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; www.tallyhocycletours.com

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 buero@zurherknerin.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; http://www.iamsterdam.com

For more information about Canal Tours with Captain Peter Blankendaal, go to; www.dewaterkoets.nl

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

For more information about the Frans Hals Museum, go to; www.franshalsmuseum.nl

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

For more information about the Teylers Museum, go to; www.teylersmuseum.nl

For perfect French Fries from Friethoes, go to; www.friethoes.nl

For more information about Grand Cafe Brinkmann, go to; www.grandcafebrinkmann.nl

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

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; www.goldentulip.com

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; www.magasinwells.com

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; www.noguchi.org

For information about visiting the Socrates Sculpture garden, go to; www.socratessculpturepark.org

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

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: www.hauserwirthsomerset.com

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; www.scheer.at

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; www.somersethouse.org.uk

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!

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; www.toastdulwich.co.uk

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; www.bayerischerhof.de

For opening hours and additional information about Waldmeisterei go to; www.waldmeisterei.com

For details and information about Fraeulein Grueneis go to; www.fraeulein-grueneis.de

For reservations and additional information about Chez Fritz go to; www.chezfritz.de

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 mail@lovekitchen.at. Don’t forget to mention that you are a friend of the Bearleader.

For more information on Artist Otto Zitko; www.ottozitko.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Hugo’s of Portland, Maine

When I drove up to Maine during a winter blizzard back in January, it was a far cry from today’s balmy weather in London, where I sit tapping out my recollections of my visit to Hugo’s Portland Maine. At the conclusion of a harrowing drive, I arranged to meet with partners Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley and Arlin Smith, who took over Hugo’s in 2012 from their former boss Rob Evans. We squeezed in our meeting early so we could get acquainted before everyone headed off to perform their respective duties in preparation for the night’s dinner service.

The restaurant has been located at the edge of the Old Port district since the late 1990s, when Evans opened the place and, with his flair for cuisine, quickly put Portland on the food map. After assuming control of Hugo’s, Andrew, Mike and Arlin put their mark on the place, focusing on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, prepared simply, but in the most interesting and unexpected ways. They soon parlayed their success into a second venture, an adjacent casual eatery called Eventide Oyster Company. Here you can enjoy their ingredient-focused style put to work on fresh oysters, hot lobster rolls and cold beer.

During my short visit I was in a good position to experience the two establishments side-by-side. Both restaurants share a kitchen and it’s only a short hop between them. So I ran back and forth between them, talking to whoever was free, and sampling the two menus. Each dining room has a distinct style. Eventtide is light, airy and relaxed, in a “beach holiday” kind of way. Hugo’s Portland Maine is decorated in a modern-craft style, with recycled wood, stainless steel and warm toned, slightly worn leather upholstery.

At Hugo’s, leather booths line one side of the restaurant with bar seating opposite. The kitchen is open and located just beyond the bar, so if you are at the bar you have front-row seats for the kitchen performance.

Hugo's Portland Maine for Great Portland Fare | Bearleader No.25

Mike and Andrew, are the chefs of the trio. They met while working at Hugo’s under Evan’s tenure. They lead a young and enthusiastic crew who all share Andrew’s, Mike’s and Arlin’s vision.

Hugo’s Portland Maine is one of those places were a clear vision, enthusiasm and a love for ingredients shapes the place.

Mike started sending out plates as we chatted. First, was a poached duck egg, served with savory granola confit, beach mushroom, parsley puree and candied orange zest, accompanied by bacon on toast. It was a sensational dish. I would say the tastes and textures combine with surprising tenderness. The savory granola was an inspired touch.

Hugo's Portland Maine for Great Portland Fare | Bearleader No.25

His second dish featured braised beef with pickled black radish and charred onion root, topped with a vegetable fritter made from celery and parsnip, and finally drizzled with beef juice. The slight acidic taste of the black radish perfectly balanced the dish, … outstanding.

Mike then prepared local sea urchin and Hikiki, served on a rice puff, topped with Jalapeño pepper. The dish was plated on a piece of black slate, the whole presentation, a feast for the eyes. The Jalapeño pepper added a distinctive little kick to the dish to round it up, a surprising combination

Hugo's Portland Maine for Great Portland Fare | Bearleader No.25

And the local sourcing goes beyond the food. Hugo’s Portland Maine worked with local ceramic artist Alison Evans to design many of the dishes for the restaurant. Alison’s work is solid and earthy. She works with a color palette of mostly muted colors that, of course, fits in perfectly with the food and decor at Hugo’s. Mike always knows exactly what kind of plate he wants for a dish; texture, color, glaze, stoneware or stone. According to Mike, it’s all important for the correct presentation of a dish.

Kampachi crudo came next, served with cilantro, sesame and Aglio e Olio, presented on a salt slab. Another delight. There was a sharp freshness to the dish.

Hugo's Portland Maine for Great Portland Fare | Bearleader No.25

Hugo’s Portland Maine is one of those places were a clear vision, enthusiasm and a love for ingredients shapes the place. Each night they offer three tasting menus; one for omnivores, one for pescetarians and one for vegetarians. If the tasting menu is too much, you can order a la carte. Or if you call ahead, there is the Pièce de résistance, the Chef’s tasting menu. You need to order that in advance. I understand it is quite a special experience. That’s what I will be having on my next visit

Mike’s final dish that evening proved to be a perfect finale for my visit: Maine diver scallops with blood oranges, served with pork-feet Chicharron. This brings “surf and turf” to new heights.

Hugo's Portland Maine for Great Portland Fare | Bearleader No.25

I visited in winter and the crowd seemed to be mostly locals. In warmer months, the population of Portland swells dramatically so this is one time when the Bearleader advises making reservations early. Or plan your visit off season as I did.

After an extraordinary afternoon of good food and conversation, I excused myself. Inspired by the food, atmosphere and good company, and with the sun now shining again, I made my way back to New York.

Thank you guys for sharing with me your great work.


For directions and reservations; http://www.hugos.net/

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Jack’s Wife Freda

Are you in New York City asking the perennial question, “Where shall we eat?” Well then, you’re going to want to check out Jack’s Wife Freda. For my money, this offers the best casual dining experience in the city. In the often crazy and pretentious New York restaurant scene, this is one bright spot you should get to know.

Since opening in 2012, it’s been one of my favorite places to hang out; one of those little gems that was popular from the start. But unlike many new restaurants in New York, this place got it right at the beginning, and now is thriving with a loyal following.

Visiting this time as a journalist rather than as a customer, I had the chance to get some face time with the owners and to delve a bit into what they set out to do with their first solo endeavor. Chatting with them about the restaurant, it finally made sense to me why I love this place and keep coming back time after time.

No.22 | Jack's Wife Freda in New York City

The story began when owners Maya and Dean Jankelowitz moved to New York, Maya from Israel and Dean from South Africa. Both started working for famed restaurateur Keith McNally; Maya as Maître de at Balthazar, and Dean at Schillers. With a few years under their belts in these classic New York eateries, they struck out on their own with the financial backing of actress Piper Perabo—and then Jack’s Wife Freda was born.

First, you are probably wondering about the name. Jack and Freda are Dean’s grandparents, and as Dean tells it, they were quiet the hosts. And that home-spun hospitality became the centerpiece of the new restaurant.

No.22 | Jack's Wife Freda in New York City

The food is local, fresh and simple, always with something surprising to try out. On this visit, house-cured duck bacon was on offer. An interesting idea, a first for me, and I really enjoyed it. For dinner, pan-seared duck breast was on the menu, something I have enjoyed in the past.

… you will soon start to notice the familiar faces of others who have also made Jack’s Wife Freda part of their morning ritual.

But today I am just in time for breakfast. They open at 9:00 am. This is convenient if you find yourself just off a flight and in need of a tasty start to your city excursions. I am particularly fond of the green Shahsuka with a refreshing cup of mint tea. If you are like me and end up making frequent return visits, you will soon start to notice the familiar faces of others who have also made Jack’s Wife Freda part of their morning ritual.

No.22 | Jack's Wife Freda in New York City

A bit later in the day, try one of the house cocktail inventions. Ask a waiter what they recommend, or Maya herself who often comes up with these juicy treats. They change regularly, with the seasons or on a whim, so there is often a liquid surprise in store for you.

The room is charming, and although meticulously styled for relaxed dinning, I have to say that the ambience really comes from Maya and Dean. They put everyone at ease with their friendly relaxed manner and pleasant wit.

No.22 | Jack's Wife Freda in New York City

The decor is bistro inspired with a modern touch. Attention to detail does not stop with the food and decor. Everything from sugar packs to hot-drink wraps is carefully crafted to fit perfectly with Maya and Dean’s vision of the kind of place that they want to come to every day.

Not planning a trip to New York anytime soon? You can still check out Maya’s adventures on Instagram. In her own words she is “obsessed with Instagram”, and, as you will see, a talented photographer.

I’m looking forward to another visit soon. Thank you Maya and Dean.


For information, hours and menus; www.jackswifefreda.com

Maya’s Instagram account

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Kayaking the River Thames

In the Chelsea borough of London, you can embark on a river kayaking adventure, swapping natural vistas for historic cityscapes, white-water rapids for surging river tides. This is as interesting a water adventure as any—urban or wild.

When I first heard about river kayaking trips on the Thames, I thought, “Great, that would be a perfect way to get a different perspective on Central London”. Once under way, the Thames and its rich history became intensely vivid, and the importance of the river in the development of London came into full focus.

The Thames has always been central to the history of London. In the Neolithic age, humans were living along the river Thames. The British Museum houses a decorated bowl found in the river at Hedsor, Buckinghamshire, dating back to the end of this period (3300-2700 B.C.) When the Romans under Emperor Claudius occupied England, the Thames became of major economic and strategic importance, with Londonium being its trading center. In 1066, when William the conqueror won control of the Thames Valley, it set the stage for him to invade the rest of England. William built the Tower of London, the same building where tourists still throng to see the crown jewels. And in 1215 when barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, it was on an island in the Thames at Runnymede. I could go on and on, but you get the idea of the importance of the Thames in the history of London.

Thames River Kayaking in London | Bearleader No.23

“What about the water, is it safe?” you may be asking. That was my thought after we set off. The history of the cleanliness of the Thames is a checkered one, so although my concerns were unfounded, the Thames bad reputation was well earned.

Population growth in London greatly increased the amount of waste entering the river. That waste came from both human and industrial sources. According to historian Peter Ackroyd, “. . . a public lavatory on London Bridge showered its contents directly onto the river below, and latrines were built over all the tributaries that issued into the Thames.”

Thames River Kayaking in London | Bearleader No.23

Between 1832 and 1865, four serious cholera outbreaks killed tens of thousands of people in London. In 1858, the Thames pollution problem reached such epic proportions that Parliament, located beside the Thames, had to be abandoned. The event was sufficiently dire to receive a name: the “Great Stink”. Some historians have attributed Prince Albert’s death in 1861 to typhoid spread in the river’s dirty waters flowing beside Windsor Castle.
Following the “Great Stink”, a concerted effort to contain the city’s sewage began with the construction of massive sewers on the north and south river embankments under the supervision of engineer Joseph Bazalgette.

Today the river is rated as the cleanest inner-city river in Europe, and the return of bird life, including herons and cormorants, to the river banks is a sign that water quality has vastly improved. So you can rest assured that river kayaking today is perfectly safe.

Thames River Kayaking in London | Bearleader No.23

The river kayaking London crew operates out of the Cremorne Riverside Centre, a well-equipped facility just off the Chelsea Embankment.

When I first heard about river kayaking trips on the Thames, I thought, “Great, that would be a perfect way to get a different perspective on Central London”

On the day of our outing, I set out on my old Armstrong 3-speed for the Cremorne Riverside Centre. Going by bike is usually the quickest means of transport for such short trips, however, on this morning, my chain broke and I had to push the bike the last kilometer. The chain was probably original so in retrospect it was not surprising that it failed.

Harry, the owner and our river guide, greeted me with a bracing dose of his Irish humor: “What pile of shit are you riding?” And he proceeded to produce the obscure tool required to fix the chain. In no time he had my bike fixed and had me fully outfitted for the day’s activities. All in time to launch with the outgoing tide.

Thames River Kayaking in London | Bearleader No.23

We got a quick run down from Harry on how to navigate via kayak and what our journey would entail. We then hoisted our kayaks and made our way down to the river to push off. Once everyone was on the water, we began paddling towards Westminster.

Heading up the South side of the river, paddling at a steady tempo, Harry and his two instructors wrangled us like a gaggle of geese. Along the way, he pointed out interesting facts and snapped photos as souvenirs to document everyone’s experience.

Near the halfway point as we approached Westminster Bridge, we could feel the tide starting to turn, which required paddling with more effort. Tourists on the Westminster Bridge shouted and waved to give us encouragement. Just beyond the bridge, you get the best view ever of the Millennium Wheel. Sitting in your kayak directly underneath, it towers dramatically above you. On the north side of the river, you see Parliament House and Big Ben.

Thames River Kayaking in London | Bearleader No.23

At this point, with the turning tide, we became part of the considerable traffic on the river and took in some of London’s iconic sights. We were soon being carried along by the river, relaxed and taking in the sights. First, was a glide along the full length of the Parliament. This is as close as you will probably ever get to this historic building. Then, bridge by bridge, we floated back to Chelsea.

Pulling the kayaks out of the water and carrying them back up to where we started, everybody was excitedly chatting. You could not miss the reality that we all had a wonderful time. We changed out of our gear and celebrated with drinks and chips.

This is a totally unique way to see the historic parts of London—river kayaking on the Thames.


For information and booking; www.kayakinglondon.com

A few things to keep in mind for your kayak trip;

– Best to come with a friend, Kayaking London’s fleet is mostly double Kayaks.
– Bring a second set of clothing to change into and a towel. In case you are in London on holiday and don’t have those things at your disposal let the team know when you book. They do have extra jackets available for you to use.
– Apply sun screen. The reflection on the water can be intense.
– River kayaking sessions run year round. If you are made of sturdy stuff, there are usually outings scheduled on Guy Fawkes day and around Christmas, where you sing carols along the way.
– River kayaking is safe and capsizing is very rare. Follow your group leader’s instructions and all will be fine.
– Very important, the session are timed to coincide with the tides. You absolutely have to be on time. They group cannot wait or they will miss the tide.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Pavilion of the French Queen

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


For information and booking; www.pavillon-de-la-reine.com

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

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

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

Making Clay

Nestled in the Pioneer Square district of Seattle is Laguna Pottery, the storefront of Michael Lindsey’s ceramic collection. A mecca for collectors, enthusiasts and amateurs alike, Michael’s is a great place to find unique objects to treasure or to give to a very special someone. Part museum, part shop, all curated with Michael’s extensive knowledge of American ceramics, this is a unique shopping experience.

The store opened in the Green Lake area of Seattle in 1987. The name “Laguna Pottery” was suggested by a good friend of Michael’s called “Grannie”, an enthusiast of Laguna ceramics and an early supporter. Grannie encouraged Michael to turn his passion for ceramics into a business. She also designed the shop’s logo—still used today.

Located south of downtown Seattle in Pioneer Square (in one of the largest national historic districts in America) are some 145 protected buildings of the type Laguna Pottery calls home. The area has seen many attempts at revitalization in recent years, and is poised to turn a new page, with a variety of stores and restaurants either planned or recently opened.

Laguna Pottery: Modern Antique Ceramics | Bearleader No.21

Michael specializes in American ceramics such as Homer Laughlin (Fiesta), Franciscan, Vernon Kilns, Roseville, Rockwood, Bauer & Well and work by Industrial Designers Russell Wright, Eva Zeisel, Edith Heath and Ben Seibel. He also deals in rarer pieces by Louis Mideke, Robert Sperry, Marguerite Wildenhain and Harrison Macintosh, to name a few. He also has the best selection of Heath dinnerware in the North West.

Laguna Pottery: Modern Antique Ceramics | Bearleader No.21

Michael’s passion for American pottery goes way back to his teenage years. Once you strike up a conversation with Michael, it is clear “he knows his stuff”. His knowledge of history and theory, and his enthusiasm for ceramic arts is an inspiration which could easily turn a casual shopper into a “collector”. During my visit, a constant stream of customers flowed in and out, all absorbing Michael’s exuberance for this beautiful and utilitarian art form.

Like a museum, Laguna Pottery is worth a visit just to delve into these uniquely American objects of beauty and utility.

In a time when phrases like “hand made” and “made in America” are bantered about in support of a new domestic manufacturing movement, it is worth taking a close look at how an early 20th century ceramics industry came about. Parallels can easily be drawn between today’s renewed interest in local production, and an earlier time when a massively productive ceramics industry became a vital part of the domestic economy.

Laguna Pottery: Modern Antique Ceramics | Bearleader No.21

Unfortunately, few American manufacturers still exist. As was the case in the UK, another historical center of ceramic production, once a manufacturing infrastructure is dismantled, it is unlikely that it will be rebuilt in its earlier form. I say unfortunately, but rarity makes for a good collecting market, so the value of these early modern brands can only go up. And hopefully a new generation of manufacturing will take hold for future collectors to cherish.

Laguna Pottery: Modern Antique Ceramics | Bearleader No.21

One of the go-to experts on American ceramics today, Michael is the perfect person to chat with for advice on a special purchase, or to help you find your inner-collector instincts. Like a museum, Laguna Pottery is worth a visit just to delve into these uniquely American objects of beauty and utility.

Laguna Pottery: Modern Antique Ceramics | Bearleader No.21

Not planning a visit to Seattle soon? Laguna pottery has a great website you can browse, and they ship worldwide. Have a look, but swing by and visit in person as soon as you can. I am looking forward to my next visit and chat with Michael.


For opening hours and directions: www.lagunapottery.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

A Few of My Favorite Things

… Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Did Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers think schnitzel and noodles belonged together? Or did it just work out better in the phrasing. In any case, when in Austria, it is not noodles but potato or cucumber salad served with Schnitzel. And if you have a craving for it, you won’t find a better version of traditional Austrian Schnitzel than at Vienna restaurant Skopik and Lohn. On a recent visit I headed over to talk with co-owners Chef Horst Scheuer and wife Connie about food, their restaurant and Austrian cuisine.

Skopik and Lohn opened in 2006, but not where it was originally planned. But for a twist of fate, it might now be located on Orchard Street in New York. But as often happens in the volatile New York restaurant scene, the “money” backed out at the last minute. On re-evaluation, the best location for the project turned out to be 4,226 miles east, at Leopoldsgasse 17, Vienna.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Taking over the space of a former Gasthaus called Platzwirt, Skopik and Lohn opened in the Karmeliterviertel district, the old Jewish quarter of pre-war Vienna. The neighborhood has seen steady gentrification in recent years with a younger generation taking over and occupying the old infrastructure. It’s a diverse, dynamic neighborhood, quite mad at times but built on a solid traditional foundation. Now if you walk along Leopoldstrasse, which runs throughout the district center, you will find all manner of innovative new ventures with restaurants a-plenty to choose from. You could say the same of New York’s Lower East Side. So it is natural that Skopik and Lohn would have landed here.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Skopik and Lohn’s decor does not stray too far from the traditional Gasthaus style. In fact it is in large part unchanged from its previous owner, much like the best Gastropubs in London, where old venues are bought and restored by a new generation of chefs, bringing a modern twist to old establishments. However there is one decorative element unique to Skopik and Lohn. It’s quite simple, but a stroke of genius, and boldly stakes the new owners claim to the space. With his characteristic low key style, Horst asked Artist Otto Zitko to “have a go” at the ceiling. This takes doodling to a whole new level.

The lighting is also something to remember. Small paper bags each outfitted with a tea light make for a very special ambience in the dining room and, weather permitting, outdoors. If you happen to be in Vienna in the summer or early fall, ask to sit in the “Schanigarten”, Viennese slang for the outdoor seating area: so nice when the weather is good.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Staff are all outfitted in traditional white coat attire. It reminds you of the way waiters used to dress in formal establishments and is another subtle nod to the historical underpinnings of the space.

You really don’t want to debate Schnitzel with a local. You will find as many opinions as there are people willing to express them. My personal opinion is: you like what you are used to. When I was growing up, Wiener Schnitzel was most often prepared at home by your mother, grandmother or an aunt, and you got used to that preparation. So now whatever tastes like that, is the “best” Schnitzel.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

For the uninitiated, Schnitzel is a cut of meat tenderized by pounding and then breaded and fried. I find that in many Viennese restaurants, the dish suffers from an effort to make the meat larger than the plate. It is unruly, and this quest for size does nothing for the flavor or texture of the dish. It just gets cold faster. This is Schnitzel for tourists, and is more useful as a Facebook post than as something to eat.

… there is one decorative element unique to Skopik and Lohn … Horst asked Artist Otto Zitko to “have a go” at the ceiling. This takes doodling to a whole new level.

I prefer Horst’s, the more subtle and contemporary presentation, cut in half and served in two pieces – an old-school full-lard preparation. The old way is the right way – in my opinion. Horst told me a few other tricks he uses, but swore me to secrecy. Between you and me though, I think he will probably tell you if you ask nicely.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Schnitzel not your thing? There are lots of other dishes, all new takes on traditional Austrian favorites. I also sampled the salmon with avocado and cherry tomatoes, the calf cheeks with lavage puree, and the young salmon with pea puree and amaranth.

You may be curious about the name Skopik and Lohn. This goes to heart of Horst’s life-long love of food and his dedication to tradition and modernity in equal measure. Horst grew up in Lower Austria. In fact his parents operated a local restaurant. Nearby was an eatery, as Horst tells it, way ahead of its time. That restaurant was the work of Josef Skopik and greatly influenced Horst in his early years. It was distinguished by the fact that it contained an American style bowling alley – a strange combination that is documented in a great black and white photograph in the restaurant.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Upon moving to Vienna, Horst became acquainted with restaurateur and raconteur Michi Lohn, a mainstay of the Viennese art scene. For years he famously hosted a weekly gathering of artists and eccentrics called Kunstlabor Stammtisch (Art Laboratory Roundtable). Skopik & Lohn can be seen as the amalgamation of Horst’s experiences with these distinctive characters in local lore.

When you are done with your meal don’t rush off. It is traditional to enjoy an espresso or final small glass of wine (say “ein achterl weisswein bitte”) at the bar on your way out. A great start to exploring Vienna by night.


Opening hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 6pm-1am. www.skopikundlohn.at

For more information on Artist Otto Zitko; www.ottozitko.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Tracing the Secret Tyburn River

Upon moving to London a few years back, I stacked up on local literature about what to do and where to go around town. Being in a city so rich in history, it seems you could never run out of places to go and stories to explore. One of my favorites is a book by Andrew Duncan entitled “Secret London”. I contacted Andrew to see if we could meet and talk about his perspective on this old, old city, and to help me track down one of London’s lost waterways, the Tyburn River.

Andrew is part of an informal group of history buffs and walking aficionados that meet regularly to explore the city. An Oxford-educated historian, Andrew lives in Barnes, near the Thames, itself adjacent to three significant points of interest: Hammersmith, the home of William Morris; Fulham, the ancient Palace of the Bishops; and right by the offices of noted English Architect Richard Rogers, part of the group of post-war architects whose work came to be known for their Hi-Tech style. See, you can’t take a step in London without landing on multiple stories.

Although it’s a closed group, Andrew was kind enough to invite me along on one of their excursions.

Secret London is a handy guide to help you “scratch the surface” as you walk around the city. It highlights things like the peculiar system of land ownership which has, in large part, formed the urban structure, or the gentlemen’s club culture you see in films and read about in literature – such as in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days – this club culture is still very much a part of modern London. And it contains a multitude of other odd and amazing stories that will make your wanderings that much more interesting.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Even places you may think you are familiar with might surprise you. I find that mapping out a fixed itinerary based on a theme forces you to move through the city along a path you would not normally follow. And by doing this you encounter new things. So, inspired by Andrew’s Secret London, I followed his Tyburn River Walk.

Now, what’s interesting about this walk is that it winds through parts of Central London that everyone knows. And, like most people, I’ve been to these places many times. But by rigidly following this Tyburn River route you end up on unfamiliar streets for most of the walk.

The walk tracing the Tyburn River is about 5.5 km (3.5 miles) and takes about 2.5 hours. There are lots of stops along the way and things to gawk at, so the pace is very relaxed. I walked it twice, once on a Sunday, which was very quiet with some shops closed. And again during the week, which was more crowded, but with a lot of shopping to a take advantage of along the way.

If possible time your start 3 hours before low tide so you can see the Tyburn outlet at the Thames. At high tide it is completely under water.

So, get your book out, and let’s get going …

Since Secret London covers the history in depth, I will just be giving an overview of the route, and pointing out some of the high points from my walk.

The Tyburn (boundary) River, descends Haverstock Hill near Hampstead in North West London. It then makes its way south through Swiss Cottage and is believed to cross the Regents Canal, entering Regents Park and going under Baker Street near the Baker Street Tube station, where you will start your walk.

From Baker Street Station, head down through Marylebone and over Oxford Street, formerly known as Tyborn Road.

Grays Antiques Market claims that the Tyburn River runs through its basement. And they have stocked their little piece of the Tyburn with a nice collection of Koi.

Stop for a game of ping pong in Paddington Street Garden and then, if it’s Sunday, stop for snacks and drinks in the farmers market just outside the park.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

On Marylebone Lane, just before you get to a fork in the road and the river divides, visit the fabulous VV. Rouleaux Trimming place.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Continue across Wigmore Street. On the south side of the street you will walk by Work Shop Coffee. They take coffee seriously here and it is worth a stop. The pastries and sandwiches are also fresh and yummy.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

From Oxford Street walk through Mayfair, then through Green Park and past Buckingham Palace and the Queens Gallery.

Stop in at Shepherds, specializing in binding and book restoration. They always have a good selection of great antique books on offer.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Grays Antiques Market claims that the Tyburn River runs through its basement. And they have stocked their little piece of the Tyburn with a nice collection of Koi. This is the only time you may actually see the river on the walk so it’s worth stopping in to say you saw it.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Head over to Victoria Station, down through Pimlico, finally ending at Tyburn House on the Thames.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Don’t forget to walk over the bridge to the opposite side of the Thames so you can see the outlet of the Tyburn. And that is the end of the trip. Big thanks to Andrew for giving us a fascinating trip into the past, walking throughout modern London.


Secret London is available at www.amazon.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Dr. Sands on Robert & James Adam

As I prepared to head over to the meet Dr. Frances Sands at the Soane Museum to see their collection of James and Robert Adam documents, an armed robbery was in progress somewhere nearby. With police in pursuit, the getaway car sped past Soane Museum on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Trying to dispose of evidence, the thieves tossed their gun from the moving car. The gun came to rest on the sidewalk in front of the Soane Museum.

Arriving shortly after, I found the police in full forensic’s mode. No one was allowed in or out of the museum. I reschedule for the following day. This is as close as I probably will ever get to a CSI moment. At lease I hope so.

In 1833 John Soane, a voracious collector of architectural artifacts, came across an opportunity to buy an extensive collection of drawings by the architects James and Robert Adam. The Adam brothers were contemporaries of Soane with their major work executed from around 1750 to 1790. He bought the drawings, all 8,000 of them, for the sum of 200 British pounds. That would be about 16,000 Pounds today. Each of these amazing drawings were acquired for the price of a couple of postcards. The collection, which is about 80% of all the surviving drawings produced during Robert Adams’ careers. Somehow they remained intact while passing through many hands in the years after Robert Adam and his younger brother James were deceased. I find it incredible that they survived at all.

 James and Robert Adam at the Soane Museum | Bearleader No.13

The collection, over 200 years old, has been in a preservation process for the last few years, and is now being cataloged and photographed. Frances is leading this monumental task and in the process, researching the stories behind each drawing. So there is a bit of a white-gloved detective work involved. With the previous day’s crime scene still fresh in my mind, seeing Frances carefully analyze these fragile drawings for clues, it occurs that her work is as mysterious and meticulous as yesterday’s police scene.

I was so impressed with Frances. With a PhD from the University of York’s Art History Department, she specialized in architectural drawings. When I asked her how she chose this career, she answered without hesitation. While on holiday in Greece with her parents as a teenager, she became fascinated by food storage caves and started drawing them. “From that moment,” she says, “that is what I wanted to do”. Frances showed me around the archive. All the drawing are bound into numbered folios. Special cabinets have been built to contain the extensive set of volumes.

 James and Robert Adam at the Soane Museum | Bearleader No.13

The Soane Museum is one of the best museums in London. There you are in Soane’s private home. You see his taste, his ideas, and take in really quite an intimate view as you explore the rooms he carefully crafted in which to live and work. And it’s all perfectly conserved and meticulously cared for, thanks to the dedicated and talented Soane Museum staff.

The original Robert Adam drawings were often engraved and copies sold to the public by publisher Andrew Millar from his shop on the Strand.

The Robert Adam drawings are a very small part of Soane’s vast collection. Just another artifact which he used to educate his staff and students, and notoriously to no avail, his son George. But Soane’s home also is a pristine example of the one of the most modern homes of the time. Or at least as the famously obsessive Soane thought one should live.

 James and Robert Adam at the Soane Museum | Bearleader No.13

Frances and I chat about Robert Adam ’s Admiralty Screen, a building still standing in Central London. It was the Adam’s first civic commission so it’s a great example to see how Adam’s work translates to the present.

Robert Adam ’s initial design evolved during construction. Give this a try; when you visit London, print out the drawing and compare it with the building standing today. See if you can spot the changes

 James and Robert Adam at the Soane Museum | Bearleader No.13

The original Robert Adam drawing were often engraved and copies sold to the public by publisher Andrew Millar from his shop on the Strand. Millar sold prints much like posters are sold today. So in a small way, people could own a little bit of public architecture and display it in their homes, much as they still do today.

On your next London trip, by all means take some time to stop by the Soane Museum. And if you find yourself around St. James Park and Picadilly Circus there are Adam buildings everywhere. Read up and keep an eye out. In the meantime, check out the Soane Museum blog “Looking at drawing”, where monthly you will see buildings with a then-and-now comparison.


Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm. Last entry 4:30pm. Closed every Sunday, Monday and bank holiday. Admission is free.


Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Sleeping on the High Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Huddled Masses

Having just arrived back in New York from Europe, it occurred to me that this was the perfect time to stop by a Lower East Side gem, and one of my favorite New York excursions, The Tenement Museum. Founded in 1988 by Historian and Social Activist Ruth Abram, the museum is dedicated to keeping alive the story of immigration to America.

Ruth initially had much smaller ambitions. Setting out to find an empty storefront in which to establish her institution, she stumbled on 97 Orchard Street. On further exploration she discovered the building was virtually unchanged since its construction in 1863. Eventually taking over the whole building and starting the Tenement Museum, she lovingly restored and authentically fitted out each apartment to tell six different immigrant stories, representing a cross section of the New York immigrant experience.

What’s unique with this institution is that it is a museum within a museum. The whole Lower East Side remains, in large part, as it was originally built in the 19th century. So tours relate the stories of immigrants’ personal living space, as well as reaching out into the neighborhood to tell the larger urban story of immigrants’ day-to-day lives.

The Tenement Museum, Lower East Side | Bearleader No.8

In the many years I have lived in New York I can number on one hand the native New Yorkers I have met. It seems that almost everyone in New York hails from elsewhere, and the character of the city owes a lot to the people who have come here seeking opportunity. I, too, am an immigrant to New York, though I am lucky to have had a relatively easy time of it. My experience was worlds away from what early immigrants would have faced arriving on a boat via Ellis Island.

The real charm of the Tenement Museum is its knowledgeable team tour guides, or “educators,” as they are called, that bring immigrant stories to life.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually ask an early immigrant what it was like? Well, if you are lucky you might meet one in the Tenement Museum. On most weekends Victoria Confino, a 19th century teenage immigrant from Greece, can be found inhabiting the museum. She will happily answer your questions about the trials and tribulations that she faced after leaving her home and family in Greece to make a new home in America.

The Tenement Museum, Lower East Side | Bearleader No.8

You might also be interested in the Sweatshop Workers Tour where you will be introduced to the Levine family working and living with up to 8 people in one apartment. Or visit the Rogarshevskys family at their Sabbath table, set on the third floor, and imagine sitting down with them on a Friday night for Shabbat.

The Tenement Museum, Lower East Side | Bearleader No.8

The real charm of the Tenement Museum is its knowledgeable team tour guides, or “educators,” as they are called, that bring immigrant stories to life. Various professionals – historians, teachers, actors, musicians, even a fashion designer – will tell you in great detail about what life was like at 97 Orchard Street.

The Tenement Museum, Lower East Side | Bearleader No.8

Start your visit with the 20-minute documentary. It really sets the scene for your visit and helps transport you to life 150 years ago. And don’t forget to stop by the well-curated gift shop on your way out. You will find some great souvenirs for friends and family back home.


Located on the corner of Delancey Street, the Tenement Museum visitor center and shop is where tours start and end, and where tickets are sold. The wheelchair accessible door to the Visitors Center is located on the Delancey Street side of 103 Orchard. The closest street address is 81 Delancey.

B or D to Grand Street
Exit at Grand and Chrystie. Walk east (away from Bowery) on Grand Street for four blocks. Take a left at Orchard Street and walk north for two blocks to the Tenement Museum Shop 103 Orchard Street.

If you are coming by Public Transport:

Take the F train to Delancey Street or the J, M or Z trains to Essex Street. Once you get off any of these subways, walk two blocks away from the Williamsburg Bridge (west) on Delancey Street to Orchard Street, turn left and walk 1/2 block south to the Tenement Museum Shop 103 Orchard Street, between Delancey and Broome, near Delancey.

The Delancey-Essex F, J, M and Z subway station has an escalator but no elevator. The nearest wheelchair accessible subway station is B, D, F, M and 6 station at Broadway-Lafayette.

The M15 and Sightseeing Buses stop at the corner of Grand and Allen Streets. Exit the bus and walk one block east to Orchard Street. Then walk one 1/2 block north towards Delancey Street.

The tour schedule varies so check the Tenement Museum’s calendar to see what is on when you plan to visit, and then book your ticket online.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger