Beauty New York: hair salon New York city J. Sisters
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In the more than two and a half decades I’ve been a travel writer I’ve been fortunate to experience some of the world’s top salons and spas from Paris to London to New York to Beverly Hills to Hong Kong. Just like high-end restaurants, these establishments serve up quality products and services within alluring settings meant to wow people with means. And whether glitzy or subdued, the entertainment factor of these posh places always ranks high, which, of course, makes up part of the whole experience.
I have, however, often found the demeanor of staff at many well-reputed hair salons to be off putting, perhaps because many think it’s cool to embody the pouty, woeful look of fashion models in magazines. I don’t like that at all, which is why I rarely look at such publications any more. Or, sometimes the approach is just plain snobby. Who ever thought that was attractive?
So you can imagine my delight when I discovered a super warm and friendly scene at J. Sisters, a renowned hair salon on W57th Street in New York, owned and operated by Brazilian sisters all with first names beginning with J. (But of course.) Whether you’re in for a splurge or you’re rich, famous or full of yourself, this long-established salon caters to all with the same measure of enthusiasm and attention as is required in transforming a brunette to a blond. (No, I didn’t go for that, but I was tempted and if I do, I will have it done here.)
New York Restaurants Travel: New York Restaurants Travel
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Wherever I go, I like trying the French restaurants of the city or town I’m visiting. After having lived eleven years in Paris and experienced much excellent French dining throughout France, I feel I’m an expert of sorts. Plus, I love French cuisine and the panache that’s typically associated with its presentation.
During a recent trip back east, I put out a query on Facebook for excellent French restaurant recommendations in New York City. Not surprisingly, I received many. Foodie extraordinaire David Rosengarten came back with his: La Silhouette. I dined here one evening with a dear friend where we enjoyed a sophisticated moment among a tony crowd of New Yorkers.
After posting my list of Restaurant Pet Peeves a couple of weeks ago (and commiserating with many people that wrote to me about their pile of peeves), I’m more than happy to sing the praises of a restaurant that “gets it right.” I love recognizing anybody and any place that goes above and beyond “the norm” to make up for any shortcomings. (No one can be perfect 100% of the time.)
New York Podcasts Telluride Writing & Books: New York Podcasts Telluride Writing & Books
Oh dear, I need money. Such is the plight of all writers, unless you’re independently wealthy or you’re among the few to achieve John Grisham-like success. There isn’t a writer on this earth—published or nonpublished—that couldn’t identify with the struggles of India Palmer, the main character and narrator in Martha McPhee‘s recently-released novel, “Dear Money.” And I’m one of them!
In this beautifully crafted fourth novel, Martha reveals the travails of India from the angst over paying bills, to the challenges of “keeping up with the Jones,” to the long hours a dedicated writer must log at her desk (sunny days and all) and much more. Clearly Martha, a highly-acclaimed writer that happens to live in New York city like her protagonist, has drawn from personal experience to spin this exciting tale of a cash-strapped writer that’s tempted by the allure of a more high rolling life in the Big Apple. India ends up doing the unthinkable: She trades her artist’s life to become a bond trader. Funnily enough the idea behind the novel comes from a real-life offer. A legendary bond trader did claim that he could transform Martha into a booming Wall Street success in eighteen months; fortunately for us she declined and wrote “Dear Money” instead. It’s not surprising to learn from the intricately-detailed passages written about the highly competitive and adrenaline-charged life among New York’s financiers that Martha shadowed a bond trader to learn the ins and outs of mortgage-backed securities during the height of its rise. I found the contrasts between the writer’s life and the financier’s life to be one of the most compelling parts of this book.
You may be wondering why I’ve taken such an interest in Martha and her work. As usual, serendipity played a hand in our connecting with each other. I actually skied with her, her family and some friends of hers last March in Telluride. We both shared that we were writers but little else about our work was discussed. Since it was the height of the busy season, I didn’t find a moment to Google her. I feel as though I really came to know Martha after she sent me “Dear Money” later on in the spring, especially because it’s a book that has resonated so much with my writer’s life (sans the bond trader dimension, of course). Now perhaps the next time we ride the chairlift together we’ll shed our squirrel-y shyness about our work (seemingly a classic character trait of writers) and get down to some real exchanges about the creative process.
It looks as though that just might happen since plans are in the works for Martha to give a presentation at the Wilkinson Public Library in Telluride next March. I’m vying for that program to include a writer’s workshop, too!
If you’re a writer, you must listen to the Travel Fun interview I conducted with Martha earlier this summer. Avid readers will love it as well. And how’s that pile of summer reading doing at your bedside? I bet it has dwindled but if you’re like me, you feel like you’re just warming up. Keep adding to the stack and continue that summer reading mode all year long. I provide some great reading suggestions at the end of this interview that will steer you toward more excellent book picks, both fiction and nonfiction.
Click on the play button below to listen to my interview with Martha.
Beauty Fashion & Style French Life New York Paris Podcasts Telluride Travel: Beauty Fashion & Style French Life New York Paris Podcasts Telluride Travel
Comments Off on Talking Travel and Style with Kate Betts
Travel and style go together like form and functionality. I had fun chatting about both and much more recently during a Travel Fun interview with Kate Betts, fashion and style editor extraordinare. Kate has worked as the driving force at illustrious publications including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She has also written about fashion and style for the New York Times and is currently contributing editor at TIME Magazine. Kate and I met many, many years ago in Paris when she was an intern at the International Herald Tribune and I was operating Chic Promenade, a shopping service I had created in France. We share many interests, mutual French friends and a passion for France (although we do love to chuckle together about some of our pet peeves about la mentalité française!)
I was happy to snatch her for an interview during her March trip to Telluride. Click on the play button below to hear what Kate has to say about style and travel. As Kate says, “It matters what you look like, how you feel about yourself, how you present yourself.” She provides beauty and packing tips that she uses on all her travels whether she’s off to the fashion shows in Milan or heading out to the Rockies for a ski vacation. I loved what she shared about visualization and I’ve already picked up her favorite all-purpose moisturizing cream that’s her special secret.
Listen to what she has to say about fashion editors. I had to ask her if they’re all hung up on what they wear! You’ll enjoy hearing her response along with her explanation about the difference between fashion and style. People obsessed with fashion follow the crowd whereas style setters follow their own beat.
Kate’s latest project has been the researching and writing of a book about Michelle Obama, entitled “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and The Power of Style.” “The way she has used style to set the tone has been very powerful for women,” Kate says. “Her voice has been her style. She is the quintessential American woman.” I felt lucky to get the scoop on all this since mine was the first interview Kate conducted about the book, to be published February 2011 by Clarkson Potter. In our chat, Kate also talks about her impressions of our first lady and her charismatic husband.
Throughout our conversation, Kate refers many times to the French, especially in terms of their sense of style. “Style is something you have within you,” Kate says. I guess that’s why I often say that French women are born with the knowledge of how to tie a scarf. They know how to properly apply their make up as well, being careful never to over do it, just like in Telluride. Kate and I commented that we rarely do ourselves up in T-ride but we both smiled about having touched ourselves up a bit for our radio interview. As Kate says, it does matter how you look, how you feel about yourself and how you present yourself, no matter where you are, right?
Click on the play button to hear lots more good stuff from Kate.
Colorado Mountain Living New York Pot Pourri Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride The Rockies Travel: Mountain Living New York Rockies Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride Travel
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Wow, what a month it has been. It’s been at least that long since I posted a story on this blog. So what have I been doing? Skiing, of course. Mostly teaching skiing actually, nearly every day up until our closing here in Telluride which took place this past Easter Sunday, April 4th. I’m just now beginning to feel alive again. I say almost since I’m still consuming above-average amounts of caffeine but I know more energetic days lie ahead.
I’m much better than I was earlier in the week when I logged endless hours on my couch, too tired to read but content to watch copious amounts of T.V. in between long stretches of sleep. (I think my cats registered more awake time than I these past days.) And dare I take inventory of all my eating? I’ve been devouring the scalloped potatoes and chocolate left over from Easter, and by Tuesday afternoon I found myself whipping up a vanilla milkshake and sucking it down from the indented cushions of my couch faster than Oprah could say “We’ll be right back.” When I began to compulsively channel surf between Dancing with the Stars, CNN and Bravo, I worried that I might never feel normal again. But miraculously my cravings for sugar and fat diminished by Wednesday along with my desire to escape profoundly into the boob tube. Last night I even cracked a book, “Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette,” that I can’t wait to get back to tonight. (I find it impossible to read during ski season when evenings mean either falling asleep by 9 or partying until 11.)
I don’t know how so many people pack it up as soon as the mountain closes. They head to Moab, Mexico and the Islands or embark upon adventures such as a rafting trip on the Salt River. These people must be largely motivated by the thrill of switching out ski boots for flip flops. I guess I’m just a softy. I need to recharge.
Anyone that works in the hospitality industry can tell you that March can be insane in the mountains. As a ski instructor, you have to be ON all the time throughout the sunniest and stormiest days of spring break (which this year lasted most of March right up until Easter). It doesn’t matter if your knees are killing you, your quads burn beyond belief or if you don’t have an ounce of gas left in your tank, it’s our job to spread rainbows and sunshine and to make sure that everyone has the best experience ever.
And what a great end-of-season it was here in T-ride. The snow fell generously and often, right up until the end, interspersed with glorious days of warmth and sun. I taught mostly private ski lessons to a terrific array of clients, some of whom promise to be future guests on Travel Fun. I delighted in teaching Josie, a sweetheart of a thirteen-year old, a first-timer that I worked into almost a complete parallel by the end of two days. Her parents, Kevin and Corinna, own Antlers & Anglers, an exclusive service that arranges hunting and fishing trips to alluring destinations around the world. I’m looking forward to having her dad on the program to talk about big game hunting and more. Perhaps an unusual sort of topic for my show, but certainly very interesting nonetheless. I had a blast with twin six-year olds, Max and Carrie, for a week and through this family, I met novelist Martha McPhee. (I also skied with her son Jasper.) Martha has a new book, “Dear Money,” coming out in June. This work showcases the financial world of New York where Martha lives, so it might be a hoot to have her on Travel Fun to talk about the ins and outs of the Big Apple’s high rolling landscape. I’m sure she can provide a few good restaurant recommendations as well. Martha is the daughter of the prolific nonfiction writer John McPhee and the sister of novelist Jenny McPhee. She’s married to poet Mark Svenvold who, along with Martha and the rest of the crew, enjoyed doing a bunch of nice turns in Telluride during one of our best weeks of March. (In case you’re wondering, Martha and I talked more about skiing than writing.)
My friend Kate Betts, renowned fashion and style editor, was also vacationing in T-ride during this time. We managed to work in a Travel Fun interview together which I’ll soon post here as a podcast. Kate is still a contributing writer for TIME Magazine but we mostly chatted about her recent project, a book about Michelle Obama, entitled “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and The Power of Style.” “It’s really about why style matters,” Kate says.
In the midst of all this activity, I was asked to participate in a photo shoot for SKI Magazine, an undertaking that occupied nearly two day’s of my time both on the snow and in Bootdoctors, the Telluride sport specialist that is the focal point of this piece. Bootdoctors has gained great recognition for fixing people’s alignments (and their skiing!) by adjusting their equipment—mainly ski boots—to compensate for their own physiological imperfections. I was selected certainly not for my skiing prowess or on-camera presence but as a prime example of a knock-kneed woman. I shared the shoot with Don Hannah, longtime Telluride resident, fellow KOTO DJ, all around nice guy and brother to Daryl. Don was chosen to represent your average bow-legged man. This was no glamour shoot, especially since I was so caught up with my work that I hadn’t even thought about having a pedicure for the shots (and Internet footage!), many of which focused on an extensive custom boot-fitting for my feet. To think that my gnarly ski instructor feet are to appear rough-hewn and unpolished in a national magazine by next ski season— quel horreur! Don and I were also documented skiing our worst knock-kneed/bow-legged form on Telluride’s fine slopes. Don nailed my sentiments exactly when he said, “I’ve been reading SKI Magazine since I was a kid and now that I finally get to appear in it, I come across looking like a dork.” Oh well, Lindsey Vonn I am not.
So now it’s time to organize my personal space and to pick up my writer’s life. I’m on my tenth load of laundry this week and am chipping away at my e-mails. Fortunately it will be a slow transition since I have a couple of trips planned to Vail and Aspen before the month is out. You can read about some of my post- season adventures from last year at Skiing and Spa-Going: Part One in Vail, Colorado and at Aspen Highlights. I’m looking forward to free skiing and not having to instruct or look out for anyone’s well-being but my own. I bet I’ll miss the silly chairlift games and heartwarming connections though.
This is indeed a funny life, trading off between ski instructing and writing. But as much as it’s a juggling act, I can’t imagine giving it up. There’s nothing like balancing out the mental with the physical, especially when you live inthe Rocky Mountains. I wonder what Marie Antoinette would think.
Note that April is full of end-of-the-season activities at Colorado’s top resorts. Aspen Mountain closes this Sunday, April 11 but will reopen the weekends of April 17-18 and 24-25. Beaver Creek closes this Sunday as well, however Vail’s spring fling kicks into high gear April 12 with their Spring Back to Vail. Search the Internet for lots more great skiing and fun in Colorado through early May. You’ll find some terrific bargains, too. Be sure to pack your costumes and most colorful spring attire!
Girl Talk New York Restaurants: Girl Talk New York Restaurants
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Serendipity and travel go together like food and wine. It’s usually the chance encounters or haphazard discoveries that occur along the way that make the difference in your journey, even if that trip lasts only a short while.
This was my experience on a recent flash visit to New York City. I was to spend just under thirty hours in this bustling metropolis, primarily focused on the more business aspects of my work. There was little time for travel writing research per se, so I knew I’d have to catch a story on the fly. My best bet for finding my travel highlight was lunch on the second day when my good friend, Jane (see Gallery Going with the Ladies from Larchmont), was to meet me before I headed out of town.
I counted on Jane—someone who seems to be in the know about just about everything most of the time—to provide the restaurant suggestion. She proposed Tabla, a swanky Indian restaurant, convenient for us both. We didn’t call ahead and when I arrived, they apologized that they were exceptionally closed that day for lunch. The rain was falling in sheets outside and I practically begged for another recommendation close by. I was informed that their sister property, Eleven Madison Park, was just next door.
“Isn’t that expensive?” I couldn’t help blurting out, aware nonetheless that these sort of remarks are more than acceptable during these challenging times.
“They have a $28. prix fixe menu,” Kevin, the manager at Tabla, replied.
I made a quick calculation in my head, figuring the price of at least one glass of wine, a coffee, tax and gratuity. I had just come from my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, located nearby in the Flat Iron Building and possessed more of a sense of optimism about the publishing world than I had in a while. It felt right.
I placed a call to Jane and made it a go. A wave of excitement hit me as I realized I was about to experience the restaurant in New York that I really wanted to go to some day. I had read a review of Eleven Madison Park in The New York Times a few months ago, one of the last written by Frank Bruni, their renowned restaurant critic, who bestowed four-stars upon this beloved New York dining establishment. His description of this superior dining establishment was so vivid that I easily imagined myself seated in the restaurant enjoying a superlative meal with a glass or two of wine.
Jane and I were escorted to a corner banquette that furnished wide-angle views of the restaurant’s stately, high-ceilinged dining room. “It’s a quintessential New York restaurant,” Jane remarked, referring most certainly to the dramatic tone set by this vast space and its decorative architectural embellishments, all representative of Art Deco design. “We brought our friends from California here when they came to New York and they loved it.”
We took turns observing the details that make any dining or lodging experience stand out. Jane pointed out the embossed decoration of leaves (representing the four seasons, not too unlike those of the Four Seasons), the trademark of the restaurant, on the butter. I commented on the salt served as a side to the butter and made a mental note to ask about its provenance (but never did, sorry). Of course we opted for the $28. prix fixe, one appetizer, one entrée menu and then selected a half bottle of chablis from the $28. page of the wine list that included two bottles, two half bottles and a few glasses, all at the $28. price. The manager explained that these prices were introduced a year ago and are here to stay, at least for now. “Oh, a woman must have designed that,” Jane quipped, an insightful remark lost on the manager that I didn’t comprehend until about ten seconds later.
We laughed and chatted, vainly attempting to encapsulate the essential of our current lives into a two-hour lunch. Our attention hardly waned, however, from our table and the entire room. A flourish of amuse bouches (mini-apps), which included heirloom tomato marshmallows and black pepper sablés topped with foie gras and cranberry gelée, wooed us from the get-go. And we practically swooned over the savory gougères and mini olive ficelles and baguettes that had been served up both warm and imperceptibly.
Snippets of our table side critique continued in between volleys about our very different lives, hers in New York, mine in Colorado. Our commentaries about each other’s activities intermingled with our impressions of our appetizers (Heirloom Beets with Lynnhaven Farms Chèvre Frais for Jane; Red Endive with Buffalo Mozzarrella, Basil and Persimmon for me). All had been exquisitely plated. Our entrées (Ricotta Gnocchi with Artichokes, Taggiasca Olives and Bacon for Jane; Seared Scallop with Celery, Meyer Lemon and Black Truffles for me) continued to provide a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. For me, the utensils were far too small, especially in proportion to the over-sized plates. For Jane, they were just right. “Must be a European thing,” I commented. “In France at least, the utensils are large and weighty.”
The end of our lunch neared, our broad plates were swept away and a most refined dessert cart was wheeled before us. No gloppy confections here. Instead we marveled at an array of stream-lined sweets that would be the envy of Paris’s most sophisticated pâtisserie. Sadly we declined this great temptation since we had surely surpassed our calorie count and budget by now.
We wrapped up our visit over rich coffee, served with hot, steamy milk. I was waiting expectedly for a little tray of sweets to be placed before us, just like in fine French restaurants. (Eleven Madison Park is a Relais & Châteaux after all.) Nothing came but I thought that maybe it was best not to overdo, keeping totally within the spirit of this sleek establishment. It’s O.K. to feel totally satisfied yet wanting a little more.
I felt this way about Jane as well when we bid each other goodbye as I ducked into a cab outside of Eleven Madison Park. I took solace in knowing that she’d be a best friend for life and that we had shared such an exceptional moment together. Maybe next time we’ll try Tabla.
Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue at 24th Street, 212-889-0905, www.elevenmadisonpark.com
Tabla, 11 Madison Avenue at 25th Street, 212-889-0667, www.tablany.com
I haven’t traveled many Amtrak routes in my life, but I have taken one of the most scenic—the one that stretches along the Hudson River in upstate New York—many times over. The two and a half-hour ride from Albany, New York to New York City first held me in rapt attention when I was about eight years old. This was the occasion of my first trip to New York City, a landmark moment I experienced with my mother. We boarded in Albany, just across the river from Troy, the town where I grew up.
Ever since that initial train trip, I have been transfixed by the beauty of this route, one that cuts through predominantly unspoiled countryside where development is sparse and wildlife is plenty. It’s always a good idea to board early so you can claim one of the window seats on the Hudson side since business and leisure travelers appear decidedly smitten with the views as well. Then—no matter what the season—you’ll witness some of our country’s most resplendent scenery unfold before you.