Let the 2016 European Marathon begin; first stop: Lisbon, Portugal

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Oh my, my…I cannot believe it’s been almost 3 months since I’ve posted anything on my beloved Blog! It’s unforgivable…I know! I just haven’t had the time, discipline or inspiration to write anything…call it: “Bloggers block”! It’s quite unbelievable how time flies, so much has happened since my last post it makes my head spin. But before I freak out trying to figure out how to come back from the abyss with a fresh, new, fun blog; I need to decide where to start. How about I start with my 2016 European Marathon that I just completed; a two months summer journey across much of Europe that has just come to a close a few weeks ago.

A big reason I was so quiet for some time is that I was finishing up my hotel project in Beverly Hills and Brentwood; as I’m sure I mentioned already, I was hired to design two hotels in Los Angeles one a year ago and I just recently finished both projects. By the end of it, I was counting the days to get out of LA and fly away, no matter where. I’m like a tiger in a cage when I stay put in one city; I need to travel or I start going bananas!

My first destination is Lisbon, Portugal; I’ve been meaning to visit this city for so long but never got around it so the time has finally come. After a lovely flight on my beloved Swiss International Airlines from LAX to Zurich and then to Lisbon on the new Boing 777 planes with their new fab business class pods; I arrive in this very old city full of excitement and “Yes”, with a major jet-lag. I have a very dear friend from Lisbon that I’ve known for 30 years that and that I haven’t seen for 28 that will be showing me around and look after me. His name is Nuno and last time I saw him back in Los Angeles he was out of his mind…hopefully nothing has changed!

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to stay in Lisbon between AirBnb or the large variety of amazing hotels dating back to the 18th century, some of them National Monuments. The one that stood out the most among the flurry of 5 star hotels was The Pestana Palace, a 19th-century palace that has been restored to its original glory. The hotel is an architectural marvel, its ornate ironwork, gilt-covered paneling, Chinoiserie elements and coffered ceilings complemented by classical furnishings and opulent fabrics, make you feel like royalty (www.pestanapalacelisbon.com).

I asked Nuno about it and he replied with an air of sass: “Well…Madonna stays there!!” Well, if it’s good for Madonna it must be good for me…snap! It was even better after I found out that Nuno’s good friend is the marketing director of the Hotel chain, so before you know it, I’m upgraded to a fabulous suite with an amazing terrace overlooking the old structure and the beautifully manicured grounds. Bingo!

 

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The grand entrance to the Pestana Palace in Lisbon

 

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The stunning 19th century Pestana Palace

 

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The coach house at the Pestana Palace

 

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My Uber Glam Suite

 

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My bedroom

 

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…and my terrace

 

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The breakfast room

 

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The pool and Chinese themed restaurant

 

The history of Lisbon is as fascinating as it is tragic; it was one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Prior to the 18th century, Lisbon had experienced several significant earthquakes but on November 1, 1755, the city was destroyed by another devastating earthquake, which killed a large percentage of its population and destroyed 85 percent of the city’s structures. After the 1755 earthquake, the city was completely rebuilt and you can still see to date, evidence of the old destruction. Portugal has also gone though a rough patch financially and you can’t avoid noticing the level of poverty in this city; that is in contrast with the newly discovered financial boom that has taken over the city in the last few years. Many of its stunning old buildings with their signature-tiled facades, are being restored, new museums are popping up everywhere and old ones are being updated. Not to mention the boom in the service industry with many amazing restaurants, hotels, bars and shopping areas.

On my first night out Nuno takes me to a local institution, Bica do Sapato (www.bicadosapato.com) and one of Lisbon’s first super trendy restaurants, co-owned by John Malkovich (don’t ask me why…). The old converted port building is quite fancy and the decor is definitely avant-garde, though you can see that it has reached his age; I try all sorts of delicious fish dishes, typical of the area, on a beautiful terrace overlooking the river and the bustle of ships arriving and departing from the Port of Cais da Pedra. Portuguese food is quite amazing with all sorts of influences from the many countries it mingled with through its ancient history. Portuguese people love to drink and smoke so I reluctantly adapt to their customs and join in. I don’t quite remember how I got home…but I did!

 

Restaurante Bica do Sapato em Lisboa, 19 Julho 2005.

Bica do Sapato Restaurant

 

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The bustling streets of Lisbon at night, packed with people

 

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Just had to take a photo of this small restaurant with a huge Octopus hanging form the ceiling…

 

The following day it’s time for my favorite activity: walk everywhere until your feet bleed! This is always the best way to see a new city and discover all its secrets. My main destinations are the usual suspects like: Praça Do Comércio, the trendy neighborhood of Chado and Baixa, the Medieval Castle and the Museum of Coaches. While in Chado I had the opportunity to visit my dear friend Pedro Girao, Chairman of the venerable Christie’s Auction House in England, who is a native Portuguese. He invited me to see his new apartment up high on the hill with the most incredible views of Lisbon; it’s castle and the water…just breathtaking!

 

img_9967The stunning mosaic floors typical of Lisbon


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Just another simple entryway to the Jerónimos Monastery

 

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Entrance to the President’s residence



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The odd looking 1902 Santa Justa elevator

 

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The Praça do Comércio

 

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Statue of King José I, by Machado de Castro (1775)

 

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One of the city’s standing churches still showing the damage of the 1775 earthquake

 

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Nuno and Robert Kass on Pedro Girau’s balcony

 

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The breathtaking views from Pedro Girau’s balcony in the Chado neighbourhood

 

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One of Chado’s oldest and most famous Cafés

 

Also on the list, is a local institution: Pastéis de Belém (www.pasteisdebelem.pt), a pastry shop of sorts that is world renowned for it’s signature custard canapés: a small puff pastry basket filled with an “Out of this world” custard, finished with a sprinkle of cinnamon…Orgasm!!!! I had no idea what I was dealing with until I arrived to the store and saw a line of people a mile long wrapped around the building…WOW, it must be good! Thankfully, Nuno’s brother in law owns the joint so we were quickly treated to this amazing dessert and a tour of the massive facility. The great thing about this little pieces of heaven is that they are only 60 calories apiece…of course I inhaled 15 of them.

 

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The lines at Pastéis de Belém

 

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Interior

 

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More interior

 

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The signature custard cups at Pastéis de Belém

 

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The door to the secret kitchen

 

The final treat of the day was visiting the newly constructed Coach Museum. I mean, who would build a museum for coaches? Well, the Portuguese did and now I know why! OMG, this museum holds the largest collection of 17-18 century coaches in the world and I cannot even start saying how impressive this exhibition is. Surprisingly, I was the only one in there. I mean really…people have no imagination! I highly suggest it to anyone visiting Lisbon…bring a tiara!

 

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Entrance to the Coach Museum

 

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The Imperial procession coach

 

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The week days coach

 

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The sporty coach

 

img_0027Amazing portable bed

 

The following day Nuno has arranged for a day trip to the popular beaches of Cascais, along the Estoril coastline, the stretch of shoreline that extends from Lisbon in the east to Cascais in the west (kind of their version of our Malibu) and a hike at the westernmost point of the European continent named Cabo da Roca where 2 large rocks, stand supreme on this amazing spot of the Portuguese coast. It’s definitely worth the time even though Nuno told me it would be a 1 hour drive, when in fact it turned onto a 4 hours. We even passed by an enormous, bizarre, yellow castle, in the middle of no-where, that the king of Portugal built in the 18th century as an identical copy of the Austrian Imperial Palace in Vienna; these monarch…really!!!


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Sculpture at Cabo da Roca at the westernmost point of Europe

 

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Nuno Ramos and Robert Kass at Cabo da Roca

 

On my last night, Nuno and Gang take me to the “Time Out Market” Food Hall (Like the magazine) l. This enormous warehouse hosts a number of local food pop-ups, wine sellers, local “Jamon” booth, dessert booths and just about anything your little stomach desires. It’s packed with young people and bustling with energy! We tried to find a table but that proved impossible so Nuno suggested we visit the more fancy restaurant on the second floor: Pap Acorda (www.papacorda.com). The space is beautiful and the food is decent, though not my favorite. The atmosphere is definitely the highlight of this eatery…and everyone smokes! This Food Hall is definitely a must see if you’re in Lisbon; also a great place to meet the locals. After dinner the marathon of bars and dives took center stage and, once again, I don’t remember how I got home…but I did!


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Time Out Market

 

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My clan

 

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Jamon shop at Time Out Market

 

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Pap’ Açorda Restaurant

 

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Group shot


img_9870And back to my Palace for the last night

 

What an amazing city and amazing people; Lisbon is truly a city of the future with the most important, glamorous and colorful past; Nuno was the best host and an amazing tour guide filled with pride and knowledge. I can’t wait to come back!!!

A quick stop in Cincinnati , Ohio on my way to Montreal

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Not even a few days after returning to my home in LA, I’m off to Montreal to join my Canadian friends for a little fun in the city and 3 days in Mont Tremblant skiing. On the way there, I decide to stop over in Ohio, more specifically, Cincinnati to visit my dear friend Logan Fenton, whom I haven’t seen in over 4 years! He has been very busy since then, getting married and giving birth to a baby girl (he didn’t literally give birth to the baby girl…just saying!). Logan lives in Winchester, Ohio; which is about 1 hour outside Cincinnati and smack inside Amish country. Since watching the movie “The witness” in the 80′, I’ve been obsessed with the Amish and their culture. I’ve already been in Winchester years ago with Logan and absolutely loved the experience, so I am more than exited to re-visit this part of the world for 48 hours and buy some of those incredible “Apple Fritters” that the Amish sell on the side of the main road in their gas lit, ridiculously charming Bakeries, where you really get to connect with them on their turf.

 

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Mr. Cheeseball with his new wheels

 

After a lovely flight on a small and very empty Bombardier aircraft; I land in Cincinnati. Once on the curb, I see Logan driving up to me in a less-than-subtle, brand new, shiny, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. He is sooooo showing off…it’s not even funny; he has a grin from one side of his face to the other and I can’t help but burst into laughter. You can tell he’s been back in Ohio for too long! The ride back to his place is filled with laughter; new tales, old tales and a whole bunch of sarcastic and abusive back and forth (something we love doing to each other since the day we met). Logan booked me a room at the famed Murphin Ridge Inn, in Amish country. This charming Bed & Breakfast, situated on a 142 pristine acres in the hills of Adams County, boasts a main building with Laura Ashley style rooms and restaurant and 10 private wood cabins, built by the Amish, with an indoor Jacuzzi and your own porch with rocking chair…right out of a fairytale book! This kind of environment sure takes your mind away from any toxic thoughts you might bring along with you from back home. Best part…no TV around here! After settling in, we go back to Logan’s home to meet his wife and his adorable baby girl, before heading off to dinner at “Joe’s Crab Shack” …when in Rome!

 

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Arriving at the Murphin Ridge Inn

 

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Old barns at the Murphin Ridge Inn

 

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The adorable wood cabins at Murphin Ridge Inn

 

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Interior



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How fabulous is this?

 

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More interior

 

Ohio, like most cities between LA and NYC, is definitely a different place all together then what I am used too. The people are very polite, though they tend to stare at you like you’re from out of space. I know I look and sound a little different…some people even say I’m eccentric; anyway, they tend to stare a lot and they are probably having a field day trying to work out what in the world they are looking at!!! Everyone in the restaurant is fat…included yours truly! I guess “gluten free” and “Zumba” haven’t arrived yet in this neck of the woods. I need an emergency cocktail to adjust to my environment…a bloody Mary will do! This eatery is all about Crabs, so Crab it is! Before you now it, a garden tin bucket arrives filled with massive crab legs and other stuff; the waitress hands me over a bib and highly suggests I wear it…done! The crabs are good, especially after dipping them in a pound of butter, which comes with the critters. This place is not for the dainty eaters, so don’t mind manners, just come on down with a healthy appetite because you will need it (and a change of clothes for after dinner might come handy too).

After dinner we drop off the family and Logan takes me to some of his favorite local dived for a few nightcaps and catching up before turning in for some much needed sleep. It’s time to wake up; it’s a beautiful day in Winchester and we are going to explore Amish country today and visit Logan’s family farm. It’s hard to leave my little cottage…I am sooo comfortable in my little cottage, it’s hard to get up and leave this adorable place. But I’m ready to try me some local breakfast: Foggy Bottom Pancakes, Cream Biscuits with Sausage Gravy, and Farmer’s Scramble. Granola made at the inn, freshly squeezed orange juice, and fresh fruit!!! Now that’s what I call a breakfast of champs!

 


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Arriving at Joe’s Crab Shack

 

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Apparently Jaws ended up here…

 

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Our very large Bloody Mary’s

 

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Overwhelmed…

 

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Beautiful landscape of Cincinnati at dusk

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Nightcapping at an old dive in Cincinnati

 

Logan picks me up and is radiating with pride and excitement to show me his farm that has been in the family for generations. It’s hundreds of acres of land with mixed use: from cattle to timber and tobacco to dairy; it’s a massive endeavor! Along the way he let’s me drive a tractor, play with the new baby goats, pretend to be macho cutting trees down with a chain saw…you know, the usual stuff!!! All right, I’m craving Amish Apple Fritters; it’s time to visit Amish country. The landscape in this part of the world is truly stunning; green rolling hills as far as your eye can see filled with charming barns and wind mills and small towns, one more charming than the other. You can definitely see the German influence that arrived in these parts back in the 17th century, when members of this conservative Christian faith escaped persecution in Europe for their Anabaptist beliefs and settled in this rich land.

 

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Logan’s new wheels…Subtle!

 

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Oh yeah baby…does “Butch” come to mind?

 

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If it didn’t before…it must now! Kass is trucking…

 

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I love Logan’s mom’s goats

 

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Baby goats

 

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Tobacco fileds

 

As you might know, the Amish don’t use electricity or any electronic device; it’s back to basics and totally connected to nature. Homes and businesses are lilt by gaslight and art and crafts flourish in this community. Visiting their markets and furniture shops is a real treat and if you spend enough time you can find some really great products to bring back with you. We stop at one of the many road side markets and feast on amazing sandwiches made with all their home-made products: form the meats to the breads to the greens…you get the drill! After that it’s apple fritter time, the most delicious local specialty you will ever taste. You can’t help but stock up on their jams and cookies and other goodie to take back to your friends.

 

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Pristine Amish fields

 

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Amish couple…not to happy to be photographed.

 

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Hilarious!

 

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Amish cemetery

 

We also stop by a massive barn, tuned into a store of used items from the region, it’s a bonanza of old Americana, from old stoves to furniture, to old fridges and unique items, such as a “Stuffed Beaver”; if you’re a “Picker”, you ain’t getting out of here!!! I could spend the day here, but hélas, it’s time to go back home for an early meal with Logan and his wife before leaving for Montreal in the morning. Not to mention, I need a few photo-ops on the way back with an Amish “Buggy” and definitely by the town’s sign at ‘Seaman” Town…Can’t make this stuff up! What an amazing visit this was: “Thank you Logan for being such a great host”

 

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Old Americana galore

 

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Don’t quite know what this is…but it is stuffed!

 

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Amazing old signs

 

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1930′ stoves

 

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So much to see…overwhelming!

 

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Hand made Choo Choo train

 

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No words needed…

Discovering the ancient African Spice Capital: Stone Town

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It’s really hard to get out of my very comfortable bed today, but I must! It’s going to be a long day of discovery, adventure, incredible heat and humidity and tasting of new foods with the hopes I will not get food poisoning. After a lovely breakfast on the terrace, I venture out the busy, narrow streets of Stone Town; they are lined with shops selling everything from tourist crap to bad African arts & craft, to colorful fine art and just abut anything else you can imagine. The merchants are quite aggressive and don’t shy away from calling you out loud to sell you their trinkets; One local kid looks at me and calls me out loudly: “Jumbo, Jumbo!!!”. Immediately I think he’s calling me Jumbo because of my “slightly” over weight condition; not even a few minutes after, another one addresses me as “Jumbo”. That continued throughout the day to the point where I became really annoyed at the “cheek” of these people to make fun of my weight so shamelessly…how rude!!!! It was only later that evening when I was telling my friend Tina the story that she burst out in hysterical laughter and informed me that “Jumbo” means “Hello” in Swahili. I never felt so stupid; I gave every one who called me “Jumbo” the dirtiest looks all day long when In fact, they were just being kind and welcoming…such a Meryl Streep moment in “Out of Africa”!!!

 

IMG_8126 (1)The amazing Colonial architecture of Stone Town


IMG_8123 (1)The famous roof tops of Stone Town

 

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Arriving at the historic Emerson Spice Hotel

 

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Entrance of the Emerson Spice Hotel

 

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The amazing carved wood terraces

 

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Walking around these narrow streets, you get a sense of claustrophobia after a while and you never really know where you are; but it doesn’t matter, there is so much to see: the amazing 18-19 century colonial architecture that still remains, though in much need of restoration; the well-known, finely decorated wooden doors, with rich carvings and bas-reliefs, sometimes with big brass studs of Indian tradition . Stone Town’s architecture has a number of distinctive features, as a result of Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African traditions mixing together. The name “Stone Town” comes from the ubiquitous use of coral stone as the main construction material; this stone gives the town a characteristic, reddish warm colour. Another Stone Town famous feature, is its rooftop lifestyle: cafés, restaurants and lounges are often on the top floor or the rooftop of their 4-5-6 story buildings, where you can escape the sweltering heat from below, while enjoying the breeze, the amazing views of the town’s roofs and the ocean. The Arabian, Persian, Indian style is evident in most of the interiors around here; you really feel like you’re on the set of “Alibaba” or that Rita Hayworth will pop out any minute now, wrapped in silk, ready to enchant you with her “Seven veils dance”.

 

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Zanzibar’s famous carved wood doors

 

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“I beg to differ…”

 

After what seems like hours walking around in circles, I stumble into the Coffee House Café, which I read about on the Internet; apparently it’s the most famous Café in Zanzibar and a favorite of the international tourism, an immediate “red flag” for me! However, since I am there, I might as well check it out. As expected it’s full of tourist and besides the fabulous local ladies behind the counter with their classic African turbans on their heads, it’s not for me, so off I go searching for the town’s main market: Darajani Market. This is the heart of the town and it’s bustling with activity; there is no better place to get the pulse of the people and a view in their way of life and what they eat than a visit to their main market. Once there, it’s a violent stimulations of the senses and It’s not for the faint hearted, in fact, some areas of the market are really hard to be in because of the foul smell of some of their foods; but most of it is filled with spices, plenty of exotic fruits and a real delight to shop around. Being the “Gourmand” that I am, I can’t resist buying al sorts of local Curries, Masalas, hot chilies and the best Vanilla beans in the world…I hope they won’t take them at the US customs.

 

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The famous Zanzibar Coffee House

 

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Interior of The Coffee House

 

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Interior of The Coffee House

 

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Arriving at the Darajani Market

 

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Darajani Market

 

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Darajani Market

 

IMG_8098The meat hall…I wonder if the cat is included?



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Dried octopus and other oddities (really smelly too)

 

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The narrow passages at the market

 

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Stone Town’s famous spices

 

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IMG_8108Bananas everywhere

 

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One of the thousand beautiful displays at the market

 

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By far my favorite photo of the month

 

I think I’m done with culture for the day, I got mud all over my feet from the muddy, unpaved streets and it appears I have some new friends following me…cats! Must be the smells of flesh I picked up while visiting the meat market. I’m feeling a little light-headed from the heat and I hate to say, but that infinity pool back at the Park Hyatt, is looking mighty fine now! I’m ready to go back to my comfort zone! On the way back I make a few mandatory stops at The “House of wonders”, formally the Sultan’s residence, built in 1883; It was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity as well as the first building in East Africa to have an elevator…how about that? I also visit to the Old Fort, a heavy stone fortress that was built in the 17th century by the Omanis to protect the city from European invasions; the internal courtyard is now a cultural centre with shops, workshops, and a small arena where live dance and music shows are held daily.

It’s sad to see how many of their heritage monuments are literally falling apart due to the paralyzing poverty that plagues this continent. With regard to Tanzania, perhaps thing are looking up and maybe the near future will bring some much-needed help to provide a better life for its citizens and much needed funds to restore their beautiful monuments.

 

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An old photo of the House of Wonders

 

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A new photo of The House of Wonders

 

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The building is sadly falling apart

 

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House of Wonders

 

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Another fabulous Colonial building typical of Zanzibar

 

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The Old Fort of Stone Town

 

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Kids playing football in from of my hotel at dusk

 

Once again, I will spend I quiet evening on my own at the hotel in preparation for tomorrow departure, with my friend Tina, to the other side of the island of Zanzibar, in an area called: Kendwa Beach, that apparently has the most amazing, pristine, white sand beaches in the world…I’ll be a judge of that!

Goodnight Possums: “Jumbo, Jumbo!!!”

 

Today’s destination: Stone Town, Zanzibar

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After packing and a quick breakfast, Tina’s driver is waiting for us outside to take us to the national airport in Dar es Salaam for my short 20 minutes flight to the mystical island of Zanzibar, an ancient and historic trade center with Swahili and Islamic influences. Zanzibar is a Tanzanian archipelago off the coast of East Africa. On its main island, Unguja, familiarly called Zanzibar, is Stone Town, The northern villages Nungwi and Kendwa have wide white sand beaches lined with hotels; I’ll be staying there later in the week,

Driving on the main road to the airport, you can’t help noticing the incredible amount of construction going on in Dar es Salaam, hundreds and hundreds of new buildings and skyscrapers all mixed in with the old decrepit small business and what appear like mud homes where people live in; all lining the unpaved streets bustling with thousands of street vendors and activity. The paradox between old and new Africa seems to burst trough the seams. Once we arrive to the airport we are attacked by third party travel agents that wait for the “unaware” to pounce and sell you tickets to wherever you are going (It’s always better to buy your air tickets on line through proper travel websites) . Tina and I fall immediately into the trap, but once we realized what was going on, Ms. Thing pulled out that Swiss Airlines badge, like a DEA agent in the movies, stormed through security, barged into Coastal Aviation office (the main local airline) and demanded NOT to be messed with!!! I just stood by quietly with a grin of proudness on my face until she was done and I had a super cheep ticket to Zanzibar in just under one hour…”Not that’s how it’s done in Switzerland…bitches!!!”.

 

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Check-in

 

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Of course there had to be the “Out of Africa Cafe” at the airport

 

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Simple but effective…good cappuccino and grilled ham and cheese sandwich

 

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Not much traffic today

 

Tina is not coming with me today, in fact, she has to fly back to Zurich for work but will be rejoining me in 3 days in Stone Town. So after a short wait at the “Out of Africa” Café (Imagine that…), it’s time to board this really scary, small, beaten-up bucket they call a plane! It’s a 10 seater Cessna and pretty much the only choice for traveling inside Tanzania, so I better get ahold of myself and squeeze myself through the inhumanly narrow isle to reach my inhumanly small seat behind the pilot…at least if we go down, I’ll have the best view! When you finally reach cruising altitude the fear of flying is replaced by the sheer beauty out the window of the Indian coast line, the turquoise waters and corral reefs…Just Amazing!!!

 

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This is the flying bucket that will be taking me to Zanzibar

 

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God help me…

 

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Dar es Salaam’s coat and the deserted island I had lunch at yesterday

 

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Corral reefs sufronding the island of Zanzibar

 

Before you know it we land in Zanzibar…Get me out of this plane already! Like all the other airports in Tanzania, this one too, is chaotic and no one quite knows what is gong on and where you are supposed to go, but eventually you work it out and reach the outside parking area where hundreds of drivers and Taxi men are fighting for you business. Through the mob I see a smiley, bright eyed, thin young man wearing a Moroccan white crisp clean tunic, holding a gold framed sign with “Mr. Kass” on it…a sign of relieve takes over me as I wave away: “here, here…” just like Meryl did on “Out of Africa”.

 

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And here we are!

 

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Where is mine???

 

When I was looking into which hotel to stay in Stone Town, I was reluctant to consider the newly finished and only proper 5 star hotel in the island: The Park Hyatt (www.zanzibar.park.hyatt.com). I usually try to pick local brads or independent hotels; I always feel you get a much better feel for the local culture and experience as you would by staying in the big, foreign chain. But the whole story I read about Park Hyatt buying a beachfront, 17th century mansion on the Indian ocean and restoring it to it’s formal glory in such great taste…I couldn’t resist! I picked The Park Hyatt and I’m on my way and I’m not apologetic…BTW, it’s always good to mix it up a little when you’re visiting 3rd world countries: doesn’t hurt to throw in a few “5 stars” moments in the mix, now and then. My love affair with the Park Hyatt Zanzibar starts at the entrance of the hotel…I just know! The architecture, the design and attention that went into re-storing this building is obvious the moment you arrive; beyond chic and so respectful of the integrity of the original building and it’s environment…well done! I spend the late afternoon exploring the many areas of this oceanfront stunner and even more time enjoying my brand new, super comfortable, colonial, four-post bed and all the many state of-the-art amenities this hotel offers. The temperature is stifling and probably 100% humidity, so I rather hang out in the infinity pool for the rest of the day and wait till sundown before venturing out in the small town.

 

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The stunning 17th century building that is the new Park Hyatt Hotel

 

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The elegant Arabic entrance of the Hyatt Hotel Zanzibar

 

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Stunning lobby

 

IMG_7963Sitting room


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My Ali Baba suite…so thrilled!

 

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More…

 

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Now this is a bathroom

 

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I’ll be sending lots of time here

 

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View from my room



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The hotel’s Bar

 

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The amazing infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean

 

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More…

 

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Terrace

 

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Detail

 

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The Tanzanian classic fishing boat on the horizon

 

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Sunset from my bedroom

 

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Park Hyatt

 

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Park Hyatt

 

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Park Hyatt

 

The town of Stone Town is a very complicated grid of winding narrow streets, filled with shops, art galleries, hotels, cafés, minarets, stunning carved doorways and 19th-century landmarks such as the House of Wonders, a former sultan’s palace. It’s impossible to find your way in this maze but you can only end up in two places if you get lost…and you will: the ocean or the Daranjani Market square; from where you can find your way home. Tonight I’m going to have a quick walk around at the Forodhani Gardens, the town’s main square, in front of the Old Fort, where all the locals congregate after work to eat and hang out and where all the food vendors cook up a myriad of local delights, mostly from the ocean, that they sell in the dark square lit by hundreds of gas lights.

 

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Amazing architecture

 

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One of the many roof-top Cafés in Stone Town

 

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Local children huddled around a few TV playing video games

 

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Street vendors in the Gardens of Forodhani

 

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The amazing food displays in the main square

 

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The Floating Restaurant

 

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One of the many Restaurants in Stone Town

 

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Arabesque architecture

 

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There is something so magical about hanging out in this square on the Oceanside; the energy, the smells, the people, the colors, and the foods…it’s so intoxicating! There are hundreds of scrawny little cats everywhere; I wonder how many end up on the dining table. There are so many interesting looking foods displayed on portable tables, some of which I have never seen and no shortage of sales people calling you out to try their delights; I usually don’t have any problems eating food from street vendors in any country I visit, in fact, I love doing that…that’s how you really get to experience the local fare!!!! But tonight I decide to treat myself to a delicious dinner in my hotel, in that beautiful terrace overlooking the water, with a good glass of wine, proper china and white linens. Tomorrow I will properly explore the locals’ foods and customs…. I promise!

My King fish with Curry dinner is amazing and after a few glasses of South African wine by myself, it’s time for some of that amazing bathtub action before curling up in my 4-poster-bed for a movies and much needed rest.

“Kwaheri” everyone…or good night

 

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Great end to a perfect day!

Visiting the iconic Riva Motorboats headquarter in Monte Carlo and off to Paris for din dins

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Good morning hangover! Nothing better than packing and trying to pull it together with 3 hours sleep and a hangover…oh well! After the dreaded walk of shame through the lobby, to the reception to pay my bill, we get in our rented Fiat 500 for the 3 hour drive to Monaco where we will have lunch and visit the Riva Yachts headquarter, or otherwise known as the Rolls Royce of boats. I still remember when I was a kid going to Portofino and Santa Margherita-Ligure in Italy; with my dad and my older brother every summer and spending most days cruising the Riviera on his beautiful Riva Aquarama Special, probably the most beautiful and glamorous speedboat in existence. Years later, my then step-mother Joan Collins also purchased a Riva Bravo, which she named “Sins” after completing her first mini serious for ABC named…yes you guessed it: “Sins”, which we used when vacationing in her house in south of France. So i have a special attachment to this brand and I’m exited to be visiting its headquarters in Monte Carlo.

My friend Jerome, who is married to one of the members of the Riva family, has arranged a special visit. Finding a parking spot in Monte Carlo in near to impossible, but that is why I have a Fiat 500, so you can literally park it anywhere…and so I do, between to motorcycles at the port, right in front of Riva. Walking through the famous “Tunnel’ where they keep their inventory of smaller speedboats, is truly fascinating! These boats are not called the Rolls Royce of the water for no reason, the design and handcraft work on these jewels is truly unprecedented and no one else comes close to it. Clearly, this comes at a cost…a very large cost! But hey…if you can afford it, it’s the one to buy! I can’t afford it, so no time wasted thinking about it. Outside, right by the water hanging from a crane, is the iconic Riva Aquarama Special, the same boat my dad used to have, in all its beauty!!! This legendary speedboat was introduced in 1962 and it’s classic design and style is still   fabulous today as it was when it was first introduced.

 

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Entrance to the Riva “Tunnel”

 

IMG_5521Riva’s famous “Tunnel” where they stock their boats



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The iconic Riva Aquarama Special

 

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Riva Aquariva getting serviced

 

After an hour of nostalgia and dreaming of what color I would choose should I be able to afford a Riva, it’s lunch time and I decide to go to an old Monaco classic restaurant Pulcinella (http://www.pulcinella.mc). This place has been around since 1979 and is a favorite among the Monegasques; through the years I remember having dinner here with my family, Roger Moore and then wife Luisa, with my beloved Shirley Bassey and many more. The food is ok, but the atmosphere is uniquely familiar and friendly…like having dinner at an Italian family’s home. Finally, it’s time to drive to Nice airport, drop off the little truffle (the Fiat 500 that is) and fly to Paris in time for dinner.

 

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Ristorante Pulcinella famous logo

 

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View of Monte Carlo from the road

 

This time around, I rented an apartment in Paris through Airbnb in the Montorgueil area, famous for it’s pedestrian only street lined with dozens of Brasseries, restaurants, markets and, oh yes, Boulangeries!!! After a pretty quick Uber ride form Chrales de Gaulles airport to the 10th arrondissement, we settle into our 17th century, two bedroom apartment and prepare to walk around our neighborhood for a place to dine. Rue Montorgueil is always bustling with people 24/7 and though getting an apartment in this location might be a little noisy; I absolutely love it and immediately feel the magic of the Parisian Cafe society. We decide to eat at the brasserie right across the street from my apartment: Café du Centre; a classic French Brasserie with all the usual suspect on the menu; I go for a green mixed salad to start, a Steak-Tartar aver Pommes Frites and a bottle of Rosé (between two people of course). We are sitting on the sidewalk in total bliss and just between the starter and the main course it starts poring cats and dogs like you’ve never seen before, all our food gets immediately soaked, our wine diluted and we just turned into wet chickens…absolutely FABULOUS!!!!! No one cared at all, we all just run into the small interior dinging room and practically sit on top of each other like a 10 pound sausage in a 5 pound bag and NO one cared, the staff brought out more wine for everyone and dinner continued without a hitch…just really damp.

 

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My Parisian hood

 

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Café du Centre

 

After dinner, it’s an absolute must to have a walk in the neighborhood to digest your meal and since we are 5 blocks away from there Louvre, that’s where we will do our digesting, walking down the Tuilleries with all the million of lights twinkling in the night that make this City of Lights absolutely unique and spectacular.


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The Ferris Wheel on the Tuileries

 

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The glass pyramid at the Louvre

 

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Palais du Louvre at night

 

It’s been a long day and I’m ready to retire in my charming little apartment; did I mention Paris is having a heat wave? Yes, it’s about 95″ at 1am and there is no AC in my apartment…welcome to Paris! It’s ok, I’m too tired to care; I place the large fan practically over me and it’s off to La La Land in a second.

Bonne nuit Paris…je t’aime!!!!

A welcomed “Slaggy” day and an amazing dinner party on the Bosphorus under a full moon

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Sightseeing in Istanbul is an endless proposition; there are so many amazing sights to see that you just can’t do it all in one trip. Loree and Cher are doing just that today, with a guide and the Manchurian assassins in toe; but today I’m choosing laziness over culture, massages over large crowds and pool life over mosques. It goes without saying that I have done all the sightseeing in Istanbul many, many times through the years, so I feel OK with taking the day off. My own Nibbles is the best companion for such lazy days, we both truly appreciate the art of “Slagging” and do so with such grace and meaning. But nothing happens in Turkey before the usual, amazing Turkish breakfast served on the terrace on the waterfront; it is by far one of my favorite traditions in the world…not to mention, fattening!

Today’s highlight is a massage session with Olga, the hefty, scary looking Russian lady who looked so much like a KGB agent than a massage therapist. The moment she lays her hands on me, I realize this will NOT be a relaxing hour. She’s a powerhouse of a woman with hands so strong, I am literally in tears from the pain she’s inflicting on me. All along she keeps telling me of all the many physical shortcomings she’s discovering in my pathetic body, immediately followed by a brutal painful solution that has me screaming even louder. Clearly, she is adamant on informing me of all the many areas in my body where I apparently collect excessive water, or excessive fat, or stress knots, or lactic acid! I feel like just hanging myself and calling it a day! Having said this, it is probably one of the best massages I have ever had in my life and once I get over the excruciating pain, my body feels brand new and ready for a BIG nap! I don’t think I ever cried so much during a massage session.

 
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The classic Turkish breakfast (Borrowed Image)

 

IMG_3150Sucuk (Turkish Sausage), peeled tomatoes and fried Eggs…amazing!!! (Borrowed Image)

 

The day goes by in no time and before you know it, it’s time to get ready for a real treat: dinner on the Berrak Instanbul III, cruising up and down the Bosphorus. After the obligatory cocktail time by the pool at 9PM, we are off to the Four Season to pick up the “Diva” Gang for our last night in Istanbul; tomorrow we are off to the South of Turkey for a “Yachting” week around the Mediterranean. We cross the waters and arrive at the Four Season Hotel to pick up the girls; Cher is now surrounded by fans and hotel staff trying to get a photo with her. Tonight we also have the pleasure of having a few more very special friends joining us, among which the dashing Omer Karajan and his mate Alasdair Dundas, Endar, the Turkish beauty Ozlem Onal, Gabriella and date and the one and only “General K”. Once the whole lot is aboard, we start with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the top deck of the elegant, Berrack Istanbul III: a 19th century handmade, teak boat complete with white suited waiters helping you with all your needs.

 

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The Barrack Istanbul III arriving to pick us up

 

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Docking at The Four Season Hotel

 

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Another view of our boat

 

The backdrop for the entire evening is the magical city of Istanbul’s panorama as you can only experience from the water, with all its monuments, palaces, bridges and sheer beauty. Besides a few rough moments when the wind picks up and glasses, nut trays, hats and wigs are flying around the deck and into the Bosphorus; cocktail time is a great opportunity to catch up with my dear friend Ozlem Onal, who is one of the most ridiculously beautiful creatures I have ever met; on top of that, she’s incredibly bright and so, so sassy and naughty…right up my alley! Another favorite of mine is Omer Karajan and Alasdair Dundas, the chicest and most fun couple in the continent, one a native of Turkey and the other an English man; I’ve know both for almost 30 years and believe me, it’s never a dull moment with these two. After a few hours of serious pollinating, it’s time to go to the lower deck terrace for dinner; tonight’s menu is all Turkish specialties, mainly fresh fish dishes caught in the morning. There must be 15 different dishes on this incredible buffet; I recognize several of them, but I’m definitely not afraid of trying all the new food so beautifully displayed in front of me. Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion of Central Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. The focus is on vegetables and fish, which is readily available in large quantity in the country.

 

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The Gang boarding

 

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Nibbles and Omer Karajan

 

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Raphael Tessier and Ozlem Onal

 

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View of the Royal Palace from the boat

 

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The Ciragan Palace

 

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Istanbul’s bridge at dusk

 

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Loree Rodkin and Gabriella with the Palace behind them

 

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The delightful Endar and friend

 

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The most beautiful girl in the world: my Nibbles

 

At the dinner table I have Raphael on one side and Cher on the other and there is no lack of laughter here; Cher is on a roll tonight and Raphael is bursting of happiness from all this new stuff he’s experiencing, so far from his home in Montreal. The evening goes one for hours and hours, though it seemed like just minutes; finally it’s time to take the girls back to the hotel and for all of us to retire for a goods night sleep…tomorrow it’s off to Göçek in the South of Turkey.

 

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Some of the many Turkish delights offered for dinner (Borrowed Image)

 

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Grilled fish (Borrowed Image)

 

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Turkish fish stew (Borrowed Image)

 

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The medieval castle on the Bosphorus

 

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The stunning Mosque on the Bosphorus

 

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Another Mosque


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The military academy

 

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A very happy Robert Kass with his two besties: Loree Rodkin and Nibbles

 

This is one of those moments where you really feel so lucky; not only for the obvious privilege of being able to experience such amazing places, cultures and traditions but most of all, realizing how much love and friendship you have all around you, something that is more valuable than any possession in the world. Tonight magic is once again, thanks to the kindness and generosity of our hosts Mr. and Mrs. K.

Thank you, I love you so much!!!!!

Lunch with the dinosaurs, tea with Dame Joan and total madness at the Summertime Ball festival at Wembley Stadium

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Another day…another packed schedule! Today I’m revisiting my childhood by going to one of my favorite museums in the world: The Museum of Natural History (www.nhm.ac.uk). I can still remember my reaction when I first saw the massive Blue Whale hanging form the ceiling and the first dinosaurs in my life…I must have been 5 or 6 years old. Since then I have seen many dinosaurs, in fact, I’m surrounded by them back home in Beverly Hills…but that’s all together another story! My very handsome and very fit friend Robbie Banner, picks me up at 11am and off we go to see the lizard; after an hour searching for parking (don’t bother driving in central London, It’s impossible to find a parking and when you do, it costs a fortune!!! Better to use Uber or a cabby), we finally make our way into the iconic building that is The Natural History Museum. The first site in the main lobby, is an amazing skeleton of a Brachiosaurus Dinosaur who reveals a striking resemblance to so many people I know back in the US…oh no he didn’t!!!!! Just kidding…not really. The place is exactly how I remember it exempt all the animals and skeletons seem much smaller. Both Robbie and I are suddenly 15 years of age again, looking in wonder at all these amazing creatures filling the halls of this beautiful museum. After a quick lunch at the grand cafeteria at the museum, it’s off to the legendary Harrods (www.harrods.com) for a look-e-loo. I’ve been visiting Harrods since I was a baby and nothing has ever stuck with me more than Harrods’ food halls; they are truly a thing of beauty, imagination and perfection! I can spend hours wondering these halls, not to mention, I can also spend a small fortune here on all the amazing world foods readily available at all times. Harrods has gone through lots of changes through the years, but it is still a treat and a London MUST DO when visiting this amazing city.

 

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Natural History Museum

 

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Main Lobby and it’s main attraction: The Brachiosaurus Dinosaur

 

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T-Rex skeleton

 

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Robotic T-Rex

 

Now it’s off to Belgravia for tea with my ex-step-mother Joan-Collins…now Dame Joan!! Depending on the mood, It’s always a laugh catching up with Joan and the mood is better than ever now after recently receiving her title of Dame Commander of the British Empire from Britain’s Prince Charles…She is one happy and proud Brit!!! It’s also really nice sharing my recent experience in Peru with Joan’s husband Percy Gibson, who is himself, a Peruvian.

 

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Dame Joan after receiving her title of Dame Commander of the British Empire from Britain’s Prince Charles

 

It’s 6PM and Robbie is on his way to pick me up for the highlight of the day: The Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium. I don’t know if I’m ready for this…I hate concerts and I hate big crowds, but my boy Bob Semanovich is behind this event so I will suck it up and make the best of it! The ride to Wembley Stadium is only about 30 minutes but parking your car is another one hour (should have taken a damn Uber!!!). The event started at 3pm; it’s now 7:30pm and we are entering the arena: “God help me”, it’s packed with 60,000 screaming teenagers; there is no way in hell I will survive in here…I’m already planning my escape! “Alright Kass, it’s survival mode: first thing…find a bar, get drink, calm nerves!” I desperately wobble through a maze of hotdog stands, pretzel stands, Slurpee machines and screaming kids to find the mother load: alcohol. I finally see something that looks like a drink but is in fact a Smirnoff wine cooler bar…it will have to do, I’m desperate! Robbie and I make our way back to our seats and slurp away on our disgusting wine coolers through three acts: Ariana Grande, Ne-Yo and Pitt Bull before we agree that it’s really time to leave!!! It’s 10:30pm and we are famished; we must find a suitable place to eat before joining Bob at the Summertime Ball private after party bash at Mahiki in Mayfair. Turns out that finding a place that serves food after 11PM in London is quite a challenge…shocking!!!!! We went by a dozen restaurants and all of them already stopped serving food; what’s up with that??? Isn’t this London???

 


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Tickets to Summertime Ball

 

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Wembley Stadium

 

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Ariana Grande performing

 

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Ne-Yo performing


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Pit Bull performing

 

All right, time to regroup and think…we take a cocktail brake at the very glamorous The Wolseley on Piccadilly Road (who’s kitchen is also closed), inhale 10 mini cheese balls each from the bar, two Martinis and…Eureka!!!!!! Hard Rock Cafe is just down the street and it’s definitely open till late!!! We stumble down what seems much further than I remembered, but finally arrive at “Old faithful”: the very much OPEN, Hard Rock Cafe. At the risk of aging myself, I came at the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in London with my Dad back in the 70′ when we lived in Mayfair; it was the very first Hard Rock Cafe and the then owner Peter Morton, was my dad’s friend and that joint became a favorite of ours for many, many years. Memories aside, I’m salivating over the idea of the HRC bacon cheeseburger with a black & white shake…It’s on!!!!

 

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Having a drink at The Wolseley in Mayfair with Robert Banner


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Hard Rock Cafe London

 

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Hard Rock Cafe interior

 

1am…food coma! Got to snap out of it, it’s time to join Bob at the after party up the street at Mahiki! After a few meltdowns at the door when they couldn’t find my name on the list, we finally make it down to the basement floor of this 4-story club and reunite with a now very “Happy” Bob and co. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long before Robbie and I catch up with the rest of them, especially when very large bottles of Ciroc vodka are parked in front of us calling our names. The rest of the night is a little blurry and probably not suitable for this blog anyway.

4am…What an amazing day: I am exhausted, drunk, happy and “one” damn year older!!!!! Tomorrow it’s off to Switzerland to visit my family and celebrate my birthday once again, in a much more civilized and subtle way…it’s always good to keep a good balance!

Good night everyone and Happy Birthday to me!!!!!!!

 

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The Shot Boat at Mahiki in Mayfair

 

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The 19 year old amazing DJ that rocked the house

 

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Robbie Banner trying to tell us something about the very large bottle of Cîroc

 

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A very happy Bob Semanovich

 

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I don’t quite know what’s going on here with Mr. Kass

Last day in Peru…so sad to leave this amazing country!

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I wake up already aware of the fact that today will be my last day in Peru and that today will be the last time I’ll wake up looking at this beautiful view of the Maleçon and the Pacific ocean. I start my day with my usual coffee and baked treats from the wonderful Rossita and Suzana, Javier’s housekeepers for over 20 years, who took such good care of me over the last two weeks. Today is jammed packed with places to see and a visit at the iconic and ûber-exclusive Club National. I better pack this morning because I have a feeling I won’t be back in this room till the sun comes up, when I’ll be scrambling to get my hungover ass into a Uber car and to the airport for my journey back home to LA!

One of my favorites things to do in all places I visit, is check out the local markets; nothing will give you a better better intimate look at the type of culture and traditions you’re dealing with. This is a third world country after all, so I’m sure I’m in for a real treat! Living in the US, you get used to a very sanitized, super organized, designer conscious markets where everything is almost too well presented and packaged. I like the real markets where it’s less about design and presentation and more about the local lifestyle, where you experience the hustle and bustle on the locals and the foods they eat. So today we are visiting both types: the local food markets where the common people shop for food and the new, super trendy and visually perfect, Sunday only, Ecomarket on Dasso Street. One thing that you will notice immediately, is that nothing goes to waste in third world countries; every part of any animal or vegetable is used, making your visit a visual bonanza! Not for the squeamish, especially Americans, you will find items such as intestines, hearts, tongues, feet and so much more. For my American friends I’ve included several photos of these items that will either inspire you or make you hurl… I’m not too squeamish tho I do pause for a second when I see a bag of chicken feet staring at me…hummm, snacks anyone? The smells of all the different products overwhelm your senses and after a while, I’m ready for the trendy market.

 

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Frutas stand

 

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Snacks anyone?

 

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Yum!

 

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Fish stand

 

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Poultry stand


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Intestins, tongue, liver, feet…the whole lot!

 

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Beef stomach or tripe

 

Only open on Sundays, the Ecomarket on Dasso Street is a mix of arts & crafts items and fresh food items displayed beautifully in tented stands lined up one by one, showcasing a variety of local high-end products. The atmosphere is definitely different here and most definitely not for the common people. Here, it’s a mix of trendy people and well to do families on a Sunday stroll; this is not where you go to buy groceries, it’s more of a day event for the beautiful people of Peru. Here we visit our friends Giuseppe, Shirley and Maria who run the “La Felicia” stand, serving up delicious freshly baked goods and amazing sandwiches. After a long stroll up and down this bustling market, we make our way to Bottega Dasso, one of Javier’s favorite bars, on the same street as the market (how convenient…). Here we officially start the day with a delicious Bloody Mary…when in Rome! I don’t drink during the day so the next few hours are a little blurry.

 

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The  very trendy and polished  Ecomarket on Dasso Street

 

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Our friends at La Felicia stand at the Ecomarket on Dasso Street

 

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Our very young, yet talented mixologist at Bottega Dasso

 

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Nothing like a Bloody Mary to start the day…

 

Finally, it’s off to the much anticipated lunch at Club National in Plaza San Martin; this is a private, members only club established in 1855, we’re talking serious stuff here possums!!! This place is the epiphany of Old World Glamour, of the elite society that has long dissipated. When you walk through those doors, you are catapulted into the eighteenth century, in a world of gentlemen and servers wearing white tie and white gloves. You cannot go through these doors unless you are wearing a suit and tie and you must be a guest of a member of the club; a membership that is close to impossible to get. Javier is of course a member, as was his grandfather and his great-grandfather; you are reminded that no phone or cameras are allowed in the premises (never a good thing when you’re trying to write a piece on the place…), and you suddenly feel like your on the set of the Titanic. But this is no set, this is the real thing and it has been going on for centuries unchanged and unchallenged as they proudly hang on to their old fashion traditions for dear life…and thankfully so!!!! We start with aperitifs in one of the many uniquely decorated rooms, where a gentleman in a white suit and gloves takes our order and makes us feel like royalty.

A few Pisco sours later we stumble to the amazingly glamorous, rococo wood paneled dining room for lunch. Since I am not allowed to take photos and there are always at least 3 waiters around our table making sure I don’t, I included a photo of the dining room that I found in Javier’s coffee table book of Club National at his mom’s home, for you to get a feeling of the grandeur of this place. The menu is continental, with local fair and the food is amazing!!! I have the succulent crispy pig with potato gratin which is to dye for!!! The service is beyond description: so elegant and professional, though subtle and friendly; I can’t wait to get back to my restaurant in LA and crack the whip! The Club National is a five story gentleman’s dream, complete with dining rooms, smoking rooms, a library, a barber, a cigar room, a gym, a swimming pool, a screaming room and so much more…oh, and females are not allowed as members, though they are welcome to join the men in the dining room. That’s old world for you…

 

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Club National entrance and amazing terrace

 

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The dramatic entrance to Club National

 

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Evening view of Club National spectacular façade

 

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The stunning dining room at Club National

 

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The stunning stained glass ceiling over the main lobby at Club National

 

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Robert Kass and Javier Millership after our boozy lunch at Club National

 

Now I’m drunk…imagine that! We must make our way home for a quick outfit change and off to Salvatore Ferragamo’s boutique opening at the biggest mall in Peru: Jokey Plaza Mall. Here everyone is beautiful and young, a testament to Peru’s growing young upper class, hungry for brands and up-scale lifestyle. I hope the west realized the incredible opportunities that exist in South America, from Mexico to Peru to Brazil and even Cuba…I’m definitely jumping on this wagon! Javier introduces me to the beautiful Ms. Peru who’s getting ready for the upcoming Ms. World competition; sadly that was before the train dreadful events prompted by our “illustrious” Donald Trump’s ignorant rants about Mexicans and the subsequent cancellation of the Ms. World event in the US..

Now it’s late, I’m tired but there is no escaping Javier’s last night celebrations at, yet again, Club Gotica! This night is different though, it’s a big group of Javier’s lovely friends: his business partner Soli and his lovely wife, the charming pre-med student/bodybuilder Giuseppe, Tabata and more naughty Peruvians. As you can imagine, being my last night in Peru, the evening quickly takes a different course: it’s downhill! Most definitely not worthy of comment on my “respectful” blog…I’ll leave it up to your imagination!

 

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The Peruvian dog…most likely the ugliest dog in the world! Don’t know why I included this!

 

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Salvatore Ferragamo boutique launch with Javier Millership

 

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Robert Kass and Giuseppe Bogani at Club Gotica

 

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A prelude to how the evening went at Club Gotica

 

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Larcomar shopping center overlooking the ocaen

 

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Larcomar shopping center tower

 

I’m sad, tomorrow I leave this wonderful place but I find solace knowing that it will not be long before I come back here; Peru is truly a magical place…you must come visit!!!! Buenas noches!!!

 

Special note:

I don’t even know how to start thanking my dear, dear friend Javier Millership; he has gone out of his way to show me a magnificent country that I did not know. His knowledge, love and pride for his country made my experience so much more that I could ever imagine. I love this country because of Javier and his generosity, kindness, humor and patience. I am in your debt forever!

Last but not least, I want to thank the amazing Isabel Arias (Javier’s MOM); she has been the most gracious host and I am so grateful to her for opening up her home to me as if I was part of the family! You are such an inspiration to all, you defy conventional Latin female stereotypes by being such a strong leader in your industry, so dedicated and engaged, such a class act and most of all, such an amazing mother!!!! I’m honored to call you my friend.

 

 

 

Back to Lima for the last hurrah!

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After having dreams about being buried alive in a coffin…oh no, wait, it’s not a dream…it’s my 7′ x 3′ hotel room! Alright, enough about that; we have just a few hours to have breakfast and a stroll around the charming town of Cusco before flying to Lima for my last few days before going back to LA. Javier takes me to Jack’s Cafe (www.jackscafecusco.com), an American style diner with really delicious American breakfast fair (a welcome surprise after three days of Lama meat, coca salads and Quinoa everything!). Hey, I’m a real gourmand and love all new foods, but sometimes you just need some bacon and eggs and some French toast with maple syrup…which is exactly what I’m going to have (bring cash…they take NO credit cards).

 

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Jack’s Café

 

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Jack’s Cafe’s menu

 

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Banana French Toast…Mmmmmm!

 

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Javier’s scrambled eggs, bacon and kidney beans (can’t take the brit out f him!)

 

The walk to the Cafe takes us through an ancient Inca street that features a famous, enormous stone that has 12 perfectly cut facets…I don’t really get all the fuss! This street is one of the most famous examples of Inca Masonry. Nevertheless the street is supposedly built in the beginning of Spanish rule by Inca workforce but ordered by the Spanish. In any case it is amazing to see these huge boulders fit perfectly without the use of modern tools. The architecture is definitely a blend of Inca and Spanish style that really compliment each other (though I’m sure the Inca’s didn’t quite feel the same…). I even run into a Peruvian old lady dressed in full traditional Peruvian regalia known as: Cuechua clothing. Though she wasn’t keen on getting photographed, I pulled a fast one of her behind.

The main square, Plaza de Armas, is stunning with its 2 cathedrals and a mountainous background that make it even more spectacular. The center of the square is a nice place to rest on the benches, soak up the gardens, and admire the fountain in the center. The area is also very lively and beautiful at night, with people mulling about and the architecture lit up with spotlights. I catch a meeting of local policemen having their Morning Prayer and discussion on the daily affairs (probably how to deal with the many drunken foreigners that seem to clutter Cusco’s streets at night).

 

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Cusco’s beautiful architecture

 

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Cusco’s narrow ancient Inca streets

 

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The famous 12 facetted Inca stone at the base of the structure

 

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Cuaechua Peruvian lady running from me and my camera

 

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Plaza de Armas

 

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Plaza de Armas

 

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Plaza de Armas

 

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Plaza de Armas

 

IMG_3425 Compania de Jesus is a Jesuit church built in the 16th century.



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Construction on the Cusco Cathedral was begun in 1559 and completed in 1669, in the Renaissance style. It is built on the site where the Inca Wiracochas Palace once stood.

 

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The Cusco Cathedral houses an impressive collection of art work, with over 400 paintings

 

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Stunning gold gilded altar

 

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Police men and women morning prayer in front of the cathedral

 

All right, it’s time to head to the airport and back to oxygen: Lima! I mentioned to Javier that I am interested in developing a gourmet fast food rotisserie chicken place in LA in the near future, so Javier is taking me to what he claims is the best chicken rotisserie restaurant in Peru. After a very long 1 hour drive in the boonies of Lima and through miles of shanty towns filled with skinny wild dogs running in every direction, we arrive in this walled, enormous oasis that is: Granja Azul (which belongs to his uncle). The restaurant is huge, with a hacienda style interior and a vast terrace and garden; I would say it hold 1000 people. At first I’m hesitant, looks a bit like a massive family, Disneyland style place with all you can eat chicken…not my-cup-a-tea. But after seeing the kitchen with its old fashion wood burning brick ovens and the 8 weeks old chickens being roster…I’m hopeful!

The menu is surprisingly minuscule: all you can eat baby chicken, green salad with secret dressing, French fries and hot buns. Javier and beautiful Tabata, his friend Soli and family sit around a large reclaimed wood table ready to feast. Well let me tell you, the food arrives and it’s the best damn rotisserie chicken I have ever had in my life!!!! It is so tender and juicy with a crisp skin…perfection! The green salad with secret dressing is also amazing (I beg for the recipe but they laugh at me!) and the hot buns that arrive in a-oh-so-cute chicken pouch made out of fabric are irresistible!!!! There you have it…I was ready for disappointment and instead I am beaucoup impressed. Rightfully so, the place is packed and though there are a million children running around like loose chickens, the amazing food along with a few Pisco Sour act like a noise reduction headphone…loving it!!!

6 whole chickens, 3 special salads, 6 French fries, 10 hot buns and 3 Pisco Sour later (on my own ladies and gentlemen…) It’s time to head home to Javier’s place to get ready for the evening! I’m exhausted and bursting to the seams, but there is no escaping Javier’s plan…as my mom says: NO rest for the wicked!


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Beautiful flower arrangement at the entrance of Granja Azul

 

IMG_3540Large reclaimed wood tables at Granja Azul


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The amazing traditional kitchens with brick, fire burning pits

 

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Granja Azul china

 

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The very cute chicken pouches holding the hot buns

 

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Chicken roasting on the wood burning pits

 

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Our peruvian group having lunch

 

After a very short disco nap it’s cocktail time at Hotel B in Barranco (www.hotelb.pe), the most beautiful and super cool hotel in Lima. This place is truly fabulous, it’s an old converted estate, done with such taste and sophistication; we sit in the small black and white tiled terrace and start drinking gin tonics with a myriad of Javier’s friends that kept doubling up as the evening went along. Now that we are pickled, we are ready for Lima’s club scene…I think! Next stop is Gotica, Lima’s premier nightclub at the über chic Miraflores shopping center overlooking the ocean: Larcomar. Immediately, I notice that the age group is substantially younger than my own; I’m starting to feel like the dirty old man lurking around the young lambs…not attractive! Javier reassures me that there will be a few dinosaurs at the club and shoves me trough the VIP line and into the front door. Once we descend, what seem to be 20 stories, you enter a full-on discotheque, complete with light shows and jammed with…yes, you guessed it, young people! The final hit came compliments of the Macarena blasting from the speakers…THAT is enough for me to make a U-turn and run for the hills and back home! 3AM…going to sleep…one more day left in Peru. Zzzzzzzz

 

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Hotel B in Barranco

 

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Hotel B’s stunning bar

 

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Javier Millership and Robert Kass at the Hotel B terrace

 

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Club Gotica

 

IMG_2987Javier Millership with the beautiful Tabata at Club Gotica

At last…Machu Picchu and Cusco

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Today is the day…Machu Picchu!!!! After a lovely hot shower…just kidding; there is no hot water in the house and this is day 3 of no showering; thankfully I still smell pretty good. I pack my bags and off to the Machu Picchu train station to catch the highest elevation train in the world to Machu Picchu. The train is lovely and designed with a panoramic ceiling for maximum enjoyment; and so they should at $180.00 a pop for the 1 hours journey to Agua Caliente (that is of course just for foreigner; Peruvians pay $60…so annoying!!!) www.perurail.com or www.incarail.com. But you can rejoice to the fact that they do offer a cup of coffee and day old sweet bread. On the way there I casually ask Javier if he had purchased the ticket to enter Machu Picchu to which he replies that he tried doing it on line but had no success. Slightly concerned, I ask him to call the ticket office to make sure we can get in and after a few suspenseful phone conversations in Spanish with different offices, it turns out we cannot buy a ticket because they reached the maximum allowed per day! Shock and rage start pulsing through my veins…imagine, I come all the way to Cusco for 3 days just to visit Machu Picchu, I’m on a $180 train ride to the site, gasping for air the entire time and I can’t get in!!!!

Needless to say the rest of the train ride is deathly silent; I contain myself from lunging over to Javier to strangle him. Eventually, my self-preserving instinct that always finds a solutions to all problems, tells me that no matter what, I will find a way to get in; even if I have to bribe a Peruvian for his or hers ticket…I am going in!!!! At last we arrive in Agua Caliente, the semi “shanty town” at the base of Machu Picchu; all right, it’s game time!!!! We walk over to the ticket counter, where there is no line what’s so ever, and with the fear of god, we ask for two tickets for Machu Picchu, to which the teller so very calmly said: “$62 please!”…Javier and I burst out in hysterics after panicking for the last two hours. Apparently there is NO limit of people allowed to the site and there is no problem buying a ticket…ever; we were just given the wrong information. Now it’s time for another ticket counter, this time for the bus ride up the very steep mountain to Machu Picchu: Peruvians 10 Solis, foreigners 80…boooooring!

 

prices-ticket-machupicchuMachu Picchu entrance fee chart

 

Finally we’re in the brand new Mercedes Benz small bus to the top; the ride is beyond terrifying with its narrow streets and no guardrails to prevent the very long fall to the bottom. By the time I’m finally at the entrance to the Inca wonder I am a basket case! That is until I cross over a small path that leads to the iconic view that is Machu Picchu; here I gasp over the magnificence of this ancient site, 12,000 feet high in the heavens. Just like at the pyramids of Giza, my breath stops (probably also because of no oxygen in the air…); you can’t imagine how beautiful and majestic this site is. They talk about people’s spiritual exhalations when they see Machu Picchu and I totally understand why. I did not have an out-of-body experience, but I will tell you, I am touched behind believe!

 

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Machu Picchu train

 

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The Iconic view of Machu Picchu

 

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The token Lama…they DO spit!

 

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Javier Millership and Robert Kass in front of the iconic view of Machu Picchu

 

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The amazing carved stones in Machu Picchu

 

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Inca homes in amazing condition

 

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More amazing stonework at Machu Picchu

 

Javier and I start the slow climb to the top of the mountain to get the better view of the Inca ruins; needless to say, I am gasping for air taking all the time I need to climb one step at a time. At some point, a gentlemen in his 80’s skips right by me, totally fine and with no sign of effort whatsoever; he stops and tells me: “Your breathing is too high…slow down young man, there is no rush to get to the top! Ohh and by the way…I’m a doctor!”. Clearly, I am now totally humiliated witnessing grandpa skipping by me as if he was a 20 year old while I’m gasping to make the next step (time to stop smoking!!!). So much is to be said about Machu Picchu, but my blog is less about the history and more about the personal experience, so I’ll let you do your own reading on the millions of articles written about Machu Picchu and I’ll just tell you that it is definitely a one in a lifetime experience that needs to be done if you have the opportunity; no words can describe how awesome this place is. Regretfully, it’s time to leave and make our way to Cusco. Once again, we go down the terrifying narrow street to Agua Caliente where, after a 2 Pisco Sour stopover at the local bar, we stumble on the train to Cusco.

 

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Train ride back to Cusco

 

It’s now 9pm in Cusco and Javier is adamant on going to his favorite Pub in Cusco: Paddy’s (www.paddysirishbarcusco.com), with it’s claim to be the highest Pub in the world at 15,000 feet above sea level (how can you even drink booze when you cab barely breath? I guess I’ll find out soon enough). The town of Cusco, the old capital of the ancient Inca Empire, is absolutely beautiful and charming; here you really feel the lack of oxygen and any movement is a challenge. But nothing will stop these two semi-English lads from going to the pub for a few pints of beer and some Shepard’s pie!!! Another charming fact about high altitude is that you get twice as drunk with anything you drink, so after a few cocktails, Javier and I have barely enough strength to get back to the hotel. Reading back this post it looks like I’m always drinking and drunk, but I assure you, it’s not the case!!!! When in Rome…

 

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Paddy’s Pub in Cusco

 

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Interior of Paddy’s Pub

 

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Cusco charming colonial town square

 

It’s time for bed and Javier chose this centrally located hotel with rooms as large as a she box (literally!!!). Needless to say, I won’t write about this hotel for I would never suggested it to anyone…regardless of its central location! I think Javier was drunk when he booked it! Tomorrow we go back to Lima for the last few days before going back to LA. Where is my oxide tank?