Travel flair

Live like a King for a week end

The Marechal de Saxe was a military top gun of his days, the equivalent of a 5 star General who would have trashed unequivocally Kim Jong-Un armies for Trump if Trump would have been Louis XV in 18th century France… You get the picture ! thumbnail_IMG_1089 (2)So this guy needed a reward, with the spoils of war he bought himself a little folly in what is now the outskirts of Paris. Being grand, outrageous, and flamboyant as he was Maurice de Saxe embarked on transforming a backwater country pile into a mansion worthy of his title and glory . He called on the best artists of his time to decorate and embellish his new home.

thumbnail_IMG_1098 (2)

thumbnail_IMG_1085
Now 250 years later, time has taken its toll and this French palace is not as shiny as it once was. Weeds grow in between the paving stones of the  front yard,  paint is peeling off in some places and the furniture show its ware … BUT this is exactly what makes it the place to go and experience life of a true nobleman for a week end. There you will feel at home, a guest in the real sense of the term and you will be able to enjoy the lovely country side surrounding the chateau, and most and foremost taste a renowned gastronomic restaurant “Les menus Plaisirs”. It’s a shame none of the rooms has kept its canopy beds and antique chest of draws except for the suite  on the ground floor which has all of that .

thumbnail_IMG_1090 (2)This hotel is no avenue Montaigne 5* luxury hotel but comfortable enough and far more romantic. For me this oozes charm and class just one hour away from central Paris with none of the hefty price tag such an experience could demand. So book it for a special week end with this special person in your life !

thumbnail_IMG_1083

thumbnail_IMG_1096 (2)

https://www.chateaudumarechaldesaxe.com/en/

A legendary island

DSCF0687DSCF9935Zanzibar…just that name evokes the stuff legendary tales are made of…far away land in tropical seas, Arab merchants transporting precious wares on their dhows, 1001 night tale princesses dancing behind the closed shutters of their musharabieh…or if you are a little more prosaic and “rock’n roll” the island where Freddy Mercury came from…

DSCF0368 (2)

Whatever it is, Zanzibar excites the imagination and the senses, located in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Tanzania of which it is a semi-autonomous region, it is really a dreamy destination which makes a perfect holiday destination hence why I want to blog about it today, now that summer is near.

DSCF9824DSCF9811You can go all year round but avoid march,  april,  may and november which are the rainy months and remember that it’s  south of the Equator so season are inverted vs northern hemisphere.

DSCF0137

3 reasons to go :

  • very laid back
  • not as busy/expensive/well known as Mauritius or the Seychelles
  • extremely  picturesque, if the Rock restaurant is not on your bucket list, add it there now !

DSCF0024

DSCF0122

A restaurant on a rock in the middle of the sea serving delicious Pasta lobster.

3 points to be aware of

  • Make sure your hotel has a massive pool because you’ll need it
  • can be very windy at times, especially in the south of the island…on the plus side, time to learn kite surfing .
  • Food is very decent, lovely grilled fish but don’t expect to be blown away

DSCF0441

 

Yes, tide goes off far, but I mean very very far, all the time I was there I never managed to get to the water at low tide and sea urchins are a real danger, hence why, even if like me you’re a beach buddy, you’ll end up in your hotel pool. But I was surprised to see they do not have all a massive pool, that’s why I’m advising you to check it first.

DSCF9774Rock restaurant,  choose timing carefully, very close from shore, expensive but worth it Pasta lobster delicicious.

They sell mini safaris in Serengeti on the island and it can be done in 3 days. Most Staff dealing with tourists come from Tanzanian mainland, Zanzibar locals are muslims and seem to shy away from contact with foreigners.

Experience being left on a sand atoll all day and see the tide come up leaving you stranded on a tiny sand patch before it goes out again, photo hunt delicately for colourful and massive star fish.

DSCF0351

 

DSCF0348

NYC secret finds

A kitsch Cafe in the Village

In a small street nor far from Washington Square Park, Caffee Reggio (119 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012) is different…since 1927…ok, the waiters are not that cheery -but aren’t they a quick disappearing breed in NY anyway?- , the food is ok but what makes it special is the setting…antiques, curios, old paintings… strange and wonderful things !

http://www.caffereggio.com/

Cocktails with a view

I particularly like the Library hotel, first because the concept based on books can only appeal to me and secondly because of its bar located on the 7th floor with a beautiful view over Madison avenue. It’s small, off the beaten track and has got either a large terrace with ample seating if you’re lucky enough to enjoy balmy weather or comfortable sofas by the fire if you’ve been unlucky with the weather odds. Decent drink menu too !

thumbnail_IMG_9095

 

299 Madison Ave, New York, NY 1001                             http://www.libraryhotel.com/

Trad Diner

Not saying it’s the best diner in town…I would be no expert on the question…but if you’re going for it, at least this one, at the corner of Time Square, watching its lighted signs from your booth, seated on red “vintage” leatherette, feasting on double-deckers and onion rings is the closest you can get to a 50’s flashback ! Desserts are a let down though, fudge sundae was all ice cream and cream, no brownie bits..

DSCF6911

 DSCF6907

DSCF6906

view from inside

DSCF6902

212 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019                  http://www.brooklyndiner.com/

An Italian with attitude (pleonasm)

DSCF6768Of course little Italy has lost its soul by catering for hordes of tourists but that’s the way things go, no point lamenting about it but what you can do though is avoiding these “food factories” faux-Italian outlets  which all serve the same unimaginative cuisine and aim instead to this modern Italian called Gelso & Grand reminding me more of Shoreditch than of Sicily but serving some very tasty dishes straight out of the open kitchen. Try the “charcuterie and cheese” platter as a starter…enticing !  Advisable to book in advance .

DSCF6779

6MSGcHnLLyP5kpfbtTEdbQ8m2q4SIpXtcV3r4j8xeeQ-1050x701

DSCF6788

186 Grand St, New York, NY 10013, USA                              http://www.gelsoandgrand.com/

NYC long week end

What better way to test your swagger than strutting your stuff down 5th avenue ?

In my mind finding a base near Central Park is a good start because nothing beats a coffee and a doughnut whilst watching the word go by in Central Park….unless it’s raining obviously !

DSCF6418

A stone through from Central Park, on 5th avenue, a tour through the Frick collection (free on sundays) is a must, don’t see it as a museum but as a beautiful mansion where  you have been invited to look at priceless pieces of art assembled in a private collection and there are a lot of true masterpieces here.. Where else can you find in the same room, so many van Dicks, Caravage, Veronese and Renoir? … Free of chronological order or style “ecoles”, I rather like this frontal crash of geniuses… Up to you to decide who comes on top !

I particularly love “the letter from Vermeer”… full of dramatic tension, is she apprehensive of the letter her servant is  just bringing her or is she asking her to take a love letter to a new beau of questionable reputation ? … We’ll never know… We don’t know much about the master of Delft and even less about his mesmerizing carefully constructed small paintings which have travelled to us through the centuries.

vermeer

For me that’s enough to warrant a visit !

DSCF6505 (4)

See my secret finds in NYC

http://www.frick.org/visit