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!!!

Part 2: Killing two birds with one stone in Mexico: Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s day.

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Today I am going to Cuernavaca to surprise my mom at tomorrow’s Mother’s Day luncheon at Las Mañanitas ( www.lasmananitas.com.mx ), she has no idea I’m in Mexico and no clue I’ll be spending Mother’s day with her. My brother is picking me up at Eugenio’s home for the 1:30 minute drive to the “City of eternal spring”; yes, that’s what they call Cuernavaca. I’m not quite sure why, since every time I go to this city, it is scorching hot, humid as hell and most definitely not what comes to mind when I think of spring! In order to succeed in my surprise, I can’t stay at my mother’s home, where I usually lodge; instead, I am spending the night at a local hotel in the center of the city that I found on the internet that looks really adorable and suitable for my 48 visit: Las Casas B + B Hotel (www.lascasasbb.com). It’s a converted private villa with a dozen rooms, 2 pools and what appears to be a “happening” restaurant and bar scene; maybe I can make a few new local friends.

Once I arrive at my destination I am pleased to discover that today is a lovely Spring day in Cuernavaca, clocking in at a mild 102 degrees, with a very comfortable 100% humidity…just screams Spring, doesn’t it? Being the world traveler that I am, I knew what weather I was walking into so I made sure to pick a hotel with AC in the bedrooms…don’t laugh; a lot of them don’t have it in these areas; you got to do your homework possums! The Hotel looks lovely; they did such a good job decorating it in a simple, yet chic colonial style. No surprise there…turns out the owners are a gay couple from NYC!!! I make a dash to my AC room and out of the elements to slip into a bathing suit and spend the rest of the afternoon poached in the swimming pool like a hippo at the Serengeti. There is nothing else one can do with this kind of heat…at least not this “Gringo”. Later in the evening one can venture out in the town for some drinks and snacks and a tour of the beautiful Palacio de Cortes and the charming center of town, with it’s open markets, cafes and Mariachis everywhere.

 

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Entrence to Las Casas B + B Hotel

 

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Lobby

 

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Pool area

 

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Another pool area

 

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Kass relaxing

 

By 8pm I’m ready for a little excursion around town; the heat has subsided a little and the world comes out to celebrate anything they can think about. My hotel is literally 1 block away from the center square where the impressive Cortes’s Palace holds reign in all its glory. The Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca is, at almost 500 years old; the oldest conserved colonial era civil structure in the continental Americas. The famous conquistador’s former residence is now a history museum with murals by Diego Rivera and the town’s center where all the locals hang out in the evenings, eating and drinking and listening to Mariachis.

After walking around for a few hours, I am famished and I think I’ll be checking out the “Happening” scene at my hotel’s restaurant and bar. The place is packed with a totally different crowd then from the outside walls; here the clientele is quite chic and obviously well off financially. I ask for a table for 1 and I’m told they are fully booked…wrong answer! 3 tantrums and 1 meltdown later, I get a lovely table by the pool and complimentary tequila on the rocks…SNAP!

The food is a modern interpretation of Mexican classic dishes and quite good, though I’m definitely not blown away. The crowd is very trendy and the place definitely has a great energy; I love the old black & white movies screened on the side of the building…nice touch! Having dinner with yourself has its limits, so after an hour of eating and drinking alone and NOT meeting anyone…I’m off to my freezing cold room for a good night sleep so I can be ready for tomorrow’s Mother’s day extravaganza.

 

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Restaurant is happening

 

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Restaurant

 

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Entrance at night


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Entrance

 

IMG_9122Lively alleys in the center of town



IMG_9128Palacio de Cortes

 

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Statue of Cortes

 

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Lively scene

 

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Restaurant filled streets

 

My morning starts with the most amazing interpretation of a Lox & Bagel I have seen in this country; such a beautiful presentation. The heat is starting to rise so I spend the next few hours back in the pool until it’s time to get dressed for the 3PM Mother’s day lunch (they eat lunch very late in Mexico). I was going to wear a suit for the occasion, but I will have to re-think my outfit due to the 100-degree weather….perhaps I’ll just go in my Speedos. I am pleased to learn that Uber service has started in Cuernavaca 3 weeks ago, so I go to my favorite App and low and behold, a white car, the size of a truffle, arrives with the most charming and kind driver I have ever experienced in Mexico. A very welcomed addition to this country if you have any idea how awful the Taxi drivers are in Mexico and how they rip you off as soon as they smell “foreigner” or Gringo.


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Just though this was pretty

 

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My very well presented Lox & Bagel dish at Las Casas B + B Hotel

 

I finally arrive at the famous Las Mañanitas, a favorite of my family for over 30 years. This Relais & Chateaux Property is one of Mexico’s best hotels and restaurants, not to mention the most amazing tropical garden I have ever seen, complete with flamingos, peacocks and other tropical birds roaming around freely in all their beauty. My mom and bother, along with a few friends, are already seated at the table, so I go around my mom, lean in and whisper in her ear: “Excuse me Ma’am, can I join you for lunch?” My mom turned around and practically jumped off her seat with surprise; for a moment there I thought she would have a heart attack!!! Note to myself: probably not a good idea surprising your 82-year-old mom in the future. Shock is followed by tears, hugs and kisses…I would say the surprise is a big success (also thanks to my brother who helped me arrange the whole thing). Lunch is amazing, as usual and goes on for hours, as they do in this country; no wonder you need a siesta after eating and drinking for 4 hours! After lunch we go back to my mom’s home and spend the rest of the day catching up and enjoying some well-deserved family time.
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Exterior of Las Mañanitas


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The stunning outdoor dining area at Las Mañanitas

 

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The tropical birds roaming around the property at Las Mañanitas

 

IMG_9148 My delicious Chile Relleno

 

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A very loud Flamingo visiting the dining area

 

I’m feeling very good about this trip and the successful Mother’s day surprise! Thank you so much to my darling brother David and my Mexican brother Eugenio Lopez for a wonderful stay in one of my favorite countries in the word. Tomorrow is back to LA and back to work…I feel so blessed!!!!

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…

I found Paradise!

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Good morning Africa!!! It’s time to pack again; my friend Tina is coming back from Switzerland and meeting me at my hotel for lunch, after which we will drive to the north side of Zanzibar at a beach named Kendwa Beach, known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world…they say. I’m going to miss this hotel; one last breakfast on the terrace and I’ll start packing. By now the whole staff of the hotel knows me by first name and I don’t even have to ask for anything…it’s already on its way! I will say once again how impresses I am with the friendliness and cheerfulness of the people of Tanzania. On-time as a Swiss Coo coo clock, Tina arrives at noon at the Park Hyatt, and after a quick visit around the property and lunch, a few Uuhh’s and ahhhhh’s and a few “Jambo” jokes, we jump into the waiting van with driver that Tina has arranged for us to get to our destination. It’s a 2-hour drive through a very congested and chaotic city, then through the colorful and chaotic suburbs, into the jungle and finally…PARADISE!!!! The moment you arrive at the hotel and look toward the beach, you are blinded by the colors in the horizon: the bluest waters I have ever seen and the whites sands I have ever seen. It’s hard to focus on the check-in process, all I can think is getting down to the water.

 

IMG_8216 (1)The entrance of the Gold Hotel Resort


IMG_8199My first look at Kendwa Beach…I’m in shock at the beauty of it all!


IMG_8190The water is a velvety Aquamarine color and the skies appear to be violet

 

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The pristine, white sand beaches

 

We were supposed to stay at this fabulous, brand new, super chic, 5 star resort that I arranged months ago from the US, but just a few days ago, I got an email form the Toko Toko Resort informing me that regrettably, the hotel burned down the night before and that all reservations, pre-paid I will add, are now cancelled…I will say this is a first for me! So now I’m in Tanzania, 2 days away from going to my fab resort and the damn thing just burned to the ground…that’s 3rd world for you! I call Tina in a panic, letting her know that we will end up sleeping on a beach in a tent and will be eaten by crawly critters if I don’t find a quick solution to our new problem. Burt no worries, Tina makes a few phone calls to her friends and before you know it, we are all set to stay in another resort named Kendwa Rocks…phew!!!

Since I didn’t arrange this place and didn’t have a chance to investigate it, as I always do with all hotels I stay in before choosing them; I’m a little concerned…but what the hell, can’t be that bad! The moment we arrive at the gates of this resort, I know we have a problem; it took just a few short minutes to realize that the hotel that Tina’s friend organized for us is, by far, the most horrific, hippy infested, filthy, pot smoking, drunken college kids infested, mosquito infested, unsanitary collection of decrepit wood shacks they call “Bungalows”, that I have ever set foot in. I looked at Tina and simply said: “Are you kidding me????? I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than stay in this dump”. We lasted a few hours, just enough time to get on my computer (Thank God for WIFI) and find a 5 star resort just next door to the “Crack House” with 1 room left at $400 a night…”I’ll take it!!!!”

 

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Our beach resort from the ocean

 

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Tina found her Cabana and isn’t moving.

 

IMG_8157The charming Cabanas at Gold Resort


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Our amazing beach

 

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More beach shoots

 

So before you know it, we are checking in, once again, at Gold Zanzibar Beach House & Spa; literally a spit away from where we were. I wouldn’t go as far as calling this place a “Real” 5 star hotel, in fact, it’s one of those “all inclusive”, high-end resorts that I avoid like the plague; but next to where we just escaped from, this is a 10 star in my book! It’s also full of Italians, which is always a good sign (they know their shit when it comes to travel). I’m dying to get my ass on that beach and into that water; after dropping off our luggage in our Alibaba-ish beachfront room, I am running to the water “á la” Bo Dereck, “sans” the “10” body or decorative beads. The pristine white sand is blinding to the eye from the reflection of the sun, but feels so soft and cool to the touch. The jaw dropping moment is reaching the intense aquamarine color, velvety water that changes color with the sun and the surreal purple sky; it’s like being on the set of a Sci-fi movie. The color and texture combination is just out if this world, not to mention, a welcome alternative to the sweltering heat and humidity.

 

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Meet my new little friend…

 

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Arabesque detail from the Beach Bar

 

After a good 2 hour session in the ocean it’s time for some sun action! On the way back to my chaise lounge, I run into 2 very young Maasai warriors patrolling the beach, with their beautiful red robes, super cool “Faux” Ray Ban’s and of course…the stick. This tribe is truly remarkable, such amazing history and tradition; not to mention, they can kill a lion with their bare hands…That is more than enough for me to be impressed!

 

IMG_8215 (1)The amazing young Maasai warriors patrolling the beaches

 

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Dusk at Kendwa Beach

 

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Dusk

 

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Taking it all in

 

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Beyond…

 

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Sunset on Kendwa Beach

 

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Palapa detail at our resort

 

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The beautiful “Palapa” dining room at Gold Resort

 

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Kendwa Rocks Hotel beach Bar

 

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Another Bar on the beach

 

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Not bad for this remote area: Papaya Martini

 

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Arriving at Langilangi Beach Restaurant

 

IMG_8247Langilangi Menu…check out the bottom quote. How eloquent.


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The charming interior of Langilangi

 

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More interior

 

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View of the beach and ocean from our table

 

IMG_8257Just another terrible photo of me and Tina


IMG_8249The Langilangi restaurant terrace


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An street market open at 11pm, with a 5 year old boy angrily pointing his finger at me and telling me not to photograph him.

 

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Back to our Gold Resort

 

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My super kitch Alibaba tented bed

 

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Well protected from the local venomous, flying critters.


IMG_8159 (1)Morning walk at Kendwa Rocks Hotel…AKA “The crack house”

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Lovely detail

 

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And that amazing beach again…


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Fishermen’s boats

 

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Tina and myself ready for our foot massage.

 

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No filter…just paradise!

 

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My last moments in paradise

 

The rest of my time in Kendwa Beach is really all the same kind of bliss: beach, lunch, beach, massage, sunset, dinner, bed. Repeat: beach, lunch, beach, massage, sunset, dinner, bed! The real beauty of this place cannot be described, it can only be experienced; it’s off the beaten path and perhaps lacks some of the western necessities that some travelers might expect; for me, however, it is heaven; it’s beautiful in every way, it’s peaceful and it’s surprising. I’m so far from my comfort zone and yet so comfortable in such a deep level; I feel so connected to nature when I’m here and so free. I know this all sound a bit wacky and self-indulgent, but if you ever get the chance to visit this country, you will know what I mean. They have so little and yet they seem so richer than most people back home…food for thoughts! I am humbled by this experience and I leave a better person. This, my friends, is the reason I travel!!!

I’ll be leaving for Switzerland in a few days and then back to LA to start working on hotel #2. I will re-connect with you then! In the meantime, I send you all positive energy from “Mother Africa”.

“Assante” Africa…I will be back!

 

 

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

 

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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

 

IMG_8078King fish with Curry

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Great end to a perfect day!

Last day on the Alps before the BIG change: From 0 degrees to 100 degrees in 10 hours

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Now that the scary first day of skiing is behind me, I’m feeling quite confident, so today Jonathan and I are gong for the highest peak in St. Moritz, the “Top of the world” Piz Nair at approx 4000 meters hight! Funny how after visiting Macchu Pichu, hight has become just another number! My entire body is aching from yesterday skiing, but I must suck it up and show my little brother that I’m still “The man”! it’s amazing to me how much effort goes into skiing, though you never realize until the next day when you are practically paralyzed! After the Kempinski’s amazing breakfast spread in their main ball room and my daily dose of Birchermüesli, a delicious Swiss breakfast icon, it’s back up the Alps for my last day of skiing (www.kempinski.com/en/st-moritz/grand-hotel-des-bains/welcome). I was very surprised to find out that on the way up the funicular to the Piz Nair, I am suddenly petrified by the dangling and sheer hight of the funicular; I am experiencing Vertigo and a bit of a panic attack. I have never been scared of heights and this is certainly not my first time on a scary, high-up dangling funicular, but today it’s a whole new experience…must be yet another damn present that comes with age!!! We finally get to the “The top of the world” where it’s customary to go up to the bronze statue of a goat that looks down on the world from its position and grab its balls for good luck! God knows I need all the luck I can get…so It’s a mad dash for the goat’s balls. Once again, I am very uncomfortable with the extreme height of this mountain top and I look at Jonathan, with panic on my face, and tell him:”Let’s get the hell down from this mountain!!!”.

 

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The very scary Piz Nair funicular

 

6cdc9b6f87The famous goat at the top of Piz Nair


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Incredible  views from Piz Nair

 

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Love my iPhone Panorama shot from Piz Nair

 

We continue skiing all morning until it’s time to meet up with my oldest BFF, Fabrizio at one of St. Moritz’s top places for lunch: Salastrains Restaurant (www.salastrains.ch). Salastrains is a beautiful, typical Engadin style building with the most amazing terrace on the slopes overlooking the Alpine mountain range. If you are lucky enough to get that perfect sunny day, you can sit outside on the terrace and have one of the most memorable lunches in your life! Today, we have that kind of luck and we sit on the terrace for some great views, great company and some St. Moritz specialties: like Onion soup and Carne del Grigioni.

 

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St. Moritz’s ski-in, ski-out top lunch spot: Salastrains Restaurant

 

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Salastrains’s Menu

 

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The amazing outdoor dining terrace

 

IMG_7635Robert Kass, Jonathan Kass and my Swiss BFF Fabrizio Malfanti

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Another Engadina classic: Carne Secca del Grigioni

 

After a few more slopes, the rest of the afternoon is spent walking around the old town and a visit to one of my favorite hotels in the world: Badrutt’s Palace Hotel                                   (www.badruttspalace.com). This place has more stories than you can imagine; it’s been a mecca for the jet-set, super stars and billionaires for over 100 years! Not only it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, but it’s also a place that I have frequented since I was a little kid; I have to many memories here to count, especially at the infamous King’s Night Club in the basement of the hotel where more parties, scandal and debauchery have been going on for so many years. My dad used to bring talent to the Palace in the 60′ to perform and I spend countless New Year’s here at my late friend Christina Onassis’ NYE parties. The founder of this iconic hotel is pretty much responsible for creating St. Mortiz when he built the first hotel in the area, now the Kulm Hotel (www.kulm.com), and later  the Palace with its famous “Torretta”, once occupied by the famous German playboy and billionaire Gunter Sachs. To date, I am still friend’s with the grandson: Johannes Badrutt Jr.

 

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The legendary and super-chic Badrutt’s Palace Hotel

 

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The famous billionaire Günter Sachs’s green roof Torretta at the Palace Hotel

 

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Torretta detail

 

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Palace Hotel entrance

 

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The stunning mountain/chic interior at the Palace



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The amazing carved wood ceilings at the Palace Hotel

 

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More amazing details at the Palace Hotel

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The 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Spur for guests at the Palace Hotel

 

Alright, I better get back to the hotel for a siesta before tonight’s big event at the Kempinski: The 2016 St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, featuring only Top Japanese chefs from around the world, including my buddy from LA, Nobu Matsuhisa. Reto has arranged a few tickets for this famous yearly gala held in St.Moritz featuring a different cuisine every year; it’s going to be a bonanza of food tasting of one of my favorite cuisines. Most presenting chefs have 1 or 2 Michelin stars restaurants around the world, so you can imagine the kind of foodie experience this will be. It’s a black tie event and I only have a sport jacket and jeans (Clearly, I wasn’t planning on attending elegant events on this trip. But it goes to tell you what my dad always said: A gentleman always carries a suit in his luggage…you never know!). Apparently I am not a gentleman and I definitely stood out like a sore thumb; all this means is that I have to turn up the charm to make up for my inappropriate appearance. After a few sakes, no one cared, least of all, me! After inhaling about 20 incredible Japanese nibbles with equally amazing paired wines, I am literally falling a sleep on my feet! It’s bed time for this aching, out of shape, old ski bunny!

 

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The Japanese Chef delegation at the 2016 St. Moritz Gourmet Festival

 

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Preparations before the big event

 

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The Gala is in full swing

 

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Look who is also here showcasing his amazing food? My friend Nobu from LA

 

Tomorrow I will spend my last half day in this winter paradise before driving to Zurich, where I will spend the night for my early departure the next day to Tanzania; in other words, I will go from 10 degrees to 110 degrees in one day! Sayonara!!!

 

 

 

First day of skiing…God help me!

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Waking up in St. Moritz is truly a dream; especially in my beautiful, comfortable and spacious suite at The Kempinski Hotel (www.kempinski.com/en/st-moritz/grand-hotel-des-bains/welcome) that my childhood friend and Hotel GM Reto Stockenius has arranged for me. Looking out the window and seeing the enchanting town with the Swiss Alps as a backdrop is medicine to your soul and puts you immediately in the best mood possible. I guess I have the same connection and awe with the mountains as other people have with the ocean back in California; the shear size, presence and overwhelming beauty, takes over you and you are suddenly part of the miracle that is NATURE!

St. Moritz is an alpine resort town in the Engadin, a valley in Switzerland. Twice a host of the Winter Olympics, St. Moritz is mostly know for its jet set and aristocrat clientele that has been part of the fabric of this town since its inception. Winter in St. Moritz is as good as it gets, and the infrastructure is second to none: great skiing, amazing hotels and restaurants, sassy night clubs and more glamour than you can handle! A mecca for billionaires, celebrities, royals and sports figure, St. Moritz always seems to deliver with flying colors!

 

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My fabulous suite at The Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains

 

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My sitting room

 

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View from my window

 

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View from my window

 

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The stunning 19 century facade of the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains

 

Today is my first day skiing in 6 years since I broke my shoulder in Whistler, Canada, when an 18 year old drunken hooligan, ran me over with a snow mobile!!!! Yes…a snow mobile, that threw me up in the air 15 feet to land on my shoulder; I passed out on impact and woke up in the emergency room of the local hospital with my deranged friends laughing at me…equally as drunk as the criminal that ran me over!!!! That was my dear friend Jeff Bartlett’s bachelor party, so it’s not a surprise that multiple injuries, to multiple people happened during the trip.

So back to St. Moritz; today I will ski after 6 years and I’m really exited and nervous at the same time…I don’t want to brake anything else!!!!! The fact that I am soooo out of shape now will not help either. So it’s me and my brother Jonathan off to the slopes today at a comfortable 8 degrees weather; if I don’t brake my neck, I’ll probably freeze to death anyway…no positive outcome here! Surprisingly, the day goes really well, the weather is amazing, not a cloud in the ski, the snow is fluffy and dry and I just got back into the swing of things like a champ! The best part is realizing that I’m a better skier than my little brother…HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Brotherly competition never dies…

 

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Amazing Coffee Shop on the slopes

 

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Ready and gorgeous…

 

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Corviglia sceenery

 

IMG_7587A very happy Robert ready for lunch

 

After 3 hours of skiing, I can’t feel my legs or body for that matter, so it’s time for my favorite pastime on the mountains: Gluhwein…and lunch!!!! Gluhwein is the equivalent of Mulled Wine in the US and a staple in the European mountain resorts to keep warm (at least that’s the excuse we use). Jonathan and I stop at one of our favorite mountain eateries for lunch, or more specifically, the Swiss staple: Bratwurst with Rösti and mustard. It’s amazing to me how the simplest little things in life make me soooo happy; I don’t need a Bentley or a Hermes leather Jacket…give me a Bratwurst or cheese fondue and I’m truly fulfilled…literally!



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The outdoor bar at the Alpina Hütte

 

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More

 

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Alpina Hütte’s amazing terrace overlooking the Swiss Alps

 

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Menu

 

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A swiss mountain classic: Bratwurst with Rösti

 

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My little brother Jonathan Kass

 

After a great lunch on the terrace of the Alpina Hütte (www.alpinahuette.ch) looking at the Swiss mountain range, both myself and Jonathan decide that we had enough for the first day and that it’s time for a nice walk around St. Moritz and a hot chocolate at the legendary Hanselmann Bakery (www.hanselmann.ch), a staple in St. Moritz and a must after a long day of skiing. Once back at the hotel we go for yet more indulgence with an hour of SPA action at the Kempinski. Now I am literally paralyzed with exhaustion…I need a serious disco nap before dinner.


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Classic Engiadina style architecture

 

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The iconic Chesa Veglia restaurant, also part of the Palace Hotel

 

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One of Switzerland’s most famous bakeries and a St. Moritz institution: Hanselmann


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The beautiful Laurent Perrier ice bar for the après-ski Bolli

 

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Hanselmann Bakery at dusk


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View from my suite at dusk

 

IMG_7597View from my suite at dusk with full moon

 

Tonight I’m having dinner with 3 of my oldest friends in the world: Reto and Simona Stockenius and Fabrizio Malfanti, whom I’ve known since I was 3 years old along with my brother Jonathan Kass. It’s not often these days that you can sit at a dinner table with people you love so much and have known for all your life. Catching up over a period of 40 years is no small feat and will require multiple bottles of amazing Swiss wine to do the job. We are eating at the fairly new Dal Mulin Restaurant (www.dalmulin.ch), which I picked on the Internet because of its stellar reviews; all the other top restaurants were just way too expensive for my little “Jet setting on a dime” wallet. Expensive in Switzerland is NOT the same as the US; “expensive” in St. Moritz is $300-400 per person without an expensive wine; so I’m hoping this more reasonable eatery with great reviews, will impress us, for we all are pretty demanding customers!

As expected, dinner goes on for hours and laughter is in abundance, in fact, we close the place down after midnight. Dinner is really good; the boys share a massive Stinco di Vitello, cooked to perfection, while the rest seem very happy with their dishes. Reto picks a Swiss Charbertin red wine that is truly out-of-this-world for a medium priced wine.

 

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Tonight’s restaurant choice

 

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The very Swiss warm and cozy dining room at Dal Mulin

 

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Our round table at Dal Mulin



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Steak Tartare at Dal Mulin

 

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Stinco di Vitello al forno



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Amazing local wine that Reto Stockenius picked for us

 

We are all so tired now but as they say: “No rest for the wicked”…one more stop before hitting my very comfortable bed. Reto and Simona want us to see one of the hottest bars in St. Mortiz, where their kids usually hang out when in town. Contrary to all the other hot night spots in St. Mortiz like The King’s Club at the Palace Hotel or Dracula at the Kulm Hotel that are ûber exclusive, super expensive and difficult to get in; Baracca is an old barn where poor workers used to gather after work for some cheap booze. Now, of course, it’s no such place; though it’s still the old barn, it’s now a favorite with the young ones visiting St. Moritz. It’s loud and packed to the tilt and people often end up dancing on tables to the same old European favorite tunes like the Gypsy King and yes…Crystal Water’s “She’s homeless”! We last just about 30 minutes before we all realize that we are a little to old to hang with the kiddies, so we finally head back to the Kempisnki and hit the sack!!!!

Good night from heaven…or as the locals call it: The top of the world!!!

 

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The infamous Baracca restaurant and bar

 

labaracca_20150201_212025The very simple interior of Baracca



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My brother Jonathan Kass with my gorgeous childhood friend Simona Stockenius

 

 

My Hotel project is finished and I definitely need a brake…off to Switzerland for some great skiing

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After five months of hard work, I have finally finished designing my first Hotel in my long and multifaceted career. Interior design has always been one of my favorite interests in life, and though I never pursued it professionally, I have designed dozens of restaurants and bars through the years along with some other projects for fiends of mine, but this project was quite special; not only it’s my first hotel, but also the first time I work for a proper client, beside my projects and my friends. I am so grateful for being given the opportunity to take on a project of this kind and visibility on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and to really show my work at a whole different level! None of this would have happened if not for my beloved BFF Ilona Margolis who promoted me and my talents to the right people with more passion and conviction than I would ever be able to do. I have now been entrusted with designing my clients’ next hotel in Brentwood; but in true Kass fashion, before I dive into my second hotel, I need a little brake and I can’t think of anything more extreme than a week in the Swiss Alps for some skiing in freezing weather and another week in scorching hot Tanzania, Africa!

 

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Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel Entrance


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New Club sign

 

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New reception area


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New Lobby

 

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New Lobby

 

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Library detail with Salvador Dali print

 

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One of the many beautiful pieces of art at the new hotel

 

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The dramatic Lacquered wood paneled hallway at the new Luxe Hotel

 

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The new outside patio on Rodeo Drive

 

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The new Bar at The Luxe Hotel

 

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Bar detail

 

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New bar and dining room

 

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New dining room

 

To celebrate my latest achievement and my last night in LA, I decide to spend the night at home alone with a bowl of Beluga caviar, a bottle of Tattinger Champagne, toasted Pain de Mie and Leonardo di Caprio’s latest epic movie: The Revenant…my kind of BLISS!!! The next day is a whole different thing…I spend most of the morning agonizing on how to pack for such an extreme combination of climates; finally I go for a larger suitcase packed with as many cashmeres I can get my hands on, all my sky gear and any warm clothing item I can find and a smaller suitcase with flip flops, bathing suit, t-shirts and two large cans of mosquito repellent…a must when traveling in Africa!!! Perfect, it’s time to Uber myself to LAX for my long haul to Zurich, Switzerland where my brother will pick me up and drive me to the most beautiful winter wonderland in the world: St. Moritz!!! Of course, I fly my beloved Swiss Airlines, who surprised me this time with a better than usual dinner menu that I thoroughly enjoyed before popping my sleeping pill for the twelve hour beauty-sleep to Zurich.

 

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My idea of a perfect night!

 

I was having dreams of mosquitos attacking me in Africa when I get a tap on my shoulder and awake to find out we are arriving in Zurich! After a short layover I board the small propeller plane to Lugano where my brother is waiting for me for the 2 hour drive to St. Mortiz. The drive is beyond amazing from Lugano through the Swiss alps, covered in snow to our final destination, the super chic Kempinski Hotel.

 

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View from my seat

 

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Delicious dinner on Swiss Airlines

 

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Abord the small propellor plane to Lugano


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Zurich at dusk from my plane

 

IMG_7411Amazing views of the Swiss Alps at dusk

 

We are staying at the beautiful Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains in St. Mortiz, the historical ski resort that had its first winter season in 1814-15;  it’s charismatic director is my childhood friend Reto Stockenius, one of Switzerland’s best Hotel General Managers and long time friend of mine from my early days in Lugano Switzerland. Reto is the kindest and most generous soul and he is married to yet another childhood friend of mine from school: Simona Stockenius. It’s a real treat to be able to stay at his hotel and share some time together after soooo many years knowing each other. Reto’s class-act style is evident form the first minute I enter my room with a welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a delicious almond tart, typical of this region and more goodies in toe. What was supposed to be a standard room, was upgraded to a one bedroom stunning suite with the most incredible view of St. Mortiz and the Swiss alps skyline. I’m in Heaven!!!!


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The stunning Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains in St. Moritz

 

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The best welcome treats in my suite from my dear friend and Director Reto Stockenius



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The Stunning vIew from my suite with full moon

 

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More images form my room

 

After settling in Jonathan and I make our way to one of the oldest and most renowned eateries in St. Moritz: Veltlinerkeller. This place has been around for generations and we’ve been going here since I was a kid; they are famous for their Pizzoccheri, which is whole-wheat pasta with potatoes, Spinach smothered with a local melted cheese…divine!!!! I was a little apprehensive about dining under a huge head of a Moose, but after a few glasses of wine, he turned out to be quite interesting! I have the best time catching up with my little brother, but j between my main course and dessert, jet lag kicks in and I’m ready to go back to my fancy suite and turn in!

 

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One of my favorite restaurants: Feltlinerkeller

 

IMG_7457The very Swiss interior at Feltlinerkeller


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Their signature dish: Pizzoccheri della Valtellina



IMG_7470My brother Jonathan Kass and someone we picked up along the way…


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Being naughty with our new friend

 

Oh…by the way, did I mention it’s 18 degrees below zero in St. Moritz? I am quickly reminded how thin my blood has become living in LA for so many years; the frost is truly unbearable!!!! Once back at the hotel, I can’t help feeling so nostalgic, overwhelmed by so many memories from my past in this place: from my late father, to my many friends from my youth I lost touch with and so many glamorous events I was so lucky to attend in St. Moritz. I can’t wait to be back on the slopes tomorrow for the first time in 20 years. I hope this old carcass of mine will make it though the day without braking anything!

Good night everybody from this enchanting place…bloody freezing too!!!

 

One more holiday weekend in Paris before returning to LA for Christmas with the family.

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After a few days in Los Angeles for work and to get my Christmas tree together, it’s off to Paris again for one last weekend before coming back to LA for Christmas Eve with the family. Paris has recently gone though one of the worst terrorist attacks in their history, it has shaken them to the core and I feel that it is imperative to support them by doing exactly what the perpetrators of such evil want from you: to live in fear and hide at home, disrupting an entire city’s economy and lifestyle. So now more than ever, it is crucial to go to Paris and support them by being there and doing all the things that you would do at any other time whilst visiting this magical city. It’s a small contribution, but worthy of my efforts!

The moment I arrive at LAX airport, I immediately notice the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks; it’s one of the busiest times of the year at LAX, but you won’t know by entering the Tom Bradley International Terminal today…It’s a ghost town! The State Department just issued a travel alert for all Americans traveling abroad and you can definitely see the impact it has had on travelers. That’s why I firmly believe, it’s now more important than ever to travel and show these terrorists that we shall not change our way of life and give in to fear and intimidation. Finally, it’s time to board my Swiss flight to Paris in my very comfortable business class seat for the 12-hour flight.

 

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Arriving at LAX

 

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The incredibly empty International Terminal at LAX

 

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Not a soul in the Duty Free shopping area at LAX

 

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More…



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I’m the only pine at the Business Class lounge…so spooky!

 

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My home for the next 12 hours

 

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My comfortable cubical on Swiss Airlines

 

I’m meeting my dear friend Luc Cartier, who is flying in from Montreal with a few friends of his to support the Parisian as well. We are staying at a lovely apartment in Avenue Montaigne, one of the best neighborhoods in Paris and where all the best shopping, eating and drinking happens daily in great style. The flat is literally 2 doors up from one of my favorite restaurants: L’Avenue, 2 blocks away from the George V Hotel and across the street from Louis Vuitton…perfection! Once I arrive at the Paris airport, I immediately notice the high security presence all around and a chilling sadness on people’s faces; it’s gut wrenching to see my favorite city going through such heartache. I leave politics and acts of war and terrorism out of my blog, but I can’t help feeling so sad about what’s happening here. On the way to the center of Paris you can’t ignore how empty the streets are and when I finally arrive at my destination, you immediately see all the empty streets, cafes and shops…it’s a tragedy! All I can think about is to go out there with my band of friends and eat and drink in as many cafes and restaurants as possible, go to more museums (even though I’ve seen them all) and go shopping for Christmas presents. I will be out there defiant and undeterred and in due time, so will all the Parisians who will always rise from the ashes to shine once again!

All right, let’s do this! First thing is the Christmas village down the Champs Élisée, where every holiday season, a bunch of street vendors build their little Christmas themed huts and sell just about anything wintery or touristy. Luc and I start the late morning with a Vin Brulée to get the internal temperature up from the frosty 45-Fahrenheit Parisian weather. My favorite part is the Michael Jackson’s Thriller ride with black mannequins of Michael Jackson dressed as Santa…to funny! We are making our way to Place de La Concorde where the enormous Farris Wheel stands in the middle of the square; I have serious fear of heights, but as I said, we must show our support by going on these very public rides in order to make a point…that’s of course if I don’t throw up in the little gondola on the way up; that would make a different kind of point all together! Sadly, there is no one in line, so we make our way to the scary gondola in no time; the climb to the top is beyond scary but the fear is quickly repaved by the shear beauty of this city from high up! Everywhere you look is spectacular and gives you a real understanding of the size and beauty of this City of Lights. All right, photos taken…get me off this thing!!!! We are meeting my darling friend Vincent Simonet, the Opera Singer, at Chez George, a charming, super French bistro in the Marais area; though my food was not terribly good, the place is simply fabulous; don’t order the Veal Brains…No Bueno! The server was hilarious trying to pick up my friend Vincent during the entire lunch with no shame whatsoever…Got to love these French! It’s back at Avenue Montaigne for a siesta before our marathon night with Luc’s Canadian friends followed by my international posse.

 

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Walking by the Super Chic Plaza Athenée on Avenue Montaigne

 

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The charming Christmas market on the Champs Élisée

 

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My favorite…Roasted Chestnuts

 

IMG_6780Vin Brulée to warm the soul


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More Vin Brulée…got to keep warm possums!

 

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The hilarious Michael Jackson Thriller ride with the scary black mannequins dressed as Santa

 

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The giant Ferris Wheel in Place de La Concorde

 

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Scared to death!!!

 

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The amazing views from high-up on the Farris Wheel: Arc de Triomphe

 

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Tulleries

 

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Eiffel Tower

 

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The Louvre

 

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Rue Rivoli


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The quirky Chez George

 

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Dining Room at Chez George

 

First order of things is drinks at out favorite bar at the George V Hotel…again!!!! It’s a great way to start the evening with my usual Lychee Martini. When you walk in the hotel you are immediately mesmerized by Jeff Leatham’s extraordinary new 10′ tall blue-mirrored penguins that sit in the center of the lobby along with the most beautiful flower arrangements that only Jeff can produce. When you make your way to the Bar…another gasping surprise: a 14′ glass freezer enclosure with a 10′ tall Ice sculpture of a few penguins inside it; never have I seen such originality and “Wow” factor for a Christmas display.

 

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View from our balcony on Avenue Montaigne

 

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Walking over to George V Hotel

 

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The Dior store CHristmas decoration

 

IMG_6754Jeff Leatham’s incredible mirror Penguins at George V Hotel


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With Vincent Simonet

 

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More…

 

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The mirror Bear in the Couryard at George V Hotel

 

IMG_6757My favorite Martini in the world

 

Luc and I are meeting a whole bunch of Canadian actors and producers friends of his from Montreal at this darling restaurant: La Rotisserie on the Rive Gauche                             (www.larotisseriedelatour.com), owned by the legendary La Tour D’Argent                           (www.tourdargent.com), which happens to be just next door. My dear friend Vincent Simonet is join us for what will surely turn out to be a messy evening…you know those Canadians! The Duck Confit is beyond amazing, which is their specialty, and the company is hilarious with a very drunk Diane who keeps singing Donna Summer’s hits and our fabulous friend from Montreal Annie Delisle, who owns the best male stripper club in Montreal!!!

 

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The legendary La Tour d’Argent Restaurant

 

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La Rôtisserie Menu

 

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La Rôtisserie dining room

 

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And kitchen…

 

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My canadians: Luc, Annie Delisle and Diane

 

Finally it’s time for the glamorous segment of this evening; a uber-chic party at Ginger Restaurant, that my jet-setter friend Carol Asscher is having for her usual group of fabulous people…just because she can! There, I’m meeting my beautiful friend Kasia and a fellow Angelino and realtor Barry Peele. This is the part where we all get slaushed and messy, so I will kindly take my leave and say goodnight now and see you all back in LA by Christmas Eve where I will meet with my family for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

 

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With the super chic Carol Asscher and friend

 

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With the stunning Kasia and Barry Peele


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IMG_6763The Symbol of French endurance and perseverance…Vive la France!!!

Off to a Castle in Lucerne, Switzerland for 24 hours for work…we do that every now and then!

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The flight from Paris to Lucerne is only 35 minutes, so before you have a chance to drink your cup of coffee, you’re already landing in Zurich. I rent my favorite Italian car: Alfa Romeo, for the 1-hour drive to Lucerne. Lucerne is located in central Switzerland; amid snowcapped mountains on the north end of Lake Lucerne…imagine that! With its enchanting, colorful old town, its 14th-century Museggmauer city walls, the turreted buildings, this place is truly the storybook image of a Swiss town. But the most famous landmark in Lucerne is the The Kapellbrücke Bridge.

Translated, the Chapel Bridge is a covered wooden footbridge spanning diagonally across the Reuss River in the city of Lucerne in central Switzerland. Named after the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel, the bridge is unique since it contains a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with most of the centuries-old bridge in a 1993 fire. Subsequently restored, the Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge. It serves as the city’s symbol and as one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions.

I am her to meet my dear friend Javier Millership’s father for some Service Industry consulting work; we’re meeting at his company’s latest acquisition: the iconic 1888 Château Gütsch, a palatial hotel in a 19th-century, belle époque-style castle on top of a mountain peak overlooking the entire city. When you arrive at this property you really gasp at the beauty of this dramatic building and most of all, the incredible view from practically everywhere you look. Mr. Millership has arranged a stunning balcony room in the main castle with the best view in the house. After making myself comfortable and taking 100 photos of the view, I decide to go to town for the afternoon before my dinner meeting with Mr. Milleship. I haven’t been in Lucerne for many years; I think the last time must have been one of those school trips we used to take so often at my school. Tough it’s a splendid city, it’s just not on my radar, far to tranquil for little old me, furthermore, German is not my best language so I tend to avoid. I always feel like I’m walking into a Swiss version of Disneyland when I walk around the streets of Lucerne; its just so damn cute and charming with it’s steeples and bridges and the most beautiful golden hanging signs from building I have ever seen. You’re just waiting for Heidi to pop out of nowhere and make you hot Swiss chocolate.

It’s time to go back to the Castle and get ready for my meeting. We are having dinner at the hotel tonight on the terrace overlooking all of Lucerne; I’m exited to try the food and get to know Mr. Milleship, considering I adore his son! The rest is pretty much all business and probably not to interesting for my spoiled readers; so I’ll make this a short post and reconnect with you after I arrive in Los Angeles…Yes, tomorrow I’m off again to Lala Land to get ready for the Christmas season…my favorite season of all!!!!

Ho Ho Ho…

 

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The Chateau Gutsch on top of its mountain peak

 

IMG_4108Arriving at Chateau Gutsch


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Front facade of Chateau Gutsch and my balcony suite right at the middle

 

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The first photo of many to come of the spectacular view from my bedroom balcony

 

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The torrets of Chateau Gutsch

 

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Another breathtaking view from my balcony

 

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More…

 

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My cute bedroom


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The main Salon

 

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The Bar lounge

 

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The Bar

 

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The City’s landmark: Kapellbrücke Bridge

 

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Kapellbrücke Bridge

 

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A feathered visitor

 

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The 17th century paintings on the Kapellbrücke Bridge

 

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The beautiful tower at Kapellbrücke Bridge

 

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17th century Germanic style architecture on this old town church

 

IMG_4167The stunning Hanging Signs all over the Old Town

 

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More…

 

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The Reuss River with its beautiful buildings

 

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Robert Kass and Mr. Millership having an after dinner drink at the Bar