The Tough Luxury of an Alpine Hay Bath

What would the modern spa be without treatments that seem implausible, absurd even? Mud baths, hot stone treatments, even leeches offer therapeutic relief to those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. Judging by the relatively limited menu of treatments on offer at spas, it is clear that discoveries of good new treatments are rare. So, when we heard tales of an obscure century-old spa tradition in a remote village in the Italian Alps we had to check it out.

The story goes like this: Like in many of the alpine regions of Europe, hay is cultivated during the summer months on the high meadows of “Seiser Alm” or “Alpe di Siusi”. This is a region that has at various times been German and Italian speaking, so it is customary to name places in both languages (far be it for us to break the rules). The hay is harvested and stored to keep the livestock fed and bedded for the winter.

It was the job of the “Senner” (shepherd) to take care of the animals on the meadows and to keep watch over the hay stores. A hut built on the meadow made do for both hay storage and accommodation for the Senner — before serving as feed for the cattle the hay served as a bed for the Senner. Senners were a notoriously healthy bunch and while the rest of the village was prone to normal winter sniffles, Senners seemed immune to them. At some point the connection was made between health and hay and an enterprising innkeeper set about recreating the hay-rich environment of the high-meadow hay hut in his inn. He called the new treatment a “Heu Bad”, which sounds just like the English translation, “Hay Bath”.

Soon those partaking of the Heu Bad reported some relief from ailments such as arthritis and rheumatism which they attributed to their time in the hay. Word spread of the medicinal effects and around 1890 a local physician, Dr. Josef Clara, spread word about the treatment around the town of Bolzano, in the valley below. The commercial endeavor took off as Bolzano’s elite headed up the Alps to take advantage of the hay bath’s therapeutic benefits.

Initially arranged in an ad-hoc manner, a Guesthouse (inn) would empty a room in their Gaststube (restaurant), fill it with fermenting hay, and arrange guests in the hay. An attendant kept watch, wiping the sweat away, waving the flies off, and keeping guests hydrated with their choice of white or red.

Even though the effects on one’s health were generally beneficial, the hygiene of the whole affair was not optimal. Over time the hay, shall we say, tended to develop a life of its own. So, around the 1960s and ’70s, the Hay Bath culture declined. Local government started to regulate the treatments. They could not be advertised as “medical” anymore, only “therapeutic” and people turned to more trendy ways of relaxing after a day of hiking.

Hay Bath

The hay bath in Voels am Schlern is an original and traces its history back to the origins of the concept. Today it is overseen by fifth generation hay bath purveyor, David Kompatscher. It was David’s mom who really brought the hay bath treatments into the modern era by creating a system of temperature-controlled single-use fermented hay prepared fresh for each individual treatment. Her solution was ingenious, combining a temperature controlled water bed overlaid with heated and perfectly steeped hay into which the spa goer is submerged.

The kind of hay and where it is grown is critical to an effective treatment. To produce the best effect David has his grown literally on highest point of the high meadows, well free of pollution and pesticides. This is how he gets what’s referred to as “fat” hay. That means the natural diversity of grasses, herbs, and flowers is very high in oils. And it’s the oils that act as a carrier for all the hay’s natural goodness into your skin as you lie steeping in a hay bath.

We accompanied David on his obscure commute to the high meadows of the Alps where his hay field is located. It’s a half day journey each way, requiring a funicular ride, a long hike (we could also have taken a bus for that part), a second funicular and then a steep climb up to David’s field. The field’s owner/caretaker also operates a tiny restaurant at the site, in summer, for hikers passing by, so it’s an excellent reward for your effort.

Back down at Hotel Heubad we finish our day in the hay. Wrapped up in the 40 degree (Celsius) hay we lay steeping for an hour followed by another 30 minutes wrapped in linen sheets to help let the essential oils, natural fragrances, and tannins work their magic. It is a truly amazing feeling that leaves you completely spent. David suggests a seven- to ten-day program of treatments and sleep to gain the full relaxing benefit of the treatment. On our next trip through northern Italy we will definitely keep a few extra days open for a stay in Voels at Hotel Heubad.

Speaking of all things hay, Hotel Heubad also served hay soup (a dish we were also served at another hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant, in an adjacent valley). We will be telling that story at a later date, but it was interesting to learn that hay is therapeutic in many forms!

With the treatment so heavily dependent on a local source of hay it is unlikely that you will find hay baths showing up at your local spa anytime soon. But being in the Alpine environment is part of the experience, so you really should go there for the full effect. If it is total relaxation you seek, this might be one of the best places on earth for you to find it.


For reservation and details about Hay bath treatments, or book a few nights at the hotel go to:

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

At The Chatwal Hotel, Experience Turn of the Century Manhattan Today

Off Manhattan’s 44th Street, a few steps from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, is The Chatwal Hotel. A few years ago this amazing property got a new lease on life. From what used to be the exclusive haunt of The Lambs Club, Midtown hangout for the theatrical set, The Chatwal Hotel now brings the Lambs’ vibe to all comers in need of a meal, a drink, and a room.

The prestigious Lambs was America’s first professional theatrical club. It originated in London before making its way to this side of the Atlantic. John Barrymore, Red Barber, George Michael Cohan, John Wayne, Douglas Fairbanks, and Fred Astaire were just a few of the impressive list of over 6000 Lambs members.

In 1905, the club hired celebrity architect Stanford White to design their club in Midtown. For the Lambs Club, White’s work reflected the spirit of the age — a turn of the century period of confidence and optimism in the United States that inspired the feeling that America might be the embodiment of no less than Greek Democracy, Roman Law, and Renaissance Humanism. The architecture of the day reflected this, notable examples being the homes of the Vanderbilts, the Washington Square arch, and the original Madison Square Garden, where White used to live in a grand apartment on the second floor.

“Now occupying White’s Lambs Club building, The Chatwal Hotel has opened a new chapter of this iconic building’s history.”

The extroverted White, who had a penchant for glamour and beautiful young women, was known for hosting frisky parties where the entertainment was rumored to feature a red velvet swing occupied by scandalously clad women. One of the performers, Evelyn Nesbit, became White’s downfall as her millionaire husband, Harry Kendall Thaw, shot White one night in a jealous rage. Thaw was found not guilty by reason of “temporary insanity”, a landmark case in American jurisprudence because of the novel plea.

Now occupying White’s Lambs Club building, The Chatwal Hotel has opened a new chapter of this iconic building’s history. Under the direction of Master Architect and Designer Thierry Despont, the circa-1905 building has been meticulously restored and modernized as a 76-room hotel of traditional glamour and contemporary luxury. And with a nod to one of the famous American personalities that roamed its halls, Drew Barrymore lent her name to the penthouse suite, paying homage to her legendary grandfather, a Lambs member.

One of our visits was during a steamy New York summer, when The Chatwal Hotel provided a cool, serene getaway to relax from the madness of the Big Apple, just a few steps away. Between sights we scheduled a few cool-down minutes in the lobby to sit, sip a drink,  and catch up on the news before heading back into the hubbub.

In contrast, we made another visit just before the Christmas holiday season and were amazed at how the place had transformed into a cozy winter wonderland. What was cool and quiet in the summer was now warm and festive, seemingly the perfect place for a New York stay during any season, especially for Broadway fans where all on offer is at your doorstep.

chatwal hotel

You might think that biking in Midtown would be a challenge, but it is actually an easy way to get around. Once on one of The Chatwal’s custom bikes, you realize that the crowded feeling you get while navigating Manhattan is mostly about the sidewalk. Once freed from its confines you can glide through Manhattan’s canyons with ease.

The bikes come with a handy map to help you find your way, and a classy Chatwal Hotel helmet to keep you safe. We took a quick spin up to Central Park which took no time at all, and spent a few hours exploring the park. Nothing like spending a hot day in New York with a cool breeze blowing on your face.

chatwal hotel

If you time it right, another fun thing to do during the summer months is to take in a free classic movie in Bryant Park. It’s a quintesential New York thing to do on a balmy summer night, less than a five minute walk from The Chatwal Hotel. And on a Chatwal bike, it takes only a minute!

chatwal hotel

Experiencing New York is very much about searching out the latest, the newest, things that can’t be found anywhere else. But what makes it unique is that all that new stuff is in a setting of tradition and history. The Chatwal Hotel is a great place to enjoy all the Big Apple still has to offer while experiencing a piece of old New York glamour.


To find out more and to make a booking at The Chatwel, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Hotel V Nesplein

The Hotel V Nesplein is a recently opened, four star, 43 room hotel carved out of a former office building. The building has been lovingly restored and given new life by hoteliers and eleventh generation Amsterdamers Tom and Mirjam Espinosa. With the benefit of coming from a family who have been working in the hospitality business since the 1960s, Tom and Mirjam show their experience and passion in every detail in this their latest Amsterdam venture.

V is for Vacation

To give Hotel V its unique character, Tom and Mirjam have seamlessly mixed old world charm, quirky Dutch design, theatrical touches and a generous dose of comfort. This, along with the friendly and knowledgeable staff, makes Hotel V the perfect home base for your Amsterdam adventure.

Centrally located on the Nes, a quiet street just steps from the beautiful Dam Square, the hotel is a stones throw away from many popular landmarks and local sights. Whether traveling by bike, tram or on foot, exploring the city from here is a breeze.

Hotel V Amsterdam | Bearleader Stay No.10

Make sure you try the aptly named “The Lobby” restaurant. There is a particularly good breakfast menu available to get you charged up for a day of sightseeing. After returning from a full day, we also enjoyed tucking into the “Flammkuchen”, a kind of pizza with a paper thin crust.

Hotel V Amsterdam | Bearleader Stay No.10

The rooms are spacious with a distinctly Dutch modern decor; an easy blend of industrial chic with warm, comfortable colors and textures, along with some very smart details to temporarily accommodate your belongings. In our room we liked the worn leather chairs, bright yellow walls and especially the spacious bathroom, a rarity in many “boutique” hotels these days.

Hotel V Amsterdam | Bearleader Stay No.10

For a quick euro-city getaway to Amsterdam, Hotel V Nesplein is just the place to organize your itinerary around. And with it being lovingly created, run and frequented by locals, your stay will be all the more immersive and enjoyable.

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.


For detailed information and reservations, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Twin Farms Vermont

Arriving mid-morning on a glorious autumn day, we were greeted warmly by Brenda, the guest activities director. It had been a long drive and, noticing our need for nourishment, Brenda quickly fixed us up with some treats from the kitchen before leading us on a quick orientation walk around the property.

The story of Twin Farms begins with Nobel Prize winner Sinclair Lewis, and his equally famous second wife, author Dorothy Thompson. The story goes that Dorothy conditioned acceptance of Sinclair’s proposal on his providing them with a farm in Vermont. Sinclair was all too happy to oblige and sealed the deal with the purchase of an 18th century farmhouse, now called Twin Farms. This is the place they would call home for the span of their 14-year marriage.

Visiting Vermont Friends

Twin Farms was then acquired by the Twigg-Smith family. The Twigg-Smiths hail from the Hawaiian Islands, and were looking for a mainland country outpost for holidays and entertaining, and Twin Farms fit the bill to a tee. It was the perfect counterpoint to the equally idyllic but considerably warmer climes of Hawaii.

Evidently, Hawaii proved difficult to get away from and visits to Twin Farms were fewer than hoped. With all that Vermont beauty sitting idle for much of the year a plan was hatched to share their 300 acres of unspoiled countryside with the public.


This kicked off a long-term project to gradually add additional accommodations for guests to the original 18th century farm house, while still maintaining the farm’s quiet, low-key country ethos. Accommodation has now expanded to twenty rooms, five in the main house and fifteen other cottages scattered around the property. Situated brilliantly so they are completely private, the cottages are scattered within easy walking distance of the main house.

The atmosphere at the farm is very laid back, never stuffy. The staff go out of their way to make your stay better than you had expected. And there is so much to do at Twin Farms that each guest’s experience can be unique. Interested in bees? They can show you their own beehives. Want to take a hike? A variety of trails start at the main house.


In winter Twin Farms has its own slopes to ski and pond to skate on. Whether it be croquet, tennis, fly fishing, kayaking, yoga or a spa treatment, Twin Farms can arrange it for you. Anything else you would like? Just let the staff know and they will do their best to make it happen.

We had an idea that some biking and canoeing would be fun. Bikes shortly appeared with directions to a nice little lake about a mile from main house. We had the whole lake to ourselves that morning. It was a great way to work up a good appetite for lunch.

Twin Farm’s handy pre-arrival questionnaire means that by the time you check in the staff already knows most of what they need to make your stay run smoothly. Have any food preferences? By the time you sit down for your first meal the kitchen will already have been alerted and taken care of your requests.


The food at Twin Farms is bountiful and artfully prepared. Chef Nathan Rich’s menu of seasonal, locally sourced dishes changes daily. Our first lunch was a fabulous mushroom dish featuring a variety of local fresh-picked fungi. And some of the food is sourced REALLY close by. Chef Rich maintains a kitchen garden that supplies fresh herbs and some other seasonal goodies. Be sure to stroll through the garden for a look at what may be part of Chef Rich’s next extravaganza.

Instead of eating in the house dining room, you can picnic at one of the many scenic spots around Twin Farms. Have the kitchen make up a basket for you and dine al fresco while enjoying the magnificent view.

Fun side note: The trailhead for many of Twin Farms hikes is on the old Connecticut postal road which runs right through the property. This trail was also used in the Revolutionary War by, amongst others, General Lafayette to make his way up through the colonies. The trail passes just a few steps from Twin Farms original 18th century front door, which had us wondering if the General might have had occasion to stop in for a rest, or maybe a meal!


In the living room we noticed a beautiful half-finished wooden picture puzzle with a note attached saying “do not remove”. It seemed someone had a serious project going on there! After trying our hand at the infectious pursuit we discovered that a local company, Stave Puzzles, makes them, each piece of the puzzles meticulously cut by hand. It is unbelievably precise work.

Along with the food and the puzzles, a lot of what you see at Twin Farms is locally sourced. A notable example is the glassware and dinner service by renowned Vermont artisan Simon Pearce. Many of these items were designed specifically for Twin Farms. They are a great new addition, by the current custodians of Twin Farms, to the interior that has constantly evolved over some 300 years.

Staying at Twin Farms is very much like visiting a friend’s country home. One of the things I like about visiting friends is seeing the art and objects they collect and use to decorate their homes. Each piece is a memento of a past experience or connection with someone special. Hotels may have art but it is just not the same. The stories behind the art are missing.


The Twigg-Smiths have an eclectic and fascinating collection. Throughout the property you stumble across works by artists like Hockney, Ruscha, Johns, Twombly, Butterfield, Stella, Dine, to name a few, and other pieces from less famous or unknown origins that are appreciated purely for their curious form or unique character. The staff know many of the stories behind the works so don’t hesitate to ask about anything that takes your fancy. I am sure the piece will be even more intriguing once you know the story behind it.

Another thing the Twigg-Smiths brought back from their travels was the Japanese bathing tradition of Furo or Ofuro. Constructed on the property is a working bath house with water perfectly heated to the traditional 38 degrees. As is the Japanese way, au naturel bathing is at your option, so another very important tradition has been developed at Twin Farms. A towel hung on the door means the bath is occupied so you can relax in your pristine state with no fear of being disturbed. Emerging from a few hot plunges in the bath with ice cold dousings in-between we felt as relaxed as if we had been on holiday for a few weeks!


With the sun setting over the distant horizon we settled into some Adirondack chairs on the terrace and enjoyed a before-dinner drink. The air was crisp but the crackling open fire kept us warm.

Dinner is served, so we move indoors to the dining room.


Twin Farms is one of those places sufficiently remote from the lights of urban places that the stars make themselves brilliantly known as night falls. When in the country simple things take the fore with spectacular effect. And on this night in particular we were given a rare treat, a full lunar eclipse with a blood moon. A telescope was organized and along with the other guests we enjoyed nature’s full nighttime splendor.

The next morning after a hearty breakfast, sadly, it was time for us say goodbye. The kitchen sent us on our way with a lovely packed lunch for the trip home. Driving back through the rolling hills of Vermont we stopped in a small town, enjoyed our lunch and recalled our amazing few days at the very special Twin Farms.

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.


For detailed information and reservations, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Park Hyatt Vienna

This month we engaged world travelers and men about town Teddy and Winston to sniff out some of the exclusive services on offer at the dog friendly, Park Hyatt in Vienna. Teddy and Winston are endowed with the correct number of legs needed to help us investigate the hotel’s V.I.D (Very Important Dog) services.

Dog Friendly in Vienna

Right, so Teddy and I came directly from the airport. Nothing like rolling the windows down and getting your head out in the breeze to get a sense for a new place. The Park Hyatt is right in the Center and in no time we pulled up to the front door. Impressive front door! Looks like a bank or something. What’s that Teddy? Oh, I guess it was a bank. makes sense then.

Up the “bank” steps we go, the doorman has very shiny shoes. In my experience that’s usually a good sign. Hold up Teddy, the reservations is in my name, all prearranged by the boss.

Teddy and I give the lobby a quick going over. Beautifully restored and all the ‘bankiness’ has been nicely transformed. A lot of people go cheap on the baseboards but not here. All marble, nice touch Park Hyatt. I’m exhausted, let’s go up to the room.


Hey look Teddy, we have our own beds! I mean I can sleep anywhere but Teddy’s back gives him fits if he doesn’t get his 12 hours. And look the bowls are out, room service has already delivered lunch and the smell of cookies is in the air. Teddy! find out where that smell is coming from.

Teddy! the cookies! what? Snacks first and then we can check out Vienna. Teddy is looking at the K-9 walking map they left with the cookies. Looks like wherever you go there’s a sausage stand on the way, what a great city!


Next morning the Boss is busy but no worries, Hyatt has arranged a walker to show us around. Teddy, we’re working for Bearleader today, so we’ve got to move it. Hold on, that’s some freshly prepared food from the kitchen in my bowl, and Teddy, they remembered your wheat allergy. Let’s work on that first… and the sun’s just about to hit my bed. Maybe a quick nap before we go out. Catch you in a bit, how do they say… Aufwiedersehen!

Thanks Winston and Teddy for that fine bit of travel reporting on some of the best dog friendly accommodations.

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.


Check out all the details of the Park Hyatt’s great pet services at;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Artist Residence

We checked in at the Artist Residence hotel on a chilly Sunday night just a few months after they opened. This is the third in a series of small but well-established boutique hotels in England – the first in Brighton and the second located in Penzance.

Partners Justin Salisbury, 27, and Charlotte (Charlie) Newey, 28, have a great sense of style. Both having backgrounds in art, they built their new hotel concept around a network of prolific artists that provide a steady stream of new work to AR’s rooms and hallways.

The ten room hotel with street-level restaurant and basement bar dates back to1852 and was designed by architect Thomas Cubitt as a public house. Cubitt was the architect for many of the grand buildings around nearby Belgravia square.

Entering the hotel is a lot like visiting a friend’s apartment. No lobby, per se, just a simple check-in desk, and up you go to one of AR’s ten rooms. The rooms all differ in size and style, but all are spacious and well-appointed. We especially like the bathroom details; a quirky mix of old and new, with contrasting distressed and smooth materials for walls, counters and floors.

Need a quiet space to hang out or get some work done? The lounge area on the garden level with large leather sofas and an adjacent coffee bar will fit the bill.

Opposite the lounge is a windowless dimly lit bar with lots of cozy seating. If you want a taste of what a secret Prohibition-era bar might have been like, this must come close. Prohibition never quite made it to the UK. The closest they came was when Parliament passed the 1854 Sale of Beer Act, restricting alcohol sales on Sundays. It was quickly repealed after widespread rioting. The lesson here, don’t get between an Englishman and his pint. I guess the Americans were not as committed to their refreshments, allowing Prohibition to continue for 13 years.

While roaming the AR’s gallery-like corridors we meet owner Charlie and barkeep Max Curzon-Price, designer of the bar’s interesting mix of cocktails. Chatting with Charlie and her all-under-30 crew, you are taken in with their enthusiasm for the hotel business and their unique vision for art-inspired hospitality.

The restaurant, Cambridge Cafe, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open to both hotel guests and the public. In charge of the kitchen is head chef Radek Nitkowski who previously worked at Dean Street Townhouse, another of our favorite London accommodations.

Artist Residence is a great value. The accommodations are roomy and comfortable and you are a stone’s throw from Victoria Station for connections to overland trains, the tube and buses. To extend your art-themed stay, you are easy walking distance from the Tate Britain and the Thames where you can take the boat down to the Tate Modern and the south bank theater district.

Pimlico has long been the place of small tattered hotels and B&B’s for a pretty penny. Well those days are over, there is a new kid in town. Artists Residence is a lovely and inspiring place to stay, produced and run by lovely people with a passion for their customers’ comfort. What’s not to like?

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.


For room rates and directions go to;

And to eat at the Cambridge Street Cafe;

Many thanks to Artist Residence for inviting us to come visit.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Schloss Bernstein

Some of the best sleep-over experiences happen when the place you stay is also what you have gone to see. Taking this to the extreme, the other day I got a chance to spend the night in an art exhibit. That brought visiting a gallery to a whole new dimension! But that is a story for another time.

Better examples are historic homes, or places where a famous person stayed. These are places where the mists of time are so thick that you can easily lose yourself in the story of the place. Reports of ghosts are not uncommon in such places, and in certain ways the accumulation of things and experiences from past occupants do amount to something tangible that continues to affect visitors.

But this alchemy of experience is not easy to achieve. It requires a delicate balance between “leaving things alone” and some proper care-taking and maintenance, and it usually involves someone with a passion for the place and an enthusiasm to share it with the world. Where this is achieved, magic can happen.

On the other hand, certain comforts that we expect from normal accommodations work against us in these places. How often have you booked a room advertised as historic, only to find all the “old” is completely obscured by layers of “modern” amenities? All the magic has been cleaned out, leaving a place which, may in fact be old, but the fabric of its history is ripped beyond repair.

Schloss Bernstein

For those who seek out these rare history-packed places, we have a good one to share with you.

Schloss Bernstein is a medieval castle dating back to the 12th century. It’s located in the town of Bernstein in the Burgenland region of Austria bordering Hungary, not too far from Vienna.

Actually, Burgenland was part of Hungary until the end of WWII when it became Austria’s youngest county. The fortress, sitting on a solid rock outcropping, overlooks Styria to the south and the Hungarian Lowlands to the east, perfectly positioned to see enemies approaching from any direction.

Schloss Bernstein

For the last century Schloss Bernstein has been the home of the Almasy family. And today it is Andrea and Alexander Almasy, along with their son Erasmus, who are in residence and welcome guests into their fortress from May till October each year.

Count Laslzo Almasy … was indeed a real Count, and Schloss Bernstein was his home until he set out to explore the Middle East.

Why just May till October? Well, castles have no central heat. And if it were heated, the constant variation of temperature and humidity would eventually degrade the castle’s ancient wooden furniture and paneling, not to mention the destruction created by running modern utilities through the ancient walls. So, as it has for hundreds of years, the house slowly cools each winter and reawakens in the spring, ready for visitors. And that is why the Schloss Bernstein of today is very much the same as it was 200 years ago.

Schloss Bernstein

If the name Almasy has a familiar ring to it, you might recall in Michael Ondaatje’s 1992 Booker Prize winning novel, The English Patient, a character by the name of Count Laslzo Almasy, played by Ralph Fiennes in the movie version. And there was indeed a real Count Almasy, and Schloss Bernstein was his home until he set out to explore the Middle East.

The real Count Almasy’s story is no less exciting than the one written about in the book and you can see some of the memorabilia from his expeditions on display in the long corridors of the castle. Some of the objects are referred to in the book. I was fascinated to see the Count’s pilot license, wrist watch and his saber hanging over the daybed where he used to read, as well as some oil paintings he made as a young boy. It’s a strange mix of fact and fiction.

Around the castle you can also see vintage toys that Erasmus and his two siblings played with, and the tricycles they raced up and down the maze of castle hallways, suggesting additional layers of stories of the castle’s history.

Schloss Bernstein

When we arrived, Erasmus and his mother Andrea rushed out and greeted us warmly. They have a quiet, down-to-earth charm about them and you immediately feel that you are amongst friends.

Andrea refers to herself as restorer, gardener, cook, antique dealer, and, most importantly, the current custodian of the place. Erasmus returned home from Vienna after completing a degree in physics to help with the family business, and will eventually take over responsibility for the place. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet Andrea’s husband Alexander, who in true Almasy tradition, had taken advantage of some down time to set out on a month-long motorcycle trip.

Andrea who was born and raised in the castle tells us that in the 1950s, her mother, in order to keep the house maintained, rented out a few rooms in south wing to students wanting to learn German. Over time the castle’s southern rooms were outfitted with bathrooms, some en suite and some shared, and thus began the new Almasy tradition of hospitality.

Schloss Bernstein

You will not find any internet, TVs, minibars or even telephones here. It really is authentic. However, you will find a large selection of well-worn books in your room and all around the castle. Erasmus and Andrea are always ready with suggestions for something to read that matches your interests.

Rooms do not have numbers but rather names. The Vinzenz and Tantalus rooms have a resident ghost, “the white lady” who frequents this part of the castle. Ghosts not your thing? Maybe you would rather stay in Tanten, Kisebb, Lori, or Oklahoma. The Oklahoma room however comes with the responsibility of defending the castle in case of attack. It is outfitted with the armory ready for action.

Each room is unique, and for the most part, still contains the original furniture. As you walk around, old floors creak as they have under the feet of visitors coming and going for hundreds of years. I found the writing desks in each room particularly poignant. They must have seen their fair share of joy and sorrow, carefully written down in long hand. Large heating stoves sit prominently in each room giving a glimpse into amazing craftsmanship of days past.

Schloss Bernstein

The views out the windows are stunning. Over the green rolling hills you can see all the way to the Alps on a sunny day. It is easy to see why Schloss Bernstein has had its fair share of return guests seeking a slow, quiet respite from modern life.

Of all the stories Andrea told me during our stay, my favorite was of a guest who has been coming regularly for many years, always staying in the same room. At some point, on the wall in her room, a double-sided photo was put up. A portrait facing forward on one side and one from behind on the other. When she is in residence the forward facing portrait is on display. When she leaves the photo is turned around with her back turned to the room. It’s a perfect anecdote to describe the Almasys’ wonderfully eccentric approach to their castle.


After several hours of navigating our way through the castle’s maze of hallways and corridors, we took a little break on the terrace next to the castle tower, where Andrea surprised us with coffee and some amazing homemade cake. Andrea is a fantastic cook specializing in classic local cuisines. You will experience her talents every morning with the included breakfast, and if you like, at dinner in the castle’s “Knights Hall”. The hall is one of the most famous parts of the castle. It features a gorgeous moulded ceiling depicting scenes of Greek mythology by Italian Renaissance architect Bartholomew Bianco. Dinner in the hall features classic Austrian dishes and a great wine selection from nearby vineyards.

Looking for a quiet retreat, away from the world, and all your demanding electronic devices? This is your dream hideaway. The perfect place to let the day slowly go by.

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.


Schloss Bernstein is open from May till October. Prices include Breakfast. Dinner is served Thursday through Sunday. For more information, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Day Light, Blue Nights

Trevose Harbour House: If you have never explored Britain’s South West, there is a place on the coast of Cornwall that is a particular favorite of mine. And it is not surprising because this town has been a magnet for more than a century, attracting notable artists and all manner of spirited individuals to experience the unique combination of light, air and sea.

Before I visited for the first time I recalled reading about the “light of St. Ives” and honestly, when you have not been there it is impossible to imagine. Since I am particularly interested in the work of artists from the St. Ives School, I knew there must be something to the place, but I suspected all the fuss about the light was a little over hyped.

Boy, was I in for a surprise. It is definitely a thing. Some people say it has to do with the relationship between land and sea, with St. Ives being uniquely situated with water on two sides. That makes sense, but after several visits, I still couldn’t tell you what it is. All I can say is there’s a palpable, positive feeling that results from being in St. Ives and I suspect the light has a lot to do with it.

trevose harbour house

I have stayed in several places in St. Ives, and each time the experience was somewhat disappointing. Walking up to catch my train back to London on a recent visit a new place caught my eye. It looked promising and I made note of it for next time, the Trevose Harbour House.

On arrival Owners Angela and Olivier were at the door to meet us. Crossing the threshold we immediately felt at home. It was a rainy afternoon and the little lobby containing a cozy living room, small breakfast area and well-appointed honesty bar, was warm and welcoming. The room was light and fresh, decorated in a blue and white color scheme. The fire place was glowing.

trevose harbour house

Angela and Olivier immediately engaged us in conversation. The combination of charming hosts and an interior I could easily make my own, gave me the feeling that I was getting reacquainted with old friends. You know your old friend you don’t see very often, but you can just pick up with immediately whenever you see them? That’s the feeling.

It’s clear that Trevose Harbour House is borne of experienced hands. While the place feels casual and new, the service feels more like that of a mature hotel. Both having studied at the famed Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne and subsequently worked for some of Europe’s top hotels, Angela and Olivier live and breathe hospitality. Good service has to be pervasive and invisible at the same time, a difficult balance to maintain. But Angela and Olivier pull it off like pros.

trevose harbour house

Trevose Harbour House is only a year old, but back when it was first being considered, it was not certain at all that it would come to fruition in its current location. Olivier tells me that the original plan was to open a small hotel in Brazil. But on reflection the focus moved dramatically northeast, and with a leap of faith, they planted their dream in St. Ives. Everything fell into place when they heard that The Sunshine B&B was up for sale and they decided to have a look. “We knew in a matter of minutes this was the place” says Olivier. And so the plan was complete. With a top-to-bottom renovation Trevose Harbour House was born.

In my opinion it’s the small details that make a place, and Angela’s personal touches are everywhere. She has a clear preference for mid-century furniture, which is quite refreshing in a small seaport town where the vernacular style can get a little tiresome. From antique books and vintage suitcases doubling as night stands to mid-century cherry sideboards combined with sleek new wash basins, Angela has seamlessly combined old and new into her own signature style. I am particularly fond of how she has upholstered vintage chairs with striking patterns from Designers Guild. Great idea.

trevose harbour house

Neal’s Yard is a great British natural cosmetic brand, and the house brand for in-room personal care. You will definitely want to buy more after using their products during your stay. Rounding out the room details is the help-your-self tea service. The perfect thing after a day of hitting the surf or relaxing on the beach.

Trevose Harbour House is Your Private lookout on the Changing Light of Beautiful St Ives

As this is a Bed AND Breakfast, you will be glad to know that Olivier is as adept a chef as Angela is an interior designer. For breakfast you are in for a real treat. Olivier prepares the most important meal of the day, mostly with fresh local produce. My favorite is the heavenly home-made muesli and the perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs: yum.

trevose harbour house

I heard talk of a Trevose sponsored beehive to come. Can’t wait to try that at a future breakfast. It will go nicely with the house-made jam, on sale to take home as a souvenir.

Along with their two lovely children, the Noverraz family is an integral part of close-knit St. Ives community. As it is with small towns, everyone knows what’s going on, so Angela and Olivier can easily advise you on how to fill your days while in St. Ives. When we visited, we expressed an interest in discovering more about the artists that have made their home in St. Ives. Olivier promptly set us up with a private tour of the Sandra Blow Studio, which was a real treat. Need restaurant reservations or a surf lesson? Angela and Olivier will have great ideas for you.

trevose harbour house

On our last afternoon we took advantage of Trevose’s picnic basket service. Olivier prepared scones, sandwiches, salad, coffee and a bottle of chilled Champagne, all packed in a classic wicker picnic basket. We whiled away our last sunny afternoon on a grassy hill near the beach, enjoying the sea and the spectacular changing light that makes St. Ives such a special and a unique place.


If you plan to vista during high season make sure you book early. Personally, I prefer the off-season which is about now. For more information and booking go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Pavilion of the French Queen

Through a small passage off the north arcade of the Place des Vosges, sits the “Pavilion of the Queen” (Pavillon De La Reine), a place where you can lodge in the style of aristocrats of old, and walk in their footsteps through its historic arcades.

The Place des Vosges is always on our itinerary when visiting Paris. Usually we pick up some wine, cheese and bread, sit on the grass for a few hours enjoying the sun and architecture. Little did we know that hidden in plain sight just off the arcade is a gem of a hotel. In our opinion, this is one of the most desirable places to hang out in Paris. So we were thrilled for the opportunity to stay for a few days at the discreetly situated Hotel Pavillon de La Reine, on this beautiful and historic square.

Pavillon de la Reine, a Quiet Respite off the Busy Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges dates back to the 17th century and is the city’s oldest planned square. It really is a square, 140 meters x 140 meters, and situated between the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.


Henry IV commissioned the square sometime between 1605 and 1612 with a new idea in mind: he would have all the apartment facades constructed uniformly, with red brick and white stone, over vaulted arcades on square pillars. Two pavilions rise higher than the rest, marking the access points to the square.

Though these more prominent apartments are designated as Pavilions of the King and of the Queen, no royal ever lived on the Place des Vosges. However, this development started a building spree in Paris, spurring on the building of ever more impressive accommodations for aristocratic families around Paris.


Over the centuries many famous people lived on the square including Victor Hugo, whose former house is now the museum at No 6, infamous Cardinal Richelieu who lived at No 21, and Madame de Sevigny who lived at No 1. Today you can join the famous and infamous of the past, when you stay at No 28, The Pavillon de la Reine.

The hotel got its name from Queen Anne of Austria who once stayed in the apartments in front of the hotel looking onto the Place des Vosges.


What we particularly appreciated about The Pavillon de la Reine was its comfortable timelessness. We can thank architect Didier Benderli for the current interior, completed in the mid ’90s. By staying with a classic style rather than the trendy “modern” boutique hotel style of the time, the The Pavillon de la Reine has aged as well as the Place des Vosges itself. The use of elegant fabrics and wall coverings, mixed with both antiques and occasional modern paintings, make you feel very much at home—if your home happens to be on one of the most beautiful squares in Paris.

The lobby, two lounges and an outdoor courtyard are the hub of activity in the hotel. The lobby, set between the two dining/lounge spaces, is a classic columned space, a haven of tranquility from the busy streets of the city. In the morning, we recommend you take advantage of the hotel breakfast in these rooms. Classic Parisian fare as well as international options are available. Breakfast, as they say, “is the most important meal of the day”.


In the evening we enjoyed the “honesty” bar just off the lobby. Beverages are available on a help-your-self basis. Great idea. After our daily excursions, a drink, a book from the library and a plush chair were just the thing.

The staff is most helpful arranging reservations in local restaurants, organizing transport, and sharing recommendations of what to do and where to go. Of course, going anywhere from the hotel is easy because you are right in the middle of Paris. Should you need some additional exercise, a spa and exercise room are available.

We had a delightful stay at The Pavillon de la Reine and will return for sure.

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.


For information and booking;

We recommend making your booking early. The hotel is very popular year round so to get your choice of rooms you will should plan ahead.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Planning a visit to Pavillon de La Reine? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

Sleeping on the High Line

The High Line Hotel, new kid on the block of New York boutique hotels, is not your cookie-cutter-design tourist hotel. Entering the lobby is like stepping back in time. It is easy to imagine yourself in earlier times when wide-open spaces, horse-drawn carriages and much less hustle and bustle characterized the area. The historic building housing the hotel in the heart of Chelsea feels like an urban sanctuary, but with the advantage of modern amenities.

Situated on land once owned by the Reverend Benjamin Moore and later inherited by Clement Clark Moore, the vast country estate stretched from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River. Benjamin named it “Chelsea” after the London hospital for veterans of war. Famous for its apple orchards, it is said that New York’s “Big Apple” nickname comes from Benjamin’s famous produce.

Clement Clark, famous in his own right for authoring the Yuletide classic, “Twas the night before Christmas”, donated one of the orchards to the Episcopal diocese. And from 1817-1895 the buildings in existence today were built. Now the property is undergoing its third great transition, incorporating hospitality into its ecclesiastical use. The former seminary dormitories now form the 60-rooms of the High Line Hotel.

The High Line Hotel, New York | Bearleader No.15

Superstars of the new Americana interior design style, Roman and Williams have applied their inspired method to bringing this lovely original interior to a new use and audience. Their style blends Vintage Americana with an old-world European feel. But not in a typical gut-and-decorate process. Roman and Williams take existing conditions as an anchor for their process, building on the history and qualities they find, and with a light touch, they add modern amenities to bring spaces into the 21st century. And all without losing the intangible qualities that have built up over time. Which is pretty efficient when you think about it. Recreating the ambiance of this place would not only be challenging but cost prohibitive.

The High Line Hotel, New York | Bearleader No.15

The lobby is tiny but fit for its purpose, with a sparsely appointed table for check in, and a great coffee bar that offers a variety of stronger drinks starting around 5:00 pm. Even the choice of coffee beans is well considered. From Chicago based Intelligentsia, the High Line Hotel location is the first outlet for Intelligentsia in the Big Apple.

At the heart of the High Line Hotel is the old refectory of Hoffmann Hall, a 3,500 square-foot vaulted and paneled Gothic hall shared with the seminary. Here you can mingle with theology students who, I am sure will help you find your way in case you are lost, in the hotel, or in more metaphysical matters. Which reminds me: the High Line Hotel is available for weddings, and with its ecclesiastical underpinnings, it is particularly well suited for saying “I do”.

The High Line Hotel, New York | Bearleader No.15

I noticed as I roamed about the hotel that a theme seemed to be at play in the choice of literature scattered about. Come to find out, a complete library was acquired in tact from an avid cold-war literature aficionado. It adds an air of mystery to the ambience. If this is one of your interests, you have hours of fascinating reading material to keep you entertained when you are not out on the town.

My favorite room is off to the right of the lobby near the VIP entrance. Its seating area with a little vintage sofa is a lovely quiet spot to hang out and relax after a busy day walking the galleries of Chelsea.

The High Line Hotel, New York | Bearleader No.15

All the rooms are spacious and well appointed. Having lived in a succession of tiny New York apartments, these rooms are quite spacious in comparison. With a nod to the fresh and smart details evident throughout, you find on your desk a tool to emboss your letter and a terrarium to keep the oxygen circulating.

At the heart of the High Line Hotel is the old refectory of Hoffmann Hall, a 3,500 square-foot vaulted and paneled Gothic hall shared with the seminary.

The furniture is all vintage, collected and lovingly restored with a keen curator’s eye. The rugs are well worn and bought at auction, and there is a great collection of old paintings and drawings with an aviary theme. A great example of Roman and Williams’ ability to seamlessly mash up old and new, the 1930’s Western Electric Rotary phones are all refitted for free international calls from your room.

The High Line Hotel, New York | Bearleader No.15

This is definitely the thinking tourist hotel. It lacks a restaurant, but hey, you’re in Chelsea! You have more than your share of dining spots a few steps away. And for destinations a bit further afar, use one of the bikes supplied in front of the hotel. Riding home late at night? Keep an eye out for the authentic gas streetlights and you have arrived.


Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

The Good Host

I arrived in Chania late at night and was met by a taxi driver Ammos Hotel had arranged for me. As we set off, the driver took great care to explain the circuitous route we would be taking. I wasn’t sure why he went to such lengths to describe the short trip, but I was excited to have arrived, and quickly put it out of mind. Some 15 minutes into the cab ride the scenery was not quite matching up with my expectations of where I would spend my holiday. The area around the hotel was filled with suburban-looking buildings and garish shopping malls, punctuated by abandoned construction sites. A distinct 1980 package-holiday feeling came to mind. I now understood why the driver had taken such pains to adjust my expectations.

But then, after turning off the main road, winding down a quiet neighborhood street, and making a quick right turn into the hotel drive, a very different picture emerged. Nestled by the sea at the end of the street sat the Ammos Hotel – a 33-room hotel built by the Tsepetis family in the 1970’s. Their son, Nikos, a journalist by trade, took over management of the business, and in 2008, in collaboration with architect Elisa Manola, did a complete redesign. I was greeted and delivered to my room by one of Nikos’ lovely staff members, Nektaria, who made me feel at home right away.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

The next morning I met Nikos behind the reception desk. He can be found there every day, in his uniform of jeans and a revolving collection of eclectic T-shirts. He is one of a rare breed of hotel owners. He’s charming, funny, immensely patient and deeply knowledgeable about all the interesting happenings around Crete (Nikos’ blog about things he likes in Crete is worth checking out). And his personal traits extend further than just the front desk. Nikos’ keen sense of easygoing design and fashion can be seen and felt throughout the hotel. I was immediately inspired and relaxed.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

The charm at the Ammos Hotel is one part calm one part design and one part comfort. The mixture is intoxicating. The layout of the hotel flows effortlessly, with its lounge, terraces, pool, and beach access. The beach is public but the Ammos Hotel maintains its own beach chairs and palm umbrellas for guests. With pool and ocean adjacent to each other you can easily satisfy your bathing whims. There is always a perfect place available to lie in the sun.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

The rooms are impeccably designed and well-appointed. Beds are comfortable and the bathrooms are just right. Furnishings are minimal and custom-designed for the purpose. Each room is outfitted with a simple kitchenette. The freedom to be able to prepare a small meal and watch the sun set from your own balcony is a big plus for longer stays. I, for one, was glad for the opportunity of an occasional night in.

On my first day out and about in the hotel it occurred to me that the hotel’s clientele was distinctly on the young side. I mean really young … less than two! Families and small children are welcome at the Ammos Hotel. In fact they are catered to, and I think that is what makes it work so well. Even though I arrived with no little ones in tow, and was momentarily nervous at the sight of several toddlers, it turned out that some youthful enthusiasm actually added to the pleasant ambiance.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

At the Ammos Hotel, I sometimes felt like I was a guest at a friend’s house rather than at a hotel. Nikos and his staff took every opportunity to engage with me, whether I needed a fresh beach towel, a trip into Chania, or a rental car for a longer excursion.

The charm at the Ammos Hotel is one part calm one part design and one part comfort.

I had decided that I wanted to hike the Samaria Gorge, a hike that starts high in the mountains and ends at the sea. My plans were the subject of much discussion with the reception desk staff for the few days leading up to the event. I got a range of comments, from helpful tips to genuine concern. “Are you sure you want to do that?” I was asked more than once. On the day of my hike, I had been absent all day and tried to sneak into the hotel unnoticed after dusk, but was spotted by Penelope and Yannis, of the wait staff. They noticed my wobbly legs and said one word, “Samaria?” We laughed and exchanged some jokes and stories about the day’s amazing activities.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

If you like, you can eat all your meals at the Ammos Hotel. They have a great kitchen that cooks everything fresh from locally sourced ingredients. The regular menu of simple Greek fare is outstanding, and with daily specials written on the notice board each morning, you can dream about your next meal as you lay in the sun. Even the wine is sourced from a nearby winery, and Nikos can arrange a tour for an afternoon excursion.

I enjoyed the great weather and the lack of crowds during my stay. As with many places around this latitude, summer-like temperatures often extend into October and with the school holidays over you will have a much more pleasant experience at local attractions if you go off-season. I am planning another trip for April or May, as hiking in the beautiful Cretian mountains will be fantastic then.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

As I write this story it is raining in London. The memory of falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the waves each day is still fresh in my mind. I email Nikos to check some of my facts. He emails back right away relating that he has just finished shutting down for winter and that he was a bit sad that the season was now over. I got sad as well, imagining the hotel quiet and empty, everybody gone home until April. Looking forward to a new season opening …


We suggest you visit Chania off season, April to June or September to the end of October.

Nearest Airport: Chania Airport. Easy Jet, Condor, Aegean, Olympic and Lauda Air all maintain service to Chania Airport.

Or take the ferry from Athens/Pireas To Chania. Ferries run daily service year round. The trip takes approximately 5-8 hours and voyage is overnight.

For Accommodation contact the hotel at:

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger