish tradition to cook tortillas in the morning and let them rest till the meal so, yes, the temperature should be room temperature, Good to know. Then I tasted a more winterish dish of judion, a butter beans & piparras, followed by a perfectly roasted octopus with saffron potatoes and wilde samphire.                                  If you’re looking for a ‘not so commun’ tapas restaurants in North London, or Spanish food in Stoke Newington then you must try this cool venue.
For more info
Trangallán  
61 Newington Green, Mildmay Ward, London N16

Monday
Smart move. I took a  day off from work and reserved a late afternoon flight!
Yes I wanted to enjoy London and … I had London at my feet!

London. I happily experimented the OXO TOWER restaurant located at the eight floor of the OXO Tower. Relaxed atmosphere, good service and … the view. The menu boasts dishes so-called ‘contemporary British’ with European accents spanning from Spain with a gazpacho with sardine paté, to Italy with bresaola paired to a watermelon carpaccio. I tried a rich yet delicate soup of Scottish langoustines, spaghetti style chopped squids, tomatoes, fennel, and lobster- It tasted rich yet delicate, not too spicy or garlicky (I hate too much garlic…) Notably the langoustines were nicely straight, not curvy at all, My very nice Italian born waiter, told me that the secret is simply to put them in the freezer for about 40 minutes.When you take them out, the shell will be solidified, you would easily break it and extract the langoustine in all its fullness and horizontality. As a main dish, I followed Guido’s suggestion and opted for a John Dory fish, served with lobster, celery puré, oil and herb sauce with little white beans.

 

 

I must say all the ingredients were in perfect fusion and the broth maintained its freshness thanks to the acidity of the vegetables. I paired with a very fruity Albarino Atlantico white wine from Galicias, excellent!

 

As a side dish, a kale salad, sprinkled with a powder of beets and pumpkin seeds and seasoned with a Caesar dressing.Delicious finale: English strawberry and basil mousse.
Not to mention the spectacular sunset view that made my dinner unforgettable.

 

For more info
https://www.harveynichols.com/restaurant/the-oxo-tower/

For reservations
Call 020 7803 3888 or
email oxo.reservations@harveynichols.com

Finally ….. here the best list of the two M I am crazy about …
MUSEUMS …AND MARKETS!

British Museum
Imperial War Museum
Bank of England Museum
Science Museum
Design Museum
Maritime Museum
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Natural History Museum
Queen’s House, Greenwich

Victoria & Albert Museum THE BEST!!!!!!
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
Royal Academy of Music Museum
YOU WANT MORE ???
Museum of London Docklands
RAF Museum
Horniman Museum & Gardens
Science Gallery London
Grant Museum of Zoology
YUMMY….
The Chocolate Museum

MARKETS, MY PASSION!
Borough Marketk ( my fav…)
Leadenhall Market.
Brick Lane Market.
Columbia Road Flower Market.
Camden Market.
Greenwich Market.
Portobello Road Market.
Brixton Village and Market
Old Spitalfields Market.
Mercato Metropolitano

LJUBLJANA FOOD TOUR: A MUST TASTE! by Philip Sinsheimer

You just don’t realize how lucky you were when your join the guided 3,30-hour food tour organized by VisitLLjubljana.com managed by the Tourism Office of Ljubljana until you experience it.          

They offer numerous guided city tours  including the Historical City Centre and Ljubljana Castle revolving around history, art and landmarks, whether on foot, bicycle or on a boat cruising the river.

There is no other way to sample the incredible diversity of Slovenian food in so little time and in such a fun and well-paced way.
Slovenia is a small country yes, but it counts no less than 24 gastronomic regions.

Ljubljana, reminding me of Paris in a way, is pretty much in the center of the country and, as a capital, has attracted many food vendors and restaurateurs to benefit from the largest concentration of population (and tourists) of the country. But, right off the bat, let me tell you that, at no point, do you feel shepherded to a pasture of touristic traps you would have found on your own. The choice is balanced between food shops and restaurants, clearly very carefully picked.

Also, it isn’t a gorging party:
at the end of the tour, you feel satiated, without ever feeling over full!. As all good cooking requests, things started with the sourcing of ingredients: the market!
And Ljubljana is blessed, right in its center with a human sized, yet substantial farmer’s market, with one section dedicated to only certified organic vendors. I had noticed on my way to the tour some beautiful chanterelle mushrooms, as well as yellow broad beans that I had never encountered before. Lucky enough, I was able to find them again and was met with the most charming smile the seller could have shared.

Then, we got to visit the permanent covered market, a beautiful building along the riverbank. That was like entering a world of its own. Gorgeous charcuterie, cheeses, breads (got a loaf of this dark and dense bread, yet moist and oh! so tasty). A separate section is dedicated to fish, perhaps for temperature and odor control. Whatever the reason might be, I was really impressed by the display of fish available and the absence actually of any strong fishy smell. Slovenia is known mainly as an inland country, but it does have a little bit of coast on the Adriatic Sea and they sure know how to source the best of what can come out of it. Everything looked so fresh, a real temptation for any cook.
But carrying fish on ice for the rest of the tour was NOT going to happen!

 

 

We met our lovely guide Simona in Ciril-Metodov, the cobblestoned main street. She took us at Klòbasarna, where we had the first tasting: a warm smoked sausage form the Carniola region just South of Austria, in other words at the Northern end of Slovenia. Made of the finest pieces of pork, this sausage neither greasy nor too dry, just hit the spot accompanied by a light red wine, a little horseradish and mustard which I loved.

 

 

Simona took us in more that 7 venues, specialized in different specialties, from the syrups and the honeys of Dobrote-Dolenjske,  to the traditional cake prekmurska gibanica homemade at
Gujzina

I won’t be going in the detail of all the things tasted, either in gastronomic shops or in restaurants… I want you to go and experience it for yourself. Besides beef tongue, fried chicken, honey (Slovenia is Europe’s largest producer per capita), my heart will go for this humble dish of mashed potatoes with sautéed onions and bits of bacon that we tasted at a very special restaurant, Druga Violina, where all the members of the staff suffer from some form of disability or another. It felt really good to contribute to this effort to support the community and, let’s be frank, it also tasted soooo good, just by itself. With influences coming from all neighboring countries (Italy, Austria, Hungry and Croatia), tucked between sea, plains, forests and mountains, the small country of Slovenia is rich of diversity and, if this three-hour tour cannot cover everything, it sure serves as the best introduction one can hope to taste in this timeframe!
Tours priced at 52€ everything included,
To make a reservation
For more info www.visitLjubljana.com

GRAND HOTEL TOPLICE, JULIJANA RESTAURANT IN BLED, SLOVENIA

Slovenia. Bled, about an hour North of the capital Ljubljana to the North-West of Slovenia. Rather than the town it is the beautiful lake that gives the name Bled, famous among the European elite as early as the 1930’s with the construction of a luxurious hotel providing  natural hot spring source knowned for health benefits.I am talking of the Grand Hotel Toplice, a venue that boasts a rich history, a magical location, gorgeous alpine and lake views and sumptuously comfortable, elegantly styled rooms.

 

Each of the rooms and suites at Grand Hotel Toplice has its own unique character and are traditionally styled with beautiful parquet floors, rich furniture and beautiful paintings with many of the rooms benefiting from breathtakingly beautiful lake views. The hotel has been recently renovated and restored to its former glory and is one of the best hotels in Slovenia as well as being a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection.

 

 

 

 

 

It has hosted many eminent guests and is frequented by celebrities such as  Vivian Leigh, Arthur Miller, Pablo Neruda, King Hussein of Jordan, Paul McCartney and…me, with my best friend-chef-writer Philip Sinsheimer, graciously hosted by Sava hotel and resort group that manage the venue.

Starting from the impeccable reception. the hotel boasts luxurious accommodation, few restaurant, a bar  and the enchantment of Lake Bled. All rooms and suites are individually decorated in an enchanting and traditional style, lavishly equipped with an excellent range of facilities, a relaxing thermal swimming pool and benefit from different saunas, wellness services and a solarium among a private lido, where Philip (expert swimmer) dived in the limpid lake water while me (lazy man…) was indulging in a relaxing sunbathing. We dedicated the morning ( when the light is best) to row to the island where the minuscule baroque chapel.I was anxious to hear the bells rings, because  I knew about the legend wich narrates that around the year 1500, the leaseholder of Lake Bled at the time, Hartman Kreigh, disappeared. People said he was killed. Sad for the events, the Lady of the Castle collected all of her precious golden jewellery to be melted down and casted into a bell for the chapel on the island of the Lake, so that the bell would toll in remembrance of  beloved companion. They say the bell has a magic power, when it rings, you should make 3 wishes and wait for them to become real.  We did 99 steps and finally we arrived at the church, where the view is really breathtaking and, yes, we waited for the bell… Not sure my wishes are becoming a reality, we ll see….

A true wish coming true was the  splendid dinner we were invited for dinner at Julijana Restaurant where Chef Bertoncelj prepared a great dinner.
I leave Philip the privilege of writing about it, since he is a chef and a food blogger.

                                  GRANDE CUISINE BY THE LAKE
This historic landmark now called the Grand Hotel Toplice, operated by the Sava hotel and resort group, has managed to preserve the relics of the past with grand salons adorned with memorabilia pictures and bring all the comfort of modernity at the same time.This delicate balance between past was brilliantly reflected in the cuisine of the executive chef Simon Bertoncelj and the whole crew under him. Having dinner at the gastronomic Julijana Restaurant, especially if the weather allows to eat al fresco facing the lake is a moment of bliss: the quality of service, attention to detail and classic decor evoke a certain respect of classical elegance. This doesn’t constrain the cuisine to old classics, and the chef’s creativity and modern techniques seem to find their place very naturally in this elegant environment.

The mise en bouche consisting of a delicately baked oyster and a buttery giant shrimp had all the signs of what you can expect in a palace restaurant: prime quality ingredients simply treated. This seafood opening was in synch with the view of the water even though it wasn’t the sea. As I were to learn later by the chef, unfortunately, as beautiful as it is, the lake doesn’t often yield the quantity of fish needed to take place on the menu.

 

The mushroom cappuccino with porcini had the depth of flavor one can only get in top notch restaurants, served piping hot but adorned with the freshness of a few micro greens scattered on top rather than the old habit of a dollop of cream and a few chives. Fresh too was the vitello tonnato inspired salad, bright and lively. Here, as in all the great restaurants experienced in Slovenia, the wine list paid homage to the country’s fine wines, such as the 2017Verus Chardonnay from Stajerska, the western part of the Podravje region in the North of the country. At last a chardonnay that can showcase both concentration of flavors and freshness in the palate with a mere 13° alcohol content.The shining fish course was a thick and moist turbot filet, perfectly cooked and adorned by a beautiful composition of vegetables and foamy grapefruit sauce. Here again: classic base and modern composition. Though generous, nothing was heavy, and the beautiful matured saddle of veal served pink with a herb crust was still welcome.

To finish, the iconic Bled Cream Cake, which recipe goes back to 1953 and is secretly kept by the Sava hotels group. The result was up to the legend. Even though I really do not have much of a sweet tooth, and I have had my share of mille-feuilles in France, this raised version of the classic with just two layers of perfectly crisp puffed pastry holding a firm custard covered by a layer of lighter whipped cream is to die for…

Chef Simon Bertoncelj, who has worked under the commands of Gordon Ramsey, seems rather poised and discreet, but if you really want to find out, he opens his kitchen to a guest table of 2 to 6 people for a 7-course menu cooked and served, right before their eyes…and ears!

For more info
Julijana Restaurant
Grand Hotel Toplice
Cesta svobode 12, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
+386 4 579 10 00

Contact

Cesta svobode 12, 4260 Bled, Slovenija

Reception

+386 4 579 10 00

Reservations

+386 4 579 16 00

 

 

Hotel Hellsten, Stockholm. Memories of an exotic journey

Hotel Hellsten is located in the heart of Stockholm and is the ideal starting point for all those who are visiting the City, since the attractions and sites of interest are reachable by public transport within easy reach including the subway that is just round the corner.
The next street is the busy Sveavägen, Stockholm”s only real boulevard. The hotel is just around the corner from the underground (metro) stop Rådmansgatan. The locality is one of the most exciting in Stockholm, with a multitude of different restaurants within a few minutes walking distance. It is also a short walk from Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s historic and beautiful old town. I loved the area, and the next busy street Sveavägen, so alive and full of restaurants, shops and…barbers & haidressers,don’t ask me why, but very useful…

The rooms are divided into various types depending on the services they offer, mostly in different styles, some have canopy bed, some are equipped with the classic Swedish fireplace called kakelugnar, light rays, wooden panels, even a private sauna,

 

 

 

The walls are painted with warm colors that span from orange to red, to blue, to purple.

 

 

All rooms have private new bathrooms, TV, telephone, free wired internet access and a hairdryer. They are non-smoking as well as the entire structure.

 

My room had a cosy little terrace.

Here and there I found exotic touches, my guide explained that Mr.Hellsten, owner of Hellsten, Rex and the newest Hellsten Glashus, is an enthusiastic traveller who likes to collect items from his trips. I loved the african masks !

 

 

 

You have a colonial-style bar where coffee and tea are served 24 hours for free. Great idea! Every Thursday Hellsten Earth Bar transforms into one of Stockholm’s premier jazz venues. Exciting live acts on stage at 8pm and on the last Thursday of each month you are welcome to jam with the band, just bring your instruments or vocals, and the entrance is free.. Comfy beds and an excellent breakfast buffet that included pancakes, cold cuts, cheeses, eggs, lots of fruits and the traditional Swedish meatballs and served in a sunny and spacious veranda.
Add Hotel Hellsten on your next trip to Stockholm!
For more info
http://hellsten.se/en/Hotel_Hellsten

 

Industrial or design? A posh stay in Hamburg

In my last trip to Hamburg I got the chance to visit and stay in Hotel Gastwerk and The George, two great properties owned by Fortune Hotels Group.
They have different style and decor, both friendly, welcoming and worth to spend one (or few) nights there.Let’s start with the industrial red bricks Gastwerk. The name says it all, It was a squared and rigorous red bricks gas factory. Roughly 120 years ago, the old gas plant provided light to the streets and houses in West Hamburg. In the impressive and carefully restored industrial building, built with brick and steel, modern design and historical architecture form a fascinating harmonic setting. Gastwerk is first Hamburg’s design hotel.

The building welcomed me with a large hall with a wide, meticulously well lighted reception and two unforgettable metal elevators, one red and one yellow lighted.                                                 The industrial adventure was already starting…

 

 

 

 

 

 

141 rooms, lofts and suites, some with modern walls with a contemporary feeling, some with bricks walls (I love them), like the loft-like one where I was staying, giving the perfect atmosphere of and warehouse.

In addition to that Gastwerk boasts a configurable conference area, the Mangold restaurant (I didn’t dine there, so no idea of the food) the L.BAR, the beautiful SPA, free parking spaces in front of the hotel and underground.   Here and there you’ll discover classy touches of fresh flowers, old  black and white pictures, original gas machines, and a splendid old water boiler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second Fortune Hotel is The George, located in the hearth of the vibrant Saint George area.                                                        This venue is a triumphant tribute to the apotheosis of a ‘boutique hotel’ concept, where design meets furniture, lighting and that smell of trendyness…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reinterpretation of English style in Hamburg results in rooms swathed in warm colors ranging from cocoa to Champagne, lamps with delightful pleated shades and stylish wallpaper in a variety of designs.                             Super comfy mattresses, a nice view of the Lake Alster, not to mention that sweet & cute ‘Welcome Cesare’The George Hotel is a four-pearl property flush with a Great-Britain-in-the-’60s design, with 125 stylish rooms that all have flat-screen TVs, minibars, and free weight, a party-vibe bar, the supercool rooftop Campari Lounge in the terrace with a spectacular view of the Alster, a defined breakfast buffet that included a fine selection of cold cuts, imported cheeses, fruits and vegetables, and…

 

Yes! there is Da Caio, italian restaurant (where I could not resist peeping at the menu, which I found correct in dishes choices and…right spelling, which is always a good sign for an Italian eating in an Italian restaurant abroad…

Here info
Hotel Gastwerk
The George,
Fortune Hotels Group.

Two memorable days in Pula

I would like to thank the lovely ladies Viviana Vukelic and Adriana Bajic from Ente Nazionale Croato per il Turismo in Milan and the super cool Goran from the Tourism Office in Pula, Chef Deniz Zembo and my amazing guide Rossana. They truly contributed to make my Pula’s visit memorable, fun and wonderful.
For more info
ENTE NAZIONALE CROATO PER IL TURISMO
https://croatia.hr/en-GB
TOURISM OFFICE PULA

Discovering beauty: Nobis Hotel, Copenhagen

Nobis Hotel Copenhagen is housed in a historic 1903 building that hosted the Royal Danish Academy of Music since 1972. Back then, at Christmas time, an orchestra used to play on the reception level, while the magnificent marble staircase was filled with a chorus singing carols that would ring through the entire space creating magical moments.
                                                                     The building’s imposing sense of space and elaborate detailing gives the interiors a natural grandeur. Here neoclassicism meets a contemporary design created in collaboration with celebrated architectural firm Wingårdhs under the leadership of star architect Gert Wingårdh. Furniture, lighting fixtures and the abstract rugs were designed exclusively for Nobis,

“We shave been looking for some years to find the right location for Nobis Hotel Copenhagen. Finally when we stepped into this building it all felt exactly right” says Alessandro Catenacci, founder, owner and CEO at Nobis Hospitality Group. As a frequent traveler, I want a hotel to be elegant, comfortable, friendly and efficient, but I don’t need all that unnecessary excess and artificial service still often associated with luxury in the traditional sense’.
The hotel boasts generous high ceilings, original details such as delicate cornices, hardwood oak floor in chevron pattern, the bathrooms are clad in grey Bardiglio marble from Italy                                                                                     Every room is furnished with a curve-shaped special designed dresser and desk made by Wingårdhs, window details, contrasting abstract patterned rugs, angular poster beds in steel with lush cotton sheets, placed in the heart of the room creating a majestic center-piece.
Nobis, offers different room categories:
Nobis Suites, comfortable sitting area, a spacious sofa, armchairs, a luxurious bathroom with a spacious shower, a relaxing bath tub and separate toilet in addition to that you will find a dining area seating up to 6 people suitable for casual meetings. Private Nordic influenced meals made to order can be delivered from the restaurant.
Deluxe and Superior Suites boast exceptionally high ceilings, deep arched window niches creating a light and graceful atmosphere.
Junior Suites, spacious living with exceptional ceiling height. Thoughtfully placed in the corners of the building, they have two large windows with deep niches facing two directions.
Looking for more categories?
You have the Superior Suites, where the hardwood oak floor in chevron pattern together with deep window niches and flowing drapes in subtle colors gives the room a soft elegance. Finally two gorgeous Penthouses giving that luxurious loft feeling with charming rafters. Thanks to eight windows facing multiple directions, they offer an outstanding view over beautiful Copenhagen. The full penthouse floor takes up 240 square meters and is available upon request.                                                                                                  You will find a well equipped wine room, the simply luxurious SPA made in pink marble and natural wood with sauna, steam room, relax area in seducing shapes of gray. A minimalistic yet chic breakfast is served both in the lounge or outdoor terrace. You will find fresh vegetables and fruits, from avocados to berries, an excellent selection of cheeses and cold cuts, including a yummy patè de campagne
Nobis location is great: next to Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen Central Station, City Hall Square. Right in front the breathtaking Glyptotek Museum, currently hosting a magnificent exhibit High on Luxury  I spent a marvelous afternoon getting lost in those beautiful galleries.
A venue not to be missed, exactly as the Nobis, where I found authenticity, quality, care and richness in details.

for more info
Nobis Hotel Copenhagen

 

 

 

 

Hacienda Chichen: discover the most revered Mayan site the smart way!


Chichen Itza, located inland of the Yucatan Peninsula, about 200 km East of Cancun, is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico with over 2.6 million tourists in 2017.
Do the math…                                                   .That’s on average over 7000 visitors a day. Even though the site is not limited to the iconic Kukulcàn pyramid (photo 1) and covers a very large area (over 300 hectares), that is a lot of human flesh roaming around! Especialy when one considers that the most popular way to visit the Unesco world heritage site is via tour operators organizing day trips from Cancun or Merida, creating a huge influx of fully loaded buses arriving around 11 AM or so every day. Arriving with the sun at its hottest among hordes of tourists had always been a deterring idea to me. I had sacrificed the visit of wholly site during my passed 3 visits of Yucatan, favoring the ruins of Tulum and Cuba, less crowded and still awesome examples of the might and splendor of the Mayan civilization. For this fourth visit this last spring, I was determined to visit the legendary Chichen Itza in the best way possible. Staying overnight at the Hacienda Chichen revealed to be the smartest answer possible. Smart because by staying overnight in this historic hotel located a few hundred feet from the archeological site enables to start exploring the grounds as early as 8 AM, before the arrival of the crowds. Smart, because the hotel combines genuine elegance and great service while respecting authenticity and ecological responsibility. Follow me, let me show you the way…When I arrived from Tulum around noon at the Chichen Itza bus terminal, I was left at the main entrance of the site in one of the largest parking lots I have ever seen: hundreds of buses still unloading their loads of tourists from every continent. The line to the ticket booth was long, the heat dreadful. Instead of joining the frenzy, I hopped in a cab and 10 minutes later, I was discovering the old-world charm of the Hacienda Chichen. The check in was a breeze and the welcoming cocktail made of pineapple and Chaya leaf juice refreshing as heaven (pic 3). I was later to learn that it had been freshly made from the organic garden of the property, providing a lot of the fruits, vegetables and herbs used by the kitchen

 

The front desk offered to arrange the purchase of my ticket to visit the site the next morning, without any surcharge, avoiding the hassle to wait in line. They also offered the possibility to have a legitimate private guide for the visit, but as usual, I declined in order to feel totally free and visit at my own pace. The afternoon was mine to relax and enjoy what the Hacienda had to offer. The 28 rooms set in a total of 12 cottages spread out on the lush grounds were originally built to host archeologists who helped excavate the site. Now they are opened to all offering soothing air conditioning, large bed, beautiful sheets, large bathrooms, fresh flowers and hammocks on the front porch for those eager to adopt the Mayan way to take a nap at the sound of singing birds

 

 

 

Another way to relax in a horizontal way is to indulge in one of the treatments at the Yaxkin spa. And that’s exactly what I did, with the 45-minute Pakal treatment, a Maya healing ritual focusing on the head and the upper body. The soul is also soothed by an initial prayer in Mayan language by my charming therapist.

I loved the fact that the room was very large, not one of those cubicles where on feels locked up. The outside garden was present in the room with the use of various herbs and plants, including a refreshing aloe vera jelly applied on the face.Totally relaxed, I finished the afternoon by lingering by the superb swimming pool, large and square as I like them to do laps at length. .Recycled and chemical-free water added a guilt free sensation to the overall pleasure. Time went by and before I knew it was time to meet the general manager for a grand tour of the property, including the restored church where weddings can be organized, surrounded by the beautifully maintained vegetation).
No wedding the evening of my stay, but I still felt like a very special person, enjoying an evening drink on the beautiful front patio at the sound of a traditional trio singing deep from the heart local ballads.
For dinner, I ventured across the street to the humbler Villas Areological hotel (http://www.villasarqueologicas.com.mx/chichen-itza.html)
that I wanted to check out for its restaurant serving a variety of traditional dishes from Yucatan. The best, by far, was the cream of Chaya soup and I appreciated the selection of Mexican wines. The night was young, but the day had been long, so I was eager to return to my beautiful room for a good night sleep. At 8:20 Am, I recuperated my ticket to visit the site and was guided to the private entrance specific to the Hacienda. I was alone when I crossed the gate and after a ten-minute walk, I was facing the beautiful Mayan pyramid with the company of a couple of iguanas, but not another human soul. 

 

 

The morning air was cool, and the silence only broken by singing birds. All the merchants on the way were focused on unpacking their things, leaving me unburdened. Besides the famous pyramid, I loved walking through the gigantic ball game field practically alone

As well as discovering the sacred cenote (sinkhole) and the perfectly aligned columns without the eye sore of groups of tourists ruining the geometry of the monuments.    After three hours of walking at my own pace, I went back to the Hacienda, walking against the growing flow of visitors and the solicitations of the souvenir vendors, they were in full swing mode, trying to sell their T-shirts and miniature statues probably made in China!
The heat had risen and a last dip in the pool after a refreshing outdoor shower felt like pure bliss. At noon I was packed and ready to leave this magical place.                                       
A short taxi ride took me to the small town of Piste where I tasted a delicious and original pozole de coco, lightly sweetened and perfectly chilled (pic 20), then hopped on a collective to reach Valladolid after 24 hours of total serenity, visiting the most famous Mayan site in the best way possible…
the nontouristytourist way!

Text and photos by Philip Sinsheimer

 

 

HACIENDA CHICHEN RESORT AND YAXKIN SPA 

http://www.haciendachichen.com

Tel: +52 999 920 8407

 

 

 

A ‘HYGGE’SUMMER IN COPENHAGEN

In summer Copenhagen is an ideal destination: favorable weather, long and sunny days, smiling, polite and serene people. It seems that everyone here discovers the secret of happiness: hygge, a Danish word that invites you to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and live alone or with friends, at home or outside, special and happy moments.
Find yourself singing on the beach around a bonfire, have a nice picnic at the park, attend an outdoor concert, participate in a street festival or take a bike ride … these and more are the little pleasures of life that feed the hygge spirit in the life of the Danes.

To find out right away just do this test . The result is a real personalized treatment based on hygge, released with all the tips on how to get it on a trip to Denmark.
Useful and precious, a true friend! I’m talking about the Copenhagen Card, a pass that allows you to visit as many as 86 museums and attractions, use all public transportation for free and benefit from discounts on tours, bars and restaurants.


I also used it for a tour of the canals and the port. 1 hour, audiogude in all languages, a show of ancient and modern architecture, a sea of photos. passing the numerous bridges of the city. But pay attention to be seated: the bridges are very low and the risk to bump your head on it, it s quite possible.
 Tivoli

 

 

The oldest playground in the world. You will skip over breathtaking roller coasters,you will be projected into space, you will remain suspended in the air more than a thousand other rides in the charming gardens where the oriental facade of beautiful
Hotel Nimb stands out.

After the aerial acrobatics, I finally relaxed in the Brasserie, famous Nimb restaurant,
French cuisine, refined menu, excellent wine list, good service and relaxing atmosphere (apart from the crowded side room that celebrated a noisy birthday…) I tasted the Chef’s specialties, a delicate mollusk bisque served with scampi and carrots, a crunchy turbot à la meunière, sprinkled with lemon drops, ending with a puff pastry stuffed with strawberries and cream, all paired to my favorite Sancerre Domaine de La Garenne, deliciously fruity, In short, a dinner worthy of the unique atmosphere of the location.
Copenhagen history boasts of royalties and magnificent castles,Here my favorites
Amalienborg Palace, a must for anyone with a taste for royal history and the life of Denmark’s royal family who still resides inside the palace. Experience royal history at the museum and sense the present of one of the world’s oldest monarchies from the beautiful palace square where you can watch the changing of its famous guards called Den Kongelige Livgarde. Every day you can experience the changing of the guards, as they march from their barracks in 100 Gothersgade by Rosenborg Castle through the streets of Copenhagen and end up at Amalienborg, where the changing of the guard takes place at 12:00 noon.
Christiansborg Palace famous for its hall covered with 17 giant tapestries, which tell 1000 years of Danish history, It is a gift from The Danish business community in occasion of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe 50th birthday,. Bjørn Nørgaard painted the full-size sketches upon which the tapestries were woven. These impressive royal rooms host the official receptions in the presence of the Queen, between a sparkle of uniforms and great evening gowns. Better to avoid arriving by car or taxi, the protocol prefers that the guests present themselves in a carriage…

 

As a food lover, I could not resist the temptation to descend into the legendary Royal Kitchens to discover the background of an official banquet, browse the Queen’s recipes and admire one of the largest collections of copper crockery in Europe.

 

 

To be or not to be…
I recommend a small excursion outside the city. Helsingør 30 minutes by train.
The famous Castle of Kronborg, better known as Hamlet’s house, reigns there. In fact, here Shakespeare set his drama. Gossips say that the writer had never been there, but would have been an actor in his company to tell him about this mighty fortress, from whose park, littered with cannons, you can glimpse Sweden. Suddenly the walls resound with the voices of the characters of Hamlet, which appear, like ghosts, perfectly interpreted by talented actors who bring to life the tragic events of the drama, You could spend a whole day in Kronborg, and live many experiences, guided tours through the casemates and the halls, explore the passages and towers, see a play and relax admiring the sea – but if you prefer, you can get an idea Kronborg concrete even in just one hour. Kronborg is open all year round (except 1st January, 24th, 25th and 31st December) from 11am to 4pm. In the summer (June, July and August) the schedule is extended: from 10.30am to 5.30pm.
After all that drama I needed a…great meal and I went to the renowned restaurant Brasserie 1861, where I met the Chef. His name is Casper Stuhr Sobczyk I can describe him as a gentle viking with the sweetest smile and… smoked sardines tattooed in his arm.
They called him ‘the king of herbs ‘for his passion for vegetables and fresh products from the field. His passions are: fish, molluscs, entrails as lamb’s brain, (not so popular in the quite skeptic Northern Europe), He started with French cuisine, passed to the molecular and ended up with mixing them two styles. ‘I like to play with the ingredients, says Casper, like for example, pairing strawberries to balsamic vinegar. I worked in Danmark a lot, including the Copenhagen National Library. I got good reviews and I started my new adventure here at Marienlyst Hotel, In my my fridge at home, there is always place for eggs, probably because my wife loves them, lot of vegetables and of course several max sizei Pepsi. I Love Pepsi… ‘His friendly Verona born partner Fabio Ciccarelli started serving a surprising appetizer: a revolutionary version of the traditional blini, made with caviar white sturgeon, to be mixed to crème fraiche on herbal waffle. The ingredients just melt perfectly together.

 

 

 

 

                                                             Then a salted unusually cooked burned salmon, followed by a mackerel with foie gras, green peas. As a main dish , I tasted halibut with asparagus that burned for few minutes to maintain the crunchiness.

Every dish was so intense, so fresh and so herbal.
No wonder why Chef Sobczyk is the ‘king of herbs…
’In the summer, Denmark is a foodies paradise with its festivals and gastronomic events Do not miss the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival from August 24th to September 2nd, during which Copenhagen becomes a huge Nordic restaurant and definitely stop at the new street food Reffen, an urban playground recently opened, that mixes crafts and culture.

Reffen is a place where the people of Copenhagen are invited to take part in the development. 54 start-ups in the form of food stalls, bars and creative workshops many confirming the dogmas “Reduce and Reuse”.

 

Mermaid yes or no?
The most celebrated mermaid statue of The Little Mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s story, sitting on a stone at Langelinie in the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark. Honestly I saw her from the boat and I have to say that the invading ‘selfie addicted crowd’ didn’t appeal to me… So I went at night, and here she was, alone, shining on the dark, mysterious and looking like wanting to splash in the water any minute,
That, I call a magic encounter with Miss Mermaid…for more info
#visitdenmarkstories @govistdenmark.

 

Hamburg, Germany, Why go there and where to stay, what to eat

I started my Hamburg experience with an avalanche of photos and selfies on board of the Stadtrundfahrt double-decker bus, providing earphones in all languages. In a couple of hours you’ll know the city, get off when you want, visit and get the next one. An indispensable tour, also in a mini-cruise version with Harbor Cruise You will enjoy the aquatic view of the city, of the immense port and of the colossal cargo ships with gigantic containers.
Hamburg means bricks, red bricks, so my next stop was Speicherstadt.

 

Almost a kilometer of old warehouses with typical red bricks, used as storage for incoming goods: oriental carpets, tea, raw coffee, cocoa, tobacco, spices. Among the attractions: a kaffeerösterei, an old coffee roaster, where you can also enjoy decadent cakes with strawberries and cream.

 

 

 

Chocoversum,  a true chocolate triumph,
Manufactumtrendy shop and the Spice Museum  where you will find and taste everything: European spices, Asian and Indian flavors, exotic perfumes, 50 varieties of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard seeds and the most expensive ones: orchid vanilla and saffron.

 

Miniatur Wunderland Models of trains and landscapes in miniature? I was doubtful …well, I was amazed. Two huge floors where landscapes and cities of all the world have been meticulously reconstructed with airports, motorways, railways in great turmoil and crowded by a thousand minuscule people, including a team while washing Pope Francis car…

 

 

 

Travel and read.
130 bookshops stocked with second hand books! Passengers are allowed not only to read them during their journey ,but also to take them home.

 

Elbphilharmonie
Extraordinary glass structure, with windows that look like eyes. With its perfect acoustic, hosts concerts and shows. You get there with a spectacular 82 meter escalator that runs through The Plaza, from which you can enjoy a great view.
Perfect location for a drink or a snack at the Beer & Dine and a little shopping in the well-stocked book, music and souvenir store. Tickets can be booked 18 weeks in advance and children up to three years do not pay.
Hamburg and its museums. I chose two. Kunsthalle, 700 years of art, from the great masters of the Renaissance until 1800 with Manet, Caspar David Friedrich, up to the German expressionism (which I adore) and the contemporary avant-garde .
MKG  Great museum with unusual exhibits: famous deco posters, precious vintage pianos, sketches and 30s dresses, a space dedicated to design furniture, photo galleries avant – garde and much more.
It is true that the hamburger was born in Hamburg?
The most famous meatball in the world is ‘made in the USA’ or ‘made in Hamburg’?
The name would leave no doubt, but the Americans boast its paternity.
The Germans claim that it was cooked in the houses of Hamburg and then it was exported to the USA, while for the Americans it would be born in the port of Hamburg, a municipality located in the state of New York and the inventors would have been the Menches brothers who in 1885 would propose the first sandwich stuffed with meat during the country festival Erie County Fair.
Legends aside, here you will find space burgers. The best from Burger Lounge, Jim Block Jungfernstieg, Dulf’s Burger , Otto’s Burger Grindelhof and Schanze .

WHERE TO STAY
I tried two hotels, both experiences were great!

Novotel Hamburg City Alster Hotel
4-star hotel in the modern rooms and suites with a desk and free WIFI
Central location and U-Bahn station on our doorstep make the Novotel Hamburg City Alster hotel the ideal base in Hamburg. 5-minutes away from Alster-Schwimmhalle and within 20 minutes of English Theatre Of Hamburg. Highlights at this hotel include in-room free WiFi, free high-speed Internet, and LCD TVs. All 210 soundproofed rooms feature sofa beds, satellite TV, and separate bathtubs and showers. You’ll find nice touches like soaking tubs and free toiletries to enhance your stay. Coffee/tea makers, free newspapers, and safes are also available. Enjoy the fitness centre, Turkish bath/hammam, and sauna. Business amenities include a meeting room and a business centre. Added amenities include free WiFi in public areas and laundry facilities. Each morning excellent buffet breakfast is served between 6:30 AM and 10:30 AM. Sights within a 20-minute walk of this 4-star Hamburg-Nord hotel include Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg and Mundsburg Center. Enjoy the comfort of the sauna and the video games area. Rooms are spacious and bright, Super comfy bed…I slept like a baby!
Dining in is an option with room service, and minibars provide refreshments. I had a great lunch at the hotel stylish restaurant Novo2, and a nice chat with the executive Chef, who told me that his menu focuses on seasonal products and evergreen tasty meat. and suggested a juicy and tender La Maracho Rump Steak with sauteed vegetables  and … a silver swan (just for decoration…) Novo2 is an innovative combination of a bar lounge , that offers delicious seasonal dishes and light snacks are served from 6.30am to 9.30pm. A cool spot where where you can have a nice glass of wine, like i did!
INFO

 

 

Luebecker Strasse 3

22087 HAMBURG

Germany

HafenCity. It is the new futuristic district of Hamburg, area of ​​creatives and artists,
To get there they have specially built the metropolitan U4 line. in 3 stops from the center you have already arrived. Here you can breathe fresh air, the spaces are open and many Hamburgers get away from work to go for a drink or a snack.

 

I stayed at the brand new 25 Hours HafenCity Hotel where I had a great time. I felt like a sailor, the rooms look like a ship’s cabins, with prosperous painted models on the bathroom walls.

 

Here atmosphere is easy and relaxed , The motto says  COME AS YOU ARE! There is also free access to a spectacular spa in stones and wood. In the morning a rich buffet breakfast is set up, there you can find everything, including rote gruetze, my beloved raspberry, blueberry and cherry sauce served on lean yogurt. Yummy!

 

 

 

What does a real Hamburger drink?
Beer, of course! It has been produced in Hamburg for over a millennium and has become an icon of German culture. Here some popular ones.
Ratsherrn, one of the city’s most famous artisan breweries From pilsner to light beers. Galopper des Jahres, popular and animated. The members of the staff are true fan of craft beer, so be sure to ask for their recommendations: they know what to suggest for every taste and palate. Blockbräu, a terrace with a wonderful view.
My favorite? Altes Mädchen An incredible variety of excellent local and around 70 international beers, also combined with tasty German specialties.Remember, the real Hamburger does not drink Coca Cola!

The preferred alternative is fritz-kola, rich in caffeine and lemon. It was born in 2002, invented almost for fun by young friends Lorenz and Mirco and produced with a really amateur process. Imagine: the labels were photocopies and they were glued by hand on the bottle …
Today it is the national soft drink.

 

 

Red lights …
night and day!

The St. Pauli district was once a bad area full of noisy pubs, frequented by criminals, sailors and prostitutes. Today the taverns have become artistic skyscrapers, like the Dancing Towers, which seem to really dance, while the smoky haunts of the past have become fashionable places.

But the raunchy survived: sex shops, theaters, striptease, burlesque and the inevitable bouncers who invite you to enter. In addition to the ‘sensory’ attractions, the neighborhood is full of super-trendy shops, new boutiques, hip clubs and bars

Keep walking around the St.Pauli district,
head towards Markstrasse and the surroundings of KarolinenvIertel.

There You will find small bars, self-managed restaurants, flowers, perfumes, mini boutiques and lots of vintage. If you are ‘bio’ dive into the Rider Markt Halle, and a relaxing drink from Zoe the bar of the different sofas. For more chic and exclusive products, head to Hole Bleichen.

 

 

 

Then it comes the time for…
beauty and relaxation.

After a long walk, it is right to take a relaxing break in Jungfernstieg, in the heart of Hamburg with a fantastic view of the Alster river. Here Nivea Haus awaits for you, this is the official store of the famous face cream, born in Hamburg in 1929. Here you can find classic or brand new creams for face and body, cosmetics, revitalizing treatments, relaxing massages, as well as manicures and pedicures.

 

Plus a really cute souvenir: your ‘Nivea’. You ‘ll be photographed and in a second …you’re on the cover of the famous blue box. I couldn’t resist …

 

 

So, what do you think?
Am I fine for a cream cover?

 

 

 

MATERA, Italy. The city, the Sassi and the best Lucanian dishes


Matera is one of the oldest cities in the world. By day the sunlight enhances its white. At night, it looks like an immense nativity set up under the starry sky.
Its quarter I Sassi, ancient dwellings dug into the tufo, where the roofs serve as a base for the houses that have developed on higher levels. These were dug entirely into the rock and represent one of the most striking examples of exploitation of natural resources to obtain suitable conditions for the life of a large community. In the caves often lived more families and despite the lack of space, almost all daily activities took place in the cavities of cave-houses: from handicrafts to weaving, from food storage to animal care (dogs, chicken, pigs, horses and donkeys were living with the family as primitive source of heating). The temperature was constant and guaranteed by the characteristics of the sea tufo , so the inhabitants did not suffer too much from the cold in winter and found a shelter from summer heat. This way of life for years has been seen as a sign of backwardness and incivility. The inhabitants of the Sassi were often considered as primitives living like animals. In 1952 Sassi was considered “the Italian national shame”and abandoned in the late ’50s, Sassi was able to be redeemed until they became Unesco World Heritage in and will be the 2019 European Capital of Culture. Its amazing scenario has been used s a set for Mel Gibson “The Passion” Pier Paolo Pasolini “The Gospel According to Matthew “King David”, Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt “, and the remake of “Ben-Hur “.

I took the Gran Tour of Sassi,
an intense 3 hours guided tour and I learn so much about the history of this amazing city. The tour begins in front of the Cathedral, in the upper part of the City, and then goes deeper into the tangle of narrow alleys, caves, cellars, churches, small gardens, tiny squares and districts. I was able to discover in detail these unusual dwellings partly carved out of the limestone. It s a long walk, so wear comfy shoes.

Matera is also well now for its cooking tradition, a classic example of Italian peasant cuisine, using free ingredients combined with a fair amount of labor and know-how to  turn an odd edible food into a delectable dish.
Here my choices:
 ll Terrazzino  
View, ambience, real food, rich menu, moderate prices and …did I mentioned the view? Welcome to Il Terrazzino, one of the oldest deck restaurant in Sassi Eustachio Persia welcomed me with a dish of local cold cuts, including my fav lampascioni, bulbs of a common wildflower in southern Italy, then I ordered lamb, and…surprise! iIt came wrapped in yellow strawpaper.
This place used to be a cantina, told me Eustachio, just wine, no food.So people used to cook it at home and take it here, all wrapped up in paper tto keep it warm, then tear the bag and eat it paired with a nice glass of wine.Then came the crapiata a soup of different legumes, cereals and potatoes typical of the Basilicata cuisine of rural tradition, prepared in great quantity every year on the first day of August in the district La Martella, close to the cultivated fields and served to the inhabitants. Eustachio took me downstairs, to the 17 century cellar, which incorporates the typical architecture of the Sassi and was refurbished to retrace moments of daily life of the peasant life,

Baccus
Simple yet elegant restaurant Located in the Sassi area, Baccus is well know for its Chef Carlo Pozzuoli who likes to reinterpretate typical local dishes and flavors of the past  in a modern way.

 

 

Starting with super crunchy chips of red peppers, followed by fagots of ziti with cream of yellow and red peppers, bundled in a slice of sweet scamorza cheese topped by goat ricotta curlS.

 

 

A soupy Dish with tagliolini pasta with black and white chickpeas, considered ideal fro pregnant women, since it contains a lot of iron.
The menu dedicates an attentive search of local herbs, like the cicoriella, the sivone and other fresh leaves variously used in cooking: in salads, minestrone, simply boiled with oil and lemon, or as a filling of ravioli and pansotti or excellent omelettes.

 

 

 

Carlo and his wife Mariella were wonderful hosts. Not only keeping me company at the table but also surprising me with a taste of a sweet heart shaped Sporcamuso, (begrime the face) a dessert so full of cream that I inevitably ended up with hot pastry cream all over my face.

 


Da Mario
‘We represent the tradition. My family managed this restaurant since the 50’s’ told me Anna, owner of the popular Ristorante Pizzeria Da MarioSince then we are always been loved by the people from Matera and from all over the world. Many celebrities have eaten here: Richard Gere, Mel Gibson just to mention few’                                         

 

 

I went there for lunch and followed Anna’s suggestions, starting with a tasty orecchiette alle rape with anchovies and toasted breadcrumbs, then I tried home made strascinati pasta with cardoncelli mushrooms and garnished with the typical crunchy peperone crusco, fried red pepper. Da Mario is know for its pizza. I tried a baby Margherita, perfectly cooked. ‘I love my town, peaceful and quiet, I run the restaurant a cosy BnB called Sassi Belvedere although sometimes I need some noise… some that’s why I have a place in Milan, where I go , like an escape little vacation, but then I am happy to be back in my Lucania ( the ancient name of Basilicata) Sorry I still call it Lucania.. perhaps it’s because I like the old things…
I don’t blame her..
Where I stayed.
Residence San Gennaro, located in the inner courtyard of the old “neighborhood”, once the fulcrum of the days of the inhabitants
Super friendly host Francesco delighted me with anecdotes about the city, gave me tips took me to the prehistoric hypogeous cave below the residence, embellished with a precious Nativity and prepared a great breakfast that included fresh local products. I stayed in Guerricchio suite, that has a kitchenette, a delightful double bedroom, a private bathroom and a cute little balcony to enjoy the view on the enchanting Sassi of Matera. It is At the entrance an artistic work of great value welcomed me. “Girasoli di Guerricchio”, a Lucanian artist to whom the suite is dedicated.

I also loved

Casa Noha
An amazing gateway” to the city, charting its history thanks to an innovative communication project, where the walls, the ceilings and the floors will take to an extraordinary journey through the history of Matera from its origins to the present day.
MUSMA
(Museum of Contemporary Sculpture Matera)
This unique museum provides the perfect environment for the symbiosis of sculpture and the characteristic carved sites in the Sassi; the exhibition galleries, in fact, consist not only of the rooms of the Palazzo, but also the vast hypogea, where the works of art are revitalized by the strength and beauty of the surrounding rock hewn spaces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering ALIANO, Basilicata.


My dear friend Stanislao De Marsanich, President of Parchi Letterari Italiani (Italian Literary Parks) invited me to a unprecedent destination in the Basilicata Region: Aliano. Why did I said unprecedent?
Aliano is probably the less populated village in the Southern Italy I have ever visited. 600 inhabitants, mostly older men and older women still wearing the traditional black long dress , with their hair wrapped in a black scarf, two small bars, few stores , that close in the afternoon for a long siesta, the amazing nature around , populated by calanch wich are deforested, sandy soiled, rocky hills, a church, two restaurants (Locanda con gli occhi and Sisina Contadina). Aliano is a little village n the province of Matera, located in one of the most unusual, scenic, magical and spiritual places of Basilicata. The surrounding clay landscape is characterised by naturally eroded gullies and ravines, typical of this part of the region. This is the rough, moon-like landscape of Calanch.
I walked along those ridges of breathtaking cliffs, In the silence of the badlands and I hear nothing but the sound of my own footsteps.Loliness, abandon, misery, poverty and the lunar scenario were crucial source of literary inspiration for Christ Stopped at Eboli”, Carlo Levi’s 1944 memoir about his long exile in the area. Carlo Levi was born in 1902 in Turin, Piedmont, to wealthy parents. His father was Jewish and a doctor and his mother was the sister of Claudio Treves who was an important socialist leader in Italy. After attending to the University, young Carlo pursued is passion: painting. In 1929, Levi co-founded an anti-fascist organisation called Giustizia e Libertà for which he was arrested in 1935 and exiled to Aliano, a timeless place where ancestral customs reign: witchcraft, love potions, charlatanerie, He lived the for nearly a year, painting, working as a doctor and observing the daily hardship of the villagers that he would later narrate about in his book, ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli On those days, the malaria was decimating the population, already living in dire poverty and Levi tells what he lives, what he sees, the life of its inhabitants, their customs, painting a region abandoned to his sad fate and writing beautiful pages about their hunger, heir fear ad their beliefs. When Carlo Levi arrived in Gagliano , supposed to stay there for three years under house arrest, he said he had “the impression of having fallen from the sky like a stone in a pond”. The book tells the story of suffering and injustices, where the peasants have more confidence in their tribe, and in their family, and have very little respect for institutions that do not bring them any security or well-being. The toddlers mortality was enormous, nearly 50% died simply because their parents could not afford medical assistance.Dispate all the negative things, Levi fell in love with Aliano where he asked to be buried. In Aliano.The Literary Park s dedicated to him as well as a museum that offers personal letters, documents and drawings related to the period during which Levi lived in Aliano. I Walked around the city center, where venues and places his book relive in plates reporting extracts from. In the silence of the badlands, I hear nothing but the sound of my own footsteps.

 

 

Let me tell about Aliano’s houses…

 

They have facades somehow mysterious , sinister or curious, they look magical with some sort of exoteric message.The most famous is La casa con gli occhi (the House with the Eyes) which the small windows create a gloomy wing, beyond which the gash due to the roof’s falling down allowed the pale sun to enter.Aliano has its own dialect, “Alianese”, and the population keep many old traditions. One particular example is that, during Carnevale (a catholic festival that takes place a few weeks before Easter) village men, dressed in paper mache masks, hats covered with streamers, wearing long underwear and cow bells, march down the town’s main street, throwing flour at gathered crowds and making grunting noiss.Very interesting the Museum housed in the old oil mill under Carlo’s confiscation house, with the original millstones still present, and all the home furnishings, work tools and much more. Aliano recently opened a Museum dedicated to American artist Paul Russotto whose parents were originally from Aliano. He is known for his paintings and drawings that examine the subject of time and the vacillations between the abstract and the figurative. His subtle over painting creates dense textures which often seem to be clearly aware of the historical range of abstraction and the way it brushed up against figurations, from the cave paintings through contemporary figures. I stayed at La Casa De’’Americano a cozy two bedroom family managed bed & breakfast, and had my meals at their restaurant called La Locanda con gli Occhi. Dishes are simple and respect the alianese cooking tradition, from yasty cold cuts to hearty fresh vegetable soups, to lamb,

 

to ferrizzuoli pasta with fried breadcrumbs topped with the typical peperone crusco,
the local sweet red pepper, served dried
and crunchy.

For more info

ITALY: NEXT HEALTHY DESTINATION? ABANO TERME: BEST SPA, BEST HOTELS.

Abano Terme is a spa resort in the Veneto region of north-east Italy, close to Padua, on the eastern slope of the Colli Euganei; it is 10 kilometres (6 mi) southwest by rail from Padua. The town’s hot springs and mud baths are an important economic resource.[3] The waters have a temperature of about 80 °C (176 °F).
Abano  is located on a plain close to a range of low green hills, the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills). The ‘Terme’ part of the name means ‘spa’ – previously the town was also known as Abano Bagni, which means much the same. Abano is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable; both ‘e’s of Terme are pronounced.
A sign at the entrance to Abano Terme greets visitors: ‘Welcome. Please avoid disturbing noises’. This sums up the atmosphere of the leafy town. Abano is dedicated to rest and relaxation, and does its best to avoid anything which might disturb the languid pottering of its visitors.
The heart of town is a peaceful modern pedestrian zone dotted with shops and cafes, sculptures and plenty of water features to show off the town’s great asset (you may be disappointed if you dip your hand in to test the temperature, though). In this amiable area you’ll find the elegant Grand Hotel Orologio – one of Abano’s few interesting historical buildings, but sadly closed-up when we visited. Opposite is another hotel with historic significance, the Hotel Trieste & Vittoria, which served as headquarters for the Italian military command in 1918.
A short walk along Viale delle Terme is the historic centre of town. Abano’s cathedral, the Duomo di San Lorenzo, was originally founded in the tenth century, and it still retains its fourteenth-century belltower. Alongside is a rather odd modern development (from the 1990s though already tired-looking) of housing and shops, with a giant sundial in the centre. The rest of town is fairly uniform and featureless; mostly composed of avenues lined with hotels.
One interesting sight is the little hilly park of Montirone. The history of this area goes back to the times of those inveterate bathers, the Romans. Later, in the nineteenth century, the park was a showplace for the spa waters. It still has a grand colonnaded entrance (see our photo top right) but the waters have long dried up and the park is rather forlorn. The town’s art gallery, the Pinacoteca, lies just inside the colonnades. It consists of a small collection of mildly interesting works, with free admission.


Many guests are content to enjoy spa sessions and absorb the therapeutic qualities of a lazy afternoon. A short wander through the pedestrian heart of town passes shopfronts and cafes for whiling away more time. In the evenings there are opportunities for old-style dancing. Children may enjoy the little ‘train’ which runs along the road between Abano and its neighbour Montegrotto Terme.
Thermal springs and treatments
The baths were known to the Romans as Aponi fons or Aquae Patavinae. A description of them is given in a letter to Theodoric, the king of the Ostrogoths, from Cassiodorus. Some remains of the ancient baths have been discovered (S. Mandruzzato, Trattato dei Bagni d’Abano, Padua, 1789). An oracle of Geryon lay near, and the so-called sortes Praenestinae (C.I.L. i., Berlin, 1863; 1438–1454), small bronze cylinders inscribed, and used as oracles, were perhaps found here in the 16th century.[3]
The baths were destroyed by the Lombards in the 6th century, but they were rebuilt and enlarged when Abano became an autonomous comune in the 12th century and, again, in the late 14th century. The city was under the Republic of Venice from 1405 to 1797.
Hotels in Abano Terme offer a range of spa and mud treatments, with their own thermal pools. It’s their main attraction for visitors, so when you’re choosing a hotel it’s worth comparing what facilities and treatments they offer, and reading the reviews of past guests. You may pay extra to use the hotels’ facilities.
Abano Terme isn’t really a busy sightseeing town; it’s more a place to wander, to chat, to stop for a drink and watch other holidaymakers stroll by. A good place to start is the town’s central tourist information office, which stocks town plans and information about the surrounding area.See hotels and SPA treatments here
https://www.abano.it/en/

VENICE. THE HANDS OF THE SPLENDID CA’ SAGREDO

                                                                               Buongiorno Cesare, sorry I literally have 5 minutes, i got to run to Mestre to sign the extension of showing ‘Support’.

They accepted our proposal, therefore Lorenzo’s sculpture is going to stay, It’s a victory!”

 

 

I am in Venice and I am meeting the flamboyant Lorenza Lain, general Manager of Hotel Ca’Sagredo,
The sculpture she is referring to is the amazing (and controversial) ‘Support’  an artwork by Lorenzo Quinn, an Artist known to sculpture body parts, and especially hands. as these two giant hands rising from the waters of the Grand Canal ideally aiming to protect the façade of Ca’ Sagredo, one of Venice’s most beautiful and iconic buildings that risks sinking due to a changing climate. At the same time, however, they could destroy it and let the city sink at any moment, because “A hand could hold so much power, said Quin, the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy. “Venice is a city of floating art that has inspired cultures for centuries, said Quinn, but in order to continue to be like this, it needs the support of our generation and the future ones, because it is threatened by climate change and the decay caused by time”.Inaugurated on May, the sculpture was supposed to remain there until November., but thanks to the combative pressure of Lorenza and her team, it is still standing and it will stay longer.
The sculpture created a controversy: are the hands symbolically saving Venice from the threats linked to climate change or may be interpreted as instruments capable of destroying the city ? I walked on the small streets of the city and asked few locals (wasn’t easy to find some real ones, they were mostly tourists…) I got different answers:
The younger guys see the art as a positive message:.”Sure  those hands are protecting our city” “Can’t you see? Venice is sinking, needs a support, I wish the hands would stay forever and I hope to see more of them to protect other buildings” Someone, more cynically  went like “Nah, to me is the symbol of the invasion of too many tourist getting their hands on Venice and trying to steal its beauty”  Finally an older lady told me ” C’mon the hands are innocent! those are baby’s hands!
I guess she is right, the hands are the ones of a boy, as the model was Lorenzo’s son Anthony who is eleven years old.
Ca’ Sagreto benefitted of a huge amount of pics, videos and selfies, stimulating the curiosity to visit and stay in the hotel . I did, I spend a great night in one of the room , facing the canal. I was happy right from my arrival, welcomed by an
enchanting lobby and a high-level reception where you can find all the information you need to be guided to discover the magic of Venice. My room was charming, with Venetian glass lamps, white marble bathroom, comfy bed, a private little terrace and a complimentary tempting selection of chocolates and truffles.

In the morning I took a tour of the venue, excited to discovered the magnificent palazzo, which is the only Museum-Hotel of the City. The venue is a meticulously renovated 15th-century palace, with its lavish pink façade, between Ca’ d’Oro and the Rialto Bridge on the spectacular Grand Canal. I took me time to discover the extraordinary artworks throughout the palazzo.It is a real gem, half hotel, half museum with important works of art by 17th and 18th-century artists Sebastiano Ricci, Niccolò Bambini, Pietro Longhi and a beautiful Giambattista Tiepolo‘s canvas dated circa 1740. From every room and Suite you can admire the beauty of the lagoon city, the passage of Venetian gondolas and the roofs of romantic Venice. All accommodations have the most modern comforts from A/C to Wi-Fi. The rooms and suites are ideal both for a romantic visit to Venice and for a family to discover the Arts and Cultures of Venice.

 

 

 

 

 

The breakfast was essential, but made with fresh and quality food, and served in the amazing Sala del Doge, where the ceiling holds a painting by Nicolò Bambini, depicting a glorious god Apollo from which the other characters try to find shelter.Unfortunately I had no time Ca’ Sagredo’s restaurant  L’Alcova with its splendid panoramic terrace on the Canal Grande, featuring Chef Damiano Bassano who has worked in Paris, Strasbourg, Spain, USA and Spain in the three-star Michelin-starred restaurant Ferran Adrià, in Catalonia.
Damiano’s kitchen is a laboratory of traditional Italian flavors combined with unique touches are the distinctive elements of its cuisine, such as “Marsala scented tuna medallions” and t”Carnaroli risotto with prawns, burrata and almonds
I will definitely go back to Ca’ Sagredo and try his dishes,
and please…keep those ‘hands’ on!                           Ca’ Sagredo
is one of the  Small Luxury Hotels on the World.

 

WORLD BEST HOTELS

THE HISTORY
The hotel was established by the Sarkies Brothers, in 1887 and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. The property, which had only ten bungalow rooms, built immediately its reputation for high standards in services and accommodations becoming the most fabled hotel in the Far East and a must destination for royalties, celebrities and wealthy clientele, all pictures in an impressive hall of fame. Legends as Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier, Jean Harlow, Noel Coward. Hollywood royalties as Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor.

 HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,
in 2012 the Duke and Duchesse of Cambridge, just to mention few.                There is no lack of anecdotes: Somerset Maugham, who visited several times and worked all mornings under a frangipani tree in the Palm Court, apparently wrote the gossip and scandal he overheard at Raffles dinner parties into his short stories.

 

 

 

 

 

For more than a  century, Raffles Singapore has offered luxurious all-suite accommodations, where the original style is perfectly preserved, giving a mesmerizing blend of luxury, history and classic colonial design. Within its walls are more than a hundred expansive suites, framed by polished teak verandas and white marble colonnades, clustered around lush tropical gardens. Each is serviced by the legendary Raffles Butlers and offers every modern convenience necessary.
MY STAY
The enchantment started from the very beginning, right when I approached the entrance and I was welcomed by the smiling doorman elegantly dressed with an immaculate 

crisp white Gieves and Hawkes military uniform decorated with a black satin sash and gold braid, I could clearly imagine reliving the era of sovereign hospitality in the early days.

My Butler Jeff, was waiting for me in the Suite 117, one of the historical bungalow-room. It felt like a furnished apartment with high ceilings that I had already lived in, not a room that I was staying for the first time. I stepped through the door into a small ante-room, decorated with botanical prints.

To the right was a round breakfast table with an orchid and a welcome fruit bowl on it, not to mention the delicious kaya truffles.

A Nespresso machine was on the counter next to a selection of alcoholic drinks including the iconic 1915 Raffles Gin. Giant yellow tied-back curtains partitioned the ante-room from the huge bedroom with its two-post bed, chaise long, suit stand, writers table and giant armoire wardrobe. And beyond there was the timeless green marbled bathroom with two rooms; one with basin and Raffles amenities. the other with toilet, shower, giant bath tub and ceramic elephant pot holders

In the morning, I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast that included very traditional recipes such as prata (fried flatbread cooked over a flat grill. served with a vegetable and meat-based curry), nasi lemak (fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf) and chicken fluffy char sue pau, the most famous classic Cantonese dim sum..

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In the afternoon I took a tour of the venue. There were signature restaurants and bars since the 1900s, Long Bar, where visitors and guests will be welcomed to continue the tradition of throwing peanuts on the floor as they sip on a chilled glass of hand-shaken Singapore Sling. Then I stopped by at the Tiffin Room, A part of Raffles’ history since 1892, and serving up delectable North Indian cuisine. This beautiful space is also known for its signature High Tea, served with a tempting selection of cakes filled with banana, strawberry and carrot compote, and delicious cherry madeleines (I loved them…)
The tea is open to public, upon reservation.THE NEW RAFFLES
Raffles is now going under a careful and sensitive renovation supported by award-winning interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud. The reopening is scheduled for the second half of 2018. The restoration will update its distinctive suites with new amenities and technology while maintaining the sense of space and colonial ambience. Raffles Singapore will have 115 suites, some named after local cinemas during the early to mid-1900s, as the famous Alhambra, Diamond Marlborough, Odeon and Theatre Royal. The venue will boast new events spaces, including a majestic 300-guest ballroom, named Jubilee Ballroom as a tribute to the Jubilee Theatre, originally a cinema in the 1930s at the same location. Elegantly sophisticated in hues of cream and gold, complimented with an air-conditioned pre-event foyer, the new space will be the ideal venue for weddings and social galas. Once reopened, the Raffles Arcade will showcase social spaces and a variety of lifestyle experiences. This includes a refreshed Raffles Gift Shop that will house a History Gallery to illustrate the heritage of Raffles Singapore. The Arcade will also be home to a brand-new Raffles Spa, a holistic sanctuary for hotel residents and the community to escape the bustle of the city. Writers Bar will be expanded to a full bar and be the place for bespoke cocktails, discreet elegance and intimate conversations. All event spaces will also have striking lighting elements and the latest audio-visual technology, to be relevant for today’s social galas and events.
A TRIBUTE TO THE GRAND DAMES
One new Promenade Suite will be named after Lady Mountbatten Countess of Burma  and wife of Lord Louis Mountbatten who was the Earl of Burma, last Viceroy of India and also Southeast Asia’s Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War. In September 1945, Lord Mountbatten was in Singapore to witness the surrender of the Japanese Forces.The other will be dedicated to Lady Sophia, wife of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Modern Singapore, and for whom Raffles Hotel Singapore is named after.

 

 

For more info Raffles Singapore

HUA HIN THAILAND, GOOD WINE IN THE TROPICS???

HUA HIN HILLS VINEYARD PROVES IT’S NOT A JOKE…AND WORTH A VISIT!
by Philip Sinsheimer
Photo: Cesare Zucca, Philip Sinsheimer

It’s harvest season and 2017 appears as a challenging vintage in Europe (“a catastrophy” in Italy according to our host Cesare Zucca). Climate has always been a nail-biting stress factor in wine production and the recent warming observations are not helping… Well, not helping everybody! If some predict the growing production of wines in small Northern players such as the UK, Southern European big producers are feeling the heat and are worried. Wine geography has seen many changes with the emergence of “New World” wines of North America, as well as Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa in the Southern hemisphere. But wines of decent quality in tropical countries had never come to my attention… Until the discovery of Mansoon Valley wines in Thailand! During our one month trip in Southeast Asia at the beginning of the year, I had conditioned myself to limited opportunity of interesting wine discoveries. I was ready to enjoy the beers of the various countries visited and an occasional bottle of rather generic imported wine. But, our initial stay in Bangkok at the Centara Grand Central World already gave us a taste of how serious the wine lists were at its various restaurants.
When we visited their sister property Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin , around 3 hours South of Bangkok in the historic royal beach town of Hua Hin.                The Centara Hua Hin  is a magnificent venue designed to evoke the spirit of the 1920s. Colonial influences meet modern-day comforts and soothing views are to be had of the swimming pools or the magic gardens, populated by grass elephants and other animals.

 

The hotel opened at a time when the new railway line to Malaysia was transforming the sleepy fishing village of Hua Hin into Thailand’s first beach resort.

Sensitively extended and renovated, Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin retains its air of that bygone age of elegance. I had an even greater surprise during our meal at the elegant, yet relaxed Suan Bua restaurant: a local white wine was offered to go along the traditional Thaï dishes, from shrimp with mango salad to roasted duck in red curry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

            I have  to say I was skeptical, but all preconceptions disappeared after a few sips of this Mansoon Valley colombard, both crisp and delicate, with exotic fruit and citrus aromas, along with floral notes. Wow! Perfect pairing with the lemongrass used in the dishes and perfectly cooling to counterbalance the heat of the chilies.I was very curious about it all and the adorable staff of the hotel arranged a visit to the vineyard located less than an hour away. The drive was a beautiful occasion to see a bit of the country side with many fields, mainly pineapple plantations. What a surprise to see in the background of one of the most iconic tropical fruit a well manicured vineyard of over 100 hectars. The surprise does not stop there, as I had the opportunity to tour the property on the back of an elephant (if you’ve never done this, just be prepared, it’s a beautiful, but rather rocky ride). The large and elegant tasting room dominates the valley and one can appreciate the key position of the vineyard that benefits from a cooler micro climate with breezes coming from the hills. This is essential to the production of wines that do not taste “cooked”. It’s also the occasion of learning about who is behind this incredible business operation: a man whose name you may not know, but whose fortunate was made by a beverage you definitely have heard about. No, not wine… Red Bull! Chalerm Yoovidhya is among the richest man in Thailand with a fortune approaching 10 billion US dollars according to Forbes this year. Upon returning from his studies abroad where his taste for wine was developed, Chalerm took up the challenge of growing grapes in his native Thailand and show the world that great wines can be crafted even at the 13th latitude of the northern hemisphere. New World wines are old, new latitude wines are in! Hua Hin Vineyards is actually one of three vineyards he owns, but it serves as the flagship of the Mansoon Valley brand. The winemaker is German born Kathrin Puff, who worked in several wineries in Italy and New Zealand before meeting this tropical challenge with brio. I had the chance to sample a few of the large collection of wines available at the vineyard and all showcased a serious winemaking expertise. A brut blanc de blancs, showacses the delicate a floral notes of chenin blanc, colombard and viognier grapes that compose this traditional champenoise method sparkling. Besides the colombard white, I tried the medium sweet chenin blanc, which was not cloying at all and promised a nice pairing with spicy meats dishes and seafood salads. Among the two high-end “Cuvée de Siam” bottles, made with the best grapes of chosen parcels, I was really impressed with the red, made with the oldest vines of shiraz and sangiovese, aged in French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. The result: a spicy wine combining medium tanin and long finish (which earned 84 points by Robert Parker). The white was a serious wine, but lacked a bit of the freshness so pleasant in the other more simple whites. To finish on a sweet note, the chenin blanc late harvest with a nice balancing acidity invites to be enjoyed along with seared foie gras, aged gorgonzola or a more local mango, sticky rice and coconut dessert.                                             Yes,!
Good tropical wine is a possibility and Hua Hin is the place to go to check it for yourself!

Munich. The Flushing Meadows. Surprise!

Text and Photos © Cesare Zucca
While in Munich, I had the pleasure to stay in the ‘one and only’ Design Hotel The FLUSHING MEADOWS, Fraunhoferstraße 32. The pleasant surprises started with the Glockenbachviertel district where the venue is located, which is not only home to Munich’s gay and lesbian scene, but a destination for a hip young crowd of all backgrounds. The area offers fashionable bars, snug bistros, trendy stores and supercool shops, all nested in one of Munich’s most picturesque boroughs.

 

 

At your arrival, downstairs on the street, your are welcomed by a small bar serving fresh juices, including their popular Super Danke, a green multivitamin shake.

 

 

 

 

Let’s get in. By a metallic elevator I reached the reception on the 4th floor, where Ramon and lovely Aglaia escorted me to a definitely surprising room on the 3rd floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you that all the 16 rooms are different and each of them is dedicated to local celebrities who designed them, including Michi Beck , member of the well-known German hip hop group Die Fantastischen Vier , while the 4th floor rooms has been designed by the owners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My room 305 was styled by the local techno musician, DJ Hell. Black was the inspirational color, including a metal skeleton band stand in an alcove and a vinyl record player ready for action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually it couldn’t be more appropriate, since myself I have been spinning records for many years, back in the ’80 Milan disco scene.
Totally different atmosphere for the other room I experimented, the 306,that offered a combo of high-tech furniture, sound proved walls and 2 pretty romantic feathers ceiling lamps, ballerina style.

 

 

 

Other additions include a Nespresso machine, coffee capsules, complimentary bottles of mineral water, and a pile of trendy magazines to flick through.

 

 

 

 

The bathrooms are a sleek combination of white tiling and copper details on the  powerful showers.                           Super comfy mattresses, private access to the rooms, free WiFi.

Guten Morgen!
A rich and healthy breakfast is served till noon (or even later) in the nice roof top bar with its little terrace overlooking the City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Be cool’ is staff’s password.
Original and unconventional, Flushing Meadows is undoubtedly the coolest place to stay in Munich.
I ‘ll go back …After all, I ‘ve got 14 more rooms to discover and …more surprises waiting…

for more info
The Flushing Meadows Hotel & Bar”
Fraunhoferstraße 32, 80469 München, Germany

Phone:
+49 89 55279170