Philly’s Historic Thomas Bond House

On your next trip to Philadelphia why not stay with one of the famous characters from the city’s early history? Dr. Thomas Bond was good friends with Ben Franklin, his partner in founding the first medical facility in the colonies, in 1751. He trained in Europe, chiefly in Paris, and contributed significantly to the field of medical science in early America. His house is in the heart of Philadelphia’s Old City, just a short walk from many of Philadelphia’s most iconic historic sites: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center, and the Betsy Ross House.

Built in 1769, the four-story house is historically significant as an example of classical revival Georgian-style architecture. The house served as a residence until 1810. And until it was made into a bed and breakfast in 1988, it served in a variety of capacities: for manufacturing stockings, as a leather tannery, a rag supplier, a customs broker, and a retail shop.

The parlor features a Rumford fireplace–high-tech heating at the time. The grand staircase, leading from the third floor to the garret, was copied by the nearby City Tavern. The “borrowed light window” in the garret, which allows light to get from an outside room to an inside room, is another fascinating architectural detail. The house has been carefully restored with an eye towards keeping its original details intact. So when you lock your door for the night it might be with the key used by Ben Franklin, when he stayed over after an especially late visit.

The staff is friendly and always ready with insights on where to go, what to do and how to get there. After breakfast, avail yourself of Philadelphia’s bike-share program. There is a docking station just outside the front door. So hop on and explore Philadelphia’s historical bounty.


Reserve early, the Thomas Bond House is popular, especially during big holidays and in high season. To find out more and to make a booking, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Hanok Hotel Hagindang

A city founded on its legendary access to the cleanest and most pure water, Jeonju was the birthplace of the Joseon Empire, which reigned for five centuries. How can the qualities of water inspire an empire? Well, pure water makes the brightest, finest and most durable paper, and an empire spreads its influence with the documents it produces. So out of the wellspring of Jeonju flowed the story of an empire, capturing the attention of all the surrounding territories. And it was no small matter that the waters of Jeonju ensured that the local production of Makgeolli, a sweet-rice-based alcohol, was second to none. So, virtue or vice? Both it would seem played a role in propelling the Joseon Empire to greatness.

Naturally, with the city of Jeonju being a center of wealth and prestige, its urban development was top quality and, consequently, durable. So today it stands out as one of the few places visitors can get a taste of life as the Koreans of old would have lived it. From palace to humble home, shops to tea houses, all is on display to aid you in your journey back in time.

Sadly, during the 1970s, as Korea transitioned from a rural society to a modern high-tech industrial powerhouse, many of the traditional homes, or Hanoks as they are called, were demolished to make room for modern high-rise buildings to house the ever-growing population. It wasn’t until around 2000 that Koreans began to look more closely at their past and had a renewed interest in the traditional architecture of Hanoks. Many have been restored, and people of means are once again choosing to live Hanok-style to get back to tradition.

Some Hanoks now open their doors to curious tourists and Korean visitors, and the “Hanok Bed and Breakfast” has become a popular destination for spending a few days away from the city.

The term “Hanok” describes not only the structure of traditional Korean houses, but also their settings, their layouts, and how they relate to the seasons. A proper Hanok would be set against a mountain and face a river so that the energy would flow properly through the compound. This principal is called “Baesanimsu” or “Hanja” in Korean, which literally means ideal house. In cooler areas, Hanoks are built in a closed square to better retain the heat. In southern areas where the weather is warmer, they are laid out in an open “I“ form to allow air to flow more easily.

And where extra heat is needed in the winter, Koreans were one of the first cultures to develop a system for smoke-free indoor heating. The technique was known as “Ondol” and consisted of heating rocks that in turn warmed the floors of sleeping rooms, the smoke drawn out by chimneys well away from the building. Nowadays, floor heat in the old Hanoks is still in use, but the chimneys are mostly unused remnants, replaced by more efficient electrical floor heating.

We were fortunate to spend one night at “Hagindang”, a beautiful 100-year-old stately Hanok, that was once the home of an important Jeonju government official called Baek Nak-joong. Today Hagindang is still run by the Baek-Nak-joong family.

Upon entering the Hagindang Hanok, the mood is set by the quietly playing “Gugak”, traditional Korean music. A garden and Koi pond occupy the entry courtyard, and small bells, strategically placed around the property, chime here and there as the wind catches them—a peaceful setting, even on a cold winter’s day, as it was for our arrival.

Hagindang has several room options. At the center of the compound, the main house offers three rooms, with its own living room where breakfast is served. Beyond the main house is a block of additional rooms which were formerly the living quarters of the family.

Per custom, shoes are left at the door as your enter through sliding screens into a hallway and beyond to your room. This was our first traditional Korean Hanok experience and at first, we were confused by the lack of a bed in our room. But we quickly worked out that rolled up at the side of the room was a bed consisting of a futon-like mattress and comforter, covered with perfectly starched white linens and a small neck pillow that you unroll when ready to sleep. With our two beds unrolled on the toasty heated floor, we were ready to call it a night and quickly drifted off into Hanok dreamland.

The next morning we rose early and made our way to the breakfast room where we greeted our fellow guests and the kitchen team, with traditional Korean bow. Being the only Western tourists on this day, we were met with warm greetings and gentle instruction on how to navigate the breakfast ritual.

We take our seats at the low tables that are covered with a collection of classic white Korean porcelain dishes containing Kimchi, fish sauces and pickles. Freshly prepared little pancakes hot off the grill, and bowls of warm rice and tea were brought out as we sat. Noticing our confusion, our neighbors at the adjacent table showed us the ropes, gesturing what sauce to put on what. With no English spoken it all went amazingly well.

With a deeper understanding of Korean culture, having lived for a night as Koreans of old, we take another stroll around the garden before packing up for more Jeonju adventures.


A few important details for your trip to Jeonju: Hagindang Hanok is a very popular place to stay so we suggest you book well in advance. It is also not so inexpensive so make this your splurge accommodation. It is a great experience for travelers interested in immersing themselves in the culture, and you will most likely be the only westerner which makes the experience all the better.  It is not luxurious in a five-star kind of way, but we cannot recommend it enough.

To organize our visit to Jeonju and Hagindang Hanok, we booked the Jeonju food tour with Ongofood Tours in Seoul. With our guide, we traveled down in the morning from Seoul on the high-speed train and then took the tour, then our guide dropped us off at the Hanok. The next day we explored more of the sights and spent a few hours watching and joining in with Koreans as they went about their favorite weekend activities, a real highlight of the trip.

Ongofood will be happy to book the Hanok for you when you inquire about the Jeonju tour. book

If you want to book the Hanok directly go to The site is in Korean only but Google will translate it for you.

A great US-based travel agent specializing on South Korean tours is Good Day Tours. To find out about tours, and flights, and to subscribe to their customized tours email, go to

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Night Watch at the Great Columbia River

Their momentous journey at an end, Louis and Clark finally reached the mouth of the mighty Columbia river, catching sight of the Pacific in mid-November 1805.

Having achieved their goal the expedition’s thoughts turned quickly to making the return journey home. The men took to scanning the constantly churning waves where the Columbia thrusts its self into the Pacific for any signs of ships masts. Seeing nothing, they resigned themselves to winter on the Pacific coast and established Fort Clasop for some protection as they waited out the long cold winter months.

Today not too far from Fort Clasop is the charming seaside city of Astoria. And if you stand on the same shores that Louis and Clark did some 200 years ago there will be no shortage of ships on the horizon. The Columbia river is one of the busier shipping lanes in the pacific North West. But as a modern explorer, you can avail yourself of THE prime viewing spot at Astoria’s Cannery Pier Hotel.

Sitting on a pier, literally 600 feet out in the Columbia River, the upscale Cannery Pier Hotel puts you within hitting distance of all that is going on on the Columbia River, as well as all that quaint Astoria has to offer.


The hotel inhabits the former Union Fish Cannery offering unparalleled views of the river, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, and across the river, Washington State. Each room features a private balcony and toasty fireplace as well as a variety of other amenities. It’s a cozy comfortable place to get away and recharge.


The center of Astoria is just 10-minute walk. But if you would rather drive, the hotel offers local transportation in one of its vintage cars. Or take one of the bikes on offer for a quick pedal to town.


In case you’re after an extra-relaxing stay, Cannery Pier Hotel has you covered with a day spa, hot tub, and fitness facilities. And don’t forget to avail yourself of the hotel’s complimentary evening wine hour and daily breakfast buffet.


We had a great stay at Cannery Pier Hotel, keeping a look out from our crows-nest balcony on all the comings and goings on the mighty Columbia River, interspersed with trips into town for local shopping and some real dining treats. Astoria’s packed full of great activities for a weekend away and the Cannery Pier Hotel is a great place to headquarter your expedition to Astoria, where the Columbia meets the Pacific


For details, directions and check on special offers go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Spend the Weekend with Friends in the Catskills

Must I tell you that neither the Alps nor the Apennines, no, nor even Aetna itself, have dimmed, in my eyes, the beauty of our own Catskills? It seems to me that I look on American scenery, if it were possible, with increased pleasure. It has its own peculiar charm – a something not found elsewhere. I am content with nature: would that I were with art!

Thomas Cole


Cole, one of the founders of the Hudson River School of painting famously made this declaration in the early 19th century soon after returning from a grand tour through Italy and England.

The luscious green hills, mountains, and rivers of New York’s Catskills gave Cole ample cause to be inspired, even in comparison with the more traditionally fawned-over landscapes of Italy and England.

Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, you can see for yourself what Cole is talking about in his beautiful interpretations of the 19th century Catskills.

But let’s not rely too heavily on Cole’s word, because the Catskills are so easy to explore now, and much of the area harkens back to Cole’s time, with little development in-between. To put yourself in the middle of it, head to Bloomville and spend a few days at Table on Ten, where a contemporary group of creative New York City expats are finding inspiration in the Catskills’ rolling hills and unchanged towns.

Table on Ten has lovingly polished up an 1860s boarding house on the edge of Bloomville. That’s just a few years after Cole traveled these same roads. And the current landlord has made a conscious choice to allow the building to proudly show its stately age while putting it back into service as the boarding house it was intended to be.


That landlord is Dutch native Inez Valk, who has made this part of the world her home. In the process she has provided us with an opportunity to dive into the Catskills experience, briefly abandoning our busy city lives.

Table on Ten’s three rooms are all well-appointed, with an aesthetic that is firmly rooted in the building’s history. Each room features a bit of the original (reclaimed wood details, record players and claw foot baths) and a bit of the new (comfy Muji linens, internet radios and Wi-Fi).


The attic suite is more spacious, with an antique, free-standing bath tub, record collection and player, antique rugs, and a comfortable, large bed. I used to own records, but they have not figured in my music media repertoire for many many years. I had forgotten how great it is to put a record on the Victrola and enjoy the music. Okay, Victrolas are a bit before my time, but after we pulled Johnny Cash out of its sleeve, and pulled some drinks out of the ice chest, our Catskills weekend was rolling! A few “throwback” moments like these go a long way towards shocking you into a Catskills frame-of-mind that makes your time at Table on Ten magic!


After settling in it was lunch time and we headed back downstairs to talk to the staff and treat ourselves to some of Table on Ten’s yummy daily specials. We topped it off with and all-American pie from Four and Twenty blackbirds in Brooklyn. The staff are super helpful and great for sending you out into the rolling hills with tips on good things to do, eat and see.


We spent the afternoon exploring the area’s tiny towns–Andes, Bovina, and Delhi–and then made sure we were back in time for Table on Ten’s famous brick-oven pizza night.

Next morning, we headed down for breakfast and treated ourselves to a “Red Egg in a Pan” and “White Egg in a Pan”: two eggs baked in a tomato sauce or in a cream sauce, and served with buttered toast. Also on the menu: homemade granola, very delicious.


Table on Ten is just the right thing for decompressing and getting a much-needed dose of nature in the wonderful rural Catskills.


Table on Ten’s lodgings are very popular and weekends are booked way in advance. But fear not, you can book a Table on Ten room any day of the week, just make a note that the cafe is only open Thursday to Sunday. There are plenty of other great places to eat in the area and the Table on Ten staff will have recommendations, or you can just check out their website. If you want to join in on pizza night Friday and Saturdays, make sure you make a reservation.

For bookings and availability go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

A Quick Dip in Zaha Hadid’s Swimming Pool

I was shocked to read the news on March 31st that the iconic Iranian-born architect Zaha Hadid had passed away of a heart attack at just 65 years of age. Images of some of her amazing buildings which I had visited over the years spun in my head as I took in the terrible news.

Known for her distinctive fluid and curvy buildings, Hadid’s architecture was so new to the contemporary landscape that they sometimes seemed like alien space ships. At first glance they could look extraterrestrial, but with the passing of time, they seamlessly blended into the urban landscape, equally at home in a contemporary environment as an ancient castle.

One of her particularly fluid buildings, where form and purpose are uniquely melded into one, was the London Aquatic Centre, situated in London’s East End in Queens Olympic Park. The Centre was designed for the London 2012 Olympics, to host the swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming competitions.

At a staggering cost of 269 million pounds, it was quite a controversial proposal and not without criticism, as the British taxpayer ultimately had to pay the bill. But with all that controversy long forgotten, and with the 2012 Olympics long past, the building is free to fulfill its ultimate purpose: to serve the public in all manner of liquid sports from competitions to fitness to, as was the case on my visit, fun and games. The center is open to all Londoners and visitors alike to use every day between 6:30 am and 10 pm. And all for a mere 4 Pounds 50 a visit. Especially for a visitor like me, it’s a great way to spend a few hours in the wake of Olympians who propelled themselves to fame in those same lanes just a few years before


Naturally, the building’s form is inspired by the movement of water. This is an idea not entirely evident to all who visit. Striking up a conversation with an elderly lady in the park, “Looks to me like an Ascot hat … don’t you think?” she said. Hmm, she had a point. I replied, “Well I am off to take a dip in the hat then.” She wished me “good day” and was off, her own hat pinned perfectly in place.

Zaha Hadid Remembered at Her East London Swimming Pool

The facility contains three swimming pools. The competition pool is the largest at 50 meters long, the equivalent of four London double decker buses, and 3 meters deep. The training pool is also 50 meters long but is usually split in half with a bridge to form two 25 meter pools. The diving pool is 25 meters. The three diving platforms are tongue-like sentinels that seem to keep watch over the pools. But there are lifeguards on duty to do that job as well.


I came to do laps so I headed for the competition pool. Most days it’s organized by speed, which makes it seem competitive, and almost like an authentic Olympic swimming experience.

Marked as slow, medium and fast, you must pick the lane befitting your individual zippiness. Once you slip into a lane you feel part of Olympic history, as it was in those very lanes that Michael Phelps won his six medals, closing his Olympic career on a high note. I still remember his amazing 100-meter butterfly stroke swim like it was yesterday. Swimming in the same lane as that historic performance helps. I do my best to honor those 32 medals won by the US Swim Team, and summon my best butterfly stroke.


What I really appreciate about Zaha Hadid’s pool is its super smart layout, which quickly moves you from the entrance, through the changing rooms, and on to the pool. With very little effort you are in the water, and once in the water, you get the full effect of the voluminous interior. With massive glass walls on each side of the building, you feel like you are outside even on a dull English day. The space is flooded with light.

Speaking of swimming outdoors, did you know that until the 1908 London Olympics, swimming competitions were held solely in open water like lakes or rivers? A far cry from this high-tech water ship.


With my laps complete, it was time to move on. After a cup of tea from the cafe, I made my way back to the tube station. Turning back, I took one more look at Zaha Hadid’s building. What a wonderful gift she has given the people of London, and the occasional visitor, like me.


The London Aquatic Centre is easily accessible by tube. Before you head over check online as swimming competitions are sometimes scheduled. Very important: You are not allowed to bring anything with you into the main pool areas. So selfies will have to be taken from the bleacher area after your swim.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Hot Towel Shave for the Modern Dandy

Were Beau Brummell visiting New York today, he would certainly seek out Ludlow Blunt, Ladies and Gents Salon in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Beau Brummell was a notorious 18th-century arbiter of men’s fashion and famous for coining the term “Dandy” to define himself and other similarly disposed gentlemen, highly attuned to fashion and grooming. He would have found the “De Lux Hot & Cold Towel Wet shave” the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate the senses, and not much different from similar treatments common in the grooming establishments he would have frequented in 18th century London.

Ludlow Blunt is the brainchild of British expat Russell Manley. Russ, as everyone calls him, is a veteran of the grooming industry. He opened his first shop in the English seaside town of Brighton, before moving to London and taking over a turn of the century (that’s the 19th century) barber shop in SoHo and renaming it “Tommy Gun”. Tommy Gun quickly became the go-to grooming destination for London’s In-crowd.

I would characterize Russ as a bit of a classic dandy himself. A tall gent and keen dresser, the day of our meeting he wore a fabulous hat, custom made by an LA milliner, a bespoke linen jacket with just the right amount of bagginess, and linen pants. All looked quite understated and well broken in. The look was part explorer, part landed gentry.

In the mid-nineties, after a successful run in London’s Soho, he was ready for a new challenge and struck out once more, this time venturing a bit further, all the way to New York’s Lower East Side. Always with an eye on future trends, Russ made the move to Williamsburg to help the burgeoning dandy class of Brooklyn.


Russ has a real talent for establishing a sense of authenticity, especially in his environments. I think great spaces are a careful balance between context and vision, taking the existing conditions and making something new out of them. And most important, knowing when to stop. Not much different to what makes a great haircut, so no wonder Russ excels here.

A Hot Towel Shave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

The Williamsburg space started out as nothing more than a white sheetrock box. Visiting today you would never guess it because Ludlow Blunt looks as if it always existed on this spot. To achieve this bit of interior alchemy Russ started by tracking down an original 1870s American drugstore interior in North Carolina, crafted by one of the finest commercial fittings makers of the time, the Reine-Salmon Co of Baltimore. The rare Cuban mahogany cabinetry was in pristine condition and virtually untouched. Adding to this, Russ acquired a variety of salvaged electrical fixtures, antique lamps, and antique barber chairs, authentic right down to the footrest. Now Russ’ hard work has paid off with customers flocking to Ludlow Blunt for its unique combination of turn-of-the-century character and traditional grooming services that the modern world has done little to improve upon.


A testament to the authentic barbershop character Ludlow Blunt exudes is borne out by the regular attention of location scouts from various film and TV productions who show up on Russ’ threshold. The likes of Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and Robert De Niro have all taken advantage of Ludlow Blunt for their movies. And most recently, Steve Buscemi shot a few scenes for Boardwalk Empire.


The De Lux Hot & Cold Towel Wet shave takes about 45 minutes and you will emerge clean-faced, moisturized, relaxed and rejuvenated … or so I am told. A real treat for the modern day dandy.


For information on how to make an appointment or purchase Ludlow Blunt products go to:

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Ojai’s 10 Curious Things To Do

The Ojai valley is located in California 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles and 15 miles east of Santa Barbara. The 10-mile long valley runs east to west and is three miles wide, bordered on the north by the Topatopa Mountains and on the south by Sulphur Mountain.

Everything is a bit unique in here, and at the base of the valley’s anomalies is a geology that runs counter the norm. If you are like me, you probably never considered that valleys in general run in a north-south direction. Here is one of the few exceptions and the reason for what’s known as the “pink moment”. It occurs just as the sun sets, casting a rosy glow over the west-facing Topatopa mountains.

“Topa” is a word in the local Chumash Indian dialect meaning “Gopher”. So Topa Topa means gopher gopher. Unfortunately, the explanation ends there. The last Chumash native speaker passed away in 1965, and since the language was passed along orally, it has not survived. So the connection between the mountains and the local ground dwelling rodents will remain a mystery. But we do know that the Valley was named by the Chumash with the name “Awhay”, meaning moon, which eventually morphed into the modern name Ojai.

The valley’s Mediterranean climate and bountiful agriculture have long made it a local tourist destination drawing visitors from all over Southern California. Small hotels, hiking and biking trails and an abundance of fresh, mostly organically grown food have always been a strong draw for neighbors to the south seeking relief from some of the less pleasant aspects of that thriving metropolis.

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A common story you will hear when talking to locals is that of the visitor moving permanently to the valley. The low-key “vibe” has attracted an eccentric mix of characters over the years. Hippies, celebrities, and spiritual seekers all made the valley their home and the resulting mix of inhabitants makes for an interesting and dynamic character.

So here are just a few of the many curious things to do in Ojai, and some of the fascinating people we encountered during our brief visit.

1 de Kor & Co.

This 2,000 square foot lifestyle retail destination, housed in a former art gallery, is just off Ojai Avenue. We are greeted by one of the owners, Isabelle Dahlin, who, with her partner Rachel Marlowe, opened de Kor & Co. in 2014.

Isabell hails from Sweden and worked as an interior designer for many years in LA. Her Scandinavian aesthetic really shows in de Kor & Co.’s selection of wares. She easily mixes mid-century furniture, vintage chandeliers, eclectic artwork, and objects that will improve any environment.

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A bit of a rule breaker, Isabell has a unique way of putting things together. But the results are magical! That’s what makes browsing at de Kor & Co. so inspiring and such fun.

We found great souvenirs at de Kor & Co. Their custom-made tangerine scented candles smell of the valley’s Pixie tangerines in flower: wonderful, and a great way to remember the sights and scents of your trip when you get home.

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Don’t forget to treat yourself to a lovely cup of tea from de Kor & Co.’s tea bar before heading to the next stop.

2 Farmer & Cook

This vegetarian-only Cafe is a longtime popular hangout of for locals and visitors alike. The best thing about Farmer & Cook is that all the produce comes from their own farm so you know it must be just picked. With a menu full of fresh smoothies, juices, breakfast, and Mexican fare, deciding on a dish is not easy. If it’s the weekend, come early. It gets really busy and getting a table on the patio in the sun somehow makes everything taste better.

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3 Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room

Housed in the former firehouse, the Tasting Room of Ojai Vineyard is a great place to sample local and Californian wines. The vineyard has been going strong for over 30 years now and prides itself on its European-style winemaking. So for connoisseurs and novices alike, there is plenty here for hours of enjoyment.

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The friendly staff is all about education, so this is a great place to fill in any gaps in your Viticulture knowledge. The outdoor area is a lovely place to while away the afternoon.

4 Porch Gallery

The stately white building at 310 East Matilija Street was built in 1874 by John Montgomery for his wife Jacobita. It used to be the homestead of 1,300 acres of orchards, land which now constitutes the City. Though greatly diminished in property, the Montgomery House is again a center of activity, but now as the home of Porch Gallery, where art is the focus of attention.

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Since 2013 Heather Stobo and Lisa Casoni have made this beautiful city their home and have slowly built Porch Gallery into the local hub for contemporary art conversation. Works from a steady stream of artists from near and far regularly exhibit in the house.

Heather and Lisa are deeply embedded in the community and make sure that art is prominently featured in the daily life here. Their keen eye and enthusiasm make the gallery an essential stop on your visit.

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The “porch” part of Porch Gallery makes sure that conversation and community are never forgotten in the life of the gallery. And to see this community aspect of Porch Gallery’s mission full-swing, try to plan your visit for Sunday. This is when you will find a weekly gathering, often with live music, of people talking about the vagaries of life and art. It’s a great place to meet locals and make new friends, especially after your morning visit the local Farmers’ Market just next door.

5 Beatrice Wood Centre of the Arts

Atop a magnificent hill at the east end of the Ojai valley sits the former home of artist, Beatrice Woods, now the Beatrice Wood Centre of the Arts.

Woods was born in 1893 to a wealthy family in San Francisco. To pursue her artistic interests, she moved to Paris where she studied art, dance and acting. Returning from Paris, Woods moved to New York where she became friends with artist Marcel Duchamp and became part of the Dada movement. Her contributions to the movement eventually earned her the title, Mother of Dada.

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Hearing the spiritual leader Jidda Krishnamurti speak in the valley in 1947, she decided to leave New York and move here. Quickly becoming a major player in the local art scene, she lived here until her death at the ripe old age of 105.

From art to outdoors activities to historical monuments and much more, things to do in Ojai abound!

Her house is relatively unaltered from when she lived there. She maintained a fully functional ceramics studio in the house and this space is packed with her work. The old rotary phone on the wall still bears the marks of clay-covered hands grasping to catch a call. Though unused, we are told that the phone still rings occasionally. Maybe Beatrice is checking up on things.

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Though many who read this may think they have never heard of Beatrice Woods, I can say with confidence you are wrong. The Woods who studied theater in Paris and then moved to New York was the inspiration for the free-spirited daughter that broke with convention to become an artist, Rose DeWitt Bukater, in James Cameron’s 1997 epic, Titanic.

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Beatrice Wood Centre of the Arts now honors her memory with a museum, occasional talks, and hands-on workshops. Through its public outreach, the centre is slowly bringing notice to this famous artist and longtime resident.

In later life when asked how she stayed young Beatrice replied: “I owe it all to chocolate and young men”. I am sure living in this amazing valley helped as well.

6 Bart’s Book

A bookstore like no other, Bart’s Books began in 1964 when Richard Bartinsdale’s collection of books became so large that he decided to construct a series of bookcases along the sidewalk. The books were for sale but he was not expecting much traffic, so instead of a cash register Richard just put out a coffee tin where people could leave money for the books they wanted.

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Many years later and Bart’s quirky honesty-based bookstore has become a local legend. Today Bart’s is still independently owned and true to its origins, outdoors.

7 The Mob Shop

If you are a biking aficionado, this place is your nirvana. Amazing mountain ranges are crisscrossed with trails, and well-maintained roads wind up into the hills in every direction. To get started with all this outdoor excitement you need only visit The Mob Shop, Ojai’s friendly bike shop.

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We stopped in to meet Tim Rhone, one of Mob’s two partners. If a slow cruise around town if your speed how about renting one of Mob’s trendy Linus bikes.

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If rugged mountain biking is more to your liking, Mob has organized biking tours for all skill levels. Tours usually consist of 2 to 6 people and all the equipment you need; bike, helmet, water bottle, and gloves are all included in the price. A supply of some local citrus fruits, for which the area is famous, is even included. Custom tours can also be arranged but you need to set them up at least a week in advance. Tim and the rest of the crew at Mob are super helpful and very knowledgeable about bikes and the best spots to ride during your stay.

We suggest you reach out in advance of your visit and see what Mob can arrange for your outdoor activities.

8 Tipple & Ramble

Sune Goldsteen’s Tipple & Ramble is a picnic and culinary supply shop by day and a happening wine bar at night. It’s a fun spot to check out. The garden is wonderful and hanging out there at the end of the day with some charcuterie and a crisp glass of wine is a pure delight.

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Definitely worth adding to your to-do list. And you might also find some lovely gifts to bring home.

9 Ojai Olive Oil

At the east end of the valley is the Asquith family farm. In 1996, Ronald Asquith and his wife, Alice de Dadelsen, bought 50 acres that were originally settled by a Dutch family connected to the nearby Spanish mission.

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When early Spanish missionaries discovered the valley they quickly figured out that the climate was similar to their homeland where olive trees have thrived for many years. Olive trees don’t require much water and are relatively easy to maintain so they are a perfect crop to provide nourishment and oil for a mission eking out a tenuous existence in a foreign land. And some of those early trees are still bearing fruit today.

Originally the olive grove consisted entirely of a Spanish variety called Lecin de Sevilla. But since acquiring the groves, the Asquiths have diversified their crop by adding French and Italian varieties, making possible a set of diverse products, from edibles to skin care.

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Day-to-day management of the farm has been taken up by Ron and Alice’s son Philip, who is overseeing the farm’s development with considerable success. In fact, Philip just returned from New York where their Olive Oil won gold for their wonderful ‘Provencale’ oil.

The tasting room is set in the heart of the olive groves with tables scattered around beneath the old trees. Visiting is a special experience. You would think you were in Italy, just without the jet lag.

Make sure you purchase some Ojai Olive Oil to take home. Take it from me, the lovely blue bottles look great on the kitchen counter. And I am so glad to discover that there is a burgeoning premium organic olive oil industry growing in the US.

10 Summer Camp

Who doesn’t have fond memories of summer camp? Campfires, marshmallows, canoeing, handicrafts … the memories make you feel like a kid again. Wouldn’t it be great if we could still go?

Husband and wife team Rachel and Mike Graves agree. They even went as far as to create a whole concept store around the idea. After acquiring an abandoned gas station along the main thoroughfare, Rachel and Mike divided the space and each curated half according to their interest. Rachel’s half is a carefully curated collection of tools, objects, paraphernalia, and ephemera generally on the theme of American outdoor activities. Mike’s passion is for framing and his half is fitted out with sample displays and the framing shop.

No.75 | Curious Ojai California

This arbitrary space allocation, while quite distinct in practice, is naturally a bit leaky. It is clear when visiting that Rachel and Mike play in each other’s business and what makes the combined shop so interesting is where the overlaps occur.

No.75 | Curious Ojai California

Next to their selection of vintage finds, Summer Camp wholeheartedly supports the Made-in-America craft movement with a great selection of wares from micro-producers. Summer Camp’s stock is ever-evolving, so you never know what you will find. Check out Rachel’s successful Instagram feed to get an idea of what you might like. Call ahead and maybe they will put something aside for you.


A few good things to know before your visit: This is not a late-night party town. It’s a quiet place to enjoy nature recharge your batteries. Weather wise, it’s always nice, but it does get quite warm in July and August.

It’s easy to get to. Whether by land or air, there are a variety of transportation options. Both Los Angeles and Santa Barbera airports have easy bus/taxi connections available. Santa Barbera is of course, much closer.

Need to book a place to stay? Here are some local accommodations that we liked:

1. Su Nido Inn: A mission style hotel arranged around a breezy courtyard just off Ojai Avenue. Nice staff, spacious rooms.

2. Lavender Inn: A favorite with Wedding parties. This former schoolhouse dates back to 1874. It is a lovely place to relax and rest. We liked the afternoon Tapas, and breakfast in the main dining room downstairs is a real treat.

3. Rancho Inn: Popular with the young hip crowd, this is one of the three properties of the Shelter Social Club that is fast gaining a loyal fan base. The pool is great, and make sure you swing by the nearby Chiefs Peak bar.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

A Passage on the Cutty Sark

Even before the Cutty Sark, speed was the name of the game in the 19th-century English tea trade. The country was mad for the delicate Chinese leaves and great wealth and public adoration went to the ship that was first in retrieving each season’s first shipment. This was the age of the great three-mast clipper ships, designed to make this blazingly fast run from China to London in about 100 days.

The Cutty Sark, always fasionably late.

In 1896, the shrewd businessman John Wills inherited a shipping fleet from his father. Driven by a keen sense of competition, and not satisfied to merely participate in the tea trade, Wills wanted to take advantage of the great wealth due to only the fastest of the clippers. So he sought out a young ship designer with little experience but a reputation for innovation, Hercules Linton. Linton had just opened his own shipyard but was yet to gain any clients so when Wills showed up he was anxious to get his first commission.

A bit too anxious as it turned out. Wills, knowing he had the advantage in negations with the brand new concern, extracted an onerous contract from Linton which later was to be Linton’s undoing. But for Wills, whether lucky or calculated, his bet on the untested ship designer was spot on.

Linton quickly got to work rewriting the rules of clipper design to produce something revolutionary for the day. Clippers were fast but that speed came at a cost. Streamlined wooden hulls with great rigidity made for a speedy ship but rigidity required massive timber structures that greatly reduced the cargo space and, therefore, a ships profitability.

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Linton’s out-of-the-box thinking resulted in a hybrid hull composed of a rigid wrought iron structure sheathed with flexible wood planks. And for the real stroke of genius, Linton used for the first time on a ship’s hull a newly developed alloy called Muntz metal. This golden material resulted from the combination of copper, zinc, and iron and had the unique property of leaching copper when in contact with salt water. That made it repellent to any living thing that typically attaches itself to a ship’s hull as it sales along. With the reduction in drag from limpets, seaweed and various other sea creatures that like to hitch a ride, Linton’s new design was sure to be the quickest thing on the high seas.

In the local paper for November 23, 1869, a small announcement indicated that the previous day the Cutty Sark was launched. In that very same paper it is also announced that celebrations had just taken place to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. Ironically, the fastest clipper in the world launched on the same day clipper ships, in general, became obsolete because, with the new shipping route through the Suez Canal to China, Steamships not clippers could make the trip faster and with much greater cargos. But it would take several years for the change over to steam and in the meantime, the Cutty Sark would come prove Linton’s genius in designing the ultimate clipper ship.

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Soon after its launch the Cutty Sark had an opportunity to show its true colors. Loaded with a full cargo of tea it left China on the same tide as the Thermopylae. As the two ships headed into open waters the Cutty Sark showed her brilliance easily pulling away from the Thermopylae and eventually disappearing in the distance leaving the Thermopylae in the preverbal dust. Rounding the Cape of Africa through the Cutty Sark found herself buffeted by unprecedented storms, so much so that her rudder was ripped clean off and disappeared. Faced with the choice of either heading into port for repairs or attempting a risky repair in rough seas, the captain chose the latter which cost less time but extracted a heavy human toll. The captain’s own son was one of the crew members most critically injured by the collapse of the makeshift forge set up on deck as it was several times overturned by the rough seas.

So the Cutty Sark, while the undisputed fastest clipper on the seas, never succeeded in being first to London with the new season’s tea. But even as the looser, the Cutty Sark, captain and crew became popular heroes of the day for their daring repair and good old English determination and sacrifice.

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With steamships now dominating the tea trade, the Cutty Sark eventually shifted its attention to the transportation of wool from Australia, where for a brief time clippers were still faster in navigating the route between Australia and London.

Falling on hard times for a time and disappearing from notoriety, the Cutty Sark eventually showed up in Cornwall, was fully restored to its former glory and in 1954 made its way to Greenwich to become a museum ship and part of the National Historic fleet.

The Cutty Sark comes home.

With its grade one listed monument status and on the building-at-risk register, the Cutty Sark became an instant visitor success. That was until in 2007 when a fire broke out during some renovations. The culprit, a faulty hoover. But once again, luck won out in the end for the Cutty Sark. Most of the precious original floorboards and cabins had been moved off-site for restoration so the ship was salvageable.

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By 2010 the Cutty Sark was like new again and proudly suspended 3 meters above its new and final resting place, a glass enclosed “dry dock” designed by the British architecture firm, Grimshaw.

A new slip for the Cutty Sark.

Upon entering the dry dock you pass through the gift shop making your way along a ramp into the main body of the ship. Here you see how the ship was so efficiently loaded and a timeline is on display to lead you through the history of tea and England’s long affinity for it.

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If you have kids in tow for your visit, the interactive displays offer an engaging educational experience with listening stations where old crew members voices are represented tell tales about life on the Cutty Sark. One, in particular, tells the story of the Cutty Sark’s naming. It was suggested by Linton and Based on the epic poem “Tam o’ Shanter” by Scottish writer Robert Burns, telling the tale of a farmer named Tam who is chased by a scantily clad witch named nanny, dressed in a “cutty sark”, an archaic Scottish name for a short nightgown. An odd name for him to select for his new clipper as witches cannot cross water.

Hands-on interaction is encouraged with many installations containing drawers and interactive visuals which make the history lesson very entertaining. I especially enjoyed the moving benches which rock back and forth simulating the movement of the ship, as did several kids jumping on and off them next to me.

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Winding your way up through a small staircase to the deck of the ship you can imagine the hustle and bustle of the crew navigating the tiny spaces. Looking up you get dizzy just imagining that sails had to be set by hand climbing up and down the rigging in strong winds with the ship constantly swaying. It is not for the faint of heart.

Making your way underneath the belly of the ship is a great place to enjoy a cuppa while contemplating the true genius of Linton’s hull design and golden “high-tech” protective cladding. A short climb out of the dry dock you find yourself conveniently where you entered, in the shop.

Inspired by my maritime excursion I decide to take the boat back up the Thames to central London. A fitting end to my imaginary journey on this very real legendary clipper of high seas.


For opening hours and ticket prices go to:

Getting to the museum from central London is quick and easy on the Thames Clipper. For instrucitons click here.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Palm Springs

Long before movie stars and midcentury design aficionados discovered this bit of scorched desert southeast of Los Angeles the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians made this their home for more than 500 years. To casual visitors, evidence of the first inhabitance of the area is not always obvious. The only encounter most will experience is walking by an obscure statue on Canyon Drive depicting two native women. But just a short trip to the foot of the mountains towering over downtown you will find yourself in another world, one of lush green palms, cool breezes, and bubbling brooks. This is where Palm Springs really began.

Think of Palm Springs today though and it is modern architecture and movie stars that first comes to mind. But why did this piece of remote sun-parched sand turn into a 1920s mecca for movie stars and their architects? Well, it’s really due to a quirk of geography, and the weather surely had something to do with it as well.

Back when actors were under the control of the Hollywood movie studios, their contracts always included the “two-hour” clause. This required them to show up on set within two hours notice no matter what. It just so happens that Palm Springs is as remote a place as you can get from Hollywood and still make it back in time to satisfy the studio bosses. So the stars made this their hideaway and hired a crop of young modernist architects anxious to experiment with their wealthy clients money.

For a time, Palm Springs languished. The stars abandoned their midcentury masterpieces and the place just gathered dust. But now the legacy of those early architects is hot and the sun is shining on Palm Springs again.

“Modernism Week” is when it all happens these days in Palm Springs. It’s a great event for lovers of midcentury design. But as with most popular spots, sometimes a more relaxed time can be had by visiting just a little off the peak. So we showed up just before the banners went up on Canyon Drive announcing the big event. We had the run of the place and here are some of the best things we found.

1 Ernest Coffee


Don’t miss it. Ernest serves ever-popular Stumptown coffee as well as a variety of local patisserie delicacies. A great place to hit when your stomach is rumbling and you need a little get-up-and-go.

2 Dish Creative Cuisine


Jane Garcia-Colson is a former lawyer turned chef de cuisine. Hailing from New York, Jane’s fresh modern American menu focuses on seasonal and local ingredients. A real standout on North Palm Canyon Drive.

3 Mr. Lyons Steakhouse


Evocative of old Hollywood glamor, Mr. Lyons it is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Palm Springs. A staple in Palm Springs for over 70 years, it underwent a total makeover in 2015. Very Hollywood. Ironically it’s brand-new interiors feel more like the Palm Springs of old than they used to. With mirrored ceiling, black and white marble floors, brass fittings, leather and green velvet banquettes, a classic dining environment that harkens back to Palm Springs circa 1940.

The menu features an array of classic steak dishes. And the bar next door is a lovely place to meet with friends and enjoy one of Mr. Lyons signature cocktails.

4 Bootlegger Tiki


Coinciding with Palm Spring’s midcentury period of major growth was the 1959 addition of America’s 50th state, Hawaii. With this exotic addition to the other 49, came a national fascination with all things Polynesian. One of the more famous midcentury buildings built in Palm springs which perfectly represents this age was the Hawaiian Estates, a strange mashup of stark midcentury architecture and Polynesian Tiki-laden pastiche by the architects Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison.

This housing development was the pinnacle of “Tiki” culture writ large. But alongside this were a myriad of other Polynesian expressions, most commonly in the form of bars. I guess the cocktail is the perfect vessel in which to express the Polynesian ethos, at least in the way midcentury Palm Springs understood it.

So we were thrilled to come across Bootlegger Tiki, a dimly-lit little bar that is often referred to as the “Tikeasy”. It’s a favorite with the locals in the know. With a wonderfully kitschy and nostalgic interior, you definitely feel the Tiki influence of old Palm Springs.

Try one of their signature craft cocktails like the Pod Thai or Jaspers Jamaican.

5 Moorten Botanical Gardens


This one-acre private botanical garden was established in 1938 by Chester Moorten, a former silent movie star, and his wife Patrica. The couple spent many years collecting plant specimens from Baja to Mexico to Guatemala. Now it’s run by the Moorten’s son who still lives in the Mediterranean style house on the premises. The garden is open to the public.

Be sure to check out the exotic plants for sale. If your climate at home is suitable, What a great souvenir from your Palm Springs sojourn.

6 The Palm Springs Air Museum


This was one of the real standout finds from our visit. Situated right next to the city’s Airport, the museum is divided into three hangars. Two are themed, one focusing on the European theater, the other on the Pacific.

Most of the planes on display are kept flight-ready and the volunteers on hand to answer questions are real veterans so they likely have first-hand stories to share about the aircraft on display. You can climb into many of the planes making it a very hands-on experience. A surprisingly pleasant way to spend a few hours.

7 Scoot Palm Springs


One of the frustrations of visiting Palm Springs is you constantly find yourself stuck in a car. For you Angelenos I am sure it is par for the course. But for those of us much more accustomed to legging it, it can lead to some considerable aggravation! So here’s a workaround, get out of your car and rent a scooter.

Proprietors John Allred and David Womack caught the Scooter bug while they still lived in Atlanta and upon moving to Palm Springs decided to assemble a small fleet and treat visitors to a wind-in-your-hair Palm Springs experience. Along with your scooter, John has prepared detailed maps complete with various routes you can explore. It really is the best way to see the city.

Pick up your scooter just outside of the Ace Hotel lobby. If you think you would like to give this a go it’s a good idea to get in touch with John in advance. Especially if you are a California resident. There are some odd regulations that apply depending on where you hail from.

8 Hedge


On the periphery of Palm Springs is a district known as Cathedral City. Now this is not an area you would normally seek out but there is one destination there that’s a must-see for anyone interested in modern art and design. So for those of you like myself who are passionate about art, design and whatever falls in-between, make room in your schedule for a visit to Hedge.

The brainchild of Thomas Sharkey and Charles Pearson, Hedge originally started as a collection of furniture, art, and various objects and then, when just the right thing could not be found, Thomas and Charles started designing them. Their keen eye for curation is unique.

Between them, Thomas and Charles can sort most of your homes’ furniture, art and design needs. Thomas takes care of customers and focuses on the interiors while Charles’ specialty is garden design. An interesting side note, in a previous life Thomas was Shirley McClaine’s personal assistant so you know he comes by his relentlessly positive demeanor honestly. Seriously, from the moment we walked in Thomas made us totally feel at home. It was an absolute delight to spend some time with both him and Charles.

Charles let us peek into his office next door which is a treasure trove of works in progress and objects “not necessarily” for sale. And it is in this room that you get a sense for what a great eye and sense of design Thomas and Charles have. This space is the creative warehouse and you can feel the dynamism of various artworks and objects starting to be drawn together into collections or asserting their individuality. Their not-for-sale status makes these pieces all the more alluring. A quick warning, you are sure to fall in love with something at Hedge so be prepared to spend.

9 The Fine Art of Design


A project of long time friends Nicholas Delgado and Marielle Luisa Ortega, this vintage clothing boutique in Palm Desert is a rare find.

Palm Springs’ period of glamor coincided with Hollywood’s golden age so closets of the day filled up with the most spectacular formal and leisure wear. And a lot of those closets are still sitting there waiting for their long-forgotten contents to be revealed once more.

Nicholas tells me that many of their consignments are “first hand” as the women who purchased and wore the outfits, for whatever reason, now choose to part with them. Says Nicholas, “They know exactly when and where they bought each of the items. Our pink sofa is often occupied with people sharing stories of the items they bring in.”

A favorite with fashionista far and wide, this not-so-secret Palm Springs gem has quite a following.

10 The Amado


A self-catered boutique hotel with five units and a great pool, it’s the perfect getaway for you, or you and all your friends!

There is a building typology that developed in Palm Springs from the ’50s onward consisting of a group of small apartments all oriented towards a central common pool area. One of the units is usually larger and real-estate sales literature of the time marketed these small multi-family complexes as a way to earning an income by living in the large unit and renting out the others as holiday accommodation.

By about the ‘70s many of these had become cheap rental apartments and had fallen into disrepair. The folks at the Amado recognized the modern potential of this great midcentury typology and picked up one, lovingly restoring it to its former glory. It is truly an authentic ’50s experience. You can live like they did when Palm Springs was in its infancy.

Since the Amado is sort of a cross between a house and a hotel, it is a great place to book for a week or more and work remotely. A working holiday of sorts to give you a fresh perspective on whatever projects you have going on. The perfect antidote to writers block or whatever other professions call a temporary loss of inspiration. It worked for us!


Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Sailing in the Cyclades Islands

The first time I saw the Aegean Sea, in 2012, it was from the deck of a Blue Star ferry heading from Pireaus, the port of Athens, to Paros, one of the Cyclades Islands. I had spent many happy hours of my childhood sailing and swimming in rivers and bays on the east coast of the U.S., but I had never seen water that color — pure blue. From that moment, I knew I would someday go sailing in the Greek Islands.

In June 2015, I made my wish come true. I spent a week on the Rafaella, a 40-foot Oceanis sailboat, with my sister and Rafaella’s owner and skipper, Antonis Biskentzis, sailing from Paroikia, the main port of Paros.

Cyclades Islands

Our first stop was the main port on Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades islands. The Paros-Naxos leg of our journey was the only time we had to contend with rough seas. We had to motor into a strong north wind, with the mainsail set for some stability. Nancy and I both got queasy, but we knew that soon things would calm down and we would get our sea-legs. And indeed, after that afternoon, we felt perfectly comfortable on board.

In Naxos Town, we visited the Venetian Museum and the Folk Art Museum, explored the alleyways and shops, and had dinner in a tavern by the marina. The next morning, Antonis took us to a bakery where we bought bread hot from a wood-fired oven.

From there, we sailed south along the coast of Naxos, and began our real adventures. Antonis offered us several possible itineraries (always subject to the weather, of course). We opted to explore the wild places and tiny ports of the Small Cyclades. We spent our days sailing, swimming, and walking on shore. We ate on board, or at wonderful tavernas that Antonis recommended. The best meal we had — and one of the best Greek meals I have had anywhere — was at the Taverna Venetsanos on Kato Koufonisi, an uninhabited island with the taverna, a little church and a lot of sheep.


Often, when we stopped for our morning or afternoon swim, we were the only people in sight, anchored in a cove of emerald and turquoise water surrounded by rocky slopes. It was a feast for the senses: the slowly changing play of light and color; the buzz of cicadas in the brush, the clank of goat-bells in the hills, the lapping of water and humming of wind around the boat; the smell of salt sea and wild thyme in bloom.


We spent our fifth night on board at the port of Irakleia, which has a little harbor, complete with sandy beach. When we arrived, we had a swim, then set off to walk along the coast road to the other village on the island. We ended up exploring the hilltop ruins of a Venetian castle instead. For our final night, after a beautiful sail from Irakleia, we anchored between Antiparos, the small island next to Paros, and Despotiko, an uninhabited island that is the site of an active archeological dig. In the morning, Antonis offered us the chance to visit the main port of Antiparos, a charming town that I had seen several times before. We chose instead to have one final swim from the boat. Even within sight of the “big city” of Paroikia, Antonis was able to take us to a deserted cove where we could enjoy our last hours of meditative solitude.


For a few days after the trip was over, we still felt the movement of the boat. Even now, when I have long since regained my land legs, I can bring back a sense of deep calm and happiness remembering our week on the Rafaella.


About the author: Karen G. Krueger practiced law in New York City for 25 years. She now teaches the Alexander Technique, a mind-body method for achieving greater poise and efficiency of movement and dealing with chronic pain and stress.

Here are some tips from Karen for your excursion to the Cyclades Islands:

Hiring a Boat: Many companies offer bare-boat and skippered charters in the Greek islands. Our skipper, whom I highly recommend, has his own small company, Greek Water Yachts, based in Paroikia, Paros ( Look for discounts for early booking.

Getting There: Olympic Airlines (now part of Aegean Airlines) has regular flights from Athens to Paros, and Blue Star Ferries, Aegean Speed Lines, Sea Jets and Hellenic Seaways run ferries between Pireaus and Paros.

Our Favorite Taverna: Taverna Venetsanos, Kato Koufonisi:

Keep in Mind: Life on a small sailboat is like camping in a van: the boat has water and electricity, but in limited supply outside of ports. Your showers will be short. When you use the head (the toilet), you have to pump it out afterwards. And forget about checking your e-mails every five minutes: you may not have wifi or even 4G, and in any case, you shouldn’t be looking at a screen when you are surrounded by such beauty!

Take care in choosing your traveling companions. You will be together in close quarters most of the time. And don’t hesitate to get to know your possible skipper before committing. Make sure you discuss your desires for the trip, how you want to spend your time, and what the skipper has to offer. Are you interested in wild places, solitude and quiet, as we were? Or do you want shopping, night life and beaches with umbrellas, drinks and water sports? It pays to make sure your group and your skipper are all in agreement, or are prepared for compromise.

Also, you should get clear on what your role is on the boat. Antonis was able to handle Rafaella by himself, but we also did some crewing at our own request.

Finally, be realistic in your expectations. Sailing is dependent on weather and wind. The itinerary you hope for may turn out to be impossible. Sometimes, to get where you want to go, you may have to motor or motor-sail. When you do sail, it may be calm, exhilarating or anything in between.

With the right preparation and mindset, you can have the trip of a lifetime.

Photography and story by Karen Krueger

Eat Amsterdam

Wandering through the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam around lunch time, I can’t help dwelling on the Old Masters’ ample record of Dutch cuisine in their brilliant still life paintings. The compositions appear so rich in the bounty of the day, and often with prepared dishes that clearly reflect a high degree of culinary accomplishment, surely rivaling what was coming out of kitchens in the other capitals of Europe at the time.

Today when we think of French or Italian cuisine, there is an almost immediate understanding of what those broad national categories entail. But what about Dutch cuisine? We are in Amsterdam and clearly there is such a thing. But nothing immediately comes to mind. Why do I draw a blank on a whole nation’s cuisine?

One theory put forward by Dutch Food Critic Karin Engelbrecht is that as the colonial might of the Dutch declined and the population growth of the Golden Age tapered off, frugality took hold in Holland. Girls in “Huishoudschools” – a kind of domestic science school which was widely promoted – were encouraged to cook simple and economical dishes with few spices, which were costly: an odd turn of events since the Dutch were major traders of spice at the time. Thus the distinctive dishes that might have developed were presumably suppressed for generations.

But no longer. we have heard great things about the chefs of Amsterdam building on Holland’s culinary traditions, so we are excited to get out and educate ourselves on the current food happenings in Amsterdam.

1 Wilde Zwijne

Hopping on a streetcar towards the Oost district of Amsterdam, we are headed for the restaurant “Wilde Zwijne” or Wild Boar. Restaurant owner Julia Bachrach meets us at the door and introduces us to her partners, Faysel van Thiel, and Frenk van Dinther, who is in charge of the kitchen.

The dishes at Wilde Zwijne are all rooted in Dutch tradition, but each is remade with a new idea or special twist.


To start with, Bitterballen. It’s such a classic local delicacy so ripe for reinterpretation. Frank serves his with duck and red cabbage making for a great dish with obvious Dutch origins. Or is it duck with bitterballen? Either way the combination tastes as good as it looks.

The menu changes daily with what Wilde Zwijne’s small local food purveyors can supply. As Frank says it, his suppliers are really in charge of his daily menu.

I appreciate that Wilde Zwijne knows when to just let the food speak for its self. Frank composes a plate of fabulous cheeses from an island in the north of Holland, called Texel. A selection of tough, full-bodied Gouda-like cheeses, the tastes of which harken back to the terrain and flora of Texel. I like the idea of using food to take a virtual trip.


The decor at Wilde Zwijne reflects its attitude of letting the natural flavors of the ingredients come to the fore. Wood that is reclaimed and other salvaged materials highlight the character of materials rather than the highly finished version that we usually see. Quirky objects and taxidermy add to the story. It’s eclectic and industrial but altogether warm and comfortable

Julia says that before starting the restaurant she, Frank and Faysel spent a summer running a food cart together to see if they could all get along in close quarters. A wise move I think and the experiment seems to have resulted in an affirmative “yes”. There is a tangible team spirit that works, all the way down to the food on the plate.

Looking forward to our next visit to Wilde Zwijne and also to Julia, Frank and Faysel’s new venture, “Eetbar”, a Spanish inspired Bar/Restaurant next door.

2 My Little Patisserie

The De Pijp, is a popular neighborhood with working-class roots just outside the Amsterdam’s center. It is an area of popular street markets with a diverse multicultural population, which has become a popular destination for the young and creative to live and hang out.

We have come here to meet Aubrey Kriel, a French transplant who arrived in Amsterdam by way of Australia and New Zealand after a career in marketing. After giving up her desk job she enrolled at the Ecole de Boulangerie in Paris and apprenticed at several Patisseries in Paris and Amsterdam. Having opened the aptly named “My Little Patisserie” in early 2015, Aubrey now serves her treats to the inhabitants of De Pijp.


Aubrey’s passion is cream-filled pastries and her Eclairs have a loyal following. She bakes on-site every day in small batches. Pastries fill the display cases throughout the day from a small glassed production area behind the counter.

Along with a coffee, freshly brewed by Aubrey’s chosen local roaster, Lot Sixty-One, take a break and have one of My Little Patisserie’s treats to keep yourself nourished while exploring the neighborhood.


3 Rijsel

Heading back to the Oost area of Amsterdam, we meet Pieter Smits and chef Iwan Driessen, owners of the restaurant Rijsel. Rijsel is a Flemish slang term for the city of Lille, capital of the region of Flanders. And it is the classic cuisine of Flanders that is Rijsel’s specialty.

The menu at Rijsel is compact and changes often, except Rijsel’s very popular Rotisserie chicken, which is often on the menu, due to popular demand. We suggest a glass of Cremant before digging into your Rotisserie chicken meal. And the rest of the wine list is well curated and a great value, so expect to choose from some good options.


A Dutch journalist coined the phrase “Nouveau Ruig” or New Rough to describe the new crop of restaurants, opened by men with beards in plaid shirts in shadowy alleys at the edge of towns where space is cheap. The typical character of these places is industrial and cozy with no frills.


In most regards Rijsel fits the “Nouveau Ruig” characterization to a T. Housed in a former domestic science school, the space has co-opted the school’s ‘60s-era kitchen and dining room with minimal changes. Even the furniture and various pieces of old equipment scattered about are reminders of the room’s earlier educational use.

A cozy place with great food, a perfect place for a leisurely dinner with good friends.

4 Holtkamp

A staple on the Amsterdam food scene since the 1960s, this small wood-paneled patisserie shop is legendary. Speak to anyone that spent any length of time living in Amsterdam and they will regale you with fond memories of Holtkamp cakes for birthday and holiday celebrations. So as the Amsterdamers do … we hop on our bikes and make the short ride to Vijzelgracht 15.


The line is already out the door and cake pickups for weekend celebrations are in full swing. We join the line, jostling for space as we gradually move closer to the counter to order. Our appetite increases by the minute while we peek through the window at all the yummy items on offer.

It is early, so when we order croquettes we get some funny looks. Croquettes are more an afternoon treat so I am afraid we have just outed ourselves as tourists. Seeing the confusion in our eyes, the busy lady at the counter suggest we try one of each of the varieties available – I think she’s trying to head off any time-wasting indecision on our part. Soon our salesperson reappears with cheese, veal and shrimp croquettes carefully wrapped to go.


Back on our bikes, we find a nice picturesque spot overlooking the canals to enjoy our warm little treats. The only disappointment, we didn’t order enough! Next time we will know better and order some cake, too.

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


Amsterdam is a great city for English speakers; everybody speaks it, websites are mostly bilingual, you will feel right at home.

Wilde Zwijnen: Reservations are recommended. You can email for reservations directly or call +31 20 463 3043. Credit cards are accepted with 2% surcharge. American Express is not accepted.

My little Patisserie: Just drop in. Audrey is there most of the time and she is a delight to talk to.

Rijsel: Reservations are recommended and can only be made by phone Monday through Friday after 2pm local time. Tel. +31 20 463 2142

Holtkamp: Saturday mornings are very busy so for a more leisurely experience browsing the cakes try visiting on a weekday.

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.

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For detailed information and reservations, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Norton and Sons

Our story begins in the Valley of the Kings, a short distance from Luxor, on the other side of the Nile. The year is 1922. George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, and Howard Carter have just made the discovery of a lifetime, the 3,000 year old tomb of Tutankhamun. George Herbert is wearing a bespoke suite by Savile Row tailor, Norton and Sons.

To imagine the period, George Herbert’s family home, Highclere Castle is the fictitious home of the Crowley family. Recall Season 3 of Downton Abby which depicts Highclere around 1920. Can you picture it?

But let’s go back even further. In 1922 Norton and Sons had already been in operation for over 100 years. James Norton started the company in 1821, making it one of the oldest bespoke menswear establishments on London’s famed Savile Row. Norton and Sons’ longevity has much to do with its concentrated focus on fit and function. Whether it be formal, working, military, pleasure, hunting or safari attire, Norton and Sons has from the start been uncompromising in achieving a perfect fit for its patrons.

And as the world modernized, placing a variety of new functional requirements and constraints on clothing, Norton and Sons has been legendary in coming up with sartorial innovations to meet the evolving needs of its customers. So it is no surprise that George Herbert in the 1920s would have sought out Norton and Sons to manufacture his “high performance” outerwear to meet the challenges of the Egyptian climate.

Standing in front of Savile Row number 16, very little has changed since the business opened back in the reign of George IV. Current proprietor Patrick Grant welcomes us into the showroom, site of countless fittings over the past 200 years. Patrick took on the famous brand back in 2005 after happening upon a small “for sale” advert in the Financial Times. Having first studied engineering in Leeds and then gone on to complete an MBA at Oxford’s Said Business School, at the time bespoke suits were not high on Patrick’s list of potential business pursuits. But with this unexpected opportunity at hand, he decided to take the leap and make bespoke tailoring his business.

Norton and Sons

As it turned out though, this chance meeting of Patrick Grant and Norton and Sons was sort of destined. For any business pursuit, truly sustainable success only comes with genuine passion. And this is where Patrick proved the perfect steward for Norton and Sons’ tradition of excellence. From his early school days Patrick’s obsession for well made, good fitting clothes stood out amongst his sometime less kempt class mates. And in the context of Norton and Sons, his natural curiosity about quality, tradition, fit and style was critical in setting the direction for Norton and Sons’ third century.

For the perfect bespoke suit, go to Savile Row in London. For the best tailors on Savile Row, go to Norton and Sons.

Even though Norton and Sons is a pretty exclusive institution, when Patrick talks about the quality and longevity of clothing he never sounds elitist. For him it’s a simple argument of economy that adds the element of time when calculating the value of what we wear. To have the absolute best quality and fit for a long time is not too much more costly than buying a cheaper ill-fitting similar item year after year. This is a concept we have simply lost track of. The world needs an ambassador like Patrick to help bring us back to our senses.

Norton and Sons

To further his agenda Patrick launched a few years ago a ready-to-wear line under the name E.Tautz. The new label leverages all the knowledge of craft built up over the years at Norton and Sons to create a range of new modern classics at quite affordable prices. The E.Tautz collection covers all the standards: casual wear, suits, shirts, as well as, curiously, some men’s shirts sized for women. A great idea I think for a classic brand steeped in the traditions of men’s tailoring.

One really special thing about buying a suit at E.Tautz in London: If you need alterations to get the fit just right, it will be tailored at Norton and Sons so you get a fantastic suit with an “almost” bespoke fit. That is an amazing value!

When we meet, Patrick is not wearing a suit so I had to ask how often he dons the more formal attire. He laughs. Now that he has more visibility with his part as a judge in the BBC show “The Great British Sewing Bee”, people mistakenly assume that he wears suits all the time. Well, he does not, but even in his E.Tautz jeans and sweater, Patrick wears his clothes with such panache that it’s just as stylish as any suit. “I basically have two uniforms,” says Patrick. “A suit and tie uniform and the wide pants with a polo or simple sweater.” Practical and stylish, just what you would expect from these classic labels.

Norton and Sons

What I appreciate about Patrick’s take on being well dressed is he’s really casual about it. He has a healthy “wear what you like, clothes don’t make you interesting” attitude. He does not think people should worry too much about it. He is not about dictating rules but advocates having a good time with your chosen apparel, whatever that might be.

The only guidelines he advocates are: buy things that are not disposable, that you can wear for many years, and take care of your clothes so they last as long as possible. Maintain them, air them out, don’t dry clean them too much and choose your dry cleaner carefully. According to Patrick a bad dry cleaner can absolutely ruin a bespoke suite.

Norton and Sons

Norton and Sons produces about 200 suits a year, each one takes a minimum of 60 hours to craft. In case you ever want get one of those 200, plan on at least two fittings over several months’ time, and budget a minimum of $5,800, possibly more depending on the fabric you select. Or if you are not quite ready for that … check out one of the great ready-to-wear suits at E.Tautz for around $1,200.

It was an inspiring morning talking to Patrick about the history of British menswear and getting his viewpoint on the value of the clothes. Seeing his philosophies in action at Norton and Sons and E.Tautz was a revelation. These are truly great British companies and Patrick seems the perfect leader to guide them in developing what is sure to be British classics of the future.


For more information about Norton and Sons Bespoke Tailor, go to;

Or check out Patrick Grants work at E.Tautz;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Murals of Brotherly Love

I recently took a trip to Philadelphia. It was a bit of a leap of faith because much of what I know about the city does not really merit taking a trip to see, or see again as the case may be. Yes, I know, it’s the birthplace of America and then later … Sylvester Stallone made a movie which caught the world’s attention, and then he made five more. And sometime in between someone chopped up a steak, covered it with Cheese Whiz and onions, put it in a bun and called it a Philly Cheese Steak. All great stuff, but surely there’s more to Philadelphia than these old stereotypes.

At Bearleader, like a bear to honey, we specialize in sniffing out a destination’s hidden delights and revealing them to our readers. So, confident that Philadelphia had secrets to be revealed, we hit the road to discover its little-known treasures.

Mural: Art for the People

Here is a great thing we found that you have to visit Philadelphia to see. Did you know that aside from being the “city of brotherly love”, Philadelphia is also known as the “world’s largest outdoor art gallery”? It all started back in 1984 when the then Mayor, Wilson Goode, was trying to find a way to combat graffiti, which was blanketing the city. He proposed an anti-graffiti program as a way to channel the energy of young offenders into more productive endeavors.

Mayor Goode enlisted the help of Tim Spencer and artist Jane Golden to create what came to be known as the Murals Art Program, with a modest goal of enticing kids to participate in organized art projects, and away from producing illegal “graffiti”. Giving young graffiti offenders the option of applying their talents to a designated area with the input of the community as opposed to going to jail was an easy choice for the early participants.


Many years later, the Mural Arts Program has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Still under the guidance of Jane Golden, the Mural Arts Program is now the largest employer of artists in the country, with around 300 individuals working on projects throughout the year.

Since 1984, about 3,600 murals have been painted and about 2,000 can be found today in and around Philadelphia, with new ones going up all the time. On our tour we swung by to see one being painted, a large mural on a bare, south-facing wall in the Old City district, and had a chat with the trio of painters.

Taking advantage of one of the last warm autumn days before the season’s end, artist and lead painter Jon Laidackaer was high above the ground marking out a tiny section of the enormous wall he and his fellow artists were slowly working their way across.


Originally from Pittsburgh, Jon moved to Philadelphia ten years ago to participate in the Mural Arts Program. He was also the lead artist on the largest mural produced to date, 85,000 square feet in size and covering a parking garage close to the Philadelphia airport – just for reference, a football field is 57,600 square feet – that’s big!

In many communities the Mural Arts Program murals are treasured and beloved by their residents. This is in large part due to Jane’s early emphasis on engaging with communities to solicit participation in determining the content and, in many cases, actually painting the murals. Community buy-in on projects means that they can easily move forward, having heard and accommodated dissenting voices early in the process.


With a structure of community communication built into the Mural Arts Program’s working process, a side benefit quickly became apparent to Jane’s team. They were on the city’s front lines as de facto government representatives. So when meeting with communities to offer funding for a neighborhood mural, they often would hear about other local issues of concern to the residents. In fact, even within communities there was sometimes little communication, so bringing people together to discuss a mural also became a forum in which to discuss other issues of local concern. In this way the the Mural Arts Program became both a facilitator of change, and a conduit for communication with city government.

With its great success, the Mural Arts Program’s repertoire of production techniques has developed rapidly to accommodate a more inclusive community-based process. Early murals from the ‘80s were produced with conventional acrylic-based paints on surfaces sometimes not conducive to long-term exposure to the elements.


Learning from the past, new murals are produced with much more durability via a variety or innovative techniques. First there is the old-school method of painting directly on a wall, but not with pealing and fade-prone acrylic paint. In its place, a permanent masonry-based paint imported from a Germany is the new standard. This is what Jon and his team were using. Jon says that even the sun-drenched south-facing wall they are currently working on could easily last 30 years without much noticeable fading or damage.

Another technique utilizes a substrate of durable parachute cloth so murals can be produced off site on a horizontal surface and later installed at the designated location. This is great because, as you might imagine, having volunteer artists working high up on scaffolds may not be the best idea. Painting on the ground, everyone can get involved and it can happen year round – another important benefit.

The parachute-cloth technique led to other possibilities. One, the Mural Arts Program program goes into prisons and engages inmates in mural projects. When the murals are later installed around the city they form a point of contact between the incarcerated and their families: a tangible memento of a loved one, inaccessible by any other means.


Which brings me to one of the Mural Arts Program’s most recent projects. The location chosen for this artwork is the Friends Center, headquarters of the Quaker Society in Philadelphia. The Quaker Society has a particular interest in prison reform. Famed artist Shepard Fairey, of Obama-poster fame, was commissioned to do the work. To contextualize his work in the vein of the Quakers’ ethos, Shepard produced a work called “The stamp of incarceration” showing a young woman, Amira Mohamed, who, after being incarcerated for seven years, is now part of a rehabilitation program, and studying to become an architect.

Formally incarcerated individuals often have limited visibility within society so Shepard’s artwork places Amira in the context of a stamp, a representation reserved for those of high achievement in our society. Celebrating individuals like Amira in this format gives voice to their great achievement in turning their lives around, adding weight to the Quakers’ emphasis on restorative justice.


I sometimes think about the 1929 WPA Federal Art Project, which hired hundreds of artists and resulted in over 120,000 paintings, murals and sculptures over its 14 year span. Some of the 20th century’s greatest artists came out of the program and the public benefited greatly from their creative vision. Why, I wonder, couldn’t something like this be done today? Well, in Philadelphia the Murals Art Program is, and to tremendous positive effect. In Jane Golden’s words “Art ignites change”.

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


To get more information about the work of the Mural Arts program or to make a donation, go to;

We recommend you take one of the Mural Arts Program’s tours when you visit Philadelphia. The educators are very knowledgeable and what you pay goes right back into funding more Mural Arts Program Program. Tours run from Aril to late November.

In case you want to check out the murals on your own there are a couple of different routes to consider. Check out these walks you can do all year round.

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

Eat the Catskills

There are two ways you can go if you want to escape New York City. The most popular one follows a route east along the coast and ends up in an area general known as the Hamptons. Geographically the Hamptons is a relatively small area and with its popularity ever growing the ratio of visitors per square mile at the busiest time can reach epic proportions. If your reason for removing yourself from the city is peace, quiet and introspection, this might not be the right direction for you.

The other option is to head north up the Hudson Valley and then veer left into an area known as the Catskills. If you are inclined more towards mountains, the country and wide open spaces, head north my friend because here you can clear your head, fill your lungs with fresh air and your belly with the fresh picked bounty of some of New York State’s best small farms. Taking advantage of the rich and ready produce of the area’s local farms and a steady stream of road-tripping New Yorkers, a new generation of chefs and entrepreneurs has taken up residence in the area’s tiny towns.

Rumors of happenings in the Catskills were reaching us with such regularity that we could no longer resist the urge to take our own road trip and taste for ourselves. So here we go on our next installment of Eat a City. This month—the Catskills.

1 Table on Ten, Bloomville

For our first stop we are visiting Table on Ten and its proprietor, chef and innkeeper, Inez Valk.

After buying a lot near the small town of Bloomville a few years back and building herself a weekend cabin, Inez was looking for a way to live and work full-time in the Catskills.


Inez grew up in Holland and upon moving to New York became interested in cooking. She set about finding a way to build a business around her interests. After working for a time with Emily and Melissa Eisen of the famous Brooklyn pie company, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, she was inspired to try her hand at starting her own food and hospitality business.

For some time, while coming and going to her cabin near Bloomville she would pass a tired old boarding house where Highway 10 runs through town. It finally occurred to her that this might be a great location for her enterprise, and she investigated further. It was for sale! So Inez snapped it up and Table on Ten was born.


It has become a real meeting place for locals and New York transplants spending their weekends away from the city. In the morning, while enjoying our coffee, a procession of local farmers was coming through, dropping off their fresh produce and lingering for a quick coffee and a chat. We were quickly drawn into the conversation, hearing about the season, the weather and what was coming out of the ground this week. There are not too many places where you can so easily be drawn into local society.

Friday and Saturday nights Inez serves classic brick oven pizza, with her own sourdough base and locally famous four-hour marinara sauce. Luckily we timed our visit on Friday just right. In the afternoon everybody was busily preparing for the night’s meal. It was a hive of activity. The layout of the space is not too far removed from what you might think of as a house so that, combined with Inez’s team’s obvious dedication to getting every detail just right, it has the feel of a family preparing for a party, rather than a restaurant.


Looking around, Table on Ten is a simple place: a quirky old building brought back to life, made modern where it needs to be, but for the most part left alone. So why does it feel so special? Talking to Inez it all makes sense. Her warm, calm, confident temperament steers Table on Ten like a ship and everybody, from staff to out-of-town visitors to locals, wants to get on board.

2 Lucky Dog Farm Cafe, Hamden

A bit north of Bloomville is the town of Hamden, where we are going next to check local eatery and general store, Lucky Dog Cafe.

Holley Giles and her husband Richard purchased a 160 acre farm and moved to Hamden in 2000. While Richard has his hands full with the farm, Holley runs the cafe, store and the nearby Hamden Inn where legend holds that Teddy Roosevelt once stayed. She also has a hand in the production of several local cheeses. I guess the real question is what does Holley NOT do?


Lucky Dog Cafe serves Holley’s homemade pies, fresh sandwiches and salads. In the front of the cafe is an authentic circa 1800 general store, stocked with vintage dish towels, candies and fresh produce from the Giles’ farm and other food producers in the area.

After lunch at the Lucky Dog, visit the cheese counter and pick up some of the local Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery. It’s an upstate New York version of Tallegio. Very good.


3 Brushland Eating House, Bovina

A short drive south over rolling hills and farm land and we arrive in Bovina to visit with Chef Sohail Zandi and Sara Elbert of Brushland Eating house.

After toiling in the high stakes New York food scene for many years Sohail and Sara were ready for a big change. “Big” meaning goodbye Big Apple. Says Sara, “Our friends were all shaking their heads, they thought we were both nuts”. Undeterred by their friends’ short-sighted derision, they pulled up stakes and moved to the picturesque farm town of Bovina.


A nice two-story building on Bovina’s only thoroughfare was available. And conveniently, the previous tenant also served food, so at least they did not have to start their renovation from scratch. With Sara’s impeccable eye for interiors, Brushland’s unique character started to take shape.

The floor-to-ceiling cabinets are painted glossy black and populated with an eclectic mix of local, vintage objects. A long, shared banquet table runs the length of the room and the use of old Thonet style chairs gives the room a real 1920 Eating House feel. The creaking screen door really adds to its authenticity. Brushland is old and new, comforting and challenging, the perfect setting for Sohail’s new take on local cuisine.


The night’s menu, handwritten on a chalkboard, is simple and direct – the kind of dishes I look for in New York but rarely find. Great ingredients, no fuss, and each dish with an interesting flavor twist.

Selfishly I wish Sohail and Sara had not left the city so I could experience Sohail’s exceptional talent for food more often. His pork schnitzel, paying homage to the area’s German heritage, with homemade breadcrumbs, was delish. A salad with fresh zucchini and radishes in a yoghurt sauce was a perfect accompaniment.


The wine list is compact with a great selection from France and Italy, all at a reasonable price. On a funny note, Bovina is a dry town so Brushland is only able to serve wine by virtue of its three rental rooms upstairs. So drink up! If you get into trouble you can spend the night.

Fortunately we have a designated driver in our party so although we would have liked to stay longer, there is more Catskills to eat and we have to move on. Next stop, Phoenicia.

4 Phoenicia Diner, Phoenicia

Making our way from the farmlands of Delaware County we now follow New York Route 28 back into the forests of the Catskills.

The Phoenicia Diner has been a fixture on Route 28 for ages although for most of that time it has not been known for its excellent food. That was until in 2012, when longtime Catskills visitor Mike Cioffi purchased the Diner and breathed new life into the place. Fortunately he kept the “bones” of the place intact and focused all attention on the food.


Gone is the tired old greasy menu, and in its place they now serve traditional diner favorites with the best locally sourced ingredients available. They even make their own Corned Beef! That’s a real throwback to when diners made real home-cooked food: way before my time.

The Phoenicia Diner is super popular with locals and travelers alike. I have driven by at all hours day and night and there is always a full parking lot. We visited mid-week just as the summer season was waning and the place was still buzzing.


I asked the waitress for a recommendation and she suggested that the Skillets were a particular favorite. I can see why.

The placemats are conveniently printed with all the local highlights so you can plan what to do next as you enjoy your meal gazing across Route 28 at the majestic Mount Temper. Arriving or leaving the Catskills, the Phoenicia Diner is the place to stop for some great grub.


5 Brunette Wine Bar, Kingston

Our final stop is well on the way back to the city. We have driven as far east as we can, all the way to the banks of the Hudson River. Here we meet Tracy and Jamie Kennard in their recently opened wine bar, Brunette.

Working in graphic design and the fashion industry in Manhattan for many years, Tracy and Jamie picked Kingston as a good place to get away from the city. Now, looking for a new challenge, they have taken over a former barbershop in the gradually gentrifying Rondout district in Kingston and remade it as the neighborhood’s only wine bar.


The remade space is all Parisian bistro—if that bistro was in New York. Vintage lamps, pastel wallpaper and white marble surfaces give the space a feminine air, offset by the rough plumbing-derived shelving system that grounds the space firmly in this traditionally gritty Kingston neighborhood. There’s a nice touch in the bathroom: an eclectic collection of photographs of cool Brunettes. Tracy and Jamie have a great eye for detail.


Brunette’s wine selection is unique. Many of their offerings are unavailable anywhere else in the area, so you can be sure of some tasty surprises to challenge the palette. Tracy’s homemade cakes and delightful savory sandwiches are a perfect companion to Brunette’s wine list.

Going to or coming home from the Catskills, Brunette is a great stop along the way.

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


Table on Ten: For opening hours and to make a reservation for Friday and Saturday Pizza nights, go to; Table on Ten has three guest rooms for rent available from Thursday to Sunday. The Cafe is open 8am to 3pm for breakfast, cakes and Table on 10’s own coffee roast blend, created locally at Irving Farm.

Brushland Eating House: For opening hours and reservations, go to; To stay the night in one of Brushland’s guest rooms, book here.

Lucky Dog cafe: For opening hours and more, go to To stay at the Hamden Inn across the road from Lucky Dog Cafe, you can book a room here.

Phoenicia Diner: For opening hours and directions, go to;

Brunette: For hours and todays wine selection, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Ham House

On the bank of the Thames in Richmond, a short distance from Central London is Ham House, one of the most unique and atmospheric houses in England. This rare gem is widely recognized as the most intact and “original” 17th century building in Europe. And as is the case with buildings left to their own devices for hundreds of years, some think this house has fallen under the spell of some previous inhabitants, that it is haunted. But lets not veer off into lore, let’s look at the history.

Ham House was built in 1610 by Sir Thomas Vavsour, Knight Marshal to James I. For those uninitiated, James I succeeded Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudor rulers, and star of the movie “Elizabeth”. And we also know of James I through his “King James Bible” fame.

After King James’ passing the house went to his son Charles I, who leased it to his good friend and former whipping boy, William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart.

And what, pray tell, is a whipping boy? Because kings were understood to be appointed by God and therefore divine, no one other than the king was worthy to administer punishment to a prince. And since kings played no role in a prince’s upbringing, dealing with any wayward behavior fell to a prince’s tutor for whom it could be potentially perilous to deal out punishment.

No.62 | Visiting Ham House, The Oldest In-tact House in London

So, the ever-practical monarchy developed a workaround. A young lad of high rank was picked to grow up with a prince, to be his playmate and confidant, and to take his punishment. Having forged a strong emotional bond with his playmate, a prince would have found it hard to endure his best friend taking his punishment, and, hopefully, would behave well in order to avoid the emotional trauma.

Charles and William were so close that Ham House was given to William and his descendants for life, a rare event, as after death, property given by a king is supposed to revert back to the Crown.

No.62 | Visiting Ham House, The Oldest In-tact House in London

Later during the Civil War, William, in a shrewd move, transferred the house’s title to his wife Catherine in order to save it from being later sequestrated by Cromwell’s new government. After spending some time locked up in the Tower of London, William joined the court in Exile in Paris. Catherine, however stayed in London, and being quite the political operator herself, managed to maintain ownership of the house.

After Catherine’s death, the beheading of Charles I, and Cromwell taking power, the house was claimed by Parliament and sold. It seemed that Ham House’s luck had finally run out.

Catherine and William’s eldest daughter Elizabeth was, like her mother, a shrewd and independent woman. At the insistence of her father, she received the best of educations in mathematics, languages and science. Education for a woman at the time was extremely uncommon and learning of this caliber unheard of. But this allowed Elizabeth to hold her own in the tumultuous political landscape of the day. Not willing to let Ham House go she secretly commissioned a third party to act on her behalf, and thus managed to buy the house from Parliament and move back in.

No.62 | Visiting Ham House, The Oldest In-tact House in London

In an extraordinary display of her brilliant political maneuvering, Elizabeth entertained Cromwell at Ham House while she was secretly advancing the Royalist cause of Cromwell’s enemies with her husband, Lionel Tollemache. They were members of a secret society plotting to restore Britain’s monarchy, called the Sealed Knot. And it eventually happened. Monarchy was restored and Charles II became king. For Elizabeth’s loyal service Charles bestowed her with a lifetime pension.

So you can see that it’s a miracle the house stands today essentially unchanged. Without all these small quirks in history and the individuals who drove them, Ham House would certainly be an empty shell or worse, and not the special looking glass reflecting back to 17th century Britain that it is today.

No.62 | Visiting Ham House, The Oldest In-tact House in London

There are several magnificent aspects to the house.

Upon entering the Great Hall check out the distinctive black and white checkered marble floor. But don’t linger there. Head up the grand wooden staircase which was commissioned by Catherine and William when they took ownership. Here from the upper floor gallery you will see the Great Hall to best effect.

Without all these small quirks in history and the individuals who drove them, Ham House would certainly be an empty shell or worse …

On the second floor don’t miss the miniature collection in the “Green closet”. The green closet is actually a small room wrapped in green fabric off the “Long hall”. The miniature collection is the largest accumulation of miniatures of one family, and is largely intact. Usually you will find a volunteer on duty in the room so have your questions ready. They really know their stuff.

No.62 | Visiting Ham House, The Oldest In-tact House in London

Stroll leisurely through the upper rooms and then make your way downstairs again. In a small cozy room at the far end of the house there is a lovely small white crackled teapot on display. A fine example of Chinese Dongkhe ware and it is thought to have belonged to the Duchess.

The kitchen and Still House below stairs are especially interesting. Elizabeth was a talented and knowledgeable herbalist producing many ointments for herself and family members, remedies which might have contributed to her unusually old age of 72. She also brewed her own ale, which she supplied to staff, heading off sickness due to water-borne bacteria common in the day.

No.62 | Visiting Ham House, The Oldest In-tact House in London

Also downstairs you will find one of the oldest purpose-built bathrooms in England.

Once outside, look for the wall containing a gallery of busts of Roman emperors, and just around the corner from that you will find the entrance to the Duchess’ private Cherry Garden. Here amongst the domes of lavender and santolina focusing on a statue of Bacchus, the god of wine, the Duchess and her private guests would have “taken the air” away from the bustling activities of the house.

Near the house are the “working” gardens where the estate grew its own produce. The National Trust, which has maintained the house since the 1950s, has restored the original beds with plants dating back to the 17th century. The day of our visit I met one of the several gardeners who told me that they use seed from a few select purveyors who specialize in heritage seeds, and are diligent in maintaining the gardens in their original state.

No.62 | Visiting Ham House, The Oldest In-tact House in London

The Orangery boarders the working gardens and Ham House has converted this building into a cafe serving a great selection of soup, sandwiches and cakes all made on the premises and using produce from the gardens. Of all the National Trust food establishments I have visited this was by far the best, so count on enjoying a great lunch at Ham House.

On the way out we were saying goodbye to one of the volunteers. It was about closing time and just before we left she said “let me show you something”. She produced a large ornate key. Amazingly, it’s the original key and there is only one copy. This is a fitting wrap up for our great day at Ham House. Seldom will you find a place so complete in its architecture and all the bits and pieces that fill a space when it is lived in, right down to the key that has locked the door every night since 1610.


For details on how to visit Ham House in Richmond, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Corine’s Menagerie

Wandering the halls of great museums I often wonder what it must have been like to visit the studio of an Old Master and talk to them about their work. Maybe even buy a piece to bequeath to my descendants.

Well, old masters may be off the table, but new masters are well within the realm of possibility. And what better place than Paris to track down great and inspiring artists. Today I am heading to the 15th Arrondissement to meet artist Corine Perier at her studio and home. I came across Corine’s work online and loved seeing her regular updates. So I contacted her and arranged a studio visit.

She suggested we meet at a small corner cafe close to her house. The 15th is the largest Arrondissement and not traditionally on the tourist route. But there is some great stuff here. We arrived early so we could check out is the Parc Andre Citroen, built on the site of the former Citroen Automobile manufacturing plant. It encompasses about 35 acres and is built around a large rectangular lawn with a modern Greenhouse on either side. Definitely a fun side trip if you are looking for something new to do in Paris

Corine arrives and we set off to her studio through the small winding streets of the 15th. We learn that she was born in the 15th and has lived here her whole life. Her most recent residence is a modern flat in a building run by the Parisian municipality where she lives with her husband and two kids. A few years ago when she started painting full time she converted part of the flat into her studio.


Corine studied Art History and after graduation began a career as an art restorer where she had an opportunity to learn close up the painting techniques of the old masters. I guess Corine has done me one better in my fantasy of visiting old masters in their studios. At least in terms of technique, Corine has really gotten to know some of the greatest painters close up.

Painting on wood panels and applying the oil paint in many thin layers in the style of the Flemish old masters, Corine’s fanciful creatures have a dimensionality that makes them stand apart from their environments. As with the Flemish masters, Corine finishes each work with a glossy smooth layer which brightens the colors and brings her curious subjects to life.


We make ourselves at home in the studio and have a coffee as we look around. Corine’s fantastical little creatures keep a watchful eye on us from their perches. Their expressions are so animated, you feel like they want to be part of the conversation. My favorite piece was a portrait of strong-willed, serious-looking ram who travels in the clouds with a cheeky bird catching a ride on his head, an hourglass in his beak. A menagerie of birds, wildcats, and goat are just a few of Corine’s conjured friends that share the studio and home with the Perier family.


Corine’s imaginative work is truly unique and she is one of my favorite Parisian artists. On your next trip to Paris plan on bringing home one of Corine’s masterpieces for your collection.

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


To schedule an appointment with Corine and her fantastic friends, 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

Dennis Severs’ House

Peter Ackroyd, the British writer and critic, said of the Dennis Severs House, “The journey through the house becomes a journey through time; with its small rooms and hidden corridors, its whispered asides and sudden revelations, it resembles a pilgrimage through life itself”. The journey Ackroyd describes aptly represents the mysterious path each visitor takes through 18 Folgate Street in the East End of London.

The house is a veritable puzzle of real and constructed stories lain over one another so that the edge of one melts into another, blurring the boundaries of reality and imagination. You become implicated just by entering into Dennis’ world. To enter is to become, in some magical way, part of another story that is uniquely your own. The conspicuous absence of Dennis and the inhabitants he so carefully nurtured has created a vacuum which you are easily drawn into.

Dennis Severs

First there is the story of Dennis Severs himself. Born in Southern California in the small town of Escondido, Dennis became fascinated by all things English, especially the London light, or as some may say the lack thereof. He saved up money and in 1965, right after graduating from high school, he set out for London, where he remained until his death in 1999.

Intending to study law, Dennis enrolled in University only to change his mind shortly after and pursue a series of odd jobs. One of them, which was surely formative, saw Dennis driving horse and carriage tours through London while taking up residence in the carriage house.

The Marvels at Dennis Severs' House | Bearleader Chronicle No.58

It wasn’t until 1979 that he bought the house at 18 Folgate Street. And he was not alone in staking out territory in this area. Gilbert and George, famed British artists, became his neighbors and for a long time they were the only pioneers in that part of London. The area was run down and neglected, but, in large part because of neglect, the properties in the neighborhood maintained their original details.

One would typically set about renovating a house like this to bring it up to modern standards – at least install electricity and plumbing, as the house had none. But Dennis had other plans. He moved in immediately without any conveniences and started living like the fictitious Huguenot Jervis family who purportedly built the house in 1724.

The Jervises

Here is where the second story starts to emerge. The Jervis family were French protestant silk weavers who came to London and made it their home. Upon arrival they changed their name from the French “Gervais” to the easier and more English sounding “Jervis”.

The Marvels at Dennis Severs' House | Bearleader Chronicle No.58

Dennis conjured up the family to tell the story of the house through their lives and times. Over the years he added layer on layer to each of the ten rooms of the house, creating representations of the time and tastes of the Jervis family. With meticulous attention to detail, Dennis built up the everyday lives of the family, even down to the food they ate.

When Dennis started giving his famous nighttime tours, visitors would be dazzled by the succession of candlelit rooms, the smell of the Jervis’ meal still half consumed on the table, the fireplace crackling, and Mr Jervis’ pipe, quickly set aside as if he had to attend to something elsewhere and left the room moments before guests had arrived. He created a script for the house where each room was a scene in his own movie. Dennis coined the term “still-life drama” to describe his creation. His goal was to provide visitors with a rare opportunity to become lost in another time.

Initially, highbrow academics frowned on Dennis’ constructed fantasies as they were not factual, but reflected emotional connections to the past. But nowadays Dennis’ ideas have come into vogue through a general recognition that a certain amount of theatrics is important, or necessary, to engage the public in history by bringing the past back to life.

The Marvels at Dennis Severs' House | Bearleader Chronicle No.58

On the day we arrived at 18 Folgate Street to meet the Jervises, our host David Milne had already woken up the house in preparation for our visit. A fire was crackling in the kitchen, candles lit, and even though it was a sunny day outside the house was blanketed in a kind of twilight haze. Shutters were partially opened for the light, but not too wide as it was a cold day and too much window exposure lets the heat from the fireplace escape.

The Jervises had apparently entertained in the parlor the night before and had made a late night of it. The remnants of the evening’s food and libations littered the parlor table. It looked like great fun. I wish we had come earlier.

Walking through the dim candlelit rooms on a bright sunny London morning, I better understood the character of Hogarth’s London society scenes and realized that there was not much artistic license taken in those paintings. They were true-to-life in their depiction of London domestic interiors of the day.

The Marvels at Dennis Severs' House | Bearleader Chronicle No.58

Dennis’ house now is operated by a trust, with David Milne continuing Dennis’ life work. It’s wonderful to watch David lovingly arranging little bits here and there; a bowl with rose petals sitting on a dresser, a half finished meal on a table with a few mussels left on the plate, and playing cards left on a table in mid-game. The smoky fireplace in the top floor has left a haze in the room and the bed is still unmade. It is a very intimate scene but you never feel like an intruder. You are always part of the story as it continues along.

The Marvels

A third story surrounding the house is now just starting to take root. Brian Selznick, illustrator and author of the bestsellers, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, was so taken in by his visit to the Dennis Severs House that he made it a character in his new book, “The Marvels”. We got an advanced copy at our office in New York and were thrilled to read Selznick’s tale woven around such an intriguing place. Being advocates of experience-based travel, it is great to see a travel destination inspire such a fascinating piece of literature.

Selznick’s story takes place in the 1990s and chronicles the experiences of Joseph, who runs away from school, finding himself in the puzzling house of his estranged uncle in London. The book captures the nature of family, not necessary the one we are born with but the wider one we acquire during our lifetime. If you don’t have an opportunity to travel for a while, The Marvels takes you on a great trip from the comfort of your home. We recommend it.

The Marvels at Dennis Severs' House | Bearleader Chronicle No.58

Selznick’s and Severs’ stories are woven throughout the book. After reading The Marvels it’s clear that Selznick and Severs are kindred spirits with Selznick acting as an ambassador for Dennis’ story. Although the two storytellers never had the opportunity to meet, they have both come to share the same house through the tales they have spun.

On my way out I catch a glimpse of two well-worn New York Yankees baseball caps in the hallway, notable because they are the only modern thing I have seen on my three hour tour. I chuckled at the visual disjuncture and David responded, “Dennis wore one of those every day. We keep them there where he left them”.

The Marvels at Dennis Severs' House | Bearleader Chronicle No.58

Stepping out onto the front steps David sends me on my way. It was now lunch time in the busy Spitalfields district with people rushing through the old cobblestone streets. The modern world was a bit shocking and I wished I could retreat back to Dennis and David’s 18th century for just a little while longer.

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


To book a tour of Dennis Severs House, go to; Plan ahead, the house cannot take many visitors and tours tend to book up fast. With the “the Marvels” now on sale it will soon be an even more popular destination.

Pick up a copy of “The Marvels” Here.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Farm to Table at De Kas

On a recent visit to Amsterdam, high on my list of places to visit was the restaurant De Kas. I have followed the career of De Kas chef and food pioneer Gerd Jan Hageman, one of the driving forces behind farm-to-table cooking and sustainable produce management, and was excited to taste the fruits of his efforts. I made arrangements to meet some of the team members at De Kas, and on our first morning in Amsterdam we set out to Frankendaal Park in the East of Amsterdam to have a look.

Gerd Jan started out at Vermeer, a well-known restaurant in Amsterdam, eventually winning them a Michelin star. While Gerd Jan excelled in his approach to cuisine, the stressful environment typical of a high-powered Michelin-starred kitchen was not his favorite working environment. Without any good examples to follow and no idea of how to achieve the environment conducive to his food alchemy, Gerd Jan took a sabbatical to see if he could figure out a better way.

Gerd Jan Hageman’s Farm to Table Experiment at De Kas is Still Going Strong

Jumping forward a few years, Gerd Jan was at a friend’s farm one summer day and they happened to be cooking on an open fire in the garden. Taking vegetables right from the garden and onto the fire sparked an idea for Gerd Jan of how the connection between farm and table in a restaurant setting could be dramatically altered. Why not integrate these two types of business to create better products and a more efficient flow of activity between the two?

With this general concept in mind things gradually began to fall into place. As luck would have it, the old municipal greenhouses in Frankendaal Park that had lain unused for years were made available for development. With the help of the municipality, family, friends, and famed Dutch architect Piet Boon, the greenhouse complex was brought back from the brink of destruction and put towards a new purpose. This would be the site of Gerd Jan’s experiment, a greenhouse in the city where food could be grown, prepared and served.

Farm to Table at De Kas| Bearleader Chronicle No.59

It’s almost inevitable that this idea would have taken root in Holland in that greenhouses are quite a big deal here. Holland is where the world’s biggest greenhouses are found and they have a long history. It was the French botanist Charles Lucien Bonaparte who, in the 1800s, built the first practical greenhouses, for the production of medicinal plants, near the town of Leiden just a short distance from Amsterdam.

Today a total of 40 square miles, some .25% of Dutch land, are occupied by greenhouses. The number of people employed in the greenhouse industry totals 150,000. Approximately 4,000 greenhouses produce around 8 billion dollars’ worth of fruit, vegetable, plants and flowers, 80% of which are exported. A staggering number for such a small country.

We arrived at De Kas on a fairly dreary and cool day. Stepping inside you understand immediately why everything grows well in a greenhouse. It is light, airy, and warm, with the sweet smell of earth and produce lingering in the air. Before reaching the restaurant you must literally traverse a greenhouse, which nicely illustrates Jan’s idea that the quality of the food prepared flows directly from the healthy beds of fresh of citrus trees vegetables and salad greens surrounding the kitchen and dining room.

Farm to Table at De Kas| Bearleader Chronicle No.59

Arriving at the main dining room, the bright ceiling is dramatically lifted to 8 meters. The architecture and interior are modern with a strong sense of practicality, as you would expect of a building with industrial intentions. Down at table level, all around the room, settings with simple, colorful glasses are offset with plants, fully integrating diners into the greenhouse environment.

Accenting the glass-covered iron roof structure, large sculptural-glass chandeliers hang like floating flowers, giving the room a lovely glow at night. Which brings to mind an interesting aspect of De Kas: The restaurant has two distinct faces, depending on the time of day – a light and airy one at lunch time, while at night, the dark sky covers the restaurant giving the low night-time lighting a theatrical-romantic feel. And at night, the outdoor reflecting pool spanning the length of the dining room is especially lovely as it reflects the light of the restaurant.

The kitchen is central to the complex of rooms and provides almost a performative function for the dining room. When we showed up at the door the crew was in full lunch-prep mode. We were greeted by Sous Chef Tommy Corns who hails from Coventry, England and now calls Amsterdam home. Tommy related that he dined at De Kas on a visit to Amsterdam and right there and then decided that this is the place he wanted to pursue his career. “Ask and you shall receive” they say, and it certainly must be worth a try because Tommy is now part of the De Kas team.

Farm to Table at De Kas| Bearleader Chronicle No.59

Tommy took us through each of De Kas’ rooms. Next to the main dining room is the spacious Garden Room, complete with generous plantings and low seating areas, which give the space a kind of lounge feel. In contrast, just off the Garden Room, the “Business Table” is a quiet, private space, great if you come with a larger group of friends. Next to this is the “Bar Table” which provides a great view onto the dining room (the wait staff was just sitting down for communal lunch when we passed by). Beyond this are extensive out-door patios that greatly increase De Kas’ capacity in the summer months, or for a chilly aperitif at other times. Not for us though. The rain had started to come down at quite a clip so it was nice to stay warm and dry by the fireplace and listen to the soft patter of rain on the roof and watch the patterns of the water reflected on the floor.

Onto the kitchen proper and I found my favorite table. Adjacent to the kitchen prep area, Gerd Jan has made accommodations for two to four food aficionados like me. Book ahead for this table and the chefs will create a meal just for you and a few friends as you watch the night’s food performance unfold.

From the kitchen I catch a glimpse of someone harvesting from the lemon trees in the next room. It makes you realize what it takes to get fresh produce to a kitchen every day and the luxury of having much of your resources in-house.

Farm to Table at De Kas| Bearleader Chronicle No.59

Fresh produce is really the key at De Kas and the thing that grounds the whole proposition. The De Kas greenhouses are supplemented by a larger off-site complex that is needed to keep the kitchen constantly supplied with fresh vegetables. Gerd Jan heads up the operation: working the soil, planting, weeding, and harvesting herbs and vegetables for the kitchen every day. Rushing in, crates of vegetables in hand, Gerd Jan stops for a quick hello before dashing into a meeting. The kitchen staff gather round the crates discussing what might be constructed from the day’s harvest.

There are only a few things Gerd Jan’s greenhouses cannot provide, mainly the meat and fish. But Gerd Jan has trusted local sources for these things to guarantee that whatever is served meets his high standard for freshness.

Next we get to the best part of our visit, Tommy has prepared some dishes for us to taste. As it’s winter, we start with a salad of root vegetables with a fresh vinaigrette. This salad is a lovely mix of pickled and fresh flavors. Tommy tells us they do a lot of pickling in the kitchen to extend their harvests through the year.

Farm to Table at De Kas| Bearleader Chronicle No.59

The second dish is an earthy broth-based soup. The broth is poured over an ensemble of ingredients from a lovely glass tea pot. A really simple dish at first taste, but fragrance and flavors evolve as you eat. Fish and cabbage blend nicely and fresh herbs combine for a tasty zing at the end.

After 13 years, De Kas is still quite a unique proposition. The greenhouse/restaurant combination shows up in various configurations around the world but it is pretty rare. The success of De Kas is revealed in the numbers. Every year over 50,000 guests are served: quite a lot for a relatively small operation.

Farm to Table at De Kas| Bearleader Chronicle No.59

We are already planning our next visit for the summer months. That’s the time when you can tour the full complex of De Kas’ nurseries. Take a tip from the Bearleader, put De Kas on your to do list for you next visit to Holland.

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


For reservation, go to; We highly recommend booking the Chef’s table for 2-4 people. De Kas is happy to accommodate vegetarians, an attitude that is sometimes hard to find in Amsterdam.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Ripping the Eisbach

If you are planning a visit to the upcoming Octoberfest in Munich you might be surprised to see the occasional surfboard-toting person on a bike or streetcar or just walking down the street. It happened to me and after doing a few double takes I found myself standing next to a woman on a tram with surfboard in tow. “Are you surfing somewhere around here?” “Ya, of course” she replied with bewilderment at my ignorance. To me it was not obvious at all. Munich, being hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, does not naturally shout out “surf capital”.

I guess one needs to fully understand the Bavarian spirit of innovation and propensity to enjoy the outdoors at all costs in order to comprehend how a small river in the heart of Munich would become the river surfing capital of the world. Intrigued and wanting to find out more, I asked around and was able to find a few of the people who pioneered this sport. Now in their late 40s many of them are still surfing, now with kids in tow.

The Unlikely Story of How River Surfing Started in Munich

The story goes like this: One day years ago where Prinzregentenstraße passes over the Eisbach River it occurred to someone that it might be a good idea to throw a beer table into the river, tie it to the bridge and climb on board. Sounds ridiculous right? And dangerous. But there is no dissuading a Münchner with a plan, no matter how ludicrous.

River Surfing on the Eisbach| Bearleader Chronicle No.60

As it turned out the beer table was great fun and worked okay as a flotation device. Soon beer tables gave way to surfboards with riders holding the rope. Then one day the rope momentarily went slack. The rider suddenly realized they were actually surfing and voila “river surfing” was born.

Without easy access to commercial surfboards, people started making their own and a local industry was born. Today that industry generates over 500 boards a year, and there’s a thriving business in racks to carry the boards around.

The Eisbach is a small man-made river which runs only about a mile long. It flows underground until bursting out on the north side of Prinzregentenstraße at the edge of Munich’s English Garden. The convergence of the high velocity water and a sudden rise in the river bed creates the wave. The bridge offers a unique vantage point for observers and for this reason it can be quite crowded, as people can gather at all hours of the day.

River Surfing on the Eisbach| Bearleader Chronicle No.60

Even though the first beer tables were thrown in the river early in the 1970s the activity was officially forbidden by the city until 2010, but the city turned a blind eye as the sport continued on. The sport is now legally maintained by a group of surfers, helped by the fact that a few of those early surfers became lawyers and kept the case moving through the bureaucracy.

Along with official sanction came the opportunity for improvements, and the wave today is much improved over its earlier natural state. Submerged planks attached to the bridge by ropes, allow waves to be tuned – taller or flattened as desired.

As opposed to ocean surfing, a river wave is stationary. Instead of “catching” a moving wave, you stand facing upstream and jump onto the face of the wave. You have the feeling of traveling fast over water while not actually moving, but it is not for the faint of heart. Imagine 20,000 tons of water per second shooting towards you with a temperature, even in summer, never rising above 60 degrees. Frightening.

River Surfing on the Eisbach| Bearleader Chronicle No.60

The next day I met up with Andreas, one of the locals who owns a surf and snowboard store not far from the wave. Over a hot coffee he fills me in on the river scene before taking his turn on the wave.

I was fascinated by the orderly behavior of the surfers. They form lines on both sides of the river taking turns on the wave. Andreas says they call it the zip line. Each surfer waits their turn, board in hand. And then when the time comes, with a swift jump while dropping the board in at the same time, they land on the wave and they’re off. The experienced surfers make it look so easy gliding from side to side of the river. To the observer it is mesmerizing and appears quite impossible.

Some surfers are more experienced than others but don’t be fooled, you have to be very accomplished to stand up on this wave. And, as Andreas tells me, some of the locals don’t take well to beginners wasting time on “their” wave. It’s strange bedfellows seeing an orderly German mindset applied to a freewheeling sport like surfing.

River Surfing on the Eisbach| Bearleader Chronicle No.60

Sports that occur more naturally in Munich are snowboarding and windsurfing and many of the surfers, like Andreas, also are devotees of these sports. But for those who work in Munich, the Eisbach offers a convenient way keep active year round. Lunch time is especially busy with local professionals taking lunch on the wave.

This probably explains the incredible number of local surfers. The scene has about 1,000 active surfers and 10,000 that have tried it at least once. On average 100 surfers show up each day all year long. That was what surprised me most. On a Sunday afternoon lines on each side of the river will get quite long. When good surfers ride the wave too long those in the line will bang on their boards giving the sign to move on. Andreas tells me there are a lot of unspoken rules and signs like that that you need to learn in order to make it into that circle of 1,000.

River Surfing on the Eisbach| Bearleader Chronicle No.60

But there is a way in for those of us just starting out. There is a smaller second wave further down the river that is slower and easier learn on. Once you get the hang of the slow wave you can try your hand up river with the pros.

Fraeulein Grueneis

After hanging out at the bridge for some time I was getting chilly so I headed over to the nearby restaurant / café, Fraeulein Grueneis, to chat with owners Sandra and Henning Duerr. Henning was born and raised in Munich and an early observer of the scene. One of his young staff, Margo, just shy of 17, surfs daily after school and helps in the kitchen at Fraeulein Grueneis to make extra money. Both have very different viewpoints on the Eisbach scene.

Henning thinks that in the past the scene was quite aggressive and standoffish to outsiders. He surmises that it might be because it was illegal for so long and took on a territorial character. These days it’s much more multigenerational and inclusive. That’s Margo’s experience, who, by the way, arrived at work on a bike, board in hand, a balancing act in itself. She tells me she’s surfing on Eisbach year round as her high school is conveniently close by.

River Surfing on the Eisbach| Bearleader Chronicle No.60

Having had our fill of Fraeulein Grueneis coffee and cake we made our way back out of the English Gardens and back over the bridge. A kid of about 10 years is tearing up the wave and then he is followed by someone 60+ who was no slouch himself. The line was old and young, men and women, all types and sizes. From strange beginnings, it has become a very inclusive and totally unique sport.

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


For the best vantage point to watch the surfing check out the map below.

Feeling peckish stop by the nearby Fraeulein Grueneis. It’s a great place for a meal, a snack or a drink. For More information, go to;

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

Eat London

“The art of cooking as practiced by Englishmen does not extend much beyond roast beef and plum pudding”, said Swedish explorer Pehr Kalm in 1748 on the occasion of his visit to the English capital. And I am sure that Pehr was absolutely correct in his estimation of English cuisine, as this was the general takeaway of visitors until just a few years ago. But the cliché of bad and tasteless food in England no longer applies. To the surprise of many around the world who have not passed through the British capital lately, London has been for a few years now a must stop destination for foodies worldwide.

With a bevy of famous British television chefs leading the charge, the Brits are cooking up a storm. And although one of the first things you hear when striking up a conversation about London is “it’s so expensive”, don’t believe a word of it when it comes to food. Sure you can easily spend a fortune on food in London, but good food doesn’t necessarily equate with a rich budget. There are plenty of outstanding places to dine that won’t break the bank.

For the latest installment of our regular feature, “Eat a city” we are heading to London with a list of establishments offering diverse food at great prices in sometimes unexpected locations.

1 Carousel

With a short trip on the tube, we arrive at Baker Street station and walk a few blocks into the London neighborhood of Marylebone. Arriving at the restaurant Carousel we meet the young cousins of the Templeton family who are well on their way to establishing themselves as food innovators on the London food scene.

Olli, Anna, Will, and Ed tell me they caught the family business bug early following the example of their two dads who were also in business together. It is immediately evident that the cousins complement each other. As we chat they talk in a kind of shorthand, finishing each other’s sentences, and are quick to point out their partners’ strengths over their own. It’s the kind of relationship that could only be found in a family. And the same respectful deference is given when talking about the visiting chefs that they invite in every few weeks to take control of the kitchen and menu.


Carousel’s concept is as refreshing as it is unique. Instead of sticking to one genre of cooking they have made variety their mainstay. Tapping young and up-and-coming chefs from all parts of the globe, they invite them to take over the kitchen for a few weeks at a time to bring their diverse ideas to the hungry London foodie scene. Carousel then works together with the guest chef to source the best British produce to complement the chef’s cuisine. Olli tells me that many of their guest chefs are really excited to have access to the renowned British local produce for their dishes which, in turn, inspires their varied creations.

And the range of cooking styles on display at Carousel is something to behold. Browsing the upcoming schedule on their website, you can find something for every taste, currently available or coming soon.

Located in a former ‘60s office building, Carousel’s space is split into three levels. The upper floor functions as a gallery with the same curatorial spirit as the kitchen, bringing in a different artist each month and exposing their work to the London scene. It’s also a great event space which is available for private hire, as is the basement.


On the ground level is the dining area, where guests gather together Tuesday to Saturday around two long communal tables. There is a small bar for drinks before the meal and an open kitchen where the full theater of the day’s culinary performance is on display. When I arrive the pre-show is in full swing. The atmosphere is relaxed and warm. Staffers are friendly and clearly enthusiastic about the food as they get detailed descriptions of each of the dishes that they will be serving.

The innovative thinking at Carousel does not stop with its curatorial chef program. They are also forging a revolutionary system of food management that enables them to greatly increase their efficiency in making sure almost every delicious morsel of food purchased is served to diners.

This is accomplished by expanding their online reservations system to include your seat selection, your choice of meal and payment in advance: Once you book a meal at Carousel all you have to do focus on food and conversation. All the necessary but less enjoyable parts of dining out will already have been taken care of well in advance, and the team knows exactly how much food is required each night. The Templetons hope the idea will catch on and that the vast amount of food wasted each day by restaurants can be avoided


On the day of my visit the culinary team “Cooking in Motion” was in residency. Cooking in motion is the brainchild of Chef Sebastian Mazzola and his partner, sommelier Sussie Villarico. They travel the world to promote their passion for Peruvian Japanese cooking.

Mazzola has quite the resume. Starting at the famed El Buli restaurant in Spain, he then went on to run Pacta in Barcelona, another of the Ferian restaurant group.

His plates are pure perfection with a delicate balance of craft, creativity and flavor. The food looks amazing and tastes even better. Cooking in Motion may not be there when you visit but you can be sure that whatever chef Carousel has invited, they will be just as interesting.

For a completely unique dining experience you must check Carousel out on your next London visit. You will more than likely be experiencing the work from a future star chef. You can tell your friends, “Yea I know that chef. I discovered him/her years ago at Carousel in London”.

2 Regency Cafe

Next we head where the Westminster and Pimlico districts of London meet. Arriving at the Regency Cafe on the corner of Regency and Page Streets, you will feel like you have stepped back in time for a visit to post-war London. In fact the Cafe opened its doors in 1946, just a year after WWII. And since then it has changed very little, having been owned by only two families since.


Almost untouched, the tiled walls, gingham style curtains, green painted wood-paneled walls, and Tottenham Hot Spur football players’ photographs on the walls, all speak of a London long gone.

It is so authentic it feels like a movie set. Several movies in fact have been filmed here: Layer Cake, Brighton Rock, and Pride just to name a few, plus numerous fashion shoots and a load of British TV shows.

Voted the fifth best restaurant in London by Yelp, Regency Cafe is where, according to Harry Wallop, famed writer for the Daily Telegraph, you can still get a proper cup of builder’s tea. What’s builder’s tea? It’s a mug of pure liquid copper. The stuff that once fueled the docks, factories, coal mines, and steelworks of Britain, and kept the nation ticking.


The manner of service is old style. You order, pay, then pick a table and your plate is brought to you. You will most likely be addressed as “love”, an endearing and fast disappearing term more often heard on English TV shows like Coronation Street and the East Enders than in any real place.

Serving a diverse crowd, the Regency caters to a wide cross section of London’s inhabitants: Builders, pensioners, students, fashion aficionados, and tourists, all find something to please on the classic menu of British staples.

For great food and a taste of what the great British Empire was like, Regency Cafe is a must visit.

3 Street Kitchen

Day Three we are eating al fresco at Street Kitchen in the heart of London. Monday to Friday on Broadgate Circle you will find Street Kitchen’s classic shiny Airstream outfitted to serve breakfast and lunch to the hungry hoards working in the surrounding office buildings. The City of London, approximately one square mile in the center of London, is the financial hub of the city. All of the major financial institutions have headquarters here. So every day thousands of people stream in and out of train and tube stations on their way to work, making this the perfect place to locate a mobile restaurant.


When I arrive, the breakfast crowd is tapering off and the crew is taking a breather before the wave of lunch orders hit. Mark Jankel, the leader of the operation, shows up to say hello and immediately we start to chat.

Mark tells me that he is actually an environmental scientist but worked for 15 years in kitchens throughout London. He has a passion for English produce and had a particular interest in how food impacts the environment. He opened Street Kitchen in 2010 with the dream of developing a sustainable food van serving simple, locally-sourced, seasonal food at a great price to the workers of London.

Now five years on, Street Kitchen has grown to two vans and a fixed location prep kitchen where he has opened a small serving kiosk, and on Broadgate is a Street Kitchen sandwich shop.


Some of the classic dishes on the menu are the hot smoked salmon with cabbage, the kale salad, and the spice lamb meat balls. Mark credits his wife for the recipes and I can attest that they are amazing. Everyday there is a new special dish, and you can choose that or one of the standard main dished for under nine pounds. It’s a great price for organic, locally sourced, lovingly prepared food.

This is prime tourist territory so if you are visiting London you may very well be wandering by here. Just plan it so you are in the area around breakfast or lunch to partake of one of Street Kitchen’s yummy meals.

Now it’s time for a loo stop. But not the kind you might expect

4 Attendant

Turning the corner onto Foley Street you will see the black wrought iron structure of the former Victorian era subterranean gents’ loo. Built in 1890, it eventually fell into disrepair and was finally sealed up in the ‘60s. It lay dormant until 2011 when some enterprising coffee aficionados recognized the space’s potential, and after a two year renovation, reopened it to an entirely different purpose. Attendant is now a fixture for the java loving London crowd.


Heading down a few flights of stairs you enter the small original tiled space. There is seating in the old attendant’s nook and the former urinals have been turned into a bar with bright green seating. As you can imagine, it is hard to resist all manner of toilet puns while enjoying a fabulous cup of coffee and a lovely piece of cake while standing at a urinal. Rest assured you are not alone in that.

By the way, where is the loo?

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


Carousel: Subscribe to the Carousel’s newsletter to stay in touch what is happening. And to check for upcoming chefs in residence and to make a booking go to:

Regency Cafe: 17-19 Regency Street, London SW1 4BY, United Kingdom, Phone: +44 20 7821 6596 / Hours: Monday to Friday 7:00am-2:30pm 4:00pm-7:15pm, Saturday: 7:00am- 12:00pm, Sunday: Closed

Street Kitchen: To find one of Street Kitchen’s two Airstreams and opening hours and the daily menu, goto; / Or to see on Twitter whats happening live, goto;

Attendant: For location and opening hours goto; Great photo op during the summer months sit outside along the two wooden benches upstairs.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

The New French Roast

Opened in 2011 by Australian Tom Clarke and his French partner Antoine Netien, Cafe Coutume has become a well-established fixture on the Parisian coffee scene.

One would think that Paris, with its long traditions of local wine and cheese production, all based on highly nuanced subtleties of flavor and texture, would be first in line to embrace a new understanding of coffee along the same lines. Perhaps the attention lavished on these local products has much to do with their direct connection to French soil, so coffee, not being a product of the French terroir, is not favored by a similar obsession.

Café Revolution

In any case, while cafes are a mainstay of Parisian culture, the chief offering of these wonderful establishments has often been, shall we say, a little bitter. The French like their coffee well done. Or as some would say “burnt” and this has become the de-facto standard for the country. And that is not easy to change. I found a similar situation in Vienna and Italy where the classic coffee houses tend to serve very bitter traditional roasts, rejecting the products of younger roasting companies in favor of the status quo.


It has taken some time, and an enormous effort by people like Tom, to start grinding down the resistance of Parisians to new kinds of coffee roasts and techniques. Now a small but dedicated community of coffee aficionados is taking hold. The realization is sinking in that coffee is like wine in its subtleties, reflecting the conditions and regions in which the coffee bean is grown, and in the way flavors can be manipulated in the preparation process to bring out the best from this delicious little green bean.

The day we visited Tom to chat about coffee, Coutume was buzzing with locals, with a few foreigners mixed in. Tom tells us that when he came from Australia to study in Paris he really longed for the vibrant fresh coffee culture he was fond of back home. Coffee culture came to Australia early, brought by Italian immigrants. And somehow the combination of the Australian give-it-a-go attitude with the traditions and techniques of Italy kicked off a dynamic and innovative coffee culture that is gradually spreading around the world.

To an Australian palette the local French roast was simply not a drink one could enjoy. So Tom began to develop an idea for how a third-wave coffee movement could be started in Paris. The end result is his café cum laboratory cum coffee education center, Coutume.


Now just four years later, all the hard work Tom and his team have put in is paying off. Coutume is quickly increasing in popularity, there is now a Coutume in Tokyo and a new roasting facility in Paris supplying restaurants and hotels all over Paris and beyond. As a result, there is now great coffee on offer in Paris, which was Tom’s original mission.

Coincidentally Paris’ first coffee house was opened by an Italian named Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli in 1686. A former lemonade vendor, he opened Cafe de Le Procope not far from where Coutume is today. The coffee was probably pretty awful to taste but the caffeine would have been a revelation.


Coutume’s laboratory/cafe/school is situated in a typical old Parisian storefront space partly excavated to reveal its history and partly renovated to accommodate the coffee technology. Walls are scraped back to their original plaster surfaces and old wood floors exposed, in contrast to a gleaming white tiled counter and stainless steel laboratory area for coffee education. The laboratory does double duty as extra counter seating and is accessorized with live lush coffee plants; a reminder that your daily fix of caffeine comes from a little fruit tree far away.

If you are hungry Coutume offers a small, fresh breakfast and lunch menu, and on Sundays brunch is served. The place is usually occupied by locals chatting, working on their computers or having meetings. It’s a dynamic atmosphere.


Now it’s time for some tasting. Tom and Nikkos, one of Coutume’s barrister crew, prepare a cold brew coffee with the Hairo Syphon, a science-like procedure with equal parts technique and theater. The taste is unlike anything you have tasted from a coffee bean. You realize that coffee beans are actually part of a fruit and what we are drinking is a kind of fruit juice. This kind of coffee tasting is an eye-opening experience. Fascinating and delicious. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Coutume is located in the 7th Arrondissement close to the Rodin Museum and Bon Marche. So it’s a perfect side trip for your next Paris adventure. Now we are off to see Napoleon’s Tomb just around the corner.

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


For more information about Cafe Coutume, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Surprising Nuremberg

How many of you have Nuremberg on your list of must-visit holiday spots? For me it is way up there on my Christmas holiday list with its world renowned Christmas market and great holiday events. Actually, there is probably no better place to be at Christmas. But I must confess that outside of the holiday season it was not in my top 10. So when I got an invitation to visit from the local tourism board, I jumped at the chance to see what’s going on in Nuremberg the rest of the year. And what a surprise!

Two Days in Nuremberg

At Christmas time the market on the main square is such a draw that you really don’t have much time left to look elsewhere. And that’s too bad because, as we discovered, Nuremberg has way more to offer.

I am a studier, so the first thing I do when preparing to visit a place to check out the stats. It is usually not for sharing, just a method to find my way into a place. But Nuremberg has fascinating stats, so it seems worthwhile sharing:

– The city of Nuremberg has just shy of a half million inhabitants, and another 3.5 million in the larger metropolitan area. That’s a good sized city. In addition, the city is large area-wise, and to cover all that ground, Nuremberg has a great transportation system. It is easy and inexpensive to get around.

– Nuremberg is today the biggest exporter of ginger bread, and way back in the 13th century this delicious treat was being baked in the city by specialized guilds. Nuremberg is a crossroads city and trade routes from the east found their first trading opportunity in Europe when they arrived there. So spices were readily available in Nuremberg, but remained rare in most other places.

– In the 15th century Erhard Etzlaub, a compass maker by trade, came up with a great marketing idea. He developed the first “Romweg” or “The Way to Rome” map. This is the first European road map and the thing that eventually led to the Google map you may use to get around today. Etzlaub’s map was used by pilgrims heading to the Christian capital and included information on accommodations and places to eat along the way. He got his data from the traders that traveled to and from Rome regularly. And just like Google, Etzlaub updated his map regularly.


– Around the 17th century the first clarinet was developed in Nuremberg in the small workshop of Christoph Denner. Today Nuremberg has an impressive classical music program which is especially active in the summer months.

– In 1875 Nuremberg was one of the first major European cities to get electrical street lighting. All that trading going on in the city made lots of money which enabled investment in the latest technology.

– The cough drop was invented in Nuremberg, the first one being made in 1923 by Dr. Carl Soldan. The drops were branded as Em-Eukal and are still on sale today. They were likely used by Henry Kissinger who was born in the adjacent town of Fuerth, where he lived until 1938 when he fled the Nazis for American shores.

– In 1924, 16 years after the American company Converse invented the modern sports shoe, two bothers from the adjacent town of Herzogenaurach got on the bandwagon and started their own sports shoe company. It did not go well and the brothers started feuding. The company broke up and each started their own company. The competition that followed between Adidas and Puma has fueled constant innovation ever since.


– In 1927 all the things that had made Nuremberg such a successful and vibrant city became its downfall. Hitler loved the city and chose it as the centre of his Third German Reich. When Hitler was voted into office in 1933, Nuremberg became the centre of all Aryan ideas and the Nuremberg laws, stripping Jewish citizens of their German citizenship, were initiated. In the end, because all the strife started in Nuremberg, the allied forces chose Nuremberg as the location to put the Nazi leadership on trial. The place of the Third Reich’s origin became the location of its end.

One of the first things that caught my attention when we arrived on the train was a postcard, half in black and white showing a heavily bombed Nuremberg, and on the bottom was the beautiful vibrant Nuremberg you see today. It made me think how far the community has come in order to look beyond that dark period and rebuild with the vibrant open energy you experience today.

We picked a hotel a bit above the main square so we could explore the old town without too much hill climbing. Parts of Nuremberg are pretty steep! We stayed at a lovely, newly-opened boutique hotel called Hotel Elch. The building has been in the lodging business since 1342, so staying at Elch you are walking in the steps of traders and pilgrims from many centuries past. You will not, however, suffer any of the inconveniences they likely faced. The rooms are completely modern and equipped with all the amenities.

1 Kaiser Burg

A short walk up from Hotel Elch is the Kaiser Burg, the imperial castle of Nuremberg. Early records indicate that the first parts of the building were constructed around 1050. Major building works did not start until a century later during the reign of King Conrad III in 1140.

In the 13th century Nuremberg became an Imperial free zone, a major turn of events because free cities at that time enjoyed more autonomy and had only the emperor to report to. That made trading, tax collection and administration a lot easier and more lucrative.


Along with the new freedom came responsibility for the castle’s building works and maintenance. And during this period the castle grew substantially in size with many out-buildings, towers and moats being added. The castle today, quite literally, towers over the city. The large “Luginsland” or the “look into the land” tower was, when built, the largest structure anyone had seen.

During WWII the castle was mostly destroyed leaving only the Roman Chapel and the Sinwell Tower intact. But like much of Nuremberg, the castle was reconstructed to appear as if nothing happened. Without the benefit of the numerous before-after postcards in souvenir shops around town you would never know that it was ever destroyed.


We roamed the castle for several hours navigating the maze of hallways with hordes of happy school children. Clearly this is a popular field trip destination.

Feeling a bit peckish after our castle wanderings we hop on a bus and head to our next destination just a few stops away.

2 Cafe Wohlleben

In Germany there is a kind of cafe known as a Konditorei. Traditionally it was the place you would go to for coffee and cake, or as the locals say “Kaffee und Kuchen”. As convenience and chain stores take over more and more space on city streets, the traditional Konditorei is not as prevalent as it used to be.


Cafe Wohlleben owner Alexander Hilderbrandt is putting a new spin on the tradition, bringing it up to date with an extraordinary emphasis on the “Kuchen” part of the business. His beautiful and delectable creations make an afternoon break a real special event. And heading up the “cafe” part of the experience is barista Sarah Schweizer. Her coffee brews are just as special as the sweets they accompany. And the two together are a dream. Quite an upgrade from the old filter coffee and Bundt cake which is standard Konditorei fare.

With an eclectic mix of antiques and modern elements, Cafe Wohlleben has been assembled with an eye towards the Konditorei tradition. During our visit patrons streamed in: elegant German ladies, young students, a group of office colleagues, a real diverse crowd all joined by their common interest in coffee cake and sweets.

Now well-nourished and with plenty of calories to burn, we hop on a streetcar and head for the centre of town.

3 The Lorenz District

We head through town on the Königstraße, the old road that carves a path from the train station up to the main square. Not far from the station we head off into a small courtyard called “Handwerkerhof“, or the Craftsman centre. Here you can find an array of quaint old shops reminiscent of the medieval village that Nuremberg used to be. Most of the stores specialize in local arts and crafts so it is a great place to find small handmade gifts authentic to Nuremberg.

Along with the local crafts you can also experience the local cuisine here. In the middle of all the shops there’s a “Bratwursthaeusle” or “sausage house” called Bratwurst Gloecklein. It is a lovely old-style setting and often less busy than the other Bratwursthaeusle up next to the main square. It is almost obligatory to try the famous “Sechs auf Kraut” (six Nuernberger Sausages with cabbage salad). Aside from the fact that they do not serve much else other than the six sausage dish, they are really good.


Fun food fact: The “Nuernberger” sausage is a trademarked object for its size, shape and ingredients, and can only be served in even numbers. Those Nuernbergers are very serious about their sausages.

Just beyond the courtyard the scene changes from medieval to futuristic. Nuremberg’s New Museum opened in 2000, designed by Berlin Architect Volker Staab. It is nestled in-between older buildings and its striking modernism makes it eye-catching by contrast. In its 33,000 square feet of space it houses contemporary art, sculpture, video and design.


The side of the museum opens to a courtyard and the vast glass wall reflects the old buildings across the way. This makes it fit right in with the surrounding medieval buildings in an odd-modern-gleaming kind of way.

Now we make our way through the city towards Hauptmarkt, the main square. Crossing the Pegnitz River we avoid the main bridge and take the pedestrian bridges that cross the western tip of Trodelmarkt Island. This is a great place to see the river from a lower vantage point. And as a bonus you walk right by the Henkersturm, “The house of the hangman”. I guess no one wanted to live next to this guy so he was stuck out in the river on an island.

At the Hauptmarkt there is a market every day and of course this is the site of the famous Christmas market. Walking through the square there is an abundance of food carts and we taste our way from one side of the market to the other, trying all sorts of foods from cheeses to crepes to gingerbreads.

If you are lucky to be at Hauptmark at the stroke of noon go over to the main church on the square, the Frauenkirche. There you will witness the famous “Maennleinlauf” or “men running”. When the clock strikes noon, look up at the clock tower to see seven life-sized Archdukes shuttle pass Kaiser Karl.

4 Hausbrauerei

Reinhard Engel is the owner and brewmaster of Hausbrauerei Altstadthof. In 1984 Reinhard decided that he wanted to create a new kind of small-scale brewery using only the purest local ingredients. Nowadays we hear a lot about organic, sustainable micro brewing, but in the 1980s this was nearly unheard of. Reinhard was a pioneer and had his microbrewery running years before it occurred to anyone else that this might be a good idea. Now whenever a microbrewery starts somewhere in the world, it is likely that the brewers call Reinhard first to learn how it’s done.

Reinhard took us down into the heart of the operation. It’s just a few steps from his pub so when you drink at Hausbrauerei it really could not be any fresher. The traditional copper kettles he uses are really old school. From the brewing room he took us down into the tunnels underneath the city where Reinhard stores his barrels taking advantage of the constant temperature.


I would not call myself an expert on beer. It is not really my drink of choice, but when in Rome… Reinhard offered me one of his specialty brews, the Rotbier (red beer). I definitely could taste the difference. It is very smooth with a delicate touch of hops and a dark copper color.

Before our departure Reinhard made a quick detour to give us a peek into his latest venture, a micro whiskey distillery. Apparently it is not a drastically different process to distill whiskey than it is to brew beer, so a few years ago Reinhard decide to give it a try. And now the first barrels are just about ready to go.

There are regular tours of the operation so you learn all about micro brewing. And next door is a great little shop with nice gifts and treats to buy for all your beer loving friends and family members.

5 Docu Centre

The next morning we walk down to the train station, board a street car and journey out of the center to the Southern district of Nuremberg. Today we are visiting the infamous Documentation Centre and Nazi Party Rally Ground. The Museum, or Docu Centre as it is called, is located in the North wing of the former congress hall designed by the National Socialists party to house 50,000 spectators. Its unfinished state gives it an eerie ominous feeling.


Inaugurated in 1994 The Docu Centre was designed by Austrian Architect Guenther Domenig who himself had a family connection with the institution’s subject matter. His father was a judge during the Nazi regime.

At around 45,000 square feet, the permanent exhibition is titled “Fascination and Terror”. The exhibition takes you step by step through the complex social events that led up the creation of the Nazi party, its brutal exploitation of the population, the war, and the final reckoning at the Nuremberg trials.

The presentation is dense with detailed information and illustrated with artifacts and the copious documentation generated by the Nazis themselves. What I found interesting, and at the same time chilling, is that by looking at events that occurred in Nuremberg step-by-step, you can better understand how small actions accumulating over time can easily lead to such a horrific result. Each step in itself can seem relatively benign but they have a momentum that builds up and becomes unstoppable.

I would recommend everyone make to visit the Docu Centre to get perspective on these horrendous events. The retelling of this story is applicable to current events and is worth pondering to better recognize the danger signs when events are carrying us along.

Take advantage of the headsets on offer which will really help to navigate the dense and sometimes difficult subject matter.

Although ending on a somber note, this was a great trip and Nuremberg really surprised us in the variety and breadth of experiences it offered. We did not have time to see all that we wanted but we will certainly be back for another visit soon to take in more.

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


We suggest a visit to the tourist office when you arrive in Nuremberg. You can get lots of useful tips and find out about their latest special offers. It is located close to the train station and the staff is very helpful. For more information go to;

Many thanks to the lovely Hotel Elch for hosting our stay. To arrange accommodation at Hotel Elch, go to;

For more information about the Imperial Castle, go to:

For more information about Cafe Wohlleben, visit their FaceBook page:

For more information about Neues Museum, go to;

For more information about Handwerkerhof Nuremberg, go to;

For more information about Hausbrauerei, go to;

For more information about Bratwurst Glöcknern im Handwerkerhof, go to;

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Tribeca and its 10 Best

Tribeca, one of the original “acronym” neighborhoods, has come a long way since its more generic pre-70s designation of Lower West Side. Although the name “Lower East Side” has been distinct enough to support that neighborhood’s unique character and ever-growing reputation, the designation “Tribeca” apparently came into being quick on the heels of the Soho Artists Association’s successful application to rezone their area. The artists living down below Soho on Lispenard Street were similarly ambitious to rezone their area and started a group under the name “Triangle Below Canal Block Association”. As with Soho before, the name soon was shortened to the much simpler “Tribeca” and the area has been on the rise ever since.

Tribeca has long been one of my favorite areas in New York. The architecture is a bit less amenable to shops and more sympathetic to restaurants. So the shops that do appear tend not to bow to the status quo. And the restaurants? Tribeca has some of the best.

A well-known resident and fellow admirer of the area is my long time colleague Erik Torkells. Erik’s obsession with keeping abreast of the area’s comings and goings has resulted in a popular blog called Tribeca Citizen that documents the neighborhood’s ever unfolding story.

I have been exploring other parts of the world of late, so on returning to New York recently I asked Erik to give me the skinny on what’s new around the triangle. I followed Erik’s advice and here is what I found.

1 Arcade Bakery

It’s early so breakfast seems like a good place to start. Hidden in the entry arcade of a beautiful Art Deco office building at 220 Church Street you find the aptly named Arcade Bakery, opened one year ago by pastry chef Roger Gural. Roger originally started on a very different career path with a job in television. But luckily for us he discovered a passion for pastry and instead of spending his days in dark video production rooms, he developed his talents in the kitchens of the famed chefs Thomas Keller and David Bouley. In David Bouley’s kitchen he was lucky to fall under the tutelage of a master French baker who apprenticed him in the fine art of Viennoiserie. Now Roger is the master and you can experience the full expression of his baking greatness.

Our breakfast consisted of a slice of poppy seed babka and an almond croissant. Both were excellent, as expected.


As we enjoyed out treats we struck up a conversation with two ladies at a table across the arcade. They were visiting from Palm Springs and had read about the Arcade Bakery in a magazine. Both were self-proclaimed babka experts and verified that Roger’s is the best.

And, for authentic French baguettes and the best croissants in town, this is the place.

2 The Poster Museum

Navigating Tribeca is quite easy, as it covers only about a square mile (two and a half sq. Kilometers) of Manhattan. So it was just a few steps south to reach Erik’s next recommendation. The Poster Museum was established in 1973 by collector Philip Williams. The Tribeca storefront only houses a fraction of the 500,000 artifacts that Philip acquired over the last 40 years. Actually we should say “storefronts” because the Poster Museum spans the whole block between Chambers Street and Warren Street, with entrances on both sides.


The store is a time capsule in that it’s a space unchanged since Tribeca’s origins in the 70s. The old posters harken back to much earlier times, with old memos of events and lifestyles from around the world. I love the classic travel posters from the 50s. If only I had more wall space! I quickly came across several things that would be perfect in my house.

For shopping or just to have a look, this is a great place to see the real Tribeca. For a virtual tour, check out The Poster Museum’s Twitter account. They regularly post interesting pieces from their collection.

3 The Mysterious Bookshop

Tribeca is one of the safest neighborhoods in New York. In fact, the only place you are likely to encounter crime is at our next stop. Right next to The Poster Museum on Warren Street you will find the Mysterious Bookshop. Serving amateur sleuths for the last 36 years, it lays claim to being one of the oldest mystery book stores in the country.


And it’s more than just a place to buy books. Live readings by well-known mystery authors are regularly hosted in the shop so check their schedule online to see if there is something on when you are in the area. Or just come in to find some new whodunit material. The knowledgeable staff will fix you up with just the right literature to keep you guessing.

4 Tribeca Synagogue

Heading a few blocks north now, up to White Street, you will find one of the most distinctive buildings in New York. The Tribeca synagogue was designed by architect William N. Breger. Breger was born and raised in the Bronx and studied at Harvard. Afterwards he became chairman of the architectural and design departments at Pratt University in Brooklyn. In 1967 he won the commission to design the new synagogue with his concept depicting an abstract representation of an eternal flame. As well as being a totally unique take on urban street facades, Breger’s design incorporated great performance space, making it popular place with early artist residents in the area


This is a great place to visit in the evening because the eternal flame analogy is conveyed in more than just the building’s shape. The facade lights up from the inside giving that part of White Street a warm glow.

5 Property

As Soho has been taken over by big brand outlets, some of the more interesting shops have migrated south into Tribeca. Next we are visiting two of those recent migrants that have taken up residence on Walker Street. For many years, Sabrina Schilcher’s store Property has been a mainstay in Manhattan for everything related to modern design. Her nose for great design and well-curated selection of modern classics and experimental designs makes her Tribeca studio a must visit.


She also carries several collections of small design objects that are just the right size to bring home for that friend who had to stay behind. If I were that friend, I would be thrilled to get one of the colorful ceramic coaster sets by designer Jason Paulson. If you are an enthusiast, Property is the place to see the best and latest in design

6 Artist, Robert Janz

Aside from the many places to visit, shop and eat, it’s really the streets that give Tribeca its distinctive character. The combination of architecture, people, and the gradually evolving ephemera never gets old. And speaking of ephemera, there is one resident artist has made the city his canvas. As you walk around, be in the lookout for the work of Robert Janz.


Robert is now in his 80s but still out most days adding his unique touch to the urban landscape. His work is subtle so you have to pay close attention. But once you’ve noticed it, you can’t miss it. His territory ranges from Tribeca to midtown. One of my favorites was a tongue-in-cheek changing of the ubiquitous “post no bills” sign to “post snow balls”. It being a particularly hot day, the art work was all the more poignant. Keep your eyes peeled for Roberts subtle editing of Tribeca’s streetscape.

7 Mmuseumm

Above all, Tribeca is a neighborhood that has developed as a result of its earliest artist residents. Other industries may be slowly encroaching on its territory from further downtown, but the heart and soul of the place is still its creative endeavors. To see some of Tribeca’s creative output on display we are heading west across Broadway to visit Cortland Alley. The architecture of the alley is unique in itself, but there are a couple of installations there that make it definitely worth the trip. Inside some defunct freight elevators opening onto the alley, two small private museums have been installed.


One, a micro modern natural history museum, displays modern artifacts, telling the story of simple modern objects that are obscured from our notice by their ubiquity. My favorite display was the evolution of coffee cup lids. And next door is the museum, Sara Berman’s Closet. Artist Maira Kalman has painstakingly recreated her mother’s closet which, in the artist words, “was both ordinary and extraordinary”. In order to take it all in, two matching blue chairs are provided across the street.

8 Smith & Mills

Continuing on our exploration of the Tribeca streets, we are now wandering over to Staples street to check out some of the original old manufacturing and warehouse buildings with their distinctive shutters. If you meander a bit uptown, at Greenwich and North Moore you will come across our next destination, Smith & Mills. This is a great place to take a break and get some refreshments.


Housed in a converted horse carriage house, this is the kind of establishment you would probably expect to find in Paris or London. Its well-worn interior keeps the spirit of old Tribeca alive. In summer months the charge doors are flung open extending tables out into the open air. If it is not too hot, it’s a great place to while away the afternoon.

9 Grand Banks

For most of Manhattan’s history it has been a place of manufacturing and trade. The infrastructure at the edges of the island were driven by shipping to support the coming and going of goods and people. When all that business disappeared the waterfront fell into disrepair and was ignored for many years. But in recent years that has all changed with Tribeca being one of the beneficiaries of development of the west side waterfront. Now just west of Tribeca a vast park system offers a plethora of activities to New Yorkers and visitors.

Emerging from Tribeca’s western edge, we leave the city behind and head out over the water on the Hudson River Pier. Our destination is the Grand Banks, a 142’ schooner moored at the end of the pier.

Formally a fishing vessel dating back to 1942, for most of her life she worked the waters of the turbulent North Atlantic. That is until lifelong sailors Miles and Alex Pincus in collaboration with Adrian Gallo and Mark Frith decided to refit her to navigate the choppy waters of the New York bar scene. The deck has been outfitted as a beautiful bar that is now open from May to October each year.


It is quite a unique experience leaving solid ground for the gentle rocking of the boat’s deck. And so great that you can spend some time out on a boat without ever heading out to sea. The big advantage: you can board whenever you want and when you are ready to go, it’s up to you. Oh, and no life jackets.

Chef Kerry Heffernan came up from the galley briefly to tell us about his menu and share his fabulous Ceviche, made from sustainable Montauk sea Bream with avocado, habanero, kaffir lime and mint. Chef Heffernan maintains a small herb garden on board which makes his seasonings very local, but also very much in the tradition of ship-bound fresh cuisine which, by necessity, had to be raised or grown onboard.

At Grand Banks’ stern, occupying the wheelhouse, you will find the tiny New York outpost of Mate Gallery, with their characteristically eclectic mix of vintage oil paintings and textiles, nautical objects, out-of-prints books and swimming apparel. Mate Gallery was started by Ron Brand and Matt Albiani in Santa Barbara, California. A great surprise to find out on a boat on the Hudson.

10 Evening Bar

With the sun setting over the Hudson, we disembark from the Grand Banks and head back into Tribeca for our final stop.

At the Smyth hotel, if you go all the way to the back of the lobby area you will find the Evening Bar, a quiet off-the-beaten-track place that is perfect for an evening conversation and drink. The wrap-around mural created by Brooklyn artist Matthew Benedict encompasses the whole room with early quasi 1940s imagery. An impressive back-lit mahogany cocktail bar along with an interesting mix of vintage Scandinavian and American mid-century furniture round out the interior. It’s a great space that reminds me of the classic King Cole Bar at the St. Regis in Mid-town. Sort of a younger, downtown version of that.


The drink menu is divided into four cocktail sections; Sparkling, Shaken, Stirred and Classic. I tried the Second Marriage, a brilliant cocktail particularly memorable for its mesmerizing color, heavy glass and perfectly square ice cube. They get all the details right at the Evening Bar.


Many thanks to Erik Torkells for sharing his Tribeca favorites with the Bearleader. We hope Erik’s tips will make your next Tribeca visit a memorable one.

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


To keep abreast of what’s happening in Tribeca, goto;

  • Arcade Bakery:
  • The Poster Museum:
  • The Mysterious Bookshop:
  • The Tribeca Synagogue:
  • Smith and Mills:
  • Property:
  • Mmuseumm:
  • Grand Banks:
  • Mate Gallery:
  • To learn more about Robert Janz, read Erik’s story at Tribeca Citizen
  • Evening Bar:

  • Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Nelson’s Last Walk

    J.M. Barrie, famed dreamer and creator of Peter Pan, once said, “Make your feet your friend”. As we zoomed along in-between the lush summer hedgerows of western Britain in our Fiat Mini rental, I thought about Barrie’s wise words. We were on the way to walk in one of those magic English places where leisure and history have come to co-exist in perfect harmony: the Stackpole Estate in Wales.

    The Estate, owned and maintained by the National Trust, is situated within the Pembrokeshire National Park located between the villages of Stackpole and Bosherton in Pembrokeshire. Stackpole is both a listed “designed landscape” and an important nature reserve, with the famous Bosherton Lakes or “Lily Ponds” at its centre.

    A Walk in Stackpole

    This land began its occupation by the Stackpoles during the Norman Age (1188) when one of the fortresses the Normans used to establish their rule over England was constructed here. Over the years the estate has passed through three families, the de Stackpoles, the Vernons and the Stanleys, before being finally purchased by the Stanleys’ stewards, The Lorts family, in the 17th century, while the Stanleys were away fighting the civil war.


    Today’s Stackpole is the result of the works of Sir John Campbell. When he inherited the estate in 1777 he began landscaping on a grand scale. In a painting of 1758 you see a meadow of grazing cows in the valley below the house. Campbell flooded the meadow to create a vast lake over which he constructed eight carefully placed arched bridges. This formed the focal point for his constructed-picturesque landscape.

    He then surrounded the lake with “a thousand” trees. Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who founded the famous Kew Gardens in London, recorded sending many exotic plants to Stackpole. This insured that the original plantings would be of the highest caliber and very much in line with the fashion of the day for impressing guests with things collected from all parts of the globe.

    In a photograph taken around 1850 you can see the house overlooking the lake with its series of bridges extending into the distance. The trees are a little shorter, but this view is quite similar to what you can see today.


    Sadly, today you can enjoy only the landscape and nature in the estate, as the architecture fell into disrepair to the point that it was demolished in 1963. However, you can still enjoy Sir John Campbell’s walled garden and buy some of the produce gown there during the summer months. There is also a lovely Cafe on the grounds where you can sit and imagine what the estate might have felt like in its heyday.

    To add to your imaginings, here is a racy anecdote. Sir William Hamilton, his wife Emma Hamilton and Emma’s lover, Lord Nelson, all visited Stackpole in 1805, just before Nelson left for the Battle of Trafalgar. After I came upon this story I researched further only to find out that Sir William, Emma and Lord Nelson lived openly together, which provided much fodder for gossip magazines of the day.


    We parked the car and set off on our walk. The trail is well marked so you don’t need a map. Signs at the trail head clearly outline a variety routes to the beach of varying distances.

    You first walk downhill through a heavily treed area (this must be where many of those “thousand” trees ended up) until you come upon the first bridge.

    The bridge is only wide enough for one so we were lucky that it was near the end of the day with hardly anyone around. We lingered in the middle of the lake to look for otters, and to watch the birds and dragon flies. On cue, an otter poked up its head to welcome us.


    What’s great about this walk is that within a short distance you cover so many different terrains. There are cool wooded valleys, romantic lily ponds and magnificent coast lines interspersed with the occasional sandy beach. The path leads you on a loop which eventually leads you back to the narrow bridge and up to where you parked.

    The terrain is moderate and the path not so long – you can easily navigate it in sneakers. A sun hat would not go amiss, especially when you get out to the coast where there is no shade except on the beach near the rocky cliffs.


    There is something about walking that invites the mind to wander, and in a location so steeped in history, this is a walk that is full of surprises, both current and from the distant past. Follow the trail that may have been Nelson’s last country walk before entering the annals of British history at the battle of Trafalgar.

    Highly recommend.

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


    For more information about visiting the Stackpole Estate, go to;

    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

    Post Socialism in a Blue Skoda

    Having recently ventured as far east as Vienna, it seemed a shame not to take the opportunity to go all the way “east” to Bratislava, and cross the borders that really divided east from west for much of the 20th century in this part of Europe. Time for some good old Soviet nostalgia.

    The last time I was in Bratislava was just after the fall of the Iron Curtain, so I expected the city of today would be much changed from the exuberant city I last saw freshly opened up to the west.

    One Day in Bratislava

    From Vienna it’s a surprisingly short trip down the Danube to Bratislava. Near the center of Vienna you can board a catamaran that will ferry you directly to the center of Bratislava in just a little over an hour.

    Planning my itinerary, I wanted to stay away from the fake trolley cars that take hordes of tourists through the old part of town. I was looking for a way to meet locals and find out how their world has changed since the fall of communism.

    I came across a great company called Authentic Slovakia that specializes in off-the-beaten-track tours in and around Bratislava, showing the city’s past and its more recent developments.

    I emailed them and quickly got a message back from Brano, one of the two brothers who own the company, suggesting that we meet him at SNP Square. We would recognize him by the blue vintage Skoda he drives.

    SNP Square is the biggest public space in the city. The plaza was built to commemorate the 1944 Uprising by the people of Slovakia against the Slovak government and its collaboration with Germany in World War II.

    Traditionally, when a large crowd gathers for political rallies or celebrations of local sporting victories, SNP Square is the place. But the last sporting victory was the ice hockey championship in 2002 so these days it is usually pretty low key.


    While we waited, we wandered around the grouping of looming-dark statues at the center of the square which symbolize the people of the uprising. But soon we caught sight of the bright blue Skoda with Brano behind the wheel.

    Brano greeted us in perfect English. In fact most of the young people we met spoke perfect English and usually several other languages, too. Brano gave us a bit of an introduction for what to expect during our four hour “Post Socialism” tour, and we were off!

    Brano’s Skoda is completely authentic with all its original details. The perfect vehicle to set the scene for the tour. The sound and smell of the car immediately takes you back, the characteristic put-put-put-put sound is classic. The car belonged to Brano’s grandfather who took great care of it, as having a car during communism was a real luxury.


    We quickly zig-zagged up through hilly neighborhoods rising above downtown and into the more posh areas. Here modern architecture is mixed in with wonderful turn of the century and Art Deco villas.

    Brano pulled over in front of an ‘80s era apartment building with a large fancy sign over the entrance saying “Bonaparte”. He began to explain that a lot of politicians live around here … and then all of a sudden we hear a “tap-tap-tap” on the window. An imposing plainclothes security guy wants to know what we’re doing here.

    Unaccustomed to being questioned on public streets I first thought “this must be part of the tour” to demonstrate the way the state made its presence felt in everyday life. Then I thought, “No, this is too real. Are we going to end up in some secret security office never to be seen again?” I think I have read one too many John Le Carre spy novels. In truth, we really had attracted the attention of some local security personnel and it felt very “Soviet”, adding a nice ominous tone to Brano’s descriptions of Bratislava’s past.


    With a bit of back and forth Brano seemed to put the guard at ease, he retreated and we were on our way again. Brano joked, “We are famous. We were on TV the other day and he remembers us”. Thank goodness for the power of TV.

    Next we arrived at Slavin, a large memorial and military cemetery overlooking the city. The site is awkwardly located atop an area of expensive real estate, adjacent to several international embassies including the American one. It’s the burial ground for over 6,000 Russian Soldiers that fell during World War II. Built in the late ‘50s by the Russians in a classic Stalinist style, it is monumental, complete with looming statues posted around the square. Quite chilling even on a sunny afternoon.

    It was deserted except for some kids playing in the far corner. But a great place to survey the city. Brano pointed out how the city has changed over the last 60 years and had with him historic photos taken from the same spot to illustrate.


    Back in the car we sped off to our next stop, Gottka Square, named after the first communist president of Czechoslovakia, Clement Gottwald. It was officially renamed Namestie Slobody (Freedom Square) in 1989, but the new name never caught on. Everyone still calls it “Gottka”.

    The 200 by 200 meter square has at its center a huge defunct fountain, a 9 meter tall representation of a linden flower. Slightly unkempt and overgrown with weeds and grass, people were still enjoying the sunny fall day occupying some of the old benches, obviously original to the square’s rigid design. We hopped back into the little Skoda and Brano headed off to our next destination.

    Just over the Danube is an area called Petržalka. Also known as the Bronx of Bratislava, is famous as the largest public housing project of its time, the location of the oldest theatre in the country, and has a notoriously high crime rate and the highest suicide rate in Slovakia. Sounds depressing but to drive through it is amazingly monumental in its monotony.


    Construction began in the ’70s and for a long time it was its own town. Eventually it merged with the city of Bratislava and is now connected by five bridges. Over 100,000 people live in the development and in the last few years things have greatly improved, with the crime rate now about on par with rest of the country.

    Built in a classic Eastern Bloc style of pre-cast concrete panels, different buildings have been color coded so people can better find their way around the endless procession of virtually identical buildings. The place felt like a set for a ’70s Sci-fi movie. “Surreal” is how I would describe the feeling you get while you drive through the area.

    Then abruptly, it all ends and you are at the edge of no-man’s land at the border with Austria. We stopped next to an old guard bunker just as a group of Austrian senior citizens zoomed across the border on their bicycles.


    The juxtaposition really brought home what a different world it is now. We drove along the country roads that used to be lined with fences, barbed wire and guard towers, and soldiers on both sides with guns pointing east and west. Now it’s all gone or in ruins. The only thing left are two small stones set in the ground marking where Slovakia ends and Austria begins. All those years of intrigue and misery reduced to two stones in the ground.

    On our way back across the Danube to the old part of town, the sun was setting. Brano dropped us off with a parting gift of some authentic ’70s Slovakian waffle candies called “Horalky”. A great end to our drive through the recent history of Bratislava.


    We only had a day in Bratislava and saw a lot, but there is much more there to discover. We will definitely be back. Maybe next time to try one of Authentic Slovakia’s popular Wine and Hiking tours.

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


    To book a tour with Authentic Slovakia, go to; In the summer months they are very busy so make sure you book well ahead of time. If you have a larger group, they can drive you in the Skoda van. We didn’t get to try out the van but it looked like a fun ride.

    If you have some time left after your tour, swing by the Bratislava Transport Museum. It is housed in an old train station and you can see tons of Skoda motorcycles and cars. The staff is a bit off-putting and not a lot of people are around, but that just adds to the obscure feel of the place.

    If you are traveling from Vienna, we recommend taking the Twin City Liner. It leaves Vienna from the dock near Schwedenplatz. book ahead of time as tickets are cheaper purchased in advance. We were graciously invited by the Twin City Liner for our cruse down the Danube to Bratislava. Book your tickets here;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Amsterdam Recommended

    We are off to see what’s new in Amsterdam. I love this city, the people are open and friendly, the food is great, it has some of the best art in the world, everyone rides a bike … I could go on and on. So when the City of Amsterdam invited Bearleader to come up and see what’s currently going on, we jumped at the chance.

    We firmly believe that the character of a place is mostly down to its people, so what better way to convey what’s going on than to talk to locals. With a bit of research and some recommendations from our friends, we arranged a few meet-ups with some movers and shakers to talk to them about what makes Amsterdam special.

    Tijdmakers &
    Eau d’Amsterdam

    Business partners Saskia Hoogendoorn and Lieuwe Martijn Wijnands are the creative force behind the design agency Tijdmakers (Time makers). They are kind of a local think tank that explores creative ways to influence the public’s experience of the environment through art and installation.

    We arranged to meet at de Koffie Salon on Utrechtsestraat, a great little place where locals hang out, meet friends and colleagues and sip coffee while tapping away on their computers. The pastries on offer are lovely and they serve a great cup of coffee. At the time we arranged to meet it was raining, and in true Amsterdamer rain-or-shine fashion, Saskia and Martijn arrived on their bikes.

    Many of their projects are internally generated so Saskia and Martijn have become quite adept at not only coming up with great ideas, but also the more daunting job of organizing the logistics that make their projects come to life. Dreaming is one thing, but what is great about Tijdmakers is that they know how to make their dreams come to fruition. And being somewhat of a creative instigator myself, I admire Saskia and Martijn for their ability to drive their dreams into reality.

    One of their latest ideas was to create the first ever municipal scent. Thus was born “Eau d’Amsterdam” the official perfume of Amsterdam. And what is the smell of Amsterdam? Ask any Amsterdamer and you will likely get a blank stare. But there is a familiar scent in the air and it took Tijdmakers to track it down.


    As it turns out, it’s the trees, or the Elm trees to be exact. Lots of cities have a particular tree that has been chosen to adorn the streets for practical and aesthetic reasons. There is the “Berlin unter den Linden”, Paris has its “Plane” tree and Amsterdam has the Elm. In fact the old trees of Amsterdam are designated a Unesco World Heritage.

    Amsterdam has about 75,000 Elms, some of them as old as 100 years. The first Elms were planted around 1662 and they were held in high regard from the start. The punishment for damaging them could be your right hand.

    Saskia tells us the perfume was created by famed Amsterdam “nose” Tanja Deurloo from Annindriya, in cooperation with IFF. They carefully studied the wood, leaves and blossoms to create an interpretation of the city’s Elm-derived essence. The moment Eau Amsterdam hits your nose there’s an “Ah-ha! That IS the smell of the Elms!” Strong and earthy with a flowery feel, the scent ages well on your skin.

    The original idea behind the project was to raise awareness of the city’s trees and their importance to Amsterdam life. It also supports another of Sakia and Martijn’s projects, the Amsterdam Spring Snow Festival started three years ago.

    The Spring Snow Festival takes place when the 75,000 Elms are in bloom, April 21 – May 21. The blossoms are so prevalent that they blanket Amsterdam’s streets. If it weren’t so warm you would definitely think it was snowing.

    The perfume comes in a wonderful dark green glass bottle with an antique style bulb atomizer. I was especially intrigued by the packaging. Saskia tells me the image on the box is a painting by 18th century Haarlem painter Hendrik Keun, and shows a large elm tree on Keizersgracht at Molenpad. The painting was produced around 1775.

    To see some of the oldest Elm trees in Amsterdam like the ones in Hendrik Keun’s painting, make your way to Oude Schans, across from houses 72, 58 and 29.

    Until meeting Saskia and Martijn I must confess I had not really paid much attention to the trees lining the canals. But for the rest of our trip I could not stop thinking about them. Well done Tijdmakers! Mission accomplished.

    Hagar Vardimon-van Heummen & Cottoncake

    The De Oude Pijp (The Pipe) district of Amsterdam, sometimes referred to as Amsterdam’s “Quartier Latin”, was the traditional home of poor artists and students. Now it’s a popular area to live, full of interesting restaurants and concept stores alongside a great market and “moeder & pop” shops that continue to do a good trade. This is also the neighborhood of Israeli-born artist Hagar Vardimon-van Heummen, and her studio called Happy Red Fish.

    After walking the local De Oude Pijp street market on Albert Cuypstraatwe, we headed over to the concept store Cottoncake Cafe on van der Helststraat where Hagar recommended we meet. This white-box concept store is an eclectic mix of clothing, cake, jewelry and coffee. An odd mix that has attracted a loyal following of locals and it’s one of Hagar’s favorite places hang out.

    After marrying a Dutchman, Hagar and her husband moved to Amsterdam, which she now calls home. The medium for her creative work is common sewing thread, but her work is anything but common. She transforms existing photographs using layer after layer of colored thread adding depth and texture and expanding the context of the original image.


    Clearing away our coffee and cake we made room for Hagar’s books which she uses to protect the work. I could not help thinking of how I used to press flowers in books and the excitement I had each time I would check back to see how the flattened botanicals were developing. Hagar’s works have a kind of flattened dimensionality that seems at home pressed into large tomes repurposed for the storage of art.

    After a few more coffees and a good chat, Hagar had to get back to work. We kept talking as she walked us to the tram where we set off to meet our next “insider”.

    Michelle van der Vliet &
    De Plantage

    Amsterdam is a relatively small city. You can get most places on a bicycle in less than an hour. So you might imagine that the food scene, while interesting, is relatively tame and slow moving. How many new restaurants and food related happenings could possibly be happening in this compact city? Well, my assumptions here were completely wrong. It is unbelievable how much is going on with food in this city. So much so that someone needed to take on the job of keeping track of all the epicurean comings and goings to keep the rest of us up to date.

    In 2012 Amsterdam native Michelle van der Vliet took up the challenge and started blogging about everything food-related in the City. Since then she has gathered a dedicated following of like-minded locals, and occasional visitors like us, who like to keep track of interesting things happening in our favorite cities. Michelle really knows the food scene and if you want to eat well in Amsterdam you should definitely follow her at

    We met Michelle on the bridge at the corner of Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht, a super picturesque spot which is worth a visit, if just for the photo opportunity. This is close to the Noordermarkt where the food scene is quite dynamic. We took a walk with Michelle to one of her favorite coffee roasters nearby, Headfirst. True to form, Michelle’s recommendation was spot on. The best coffee we had on our trip was here.


    As we left Michelle we asked for a great lunch spot that’s not in the guide books, to feature on Bearleader. Without hesitation Michelle said “I have just such a place”.

    Overlooking the city’s Artis Zoo in the beautifully restored Artis building is the restaurant De Plantage occupying the space of the building’s 19th century orangery. It, along with the Artis Zoo, are important fixtures in Amsterdam life today. Michelle is the expert so I will let her fill you in on the restaurant’s particulars. Here is her review.

    After a quick lunch we dropped in at the Micropsia Museum, also in the Artis building, and one of the newest museums in Amsterdam. It is the world’s first museum dedicated entirely to the smallest forms of life: microbes. Very interesting exhibit and definitely something you won’t see anywhere else.

    Nicemakers, SLA & Noordermarkt

    Next we are visiting design studio Nicemakers to talk with designers Joyce Urbanus and Dax Roll about their work, and get their Amsterdam-insiders’ tips. We had only been in Amsterdam for a few days and Nicemakers had come up in conversation several times, so we were sure Joyce and Dax would have some great ideas about what to do around town.

    Unbeknownst to us, we had already visited some of the local restaurants designed by Nicemakers and seen some of their impressive work. But we did not realize any of this until we sat down in their studio for a chat.

    Long before there was a Nicemakers, there was just Joyce and Dax and even early in their relationship the seeds of Nicemakers were already growing. Dax regaled us with stories of weekends he and Joyce spent stalking antique markets for anything that caught their fancy: early modern furniture, mid-century lamps and peculiar objects and ephemera. They knew all the good spots to find the best stuff.


    Buying on desire rather than need was not unusual so a collection naturally began to develop. Over time, some of their objects found their way into design projects they were working on, and by anchoring their modern design work with objects curated from their eclectic collections a modus-operandi developed. Now they have honed their process into a fine art which has proven phenomenally successful in their rapidly growing practice.

    Walking around Nicemakers’ small, sleek studio you can see the continuity in their creative partnership. The clean lines of the fresh white space are offset by their carefully curated collections and meticulously arranged material samples that Joyce and Dax are mulling over for current and future projects. I comment on the great variety of ceramic tile samples carefully arranged in groupings of color and texture. Joyce laughs and says, “we love tiles”.

    And now I recall one of Nicemakers’ recent projects for a new local healthy fast food company, SLA. Food blogger Michelle van der Vliet had pointed out the new interior to us on our walk a few days ago. And indeed, SLA’s interior is a symphony of tiles, so I see where Joyce is coming from.

    It’s time to go, but as we leave I ask Joyce and Dax the all-important question: What should we visit in Amsterdam? True to form, Joyce gives us a great tip on a local market, “Saturday mornings on the Noordermarkt are a definite must”.

    The following morning we check it out. At Noordermarkt the stalls offer everything from fresh fruits, vegetables and cheese to antique collectibles, locally woven linens and a variety of prepared foods. And, being full of locals, it’s a very authentic Amsterdam experience. With lunch just around the corner at SLA we had a full-on Nicemakers experience.

    Good tips Joyce and Dax, thanks!

    Bearleader & Vivian Hann

    Even though this story is about local recommendations, while wandering around on my own I found something great to share.

    A short walk down Haarlemmerdijk, just west of Central Station, I did a double-take walking by the display window of a small ceramic and cutlery shop called Vivian Hann. Brilliantly colored objects, simple shapes, wonderful hand-crafted textures, I went in for a look. At the counter I introduced myself. And, as it turned out, it was Vivian Hann on duty in the shop that day!

    Vivian originally hails from California but Amsterdam has been her home for many years now. Back in 1998 when she opened the store, Haarlemmerdijk was nowhere near the bustling picturesque street you see today. It was gritty, and walk-in customers were far less frequent. But Vivian persevered and now her shop is in a great location, convenient for locals and in just the right spot for the considerable tourist traffic flowing daily from the nearby train station.

    Passionate about design, Vivian has put together an irresistible collection of everyday objects that is sure to strike a chord with visitors. Her enthusiasm for form, function and craftsmanship is on display with a great collection of ceramics, glassware and cutlery. In fact, Vivian’s is one of the few shops in Amsterdam that specializes in functional homeware with an emphasis on the work of Northern European designers.


    With pride of place, and well protected under glass, Vivian has on display her collection of Hugo Pott cutlery. Cutlery is really Vivian’s main interest and Hugo Pott’s designs have all the attributes of simplicity, beauty and functionality that Vivian admires.

    I have similar interests to Vivian so I recognized some of the pieces in her cutlery collections, but I did not know much about Hugo Pott. And Vivian was all too happy to bring me up to speed on his life and work. And this is what makes Vivian’s tiny shop such a great place to visit. More than what’s on display, it’s Vivian’s encyclopedic knowledge of design and function that make a visit so interesting. Whether you are looking for a small souvenir or need to find flatware for a crowd, Vivian can lead you to just the right solution and fill you in on the story behind your newly acquired objects.

    I say skip the run-of-the-mill souvenir shops and go straight to Vivian Hann for a great memento of your Amsterdam trip. Rather than buying something that will quickly end up disused in the attic, you will have something destined to become your next family heirloom, used and talked about for years to come. A forever reminder of you fantastic trip to the charming city of Amsterdam.

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


    To get around Amsterdam, I am/sterdam city card offers a wonderful all-included ticket for public transport, a canal tour and entry to all museums (15% off the Rijksmuseum). It’s the one essential ticket for a great Amsterdam visit.

    To purchase Eau d’Amsterdam go to; And check out de Koffie Salon Where we met Saskia and Martijn, at;

    If you’re planning a trip in spring, try to schedule it so you can take in the Spring Snow Festival when 75,000 Elm trees come into bloom and the city is covered in white blossoms. It happens between April 21st and May 21st. You will find more information here;

    To find out more about Hagar Vardimon-van Heummen’s studio Happy Red Fish go to;, and here’s a link to Cottoncake;

    For great new places to eat in Amsterdam visit Michelle van der Vliet’s blog at;

    For one of the best coffees in Amsterdam try Head First Coffee Roasters at;

    And for a visit La Plantage you can book online at; Don’t forget to check out the Micropia Museum next door:

    To see more of Joyce Urbanus and Dax Roll’s work at Nicemakers, go to; Or to visit one of their project in person, have lunch at one of the SLA locations.

    To meet Vivian at her store Vivian Hann, go to; Keep in mind that she is closed Sundays and Mondays.

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Tally Ho!

    A reader recently asked me, “How do you find stories for Bearleader?” I replied that usually we do lots of research, keep our ears open, ask people we know that are in-the-know and then do more research. But sometimes a story just drops in your lap. That’s how this story showed up, literally on our doorstep.

    When the windows of our London flat are open, I occasionally hear the short ring of a bicycle bell somewhere nearby. This is not especially unusual as lots of bicycles ride along our road. But it seemed to me curious that riders would so consistently ring their bells when passing our house and I felt compelled to investigate further.

    … I met Jack Harris, owner of Tally Ho bike tours, and booked an excursion for the Bearleader.

    Stepping out of our front gate I caught a glimpse of a line of beautiful black bikes, zipping by, a gentleman in tweed leading the group and coaxing the group on with the ring of his bell. The bikes had the words “Tally Ho” painted on their frames.

    No.46 | Tally Ho Bike Tours, London

    For those not up to speed on their English country terminology, “Tally Ho” is a term used to confirm a fox sighting during the hunt, and in more contemporary situations, something you say when pointing out or spotting a target. A little further down the road sat a sign painted with a fox riding a bicycle. Tally Ho! I exclaimed (not really). Putting two and two together I headed over to the sign where I met Jack Harris, owner of Tally Ho bike tours, and booked an excursion for the Bearleader.

    Historian Tom Weir was our tour guide. A young, enthusiastic student of history, Tom’s area of interest is sports.

    No.46 | Tally Ho Bike Tours, London

    The meeting place for Tally Ho bike tours is the Walrus Pub at the corner of Lower Marsh and Westminster bridge road. As the departure time approached, a small but diverse group began to assemble, a family from Australia, a young Spanish student and me.

    Tom gave us the option to choose from amongst their fleet of shiny black Pashley bikes, outfitted with Tally Ho baskets to stow our belongings. Pashley bikes are a story in themselves. The company was founded by William “Rath” Pashley in 1926 to manufacture hand-built bikes in Stratford-upon-Avon. England used to have the most bike manufacturers in the world but most have gone out of business or moved their production to factories overseas. Never bowing to pressure to use cheaper overseas labor, Pashley bikes have remained made in England since the company’s founding. Riding these historic, smooth running, fine English bikes makes the tour all the more authentic.

    Once we are all settled on our chosen bikes, Tom gives us a quick rundown on safety and with a ring of his bell we are off.

    Cycling in Central London is a breeze. The terrain is generally flat with no hills of note to climb. And since our group was small, we easily zipped along London’s back roads under Tom’s ever watchful eye.

    We stopped in front of the Tate Modern, parked our bikes and gathered around Tom to hear about the history of the building, formerly a London power plant, with St Paul’s on the opposite side of the Thames.

    No.46 | Tally Ho Bike Tours, London

    Wedging ourselves in-between the street performers lining the walkway on the Thames, we found a safe spot between Yoda from Star Wars and Power Ranger’s Bumblebee. As Tom gave us the rundown on the area, I noticed Yoda gesturing wildly at one of our group. I guess we were encroaching on his area and Yoda was not pleased. Moving a little closer I was able to overhear Yoda hilariously telling our Spanish exchange student in a thick South-London accent to move along. Luckily our student’s English was not so good, so being somewhat oblivious to what Yoda was saying, he was not offended.

    No.46 | Tally Ho Bike Tours, London

    We moved on over the Millennium Bridge through the City of London, crisscrossing the maze of the streets which constitute the oldest part of the city. Passing by the newer buildings of London’s famous Square Mile, we stopped off at the Lloyds of London headquarters and the Gherkin building, by famous London architects Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, respectively. At the edge of the Square Mile we merged with one of London’s bright blue Cycle Super highways for the short trip to the East London Docklands.

    No.46 | Tally Ho Bike Tours, London

    Next we arrived at the Cable Street Mural which commemorates an iconic moment in London’s history, “The Battle of Cable Street”. Tom explained to us that on the night of October 4th, 1936, the people of this East London neighborhood rallied to Cable Street and forced back the march of Fascist, Walter Mosely and his group, the Blackshirts, all the while shouting, “They shall not pass”. In the aftermath of Mosely’s defeat by the residents of East London, the Public Order Act 1936 was passed, requiring police consent for all political marches and forbidding the wearing of political uniforms in public.

    We then wound our way through the canals of the docklands, eventually arriving at one of the oldest pubs in London, the Prospect of Whitby. Dating back to 1520, the pub still has the original 400-year-old floor.

    No.46 | Tally Ho Bike Tours, London

    If the tide is low when you arrive be sure to have a look at the hangman’s noose on the Thames side of the pub. The execution of pirates by hanging, starting in the 15th century, was performed at a place called Execution Dock. While the exact location of Execution Dock has been lost, one of the places where it was thought to have been is here at the back of the Prospect of Whitby. Convicted pirates were hung on a short rope and left in place to be washed by three tides. The worst were then tarred and hung in an iron cage for all to see.

    Arguably the most famous pirate executed here was Captain Kidd, inspiration for the book Treasure Island. Captain Kidd was so notorious that he was displayed on the Thames riverbank for more than 20 years as a warning to other would-be pirates.

    Refreshed and rested we continued our journey towards Tower Bridge. Riding across this famous bridge is a real thrill, much better than sharing the crowded walkway.

    No.46 | Tally Ho Bike Tours, London

    On the home stretch now, we slowly wound our way back along the back streets of the Southbank towards Westminster Bridge Road. It was just getting dark and on cue, London lit up for our tour’s finale.

    You can choose online from several tours that Tally Ho bike tours offers, or book a private tour that can be customized to your interests.

    If it’s your first time in London, I would suggest the London Landmark Tour. It is the most popular of Tally Ho bike tours’, and much more interesting to stop and stand in front of each of London’s iconic buildings and sights and learn their history, than just zooming by on a double decker bus.


    For further information about booking a tour with Tally Ho bike tours, go to;

    Tally Ho bike tours operates year round. We took the tour in December. During the summer months, it is high season so it is a good idea to book in advance.

    If it is raining, and it is often raining in London, the show goes on. Rain ponchos will be provided.

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    The Frescoes of Sklavopoula

    I went to Crete this past September for the sea, the mountains, and the language (I’d been learning modern Greek for two years). I also found unexpected adventures. One of these was Sklavopoula.

    It was just a short paragraph in the Rough Guide to Crete that caught my attention, telling of a remote village in the southwestern mountains with three churches from the 13th and 15th centuries, with frescoes.  I found it on my Michelin road map. I had already been up in those squiggly lines, in my nimble little Fiat Panda, and had mastered the art of honking while rounding curves, to warn oncoming cars not to take my side of the road — and going slowly in case oblivious goats lurked in the shadow of the hills. I knew it would be an all-day trip from my base at Kastelli Kissamou on the northwest coast. So I set off early one sunny morning to find the three churches.

    The drive was beautiful. I stopped several times to look at little churches along the way, to buy olive oil and honey from roadside stands, and to admire the mountains and valleys. When I finally entered the village of Sklavopoula, there was the first church, the Ecclesia tou Ayiou Yiorgiou (Church of Saint George), next to the school, just as the Rough Guide said.


    The guidebook’s instructions were to go to the house next to the school and ask for the key. I found a family party in the courtyard of the house and approached with some trepidation, trying out my Greek. They welcomed me eagerly, and a lively discussion ensued, in which several teenagers competed for the honor of escorting me up the back way and into the little church.

    I have seen many carefully restored frescoes in museums, and well-maintained old churches and cathedrals around Europe, but there was something uniquely haunting about these ancient images looking at me out of the past, unrestored and yet still alive. The other two churches were to be found along a footpath to the left of the kafeneio in the center of town. The cafe was easy to spot.

    By this time, it was mid afternoon, the local lunchtime, and I was quite hungry. So I entered the cafe, which turned out to be the general store as well.

    The proprietor made me an omelet, a salad, and a huge plate of fried potatoes, and chatted with me while I ate. He charged me 5 euros, then tried to give me back one euro because I had only eaten a small part of the potatoes!


    He showed me the footpath to the other two churches, the Church of the Madonna and the Church of Christ the Savior, and invited me to stop back for some water after seeing them. He gave me some complicated instructions, which I thought I understood, about how to find the house of the man with the keys, and to call out to him by name.

    I set off down the hill. My first difficulty arose when I came to what seemed like a dead end: on the one side, thistles, on the other, the wire fence of a goat pasture. I went back and forth for ten minutes, trying to figure out where to go. It was hot; I was getting thirsty and tired.  Finally, I realized that what I thought was part of the pasture was a passage, opened by pulling up the wire fence, which was really a primitive gate. On I trudged, past a few stone houses, hollering all the time for the man with the keys. But I saw no-one aside from goats and some dogs that became very agitated by my hollering. My shouts and their barking sounded all the louder because the only other sound was the buzz of cicadas in the olive groves.


    Eventually I spotted the two churches, side by side up another hill. I decided to try the doors. I was in luck: they were not locked. The interiors were cool and silent. Dark shadows contrasted with brilliant sunlight shining through the small windows. The frescoes seemed to glow from within.

    Back up at the cafe, the proprietor, now joined by his wife, greeted me with cold water and a plate of grapes, for which they refused payment. I rested, refreshing myself with food, drink and more conversation. What would have been rather dull small-talk in English at home in New York became fascinating and rewarding in another language and setting. They sent me off with another bottle of cold water for the road.

    Here’s a last look south towards the Libyan Sea:


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


    About the author:Karen G. Krueger practiced law in New York City for 25 years. She now teaches the Alexander Technique, a mind-body method for achieving greater poise and efficiency of movement and dealing with chronic pain and stress.

    Here are some tips from Karen for your excursion to Sklavapoula:

    I went to Sklavapoula from my base in the northwestern town of Kastelli Kissamou.  A day trip — longer by about two hours — is also feasible from the more popular Chania (a very beautiful city, well worth visiting). Sklavapoula is easily accessible from Palaiochora, a seaside resort town on the southwest coast.

    When I was planning my visit to Crete, I first decided to spend a week at Kastelli Kissamou.  I then found a seaside rental apartment in Kastelli using the website Homeaway, a very comfortable small apartment carved out of the home of the owner, Minas.

    Before I paid the deposit, I exchanged e-mails and one phone call with Minas, to make sure that I had a sense of dealing with a honest person.

    I was scheduled to arrive at the Chania airport after dark, so rather than deal with renting a car and driving in unfamiliar territory, I e-mailed Minas for help.  He arranged a taxi to meet me at the airport, reserved my rental car from a firm in Kastelli, and then drove me into town the day after my arrival to pick up my car, a little Fiat Panda with manual transmission that was perfect for the windy roads of Crete.  Note that if you need an automatic rental car, you should specify that, as many rentals have stick shifts.

    I like to navigate with a real map, so I used the Michelin map of Crete, 759 National, purchased from Amazon.

    When I read about Sklavopoula and decided to go there, it was not hard to find my way there using this map.

    Photography and story by Karen Krueger

    Planning to make a visit to Sklavopoula? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    partly cloudy
    42% humidity
    wind: 7mph SE
    H 67 • L 43
    Weather from Yahoo!

    Eat Vienna

    It’s our second entry in Bearleader’s “Eat a City” series, where we pick a city and hit the road to find great eateries we think you will enjoy. This time we are reporting back from Vienna, Austria.

    For a major European capital, Vienna is relatively small. With only 1.7 million inhabitants, it is a city that can be easily explore and its old world charm can be absorbed in just a few days. We decided to search for places where you can experience authentic-contemporary-Viennese life, that are frequented mostly by locals. These are places that don’t cater to the familiar Viennese stereotypes. If it’s schnitzel and apple strudel you are looking for, you may want to look elsewhere.

    1 Gasthaus Woracziczky

    The first stop on our culinary tour takes us to Vienna’s 5th district, close to the famed Naschmarkt, the largest open food market in Vienna. The name of this restaurant is a bit of a tongue twister but don’t let it scare you. It’s pronounced Wora-schit’-ski.

    Number 52 Spengergasse was the address of another restaurant for a long time before husband and wife team, Marion and Christoph Wurz, took it over, breathing new life into the place. What was a dark, smoke-filled, wood-paneled dining area and bar has been turned upside down. Now the rooms are bright, light, fresh and airy with classic old Viennese chairs and Marion’s flea-market-vintage bric-a-brac finds, lending the rooms an air of eccentricity.


    The kitchen is in the experienced hands of young Austrian chef Martin Buzernic, who specializes in local, traditional fare, deconstructed and reinterpreted into fresher and lighter versions. The wine list is Austrian only. Not familiar with the local wines? Just ask Marion for advice. She will know the best pairings for the day’s menu.

    At lunch hour, the restaurant is full of regulars from the neighborhood taking advantage of a very reasonably priced lunch menu. The crowd is small enough that Marion and Christoph know many of their patrons by name, giving the place the feel of a canteen, but with one important distinction: The food is great.

    The menu changes daily based on what farmers bring, which you can see announced every morning on Facebook. It is written in German, but with a little help from Google translator you can easily evaluate the menu’s general yumminess. Or just show up and use Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” technique and order whatever’s on offer. You won’t be disappointed.


    In the evening a new menu is handwritten based on the morning’s experiments. The names of the dishes may be unfamiliar but the friendly waitstaff is happy to assist with descriptions and suggestions.

    Gasthaus Woracziczky is a true reflection of Marion and Christopher’s warm charm and kind hospitality. It’s a great place to while away a few hours over good food, wine and conversation.

    2 Zum Finsteren Stern

    Next we visit Zum Finsteren Stern, meaning “to the dark star”. Situated in Vienna’s first district, the restaurant is on the ground floor of a 17th century Palais where in October 1762, a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister Maria Anna gave their first public concert at the invitation of Count Thomas Vinciguerra Collato.

    Nowadays you won’t likely hear the sounds of Mozart in the air. But you will hear the rhythmic sounds of horse drawn carriages carrying tourists past the restaurant on their tours though the first district: the carriages are, perhaps, the one sound that would also have been familiar in Mozart’s day.


    At Zum Finsteren Stern, a former actress, Ella De Silva, now pours her talent into creating great experiences for her audience through food and hospitality.

    The decor is simple, and direct. Dramatic vaulted ceilings take center stage and in the lower dining room, a series of carved wood panels line one wall, serving both as art installation and light fixture.

    If your visit to Vienna is during the summer months, be sure you book a table in the beautiful outdoor plaza. The plaza is sheltered by an enormous tree and dining here is cinematic, enjoying Ella’s delicious creations as horse-drawn carriages slowly roll by, the sound of the horses’ hooves echoing through the narrow streets.

    Ella’s menus draw on traditional Austrian ideas with influences from Austria’s southern neighbor, Italy. Fresh local and seasonal ingredients shape her menus.


    I am lucky to have dined at Zum Finsteren Stern several times, which allows me to give you a bit of an inside scoop. Ella makes a signature dessert called “Schoko Bombe”, a rich chocolate dish served cold. It is quite literally “the bomb”. They go quickly, so ask your waiter to put one aside for you when you order your meal. That way you won’t be disappointed, as I have been more than once.

    3 Labstelle

    For restaurant number three we head over towards St. Stephens Cathedral. Just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral is Lugeck Square, a medieval plaza that was traditionally designated the emergency meeting place in times of war. Now it’s the home of the restaurant, Labstelle.

    Labstelle has built its reputation on fresh modern design and farm-to-table cooking. Owner Thomas Hahn works with a tight-knit community of purveyors whose names are proudly displayed on a big blackboard in the restaurant’s entry.


    Style, service and modern cuisine are hallmarks of a visit to Labstelle. The young waitstaff is helpful and friendly, and the dining room is outfitted with Danish Modern Wegener chairs, neutrally-toned linen napkins and reclaimed wood tables. The place is packed full of small, thoughtful, design details, making the space as thoughtfully constructed as the food. The menu is driven by what Labstelle’s purveyors are able to provide on the day, so you are always in for a surprise.

    In the summer it is nice to sit in the outdoor courtyard – a quiet spot set back from the hustle and bustle of Lugeck Square.

    If you have already been in Vienna for a few days, and just cannot face another schnitzel or apple strudel, Labstelle is a refreshing change of pace. On the day of our visit we saw a steady stream of local professionals, visitors and young creatives coming through the door. A sophisticated and diverse crowd, which speaks well for Labstelle’s local reputation.


    Searching for a special something to bring home from your visit? Purchase a bottle of the house soap that was custom-designed for the restaurant by a young Viennese Soap maker. Feels good and smells great too. We loved it!

    4 Zur Herknerin

    Next we venture into the 4th district to meet Stefanie Herkner, one of the most vivacious and lively chefs I have come across. Full of life, love and enthusiasm, Stefanie abandoned a career in art management and a stint living in London to take over a former plumbing store and pursue her culinary dream.

    The sign from original plumbing store remains in place above the restaurant, advertising “Installationen” (pipe fitting). It’s a good omen that everything still flows smoothly at the plumbing store’s appetizing successor.


    The restaurant business runs deep in the Herkner family. Stefanie’s dad answered to the title “Wirt”, the Austrian term for chef. He was famous for his authentic Viennese cooking and is still regarded as a trailblazer for what we now call gastropub culture. Now it’s Stefanie’s turn to bring her versions of dumplings, gulasch and all manner of traditional Austrian fare to the hungry hordes of Vienna.

    For out-of-towners the fully Austrian handwritten menu can be a little hard to decipher. But plenty of help is on hand to assist you in make your selection, and to advise you on, say, the best wine to pair with spinach dumplings, or Spinatknoedel as the menu might read.

    In case you want to learn the art of dumpling making, Austrian style, email Stefanie. She sometimes turns her kitchen into a classroom to educate aspiring chefs on the vagaries of the dumpling. Sounds like a fun activity. I make a pretty mean dumpling but I could definitely use a refresher course.


    In the summertime Stefanie installs a few small wooden tables out front on the sidewalk. It’s not quite Italy, but quite enjoyable on a balmy Viennese night. Zur Herknerin was a great find and a fitting conclusion to our Eat Vienna Tour. Bon appétit!

    The Small Print

    There are a couple of oddities that you might experience eating out in Vienna. Here is a rundown.

    First, as of the writing of this article many Austrians continue to have a difficult time embracing the concept of not smoking inside public spaces, that most of Europe and the US have now mastered. The Austrian government has made some half-hearted attempts at complying with current EU law on this, but alas, somehow it is not yet working.

    So if you prefer to eat sans smoke, always check that the restaurant you are going to is non-smoking before heading out. If you are a smoker, Vienna is your nirvana.

    Second, an issue we came across again and again is that it is rare in Vienna for a restaurant to take credit cards. It is always a good idea to be prepared with cash in hand should the need arise.

    And last but not least, if you find yourself in Vienna on a Sunday, many restaurants will be closed. You might be left with few choices, and mostly of the tourist variety. Note to self, find some good places to eat in Vienna on Sundays.


    Gasthaus Woracziczky

    Spengergasse 52, 1050 Vienna
    Phone: +43 1 69911 229530

    Open Monday to Friday
    Lunch service 11:30am – 2:30pm
    Dinner service 6:00pm – 12:00am
    Closed Saturday, Sunday and holidays
    Closed August 10th – August 30th

    Non-smoking | Cash only | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you.

    Zum Finsteren Stern

    Schulhof 8, 1010 Vienna
    Phone: +43 1 535 2100

    Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner only
    6:00pm – 1:00am

    Non-smoking in the downstairs dinning room until 10:00pm | Credit cards accepted: MasterCard and Visa | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you.


    Lugeck 6, 1010 Vienna
    Phone: +43 1 236 2122

    Open Monday to Saturday
    11:30am – 2:00am
    Lunch service 12:00pm – 2:00pm
    Dinner service 6:00pm – 11:00pm

    Non-smoking | Credit cards accepted: MasterCard and Visa | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you, or book online.

    Zur Herknerin

    Wiedner Hauptstrasse 36, 1040 Vienna
    Phone: +43 1 699 1522 0522

    Open Tuesday to Friday for dinner only
    5:00pm – 10:00pm

    Non-smoking | Cash only | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you | To inquire about Stefanie’s cooking lessons email her at

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    A Train to Haarlem

    Haarlem, in the Netherlands, has long been on my must-visit list. I am particularly fond of the full-of-life paintings by Haarlem native Frans Hals. Unlike his contemporaries, such as Rembrandt, Hals did not travel to paint his subjects. He preferred to stay at home in Haarlem, requiring his sitters to come to him. Consequently the majority of his best know work has not strayed from Haarlem. So if you want to see it you also have to go to Haarlem.

    Fortunately we were already in Amsterdam, and Haarlem is not much further from the center of Amsterdam as Harlem is from downtown Manhattan. So we hopped on the local commuter train for the short trip.

    Arriving at Haarlem’s central station you are already in one of the city’s historic landmarks. The train line from Haarlem to Amsterdam was the first in Holland, and special attention was given to the stations along this historic route. Haarlem’s station today is virtually the same as the day it opened in 1908. A fitting introduction to the history of a city that saw tremendous growth in the late 19th century.


    If, when you arrive for the first time, the station feels familiar, it may be because it was used as a substitute for Amsterdam’s station in the film “Oceans Twelve”.

    The town is a smaller, more compact version of Amsterdam, today with slightly less of an emphasis on canals as a means of transportation. It used to be much more of a canal city but many years ago, on the occasion of a cholera outbreak, the city fathers deduced that the polluted canals were the cause, and those that were stinking, black and stagnant were filled in and made into avenues.

    Prior to our arrival we booked a canal tour on Captain Peter Blankendaal’s 1930’s era wooden canal boat. Peter moors his boat next to the old De Adriaan windmill, not too far from the train station. Seeing the city by canal gives you a different perspective on the city, and it’s a great way to orient yourself for walking later on.


    We were also joined on our boat excursion by local historian and guide, Walter Schelfhout, who filled us in on the rich history of Haarlem as seen from the water. A light mist settled over the canals as we made our way slowly through the city’s waterways. The soft Dutch light, filtered through the chilly morning mist, cast the city in an atmosphere reminiscent of an Old Masters painting.

    Beer production figures prominently in Haarlem’s history and the architecture is reflective of this industry, long since passed. Walter, with his encyclopedic knowledge of the area, is able to tell us the story of each building we pass, most of them being at one time connected to the brewing industry. With a basic sense of the city’s layout, and with Walter’s brief historical overview, we are ready to launch out on our own. Captain Blankendaal drops us off on the Raamvest Canal just next to the Frans Hals Museum for our next stop.

    Back in the day, Monet, Courbet and Manet reportedly made pilgrimages to Haarlem just to visit the Frans Hals Museum. I am sure their journey was much more treacherous than our relatively easy trip into town. Their dedication to come and experience Hals first-hand is testament to how ahead of his time Hals was.


    If he were alive today, we would likely call him a “Lifestyle” painter. In contrast to his contemporary, Rembrandt, who ingeniously devised ways to illuminate his subjects with candlelight, Hals preferred to place his subjects in daylight settings. And recognizing that beauty cannot exist without imperfection, Hals showed his characters, flaws and all. You can see this even in the surface texture of his paintings. The fashion was for glossy smooth paintings, but Hals’ paintings leap out at you with all their bumps, lumps and swirls. It all results in a feeling of immediacy, a moment caught in time. Looking at it today it feels quite photographic. You can almost hear the laughter and the cries echoing down the 400 year old corridors of Hals’ subjects.

    It was January and the off season, but the museum was still buzzing with lots of local families (and a few of us tourists): great to see so many Dutch visitors enjoying their own heritage. There is a lot to take in here and we spent some hours gazing in Hals’ work, and learning all about his place in art history via the museum’s handy audio guide, free with admission.

    Leaving the museum, just across the street you will come upon the Historic Museum Haarlem. Housed in a former hospital, this quirky museum has a general overview of the city’s history, with an interesting emphasis on the last 50 years. Lots of obscure artifacts and interesting knickknacks that still seem pretty familiar. After a quick look around we took advantage of the nice cafe on the ground floor for a quick hot drink served by the museum’s great crew of volunteers.


    Continuing on into the center of town, we made our way to another of Haarlem’s highlights, Teylers Museum. This is the oldest museum in Holland. Built in 1784, it remains almost untouched to this day. So your experience will not be that much different from that of an eighteenth century visitor. Passing through the heavy monumental entry doors, a magical world of the past awaits you.

    Peter Teyler was a rich banker and merchant with a passion for what was new and rare in the world. Being a man of the enlightenment, he collected books, fossils, ephemera, and scientific instruments, and commissioned various experimental devices to help him understand the workings of the world. The museum was built on his legacy, to share with the public the world of emerging science and invention. The museum’s collection has continued along these lines.

    My favorite object was “The Highest Point of Mont Blanc”: literally the highest point of the mountain chipped off and pocketed in 1787 by one of the museum’s collectors. There is something hilariously inappropriate about this. But there it is, now seen by millions of people, where before it was only accessible by a handful.


    The craftsmanship of the rooms, the display cases, and the objects themselves, are absolutely fascinating. If you saw the movie Night at the Museum, you can just imagine what happens in this museum after hours.

    Leaving Teylers, we head to the town square for some much needed sustenance and stop in at the Grand Cafe Brinkmann. Established in 1879, its lofty ceilings and Art Nouveau interior is a great place for some food, drink and people watching.

    Following the back streets towards our hotel, we happen across Friethoes (Fries—made by owner Joost—Hoes), near the train station. No visit to Haarlem is complete without the consummate pommes frites indulgence. And no better place for that than Friethoes, run by a young friendly team, they use all organic potatoes, oil and even home-made-organic mayonnaise. Each batch is made freshly to order. There are three sizes on offer and several topping options. Of course, When in Haarlem … we opted for the Dutch way and went with the Mayonnaise. Delicious!


    As the winter sun set and the streetlights began reflecting in the canals, we arrived at our hotel, the Golden Tulip Lion D’Or, ready to call it a day.

    Next morning we headed back towards the Frans Hals museum area to check out the modern side of Haarlem. We stopped in at Portrait, a new concept store created by young locals, Karen, Daisy and Rogier. Part boutique, part coffee shop, part live/workspace, their mantra, “call this home and you don’t have to do the dishes”, strikes quite an appealing note. Housed in a former stable, Portrait offers a great curated selection of clothes, postcards, books and design objects. Another friend bakes daily-fresh-sweet treats, which I can personally attest, are very good, as is the coffee by owner/barista Rogier. So make sure you stop in, there is something there for everyone.

    With bags packed we are ready to head once more to the lovely train station to depart. On the way I notice a sign on one of the old station waiting rooms advertising Salsa classes starting in February. I imagine the sounds of Salsa drifting across the platforms. Such an interesting, diverse place.

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


    The cities of Amsterdam and Haarlem have a great way for you to access public transport, gain entries to most museums, take in a canal tour and many more great offers. It is called the City Card, and comes in 24, 48 and 72 hour sizes. A great value to get you around Amsterdam and Haarlem. For more information about the City Card, go to;

    For more information about Canal Tours with Captain Peter Blankendaal, go to;

    For more information about a local guided tour email Walter Schelfhout.

    For more information about the Frans Hals Museum, go to;

    For more information about the Historic Museum Haarlem and their lovely Cafe, go to;

    For more information about the Teylers Museum, go to;

    For perfect French Fries from Friethoes, go to;

    For more information about Grand Cafe Brinkmann, go to;

    If you are a beer aficionado try Haarlem’s local beer, brewed to the authentic historical Haarlem recipe. For more information, go to;

    Thanks to the Golden Tulip for hosting us during our stay in Haarlem. For more information about staying at the Golden Tulip, A great centrally located modern hotel with friendly staff, go to;

    For direct access to and from Haarlem from Schipol Airport, we found the best way is to take the number 300 Bus. Pick it up right outside the airport, and in Haarlem, right outside the train station. It costs about four Euro and only takes 45 minutes. For those who take a dim view on busses, this is more of a train on rubber wheels. Quite an easy and pleasant trip.

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning to make a visit to Vienna for some new shoes? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    partly cloudy
    68% humidity
    wind: 18mph E
    H 38 • L 29
    Weather from Yahoo!

    M. Wells — Art for Eating

    Long Island City, or as the locals say “LIC”, is the western-most residential and commercial neighborhood of New York City’s borough of Queens. As the name suggests, Long Island City was formerly an independent city after several villages merged to form it in 1870. Twenty years later it surrendered its independence and merged with the borough of Queens.

    With rents ever on the rise in Manhattan, LIC has seen an uptick in interest in recent years from those looking for a reasonable place to live and work within hitting distance to Manhattan. As a result the area is undergoing rapid change, which is a good thing because now more than ever, there is amazing food to be had and great museums to visit just a short hop from Manhattan, over the East River.

    LIC was home to the infamous Major Patrick Gleason, an Irish immigrant who fought in the Civil War, failed at several business ventures around New York and then moved to San Francisco where he made a small fortune in the distillery business. Moving back to New York, he established himself in LIC. He was known for his volatile temper and having a stronghold over local politics, being elected three times to office.

    One of his legacies was a school he built for local children, the largest high school on Long Island at the time. It educated students for many years, and still stands today as the home of MoMA’s PS1. Major Gleason would be proud to see his legacy still standing.


    So, here is where we start our food and art tour for the day.

    MoMA’s PS1 is a major hub for contemporary art lovers, and the largest institution of its kind in the United States. When MoMA took over the space it was already structured in a way quite suitable to the display of art. So fortunately, much of the old school remains intact, and walking around the galleries today it is easy to imagine the halls and classrooms packed with energetic kids.

    After you have strolled the galleries, there is one particular classroom you should check out. It’s a classroom turned dining room, on the ground floor, and the home of M. Wells Dinette, a cafeteria-style eatery run by husband and wife team, Hugue Dufour and Sarah Orbraitis.


    Hugue got his start at the famed “Au Pied de Cochon” in Montreal, the restaurant which many say brought nose-to-tail cooking back to the Americas. On moving to New York from Montreal, Hugue and Sarah first tried their luck taking over a small diner next to the Vernon Boulevard Subway stop in Queens. That was not meant to be, but soon the opportunity arrived to take over PS1’s cafe space, and M. Wells Dinette was born.

    It’s a good fit with PS1. You feel Hugue and Sarah’s creativity in their unique take on food and place the moment you enter. An open kitchen overlooks the dining room. And in homage to the young, energetic and mostly French Canadian team, overlooking the kitchen is a giant portrait of famed Quebec Politician Rene Levesque, founder of Quebec’s political independence from the rest of Canada.

    The food is a natural extension of the PS1 galleries. Unique and inspiring works, in various edible mediums. It’s a tangible and fulfilling experience with art. The menu is at its core French, but the French connection is mainly philosophical. The dishes are thoroughly current and modern, prepared with a love of ingredients and assembled in fresh new ways.


    On the day of my visit there was a bit of a nip in the air and it was gratifying to see that the day’s menu had “comfort” written all over it. Two dishes stood out: foie gras with oatmeal, and diced veal hearts. Yum! There is a great wine list which, naturally, is predominantly French. You will have to ask what the best pairing is for foie gras and oatmeal.

    Next stop is a real treat and it’s just a few blocks away. The Isamu Noguchi museum is a quiet, intimate and reflective museum that rarely gets overcrowded. Noguchi designed the museum himself as an open air sculpture garden ensconced within a building that houses ten galleries.

    A bit further down the road is the Socrates Sculpture Park. This is a recently built outdoor sculpture garden with regularly changing exhibitions. One feature of this park is the spectacular Manhattan skyline which is something you just can’t see in Manhattan. You have to go to Queens for that.

    Depending on when you began your LIC tour, it might be about time to start thinking about your next meal. Continuing on with Sarah and Hugue’s other LIC venue, our next stop is M. Wells Steakhouse.


    For the steakhouse, Sarah and Hugue chose a former car mechanic shop as the location. This provided a great industrial backdrop characteristic of LIC, on which could be added elements of old world charm and glamour, which you would expect in an establishment specializing in steak house fare.

    When people ask me where they should head for the best New York steak, hands down this is the place to go. There are some other better known steak houses in New York but you will not find a better dining experience than at M. Wells Steakhouse.

    To back up my claim, last September Hugue received his first Michelin star!


    As at M. Wells Dinette, the menu is characteristically French, layered with Hugue’s newly found American roots. My favorite dish for taste and presentation was the French onion soup with bone and marrow right in the middle. It is served with a delightfully small silver fork sized especially to facilitate the marrow part of your meal.

    The dish has a magical, slightly fluorescent green tinge to it. An effect which Hugue achieves by topping the dish with a mixture of finely ground parsley mixed with breadcrumbs. It is divine.


    There are brilliant deserts on offer as well, so make sure you leave room. The dessert presentation is on a 1950s style cake trolley. The selection is quite something to behold.

    After a day full of amazing food and art it is back to Manhattan on the 7 train. What a great day of amazing creative treats for mind and body.

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


    LIC is easily accessible from Manhattan. The number 7 train from Grand Central Station and it takes you right into the heart of it all.

    M. Wells PS1 is located inside MoMA PS1. If you only want to eat no need to pay the museum admission fee. For more information and opening at M.Wells Dinette, go to;

    The Noguchi Museum has been doing some ongoing renovation work and will reopen in the Spring of 2015. Please check the website for more information about the reopening. Go to;

    For information about visiting the Socrates Sculpture garden, go to;

    Make sure you book early for M.Wells Steakhouse. For more information and reservations, go to;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning to make a visit to LIC? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    Hauser & Wirth — Art Farm

    A few weeks ago a friend called from San Francisco with a question. “I’m visiting London with my mother soon and we want to take a day trip into the country. Any ideas for where we can go without having to drive?” I know they’re both interested in contemporary art, so Hauser & Wirth immediately came to mind.

    Hauser & Wirth Co-founders Iwan Wirth and Ursula Hauser recently established a brand-new outpost for their collection of galleries nestled in the green pastures of Somerset. Seems like an odd choice on first thought with the vast majority of art establishments firmly ensconced within urban centers. But no one ever had any success in the art world by doing what’s expected. So in a business where contrarian thinking can often garner spectacular results, this is worth checking out. I suggested that my friend and her mom take the train to Hauser & Wirth in the small town of Bruton, about an hour and a half west of London.

    Hauser & Wirth, Somerset is not a gallery in the conventional sense. It’s a new kind of art experience combining education, conservation, sustainability, shopping, dining, performance and accommodation, centered around a beautiful rural gallery space and all set within a classic-English-pastoral landscape.

    So what are the chances this is going to work? Well, the numbers speak for themselves. Since opening in July 2014, there has been a steady stream of visitors from near and far. I planned my trip on a Tuesday thinking I would have the run of the place. No such luck. Even on a cold and grey winter’s day the galleries were bustling and the dining room was fully booked. On weekends there are many more visitors.


    From the start Hauser & Wirth placed a strong emphasis of reaching out to the community. Children from local schools visit often, there are family Saturdays, lectures, DJ Fridays and many more events occurring year round. All this adds up to a great place both for the community and city dwellers on a day-trip, like us.

    The foundation of the complex is the original historic buildings of the Durslade Farm. When you first enter through the main courtyard you are greeted by a collection of sculptures. On the day of our visit, to the right was a large Paul McCarthy sculpture and to the left a massive milking pail by Subodh Gupta.


    At the far end of the courtyard sits a wonderful 18th century farmhouse adorned with a Martin Creed light installation announcing to all visitors “everything is going to be alright”.

    The Parisian architects Laplace restored the derelict stables, cow sheds and threshing barns, and linked them with a new structure containing galleries, with space more suitable to larger scale work. The existing buildings are often left with the original stone walls and roof beams exposed, set in contrast to large expanses of glass, where barn doors used to stand, directing the view outside.

    The gardens are equally interesting, designed by Dutch garden architect Piet Oudolf whose signature planting schemes you will also find on New York’s Highline elevated urban park. We are visiting in winter when gardens do not typically show their best face, but I find Oudolf’s planting beautiful even when ostensibly barren. There is a poetry and beauty in the plants just carrying seeds and grass turning yellow and bearing the scars of winter. Grass circles lend a graphic element to the center of the garden which changes in character with each season.


    Offsetting a cold and grey winter day was Pipilotti Rist’s lovely video shot on the farm during the previous summer. To produce the work Swiss-based Rist took up residency on the farm with her son in tow. Projected on three large walls of the gallery, the images speak of a warm lazy summer’s day. People look on, sitting on the gallery floor strewn with sheep skins, as if still grazing in a field.

    After touring the gardens and galleries we visit the restaurant located in the farm’s former cow shed. Roth Bar and Grill is run by husband and wife team Julia and Steve Horell. It is a mixing space where people arriving with different agendas all end up together. I think this is the lynch pin of the whole place and the main reason the complex works so well. People come for the art and stay for the food. And conversely, people with little interest in art, stop in for a bite and can’t help but share their sense of enchantment. In each case everyone is engaged and enjoying the experience.

    The walls of the dining room are adorned with tightly packed works by artists of the Hauser & Wirth family. Large vibrant neon chandeliers by the late Jason Rhodes cast a multi-colored glow over the room.


    Steve serves a simple, honest, seasonal menu with local produce, usually sourced within a 5 mile radius. We tried 1/2 Woolly Park Farm Chicken with lemon mayonnaise which was lovely. I can really recommend it – but I am a sucker for the simple things. Nothing beats homemade bread and butter. Steve makes his own, and it is excellent.

    After lunch we checked out the farmhouse. If you can’t get enough in one day, why not stay over at the farmhouse. It has six rooms and can sleep up to 12 people. The house is an artwork in its deconstruction executed through a collaboration between Laplace and conservation architects Benjamin & Beauchamp. The team set about excavating the house’s history, revealing the traces of the families that have lived there since the 1700s.

    Walls have been peeled exposing their various paint layers. Temporary walls from the 20th century have been reinforced and put to new use, and furnishings have been found in local thrift stores and flea markets to keep the spaces grounded in local character.


    One area has been used as an installation space for a recent artist in residence. Hauser & Wirth gave one of their famously open briefs, asking Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca to create something in the dining room during his five week residency. He started painting on one of the walls and gradually it expanded to encompass the whole room, floor to ceiling. With nowhere else to go the project came to a natural end. Along with the five green glasses we found on the table when we arrived, it seemed like a complete piece of art.

    All through the house you see old and new in beautiful tension: It really is an inspirational place, a living art space. As the day drew a close we made the short walk back to the tiny Bruton train station, and headed back to the big city.

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


    Remember, book your train tickets online early for the best fare. Trains depart from London Paddington to Bruton with one train change.

    For opening hours and details about the gallery, restaurant and how to book the farmhouse, go to:

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning to make a visit to Hauser & Wirth in Somerset? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    The Scheer Economy

    We are all products of a world which trends ever more towards mechanization, and since the latter part of the 20th century, digitization. As far back as I can remember, we embraced technology as the way to achieve a better quality of life. Even though in retrospect it is clear that the transformation has occurred at rapid speed, as we strolled along day-to-day into the future, the change was almost imperceptible.

    As more and more things move from analogue to digital, we seem to be losing touch with physical objects and processes that, while perhaps not the most efficient, did contain satisfying elements that we are now finding irreplaceable. The more they disappear, the more obvious their absence is becoming, and I would suggest that a tipping point has recently occurred. While mass production has given us adequate facsimiles, for a whole range of goods and services there is simply no replacement for what’s made by hand, with dedication, intuition, experience and care.


    From butchers and bakers to candlestick makers, there is renewed interest in quality hand-made goods. In fact, being a maker of things has become a desirable career path. Many young people are leaving corporate jobs or taking apprenticeships after college and becoming carpenters, bakers, goldsmiths, restorers, et cetera, to meet the growing demand for hand-crafted goods.

    On the other hand, we are lucky that a few old-world businesses withstood the barrage of mechanization long enough for a new generation to pick up the reins. A classic example of this is the Vienna workshop of Rudolf Scheer & Söhne (Son), a company that has made shoes continuously since 1816.


    Fronting onto Bräunerstraße 4 in Vienna’s first district, Scheer maintains two entrances, the original and the new. I like to use the original and take the same path customers have trod for just short of 100 years.

    Designated imperial court cobbler in 1878, Scheer reached the pinnacle of prestige early. Later the business weathered two world wars, and the dramatic social changes that followed. Each generation reinvented the business to meet the changing needs of its customers, while maintaining the highest standards of craftsmanship.


    Now in its seventh generation, the current Scheer at the helm is 41 year old Markus, who started working as an apprentice for his grandfather at the age of 18.

    In the late 1990s when his grandfather retired, Markus started to put his mark on the family business. He initiated an update of the brand, including the addition of a new showroom and distinctly modern entrance reflecting the mood of the next phase of the business.


    I head over to Scheer’s new retail space to wait for Markus. A tiny passageway links the old and the new showrooms. To make the passage a small changing room had to be sacrificed. But true to form, everything original was left intact. I noticed a small window on the side of the old changing room which did not seem to serve any purpose, so I enquired. The story goes that when the emperor came for fittings he would change in this room, and the window allowed him to wave a hanky to signal that he was ready.

    The new showroom displays classic shoes, handmade belts and other accessories. One of my favorite pieces was a handmade leather picnic hamper, fully outfitted with an espresso maker. It’s the perfect product to represent Scheer’s dedication to craft and function.


    Markus has ingeniously treated the new showroom walls by exposing layers of old paint and wallpaper, reflecting the style of ancient frescoes. With the walls juxtaposed with clean lines of metal, glass and leather, the effect is altogether modern.

    A glass banister staircase leads customers down to a cellar suggestive of an old grotto. Making our way down the staircase we enter a large hall with arch-shaped window. Special lighting in the windows makes it appear as if daylight is filtering down from the street above.


    A long table with simple benches extends the length of the room. On the day of our visit, leather samples of all colors and textures were spread over the table waiting to be selected by customers, to be made into shoes.

    Back on street level, in the reception room, original wooden glass cases display the wooden shoe moulds of various Austrian monarchs. With each owner’s name attached their mould, it’s a veritable who’s who of Austrian history. An arrangement of original Thonet chairs occupies the center of the room, providing the place where customers have always been received for their appointments.


    A stairway leads up to the first floor into a private reception room where Markus takes clients through the process of determining their particular shoe needs. The floors creak. The walls are lined with shoes and boots from past and present. At the center of the room is a shoe-fitting stool: a simple, utilitarian piece of furniture that you might find in any shoe shop. But in this case it was made exclusively for Scheer by classic Austrian furniture maker, Thonet. It’s a beautifully functional piece of furniture and a real treasure.

    For those who have not yet experienced the making of custom shoes, you may be surprised to find that it is much more involved than simply forming a nice piece of leather to your foot and attaching it to a sole. As I found, it involves craft, engineering and surprisingly, a great deal of psychology. A big part of Markus’ skill is drawing out of his customers things you might think unrelated to shoes. Things like their goals and aspirations, and what kinds of things they would like to do in their new shoes. Markus takes the time to get to know his customers. He then expresses what he’s learned – in form, comfort, materials, and color. It all seems magical, but, really, it comes from years of practice and the dedication to learn from generations of experience.


    It takes around six months for Markus to produce a pair of shoes, which includes at least three fittings. Successive pairs can be produced much faster.

    A pair of Scheer shoes can last for 30 years or longer. But as with all things of value, proper maintenance is key to making them last. Just like your own skin, leather needs to be cleaned and moisturized. Your shoes shouldn’t be worn every day; every other day they need a rest. And bringing them in once a year for servicing will greatly increase their life expectancy.

    One of Markus’ assistants passes by and I couldn’t help checking out his shoes. I expected that everyone working at Scheer would have great shoes, but these stood out. It turns out that they were an experiment in restoration. Markus took apart an antique pair of shoes and reworked them onto a new mould and gave them a new sole. It brings the idea of recycling to quite a different level.


    Beyond the Salon is the workshop, with the room, wall coverings, furniture and most of the tools dating back generations. It feels like a museum or movie set, untouched by time. The only concessions to modernity are modern, high-end work lamps suspended over each shoemaker’s work station. In times past you would have seen a “shoemaker’s lamp” consisting of a glass sphere filled with water with a candle behind. The sphere of water focused the candle light to a spot precisely measured on the other side of the sphere, the glow of which would illuminate the shoemaker’s work into the dusk, which in the winter comes early in Vienna.

    These rooms, now dedicated to production, used to be the Scheer’s family residence. It’s a bit like a maze these days, filled with tools of the trade, stacked wooden moulds for various clients, leather patterns and workbenches, all of the things essential to produce a perfect shoe.


    There’s an air of intensity in the production room – concentration and skill combined with smell of wood leather and wax. It’s strange to think that 98 years ago it would not have been that much different … except for the lamps.

    Visiting Rudolf Scheer & Söhne it’s easy to see why people are becoming more attracted to the idea of mastering a craft. It’s fascinating to meet someone like Markus who embraces his work with such a passion for perfection. I think it must be the only way to sustain a craft tradition, shepherding it into the next generation. Work at this level in any discipline is an inspiration. I would encourage any aspiring craft aficionado to make a visit.


    Of course there are no shortcuts to this process, so a weekend visit won’t really do you much good in terms of a new pair of shoes. But you can still pick up a little bit of Scheer with one of their beautiful accessories, or some of Scheer’s fine shoe-care products. My suggestion would be some of the custom blend shoe cleaner products. A great souvenir to bring home from your trip.

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


    For more information about Rudolf Scheer & Söhne, go to;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning to make a visit to Vienna for some new shoes? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    83% humidity
    wind: 7mph S
    H 55 • L 45
    Weather from Yahoo!

    Somerset Ice

    When thinking about classic European destinations guaranteed to deliver maximum yuletide joy for the lead-up to Christmas, cities like Vienna, Nuremberg, Munich and Salzburg immediately come to mind. And for good reason, because most of the traditions, symbols and characteristics that we now associate with Christmas were born in the Germanic countries, with some traditions, like Christmas trees, originating way back in the Middle Ages.

    But Christmas was too good an idea to keep bottled up in the German Empire forever, and it eventually found its way out of mainland Europe and across the channel in the luggage of Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel (Prince Albert) on his betrothal to Queen Victoria. Yes, almost everything you now know as “Christmas” really comes by way of the English. Maybe that is why my favorite Christmas is an English one. So, for your classic Christmas extravaganza, stock up on Christmas crackers, don your paper crown, pop a threepence in the plumb pudding, and book your ticket to London.


    There’s a bevy of activities available in London during the holiday season with various festive markets popping up around town. But one thing you should definitely plan on is a visit to the Somerset house ice skating rink. This year Somerset house collaborated with famous purveyor of the best seasonal goods, Fortnum & Mason, who turned the halls of Somerset house into their own Christmas market, of sorts.

    Situated on the Strand next to Waterloo Bridge, overlooking the River Thames, the Somerset House foundations date back as far as the 16th century. It was once home to Queen-in-waiting Elizabeth the First, daughter of Henry the Eighth and Anne Boleyn, during the reign of Queen Mary the First.


    After that the palace saw its fair share of renovations and additions due to the many different “lodgers” that followed. After the English Civil War, Parliament attempted to sell the property but nobody wanted to buy it. So it was taken off the market and put to various governmental uses. Legend has it Lord Nelson worked in the building for a while when it was partially occupied by the Admiralty. And as testament to the legend, the meeting room that Nelson might have visited has for a long time been called the “Nelson Room”.

    In the late 20th century it was decided that Somerset House will be a centre for the Visual arts, and now houses several exhibition spaces and a few restaurants, all focused on the central courtyard, used for various events and activities, like ice skating.


    The ice rink appears at the beginning of November and remains until early January. Booking is available for hourly slots, with skate rental included in the price of admission.

    Every hour, admission is limited to 220 ice skaters so it never gets crowded on the ice. Plenty of room for you to show off your twirls and glide around the rink backwards. Each hour the ice is cleaned and smoothed for another round of holiday skaters.


    The afternoon we visited there was a good mix of skating skills on display, from total beginners to advanced skaters. And for the little tykes, something to lean on is provided to steady the glide, in the form of small polar bears and penguins. They are very popular but remember, they’re only for kids! You adults will have to find someone or something else to lean on.

    As dusk set in, the lights came up giving the courtyard a wonderfully festive glow, capped off by the “SKATE” sign on top of the building. Opposite is an enormous Christmas tree with tables underneath where you can sit and enjoy warm drinks and treats from Tom’s Skate Lounge situated on the east side of the rink. Or if you are not in the mood for refreshments, it’s a great place to just sit and watch the people glide by.


    After an hour of skating, time to head indoors to investigate the Fortnum & Mason Christmas Arcade installed in the West wing of the building. F&M has outfitted each room with classic English Christmas treats. Truffles, Christmas puddings, special Christmas teas and an array of great gifts for family and friends. The F&M Lounge just next to the Lord Nelson Staircase is particularly good for a cozy drink.

    I mentioned Christmas Crackers earlier. These are one of my favorite English holiday traditions. You can pick them up in one of the F&M concessions. They were invented in 1840 by Tom Smith. Originally he sold his bonbons in a twist of paper with love messages inside, later adding the “crackle” to represent crackling logs in the fire place. Finally, Mr Smith let go of the candies and replaced them with little trinkets, including the now iconic paper crown and a selection of really bad jokes. It sounds absurd but you can really get a party going with a few paper crowns and some bad jokes.


    The English are famous for their dry subtle wit. My personal theory is that the reason for this is because they all grew up on these bad Christmas cracker jokes. Practice makes perfect. As an aside, did you know that the British royal family has special Christmas crackers made for them each year? I wonder who writes those jokes.

    Merry Christmas everyone

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


    For more information about ice skating at Somerset House, go to;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning a visit to Somerset House in London? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    partly cloudy
    57% humidity
    wind: 18mph E
    H 41 • L 31
    Weather from Yahoo!

    Heigh Ho, Heigh Hoh

    The farthest reaches of a place always have a wild quality. Explorers seem to seek out places that, once reached, naturally mark the end of a journey. It’s as if explorers have trouble setting their own limits so natural barriers form a convenient stopping point. This trip is to one of these places.

    Put your finger on the point most West and North on a United States map and it will be covering the Hoh River valley: the runoff basin for a series of glaciers formed on Washington’s Mount Olympus. This is where the Hoh River runs out to the Pacific Ocean and where a variety of routes, from day walks to advanced treks start for the long climb all the way up onto the glaciers.

    Before this trip I had not developed a mental map of anything west of the Seattle area. It was just a strip of land between the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. So on a recent visit to Seattle we decided to push farther west, as far as the land would allow.


    The first day we made it as far as Forks, the quasi-fictional town of vampires from the Twilight novels. The unique relationship of land and ocean makes Forks the wettest place in the continental US, a fitting setting for vampires and werewolves to live concealed in the perpetual grey mist.

    The next morning it was just a 20 min drive through the early morning fog to the Hoh River trailhead. We happened to have picked a holiday for our hike so we were not sure if that would mean empty trails or crowds. It was the former, not even a park ranger in sight.


    We started out on one of the shorter walks from the trailhead to warm up. A sign warned that we might come across elk and to be careful, they may be in a bad mood. I didn’t give it much thought thinking elk were something akin to the deer that roam through back yards around the Puget Sound. A herd of cranky deer did not seem very daunting.

    The word enchanted sounds cliché but it is what instantly comes to mind. The forest here is untouched and rarely do you come across a landscape which has grown layer upon layer for millennia.

    Everything seemed out of scale. We are accustomed to trees growing out of suburban yards and reaching twice as high as a house, at most. This terrain is all encompassing and taller than seems “natural”, and the effect overwhelming. Left, right, front, back, up, down, all is fuzzy green and alive.


    Standing awestruck, trying to take it all in, we’re startled by a large furry body lunging precariously from behind, bounding effortlessly through the undergrowth. Then another, and another. Awe quickly turned fear as we realized we were now right in middle of a stampeding herd of those a forewarned temperamental elk.

    We froze, the elk froze and we had a perfectly silent moment, each of us wondering what to do next. A few minutes later the elk decided we were ok, and quickly disappeared. By the way, an elk is MUCH larger than a deer.


    After that magical introduction we continued onto one of the longer routes and spent the day wandering through this enchanted forest at one of the most remote edges of North America.

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


    You will find lots of good information about this and other Washington State hikes at the Washington Trail Association site. WTA is a fantastic volunteer organization that maintains Washington’s wild trails. Please make a donation;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning a visit to the Hoh River? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    Toasted, with a Pat of Butter

    A few months ago I shared a story about my visit to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London. The gallery’s name comes from is location in the village of Dulwich. The problem with Dulwich is that it is located just far enough south of London that you wouldn’t likely visit there on a whim. You need sufficient motivation to make the trip. For me the Picture Gallery is more than enough to get me on the road. But on my last trip I decided to take the 15 minute walk from the gallery, through Dulwich Park and into the village, to see what else was going on in Dulwich. And as it turned out, we found another good reason to make the trip.

    Situated on Lordship Lane, the main street of Dulwich, is the restaurant Toasted, a collaboration between Chef Michael Hazlewood and Manager Alex Thorp. Michael, or Hazel as everyone calls him, hails from the Southern Hemisphere and began to develop his considerable culinary skills at the well-regarded Attica in Melbourne. He later moved onto positions at a few famous London foodie hangouts.

    Michael has a relaxed and quietly enthusiastic demeanor. And in spite of our arriving in the midst of a busy lunch-service prep, he was happy to engage with us as we peppered him with questions about the ingredients for the day’s menu and their sources. I am always intrigued by the alchemy that can happen in a kitchen in the right hands and Michael’s meticulous manner and adventurous ingredient combinations are testament to a real talent for food, beyond what practice can achieve. It’s an inspiration to see him work.


    As we chatted with Michael, Alex was nose-down and up to his elbows in the previous day’s receipts. Surely much of Toasted’s success is due to Alex keeping the front of the house up to the same high standard as Michael’s Cuisine.

    By now the dough was fully proved so Michael got to work forming the boules for the day. Speaking of bread, even something as simple as butter has not escaped Michael’s attention. You first notice the color, an unusually bright shade of yellow. And then the taste, like a tangy cream but much thicker. It’s so good you could eat it on its own. Michael makes it daily from fermented raw milk sourced from a dairy just outside of London.


    There are three dining areas, one in front next to the bar, one almost in the kitchen where some prep work takes place (sit here if you want to eat immersed in the kitchen action), and one in an adjacent room.

    In the adjacent room are also three large stainless steel tanks, purposely built to hold wine (in quantity) that Toasted has sourced from a small artisanal producer. The quality is good, and buying in quantity makes the cost quite reasonable. Coincidentally, Toasted’s predecessor at this location was a wine shop, so there is also a steady flow of customers looking to take advantage of the on-site bottled wine.


    In the end, Toasted’s charm is that it is simply a relaxed local joint where regulars come for a meal, or stop in for a coffee or a glass of wine. It just so happens that the meals are exceptional and it is an excellent room to hang out for a drink anytime. It’s definitely worth the trip to Dulwich.

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


    For more informant, current menus and a schedule for win tasting events, go to;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning a visit to Dulwich? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    Eat Munich

    We have received several emails of late from loyal Bearleader readers asking us to highlight more great food venues in and around the places we cover. You asked for it and here it is, the first of our new “Eat a City” series. Each time we visit a city we will be searching out four great places for you to dine. We will be picking options in different price ranges, styles of food and places that are good to visit at different times of the day. All our suggestions will serve fresh, local and mostly organic food. And of course any place we suggest will be a fun outing.

    First up, Eating Munich. If you are like me, images of Wurst (sausages), pretzels and beer immediately come to mind. But if you move beyond the Oktoberfest stereotype, you will find a small group of enthusiastic chefs working with local suppliers, whipping up a cuisine that is uniquely München. Yes, it is true, if you visit Munich any time in the other 11 months of the year you will have an equally good time, with a bevy of food and activity options that will delight, inspire and entertain. Here is what we found.

    1 Garden

    The Hotel Bayrischer Hof is a family-owned Munich institution, in operation since 1841. It has recently been renovated to enhance its five-star luxury reputation for another generation. Along with the hotel, the long-running Garden restaurant has also received a makeover under the direction of famed Belgian designer and art dealer Alex Vervoordt. Vervoordt transformed the Garden’s classic winter garden into a light-and-airy glass-enclosed dining room reminiscent of an artist Studio. Large expanses of glass, rough industrial materials and well-worn patinaed surfaces combine with a mix of natural linen fabrics to produce a dynamic lively space.


    Vervoordt controlled all visual aspects of the renovated restaurant with menus designed to his specifications, and commissioned fellow designer Ann Demeulemeester to produce uniforms for the wait staff. Demeulemeester created a work-coat-inspired Kimono in heavy dark blue linen, which is a brilliant and practical flourish that animates the new dining room.

    The cuisine is just as inspiring as the décor, with chef Jan Hartwig at the helm since May. This is his first head chef position and along with his young, energetic creative team, the kitchen is producing solid dishes that seem quite mature for the short time he has been in charge.


    A real craftsman, Jan’s dishes all feature carefully composed intriguing flavor combinations, each full of charm and subtle in taste. You will also find a great variety of thoughtful meatless options equal to his more carnivorous concoctions.


    Jan’s love for effusing various fresh herbs into his dishes is a thread that runs through the evolving seasonal menu.

    2 Waldmeisterei

    Now we are heading over to the Maxvorstadt district to check out Waldmeisterei, a favorite eatery of design-savvy locals and students from the nearby Ludwig-Maximilians University.


    On arrival we are greeted by co-owners Damir Stabo Stabek and Christina Pawelski. We sit down for some cake and a fresh lemon/elderflower gespritzt to chat about how the recently opened Waldmeisterei came to be.

    Stabo set out to create a breakfast-to lunch-time venue, offering simple, fresh food with a concentration on great cakes and coffee. It is part deli, part cafe, part local hang out. As we talked there was a steady stream of patrons coming and going, clearly on their daily pilgrimage to Waldmeisterei.


    The interior is quite new but constructed with recycled materials to look well-worn from day one. Walls and furniture are built from rough, reclaimed wood with bright copper-covered counter tops where cakes and other to-go offerings are displayed. Vintage chairs and chandeliers are paired with bold graphic posters to complete the comfortable and modern look.

    Christina bakes many of the cakes fresh daily. And you will find a great selection of seasonal lunch dishes on offer each day, prepared by lunch chef Aramis.

    A favorite of mine is the classic German-style open-faced sandwich called “Wurstbrot” and “Kaesebrot”. It’s a thick slice of dark whole wheat bread adorned with fresh cold cuts or cheese or both. A nice change of pace from the run-of-the-mill sandwiches we are so accustomed to, and good any time of day


    Afternoon is a great time to visit for “Kaffee und Kuchen”. A very German tradition that is still observed religiously by locals. And with Christina’s cakes, all the better at Waldmeisterei for your afternoon break from sightseeing.

    3 Fraeulein Grueneis

    Just a short trip south and east and we arrive at the southernmost point of the English Garden, where the Eisbach River rushes into the park.

    Of all the restaurants I have visited lately, this one has the best back story. Built in 1906 as a public toilet for the English Garden, it served its intended purpose for many years. Eventually the building acquired a reputation for drug dealing and other illicit activities, and it was officially boarded up and left to decay.


    Then one day a few years ago, the overgrown ruins caught the attention of local residents Sandra and Henning Duerr, who somehow had the vision to see that this dilapidated English Garden folly could be put back into service for public use as a restaurant.

    Having a vision is one thing, but bringing that vision to fruition is quite another. Standing in Sandra and Henning’s path was the city’s building department who would have to give them permission to occupy the property in order to move their plan forward. They soon found out that this permission was not going to be easy to extract. As Henning tells it, without Sandra’s dogged determination it would never have happened. Sandra attacked the problem with such tenacity that the city finally surrendered and gave permission, if for no other reason than to stop Sandra from calling them every day.


    With all the paperwork in order, the project began and the building was soon restored to its original exterior appearance. Henning did most of the work himself, and in 2011 the building reopened. When you are there, notice one of the few original details that remain from the original building, the sign “Frauen”, from the women’s room entrance.

    Now an integral part of the neighborhood, the restaurant attracts a healthy lunch crowd from local businesses, tourists and surfers arriving from the nearby Eisbach River. There are not too many places you can eat lunch with such a diverse crowd.


    The lunch menu changes daily, based on what’s available locally, with two dishes served as long as supplies last. Sandra and Henning live next to the local green market so they can easily buy their produce fresh daily. A great selection of home-baked cakes and other treats are also available for dessert or “Kaffee und Kuchen” in the afternoon.

    Fraeulein Grueneis is open year round. In the winter season, a small wood-burning stove in the main room is enough to keep everyone warm. And with the cold comes mulled wine season, which is well worth braving the cold for.


    Being situated within the English Garden provides more benefits than just a scenic location. To start with, there is a steady supply of wood from the local gardeners to keep the stove stoked all winter. And Henning told us they also tend several beehives in the gardens, producing a steady supply of their own Fraeulein Grueneis honey. A great souvenir to bring home with you from your lunch in the garden.

    After lunch, be sure you stop by the bridge over the Eisbach River. From the bridge you get a prime view of the locals surfing the famous stationary wave. The Eisbach River is the only river surfing location in the world within a city. But that is a story for another time.

    4 Chez Fritz

    For dinner we are heading east over the Isar River to Munich’s French Quarter in the neighborhood of Haidhausen to visit a wonderful French brasserie called Chez Fritz

    The Franzosenviertel (French Quarter) district in Munich dates back to around 1871 when, to commemorate Germany’s war with France, many streets were named after battlefields where Germans were victorious.


    The energetic crew at Chez Fritz know their chops. The menu features a selection of French classics such as: Steak Frites, Entrecôte, Jarret D’Agneau, and Moules et Frites. Seafood figures prominently on the menu and the daily fresh offerings are on display for individual selection in the dining room.

    The dining room feels like it has existed for at least as long as the local streets bearing French names. Whether by age or design, it’s a great room and just what you would want as a setting for classic French cuisine.


    During the warm summer months, try to get a table outdoors in the shadow of the neighboring St. Johannes church. Chez Fritz’s eclectic mix of vintage furniture under the old trees of Preysingplatz adds to the old world ambience.


    For details and reservations at the Garden restaurant go to;

    For opening hours and additional information about Waldmeisterei go to;

    For details and information about Fraeulein Grueneis go to;

    For reservations and additional information about Chez Fritz go to;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Paris on Four Wheels

    In the best of times, the streets of Montmartre are thronged with tourists trying to absorb some of the village’s former country charm. Walking the narrow streets one inevitably ponders how pleasant it must have been when this place, much removed from bustling Paris, would have been the kind of quiet, inexpensive place where artists flourish. While the streets and buildings are much the same as they were, the streets now regularly fill to capacity, making it difficult to imagine how the formerly quiet village must have been.

    But today we are not walking. Rather, we are bundled into a tiny classic red Citroën 2CV. As we slowly inch our way down the street, a river of tourists happily parts before us. From our comfortable seats, and without the need to concentrate on negotiating our way through the crowd, we have the opportunity to fully engage our imaginations in the experience at hand.

    But I have jumped into the middle of the story. Let’s get back to the beginning.

    A friend recently contacted me with a very specific travel question. Her mom, an avid traveler since youth, recently had undergone some medical treatments and was still recuperating. How could her mom continue to engage in her passion for travel? We put our thinking caps on to come up with some things to do that would enable her to continue to have the kind of travel experiences she treasures, without the exertion that is usually required.

    No.35 | Paris on Four Wheels with 4 rous sous 1 parapluie

    After some searching, I came across a great company, 4 rous sous 1 parapluie. “4 wheels under 1 umbrella” is a Parisian company specializing in tours conducted exclusively in the much beloved Citroën 2CV, or as the French call it the “Deudeuche”.

    Back in 2003, entrepreneur Florent Dargnies was looking for a way to give visitors a true Parisian experience in an original way. Combining great guides with classic 2CVs in the city of love turned out to be a winning combination, and 4 rous sous 1 parapluie has since developed their service to include a variety of specialized routes for first-time visitors and regular patrons alike. The fleet of 2CVs has now grown to over 20 cars, all kept in top shape by an on-site repairman, a real master at keeping all those French treasures running smoothly for their daily excursions.

    No.35 | Paris on Four Wheels with 4 rous sous 1 parapluie

    The Citroën 2CV has grown into a French icon, making it the obvious choice for 4 rous sous 1 parapluie to place at the center of their vision. Designed by engineer Pierre Jules Boulanger, he set out to create a “car for people”, a simple automobile: light on comfort, good for transporting people and goods, can handle any kind of terrain, and is not expensive to maintain. It took a while to catch on because of its odd looks, but in combination with its practicality, its looks soon helped it to become a French classic. But you need not take my word for it. As you drive around town you will immediately notice that everywhere you go people are looking at you, waving and taking pictures. Driving around Paris in a 2CV you become the tourist attraction.

    “4 rous sous 1 parapluie” translated curiously means “4 wheels under one umbrella”

    We booked our 2CV tour for May 8th. Coincidentally this is a national holiday in Paris. May 8th is “Fete de la Victoire” marking the end of hostilities in Europe in World War II. In retrospect, it was a perfect coincidence because we encountered very little traffic and all public buildings were officially adorned with the French flag. It made for a Paris even more picturesque than usual.

    No.35 | Paris on Four Wheels with 4 rous sous 1 parapluie

    Vincent, our guide and driver for the day, picked us up at our hotel at Places des Vosges. He arrived decked out in a signature St. James blue and white striped T-shirt, the uniform of all 4 rous sous 1 parapluie drivers. After giving us a brief rundown on what was in store, he opened the roof and settled us into our seats, all outfitted with blankets in case of a spring chill. We opted for the three hour “Magic Tour”. I figured it would be a good way to get an overview of the city, and a feel for its rich history.

    Off we went passing the Opera and Bastille, making our way past Ile de Cite, all the while zipping up and down tiny side streets as Vincent pointed out obscure landmarks and told us about their part in the history of Paris.

    No.35 | Paris on Four Wheels with 4 rous sous 1 parapluie

    Of course we love taking pictures, and Vincent was happy to oblige whenever we spotted a “scenic spot”. Each time, he quickly found a safe spot off the rue to park, and let us out to do our snapping.

    We drove around the Pantheon and through Saint Germaine where Vincent stopped to show us where, in 1799, Mhe metric system was introduced. To educate the pulic, it was important for the government to communicate this new system of measurement. Physical meter markers were installed at strategic locations around the city and two of them are still in place today.

    No.35 | Paris on Four Wheels with 4 rous sous 1 parapluie

    Continuing on, we passed Musee de Orsay, the Louvre and some more obscure stops along the way. Then we began the steep climb up the hill to Montmartre. It is generally not possible to drive up to Montmartre, but who can resist a red 2CV. With a smile the policeman waved us through and voila, we were in the heart of Montmartre slowly making our way through the crowded cobblestone streets.

    After an amazing three hours, Vincent dropped us back at Place des Vosges and we said our goodbyes. What a wonderful time we had. Most importantly, my friend and her mother duplicated our experience just a few weeks later, also to great acclaim.


    For booking details and more information about all the available tours from 4 rous sous 1 parapluie go to;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Conquering Chania

    Just north of the African continent, a little southeast of Italy and southwest of Turkey lies the island of Crete, the southernmost island in Greece. Its location plumb in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has made Crete a stopping-off point for thousands of years. Throughout history, anyone going from here to there in the Mediterranean likely had a layover in Crete. And these successive waves of traders, marauders and pirates are the key to understanding the many layers of modern Crete.

    Much of the flux in Crete has centered on the city of Chania in the west of the island. Here the successive layers of conquest and immigration by various Mediterranean and European groups is hidden in plain sight. You just need to know a few clues and, like an x-ray machine, all the intricate layers of history are revealed.

    Today’s invaders of Crete are mostly package-holiday goers, a relatively benign force that, as a rule, stays in camp, rarely venturing out. When they do go out, a popular destination is the historic and beautiful harbor at the center of the old city. On our initial visit to Chania we too headed straight for the harbor in search of history, local culture and fresh regional cuisine. What we found was fast food, cocktails and the drum beat of euro-pop echoing across the deep blue waters.


    Briefly disoriented, we thought surely this is not the Chania we had read about. Were we mistaken about this place? We quickly changed strategies.

    It is true that Chania’s harbor is the most picturesque part of town, and probably for this reason uncontrolled development has taken over, making the place a bit of a mess. Realizing we needed help ferreting out the hidden delights of Chania, we sought professional assistance.


    Dr. Alexandra Ariotti is an Australian born archaeologist and historian. She works all over the world researching, lecturing and digging. She has extensive experience around the Mediterranean and a particular focus on the Middle East. However when she is not working abroad, she calls Chania home. Alexandra hosts fabulous private historic walks, each lasting 2.5 to 3 hours, guiding you through a maze of streets and alleys on routes which reveal the mysteries of Chania’s fascinating history. Alexandra knows the city inside and out. Listening to her weave historical and present day Chania together brings the place alive.

    I jotted down some observations from our tour with Alexandra:

    • Chania is the second largest city of Crete and until 1971 it also was the capital (today the capital is Heraklion). The old town of Chania is the site of the Minoan settlement the Greeks called Kydonia, Greek for quince.


    • Crete has quite a tumultuous history due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean. Ever since the Byzantine era, the Venetians, the Ottoman, all the way up to the Germans in World War II, fought for and occupied the island. You can see the scars of conflict all around you. Alexandra points out the dividing lines in some of the excavations, where one group co-opted buildings from the past to build on Crete’s evolving urban landscape.

    • Walking around town you come across various excavation sites seamlessly woven into the fabric of a neighborhood. Some of them feel a bit neglected, but since everywhere you scratch the surface you stumble across some important archeological find, important ones are simply stabilized, protected and left for future research.


    • We saw many old houses falling apart and in ruins while right next door a house would be beautifully restored and fully occupied. Alexandra explained that in World War II during German occupation, the city was heavily bombed, killing the occupants of the buildings. Ownership is often shared between family members or is murky with the former owner deceased. Without clear ownership or agreement on who can develop the homes, they fall into disrepair and eventually fall down.

    • Walking through town while Alexandra points out details dating back to Minoan times is like walking through a mystery novel. All the while locals come and go among the ancient structures seemingly oblivious to the history around them.


    • Walking through the market area where in days past fine Cretan leather products would have been made and sold, we notice that most of what’s on offer is imported. There are exceptions though. We found one obscure shop still making the famous black leather boots worn by men throughout Greece. You have to look hard but there are a few shops that still practice the traditional Cretan crafts.

    Having completed our time with Alexandra we had a good overview of the old city and could start navigating on our own. We set out to explore some more. Here are some of the places we found that are worth checking out.

    The Archeological
    Museum of Chania

    The museum is housed in the former Venetian monastery of Saint Francis, a truly wonderful place to explore. The old worn walls in pinkish colors and the 1950’s-era museum cases make for an interesting mix of styles. You can see jewelry, vases, sculptures and coins from the Minoan, Roman and Byzantine times.


    Etz Hayyim Synagogue

    We sat down with Dr. Nikos Stavroulakis in the Synagogue’s courtyard, to talk about the buildings long history.

    Etz Hayyim Synagogue is the only surviving Jewish monument on the island of Crete. The building goes back to the Venetian period and became a synagogue in the 17th century to serve a vibrant Jewish community living in Chania at the time.


    For about 2,300 years, Jews thrived in Crete, sharing in its history and contributing to the complex local culture throughout the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Andalusian Arab, Venetian and Ottoman periods, until near the end of World War II, when the Cretan Jewish community was, decimated.

    In early June 1944, virtually all the Jews in Crete were rounded up and arrested. Together with some 600 Greek and Italian prisoners, the Jews were put on the German merchant ship Tanais and shipped off the island. Tragically, soon after its departure, the Tanais was spotted by the British submarine HMS Vivid and fired on. The Tanais and all on board were lost.

    Canea Gift Shop

    While wandering around, we happened across the Chania Gift shop. Owner Konstantinos Konstantinidis was born and raised in Chania and after living abroad for many years came back home to start a local business. His idea was to make a gift shop that sells unique products that are designed and made in Greece.


    You will find smartly designed mugs, towels, bags, T-shirts, and notepads: absolutely the best place to get a souvenir to bring home from Crete. I still use my mugs from Konstantinos regularly and remember my time in Chania every time.

    Tamam Restaurant

    After talking to Konstantinos for a while about his shop and his great products, he invited us to come by his restaurant, Tamam, to meet his partner. Tamam is quite well known for its authentic regional cuisine. And like his shop, at Tamam, Konstantinos’ mission is to support local producers.


    Located one street behind the harbor but still in the hub of the old town, Tamam has been in operation since the 1970s. It is still one of the best places to eat in Chania. There are two indoor seating areas across the street from each other. And in-between, a narrow row of tables where you can sit outside and watch the people passing by. As usual, in high season it will be very, very busy, and off-season a real delight.

    The Well of the Turk

    Wandering through the back streets of old Chania, we stumbled across the restaurant, The Well of the Turk, and recalled that it has been recommended to us by friends. Located in a quiet neighborhood, it’s a great restaurant serving an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food.


    House 66

    There are many homes for rent in Chania, but we happen to have the inside track on one of the best. This apartment is right in the heart of the old town and owned by an architect husband and wife team living in London. It’s a great place to spend a few days … or much longer. Check the details section below for contact information.

    Doma Hotel

    A wonderful hotel owned by two fascinating sisters who were born in this house which has been owned by the family for generations. If you are looking to immerse yourself in Chania history this is the place for you.

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


    To book a tour with Dr. Alexandra Ariotti go to;

    To visit the Archeological Museum of Chania, go to 25 Chalidon Street.

    For more information about the Etz Hayyim Synagogue go to;

    For more information about the Canea Gift Shop go to;

    For more information about Tamam Restaurant go to;

    For more information about The Well of the Turk Restaurant go to;

    To book House 66 in Chania go to;

    To book a accommodation at the Doma Hotel go to;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning a visit to Chania? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    The Murals of New York City

    On the cover of Murals of New York City is a painting by Maxfield Parrish, which hangs over the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan. In 1906 John Jacob Astor IV commissioned Parrish and paid him $5,000 ($200,000 in today’s money) to paint a scene from the children’s rhyme, Old King Cole. Parrish was reluctant to have one of his works hanging in a bar (he was a Quaker and tee totaler) but the money was too good to pass up.

    Commerce trumped virtue. But as soon as the contract was signed Astor told Parrish that he wanted his face to be the face of the King. At that time the center of the art world of New York was located on West 67th Street. Parrish, a man of enormous ego, always insisted there was no subject too elusive for him to capture in paint. His fellow art stars were always challenging him with impossible subjects. So about the time of the Astor commission they gave him the ultimate dare. Paint a fart. So he got his revenge on Astor and won the wager at the same time. In the painting, Astor, as King Cole, is sitting on his “throne” having just passed royal gas. The palace guards are all either holding their noses, grimacing or laughing at this majesty. The guards all resemble Parrish himself. It is a study in passive aggression. The bartenders and regulars at the bar all know the not-so-secret joke and are happy to pass it along to their customers and friends. If Astor knew that he was being ridiculed he never let on. He died a few years later on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.


    During the Great Depression John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought up one of the worst slums in New York west of Fifth Avenue from 47th Street to 51nd Street and erected a towering complex of 19 office buildings. The epicenter of it all was the 65 story tall 30 Rockefeller Plaza, then the RCA building. Rockefeller placed the responsibility for the project on the shoulders of his 25-year-old son, Nelson.

    Rockefeller Center was to be not only the living symbol of capitalism but decorated by the most accomplished artists of the day. There was to be giant mural decorating the lobby of Rockefeller Plaza to welcome tenants, clients and visitors. Rockefeller approached both Picasso and Matisse to paint the mural but the great artists rejected him. As a third choice he turned to the world famous muralist, Diego Rivera. The only problem was that Nelson Rockefeller was the world’s most famous Capitalist and Rivera was the world’s dedicated Communist. Not a marriage made in heaven.


    Rivera began work on his fresco. He was so famous people came and paid large fees to stand in silence in a roped off area and watch the master paint on his scaffold. This was the sort of things people did before cable. But about halfway through the project Rivera veered away from the agreed upon design and painted into the composition a portrait of Lenin. Rockefeller saw this as a desecration of his family’s property and demanded the removal of the offending image. Rivera refused. A battle of wills ensued with daily headlines reporting on the conflict in all the many newspapers of the day. Ultimately Rockefeller won and fired Rivera, paid him off and had the fresco destroyed. That act of cultural vandalism cost New York City what would have been one of its greatest treasures.

    Rivera’s replacement was the elegant Spanish painter Jose Maria Sert. He was the polar opposite of Rivera who he detested. His painting, which covers the entire lobby is entitled, “America Today” and is a testament to the American optimism of the day and the belief that nature could be harnessed for mankind’s needs and through Capitalism all the world’s ills would be resolved. Sert painted the massive painting on canvas in Paris studio and had it delivered to Rockefeller Center for installation. It is all very grand eloquent, overblown, somewhat corny by today’s sensibilities but powerfully painted.


    The other painter who shares the space with Sert was Britain’s most famous muralist, Sir Frank Brangwyn. Sir Frank painted his contribution in a giant studio on the piers of Brighton, England. He was a super religious , aristocratic, revered artist with an ego match his status so when Rockefeller insisted that he tone down the religious messages in his paintings another battle was fought. But Brangwyn, faced with the fate of Rivera, relented and allowed his good business instincts to prevail. The mural remained but his depiction of the Sermon on the Mount had Jesus turning his back to the viewer looking a little more like Darth Vader than his original depiction of Christ.

    The murals in the grand entrance of the American Museum of Natural History known as the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda are there in all their restored glory to be seen afresh since their completion in 1935 by painter William Andrew Mackay.


    The 5,200 square foot mural is a tribute, primarily, to the first President Roosevelt whose family was instrumental in the establishment of the museum. It shows in wonderfully colorful compositions the many accomplishments of Roosevelt including his expeditions to Africa, and Brazil where he mapped the River of Doubt and the creation of the Panama Canal. The biggest obstacle to the digging of the Canal was Yellow Fever that devastated the workers on the massive project. It was Roosevelt’s support of scientific research that lead to its eradication thus saving thousands of lives.


    The three murals in this article are but a small sampling of the treasures of public art to be found in New York. All of them are fascinating not only as works of art but also because of the wonderful back stories of the fusion of art and commerce and colorful personalities that resulted in their existence. To fully enjoy all there is to savor pick up a copy of Murals of New York City and experience thirty more murals covered in the book.

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


    About the author:

    Glenn Palmer-Smith has been an art director, a fashion photographer in London and Paris, an agent for photographers with an agency in New York, painter, muralist and author of Murals of New York City. He will be teaching at the New School in New York this Fall on the murals covered in his new book.

    The book “The Murals of New York” is available at Amazon

    For more information about the murals of the Rockefeller Center click here

    For more information about the murals of the King Cole Bar click here

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

    Planning a visit to Manhattan? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

    Eat, Chat, Love at Eschi Fiege’s Vegetarian Mittagstisch

    Running late for my lunch appointment with author, host, and notorious Vienna vegetarian chef Eschi Fiege, I rushed through the Naschmarkt, one of Vienna’s largest public markets. Passing under the overlapping awnings, the sky opened up, drenching the path that runs between the market stalls and lifting the fresh scent of the market’s exotic foods into the air. It’s getting close to lunchtime and the all this fresh food is making me hungry. A quick dash across the street and I am at Eschi’s building.

    The first thing you should know about Eschi Fiege is that Lunch is sacred. It’s her favorite meal of the day. She firmly believes that in our busy lives, it is critical to take an hour out of the day and enjoy a meal, preferably with friends. As Eschi says, “It gets your mind off whatever it is you normally think about, recharges the spirit and refreshes the mind”. She calls it her “secret for success”, and it has served her well. Eschi says “for years I observed people rushing around at lunch, food in hand, rarely taking time to sit down, and vowed to never fall into that trap”. According to Eschi, “setting that one hour a day aside is a key to a more productive day”.

    No.32 | The Vienna Vegetarian Kitchen of Eschi Fiege

    A few years ago, she decided to test her philosophy by kicking off a project called “Mittagstisch”. This is a German word that generally means lunch, but refers more specifically to a kind of fixed menu lunch for a group or workers. Twice a week Eschi Fiege opens her home to a small group of friends and friends of friends for lunch. Guests experience a relaxing hour with great seasonal, locally sourced, vegetarian dishes, and good conversation with friends and new acquaintances. And Eschi gets an enthusiastic and vocal audience to test out her new dishes.

    The food industry wasn’t Eschi’s first choice as a career. At the age of 23 the world of advertising caught her eye and she became a creative director. Following that she moved into copy writing and directing for TV commercials. All this time cooking and entertaining was just a hobby. In retrospect though, her work experience and talents serendipitously led to her current project, combining a passion for food with media savvy to bring her message to a wider audience.

    No.32 | The Vienna Vegetarian Kitchen of Eschi Fiege

    Eschi’s apartment is packed with character and imbued with the continuity that only comes with a long family history. It’s where she, her mother and her grandmother lived so Eschi has been cooking here ever since she started licking the spoons. In fact, young Eschi took an early interest in cooking, experimenting with her own recipes soon after starting to cook with her mother.

    The apartment feels more like a farmhouse than an urban apartment. Two resident cats, vintage furniture, well-worn, creaking floors and a balcony overflowing with plants, combine to give an impression of casual country living. A great place to put out some tables and invite some friends over for a relaxing mid-day break.

    No.32 | The Vienna Vegetarian Kitchen of Eschi Fiege

    From the balcony the fresh food markets can be surveyed several floors below extending through Vienna’s “Rechte Wienzeile” district. Many of the vendors have become Eschi’s trusted allies in her endeavor to create relaxed, seasonal cuisine for her favorite meal of the day.

    A few years ago, Eschi Fiege decided to test her philosophy by kicking off a project called “Mittagstisch”… Twice a week Eschi opens her home to a small group … for a Vienna vegetarian lunch.

    Eschi’s recipes draw influence from regional foods: part Austrian, part Italian, part French with a hint of the Middle East. The food is uncomplicated at first glance. On tasting though, the flavors and combinations are surprising and the dishes an absolute delight.

    No.32 | The Vienna Vegetarian Kitchen of Eschi Fiege

    It’s been a few years now and Eschi has collected a loyal following. One unexpected result from this was a steady stream of requests for recipes. Once again luck was with Eschi when a Viennese publishing house offered her a book deal. The new book is titled, naturally, “Mittagstisch”. So now we can all benefit from Eschi’s years of kitchen experiments. It’s in German, but I am hoping for an English version soon.

    Well, I have exceeded my hour-long lunch with Eschi and have to move on with the afternoon’s activities. But I am definitely refreshed by my Vienna vegetarian Mittagstisch and ready for whatever is in store.

    No.32 | The Vienna Vegetarian Kitchen of Eschi Fiege

    The tag line for Eschi’s book is “Sie kocht als wuerde sie uns lieben”. A rough translation of that is, “She cooks with love”. That’s a good place to end.


    If you’re in Vienna you can experience Mittagstisch for yourself. For times, gatherings and information, please email her at Don’t forget to mention that you are a friend of the Bearleader.

    For more information on Artist Otto Zitko;

    Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger