Mother Africa here I come!

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Wake up call at 5:30am…Ugh!!!!! Still to tired to realize I’m off to Africa…and probably still digesting last night’s dinner. I can’t wait to get out of this hideous hotel I found by the airport: Hotel Mövempick. It’s like a Russian army bunker from the 30′, really depressing…never again! Riccardo is driving me to Zurich’s airport which is 5 minutes away, where I am meeting my childhood friend Tina: my Africa expert, travel companion and Swiss Airlines 1st class “Hostess with the mostess”. Tina has been telling me about Tanzania for 20 year and trying to convince me to go with her sometime; for some reason, Africa was never on my radar as a place I want to visit, but in the last 6-7 years, my interests have changed and Africa has become a definite destination priority.

 

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Ready to board.

 

So here I am boarding my flight to Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania for the 11 hours flight with a stop over in Nairobi, Kenya. I settle into my lovely business class nest when Tina comes by to ask me if I want to go in the cockpit with the pilots for taxi and takeoff…Ahh…Helllooooo???? Of course I want to do that; how amazing! So off I go to the cockpit, where after a few pleasantries with the 2 pilots, we are “Go’ for takeoff; I’ve done this before on private jets but never on a massive commercial airliner…it’s incredible!!! The pilots are also really nice, especially the older one who immediately asked me about that psychopath Donald Trump and his bid for the presidency of the United States. The second pilot seemed barely old enough to drive a car…scary!

 

IMG_7693Taking my place in the cockpit


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Taxing on the runway

 

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Taking off

 

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Up up in the air!

 

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View of the Alps from the cockpit

 

IMG_7689The empty first class section

 

IMG_7747My darling Tina making me a little treat in the first class galley

 

Through the entire trip, I visit the cockpit every time there is something special to look at; watching the sunset over Sudan is truly spectacular…though I couldn’t resist asking the pilot if it was safe flying over this notorious enemy of the state and breeder of terrorists; the pilot laughs! After about 11 hours we are making our descent to Dar es Salaam and I am in the cockpit to witness the night landing…amazing!!


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Sunset over Sudan from the cockpit

 

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View of the landing strip from the cockpit

 

The first big shocker is getting out of the aircraft and experiencing the sweltering 100 degrees and 100% humidity environment that is Tanzania. The 1-hour visa process through the sauna-like terminal is beyond unbearable! I know…I sound like a spoiled westerner traveling abroad; but I’m not kidding when I say it’s really a tough experience. Finally we board the Swiss Airlines air conditioned van with the entire crew….ahhhhhhh, finally things are looking up! It’s almost midnight and I am spent from an entire day of travel; we are leaving for our hotel where I’ll be spending 2 nights before going to the island of Zanzibar. Tina and I are ready to hit the sack in the coldest room in Dar es Salaam…heaven!!! Jambo Jambo

 

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

Birthday week in Switzerland

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After a wild week in London, I am looking forward to a mellow and grounded week in beautiful Switzerland with family and friends and much needed rest. I’ve written several pieces on my hometown Lugano, but it never seems to get old and I find that there is always more to share with you about this amazing small city bordering Italy. I arrive in Zurich airport, and this time, I decided to take the train down to Lugano instead of a rental car or small plane; the train leaves directly from the airport so it’s an easy operation all together. I’m happily surprised to see that the first class wagons are now panoramic, an option that did not exist when I was living in Switzerland. Taking the train through the Swiss countryside and mountains is already an amazing treat in itself, but having a panoramic ceiling, well…what more can you ask for. Even better is the fact that there are only two of us in the entire car. After a 3 hours train ride, I arrive in Lugano to find my brother and his 3 kids along with my BFF Fabrizio, with whom I’ve been friends since we were 3 years old, waiting for me at the station…right there and then you understand the feeling of love and the true meaning of coming home, no matter how many years it’s been since I’ve left Switzerland.

 

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Arrivals at Zurich airport

 

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Swiss trains first class panoramic car

 

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Amazing view from my seat

 

Since this will be a quiet week of relaxation and family time, I won’t be doing a 1-day review post, but rather I’ll talk about the highlights of my stay in Lugano.

I always love walking around town in Lugano, not only it is such a beautiful city, but it carries so many amazing memories from my youth: like Gabbani Market (www.gabbani.com), an iconic gourmet market that has been in Lugano since 1937 and also the place where I had my first summer job when I was 15 years old so that I can earn enough money to buy myself a moped!!! I worked outside under the arcade selling fresh berries (don’t even…), there, the first seeds of what would become a fearlessly independent entrepreneur, were planted. The food at Gabbani is beyond amazing and the presentation is just fabulous! Walking through the streets of Lugano is a real treat; you will find such amazing buildings and churches from way back in the 15″ century. One thing about Switzerland is that they take good care of their national patrimony and all historical buildings look as they were built just a few year ago.

 

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The iconic Gabbani market in Lugano where I had my first summer job at 15 years of age


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The famous salami arches at Gabbani

 

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Gabbani’s amazing sandwiches

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, Lugano’s oldest church and monastery, circa 1499

 

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, interior

 

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The last supper at Santa Maria degli Angeli

 

IMG_4229The stunning alfresco “Passione e Crocefissione” by Bernardino Luini.



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The newly renovated Palace Hotel and residence

 

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Lake view

 

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Another amazing lake view

 

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The oldest building in Lugano, circa 16′ century

 

I loved having lunch with one of my oldest friends: Stefano Pesce; an art dealer and representative of one of the biggest Salvador Dali collections in Europe. He takes me to one of my favorite Grottos on Lake Lugano: Grotto Pojana (www.grottopojana.com). As I already explained in previous posts, a Grotto is a uniquely Swiss Italian phenomenon; it’s basically an old mountain home, turned into an open air restaurant by the family living in it only during the summer season, after which, it turns back into the restaurateur’s home fro the winter. The owners of the Grotto make all their foods in house and all specialize in typical Ticino specialties like: Polenta, Risotto, Brasato, local cheeses and cold cuts, horse meat, pork ribs to name a few. Anyway, back to Gotto Pojana! This place has been around forever and the food is still amazing to date! I had the Cipolla Tonnata, which is a take from the Vitello Tonnato (one of my favorite dishes in the entire world…); basically a grilled sweet onion with a Tuna, anchovy, lemon and fresh mayo sauce. As an entree I had the Persico filet (a local sweet lake fish) with Risotto alla Parmigiana…delish! Stefano had the fried lake baby fish with French fries, also amazing and typical of this area. A bottle of their own Merlot wine and there goes a perfect lunch by the lake before going to visit the foundry that exclusively casts all of Salvador Dali’s sculptures, of which Stefano is the representative.

 

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My childhood friend Stefano Pesce and myself at Grotto Pojana

 

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Grotto Pojana’s own Merlot wine

 

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Pesce persico del lago with risotto alla parmigiana

 

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“Pesciolini del lago fritti” with french fries

 

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Grotto Pojana’s Menu

 

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View of the lake in front of Grotto Pojana

 

The whole bronze casting process is really astonishing and watching each piece going through all the different stages and become the final shiny bronze sculpture it is meant to be, is something really special. It reminds me of my art school days when I was doing sculptures and castings in plaster. You could see some of Dali’s famous pieces, like the stretched out clock and his Knight on a horse fighting the dragon…amazing!

One of the highlights of my stay was coming home from a luncheon and being surprised by my 3 nephews with a small chocolate tart with candles for my birthday. The best part was the 35 year old candles…the fact that they think I’m 35 is in itself, the best birthday present EVER!!!! There is nothing like family my dear Possums and that is one of the main reasons I come to Lugano so often, so I can see my brother, and watch his kids grow up and be a small part of it…and because they think I’m 35!!!!!

 

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Dali’s bronze sculpture

 

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Dali’s famous Knight fighting the dragon

 

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Two stunning bronze heads that I sooooo wanted to steal!!!!

 

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One of the many stages of bronze casting

 

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Dali’s famous stretched clock

 

Another Grotto worth mentioning is Grotto del Pep (www.grottodelpep.ch); once again, we’ve been going here for many years, so Jonathan, my youngest brother, decided this would be a good place to celebrate my Swiss version of my birthday with a few friends and family. They are known for their pork ribs and the Polenta with trifled mushrooms…to die for!!!!! The meats are BBQ’d outside on the grill for all to see; sitting outside on the signature granite tables and benches on a warm summer evening is a real treat. The drink of choice in Grottos in this region is “Merlot with Gazzosa”, which is red wine with a lemon soft drink that they mix together and drink out of these unique porcelain cups that look like tea cups without the handle. After eating half a pig, 10 lb. of polenta and mushrooms, 5 bottles of Merlot and Gazzosa, and having such an amazing time with my friends and family, I am ready to end the Swiss part of my “Global Birthday Celebration” and prepare for the upcoming Turkish Birthday week…too much? Hey…until you can still stand up and celebrate the fact that you are still alive…I say go for it!!!!!

 

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My own little dynasty celebrating my 35th birthday…ish

 

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Entrance to Grotto del Pep

 

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Outdoor terrace

 

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Outdoor grill

 

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Specialty dish: Polenta with trifled mushrooms

 

IMG_4086Signature dish: Costine di Maiale con Patate


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The beautiful and serene view from my bedroom at dusk…is he watching me?