Christmas in Munich

I just returned from a couple of days in Munich, after a German National Tourist Board summit. I rediscovered how much I loved this city (it has lately been all about Berlin for me) - it feels like a large village and is especially charming at Christmas. 

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Clockwise, from top left: 

1. The Mandarin Oriental Munich is perfect – best location, fireplace in the cozy little bar where they do afternoon tea, fantastic seafood at Nobu’s Matsuhisa – how many schnitzels before you need a break (for me, it's one)? This is the VIEW from my room. 

2. I am completely obsessed with stollen, a traditional Christmas cake originally from Dresden. I thought that it was a brick-like hunk of glorified fruit cake, something best suited for playing catch. No. It’s fantastic – soft, crumbly, sugary, chewy. It lasts about three months (!) – the Christmas markets sell the original 100-year-old+ Dresden recipe version, but also check out the Kreutzkramm bakery in the center.

3. This is the Seehaus in the Englischer Garten, Munich's Central Park – you can grab beer and a wurst outside, or enjoy “real food” inside. It’s wonderful, it’s packed, it’s fun. The park is the perhaps the best city park I’ve been to – pretty little rivers, a hillside temple, a Japanese teahouse, the Chinese Tower, and watching the surfers on the Eisbach. Pro tip: portions of the park are an “urban naked zone.”

4. My amazing guide from Culture Trip Germany suggested Lehel when I asked for a “real” neighborhood to explore near the center.This is where I stumbled upon Patisserie Dukatz, a perfect little bakery where they sell addictive stollenkonfekt – bite-sized stollen (can you tell stollen is a theme here?). Get coffee or breakfast and watch all the locals line up.

Christmas Markets: Skip Marienplatz but don’t miss these - The Residenz, the Middle Ages market on Wittelsbachplatz and the most romantic one surrounding the Chinese Tower in the Englischer Garten. 

A Merry, Tired Christmas

SouthamptonLast year, I reflected with my favorite posts of the year from China & India to Brooklyn, Maui, and Moscow. This year, can I be honest? I am flat-out exhausted and don't have time to reflect! It has been the most exciting, exhilarating year yet with trips to Australia, Peru, Italy, Barcelona, England, the Danube river, British Columbia, Kiawah, L.A., Nevis and incredible career opportunities. We're all tired and busy and trying to build something we love to do. But what I'm really looking forward right at this moment is a low-key week in the Hamptons. The off-season is so wonderful - I've booked spin classes and plan on winter beach walks and cozy dinners, reading books and cooking.

I wish you, all my friends near and far, a wonderful Christmas and New Year's, rest, great food, lots of laughter and much love!

Also, I can't stop playing The Nutcracker soundtrack! I saw it this weekend at Lincoln Center and it was magical. I will go every year from now on. Also LOVED dinner at El Toro Blanco last night, a new Mexican spot in the Village. Chopped salad, tuna ceviche, tacos - everything was great.

Washington Square Park Christmas

National Geographic: In Search of St. Nick at the Budapest Christmas Market

Part of what I loved most about this most recent trip to Europe was searching for the most authentic Christmas traditions. In Budapest, I discovered Santa Claus doesn't visit Hungarian children (and others in Europe) on Christmas Day. St. Nicholas Day is December 6th and that's when he visits. I wrote more about it for National Geographic and some of the sweet treats and shopping I discovered.

"In Budapest, I’m suddenly reminded of the toast my mom used to make when I was little — crunchy and buttery, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Though the taste is familiar, this is a souped-up version of the childhood treat: a giant, hollowed-out cylinder of dough almost as tall as the boots I’m wearing — the consistency of which is somewhere between a doughnut and a churro. I can’t pronounce the Hungarian word for them, Kürtőskalács, but these pastries are also known as “chimney cakes,” a fitting name, I think to myself, as Christmastime approaches."

Read more here: In Search of St. Nick at the Budapest Christmas Market

Hotel Belle Has Swag!

Well...one piece of swag at least!  For Christmas, Andy ordered me my very own piece of Hotel Belle swag to sport, with my bell & key logo! I absolutely love it.  He is the best gift giver and I swear he must take notes when I talk-he also gave me a gorgeous watch I had mentioned months ago.  He also became my family's Christmas elf and wrapped almost everything.

All five of us siblings were together, along with my parents and Andy.  After presents, I took each of my family's three dogs on a long walk, including Piglet, the happy one in the photo below.  We all went to see Cameron Crowe's "We Bought a Zoo."  And there was this beautiful Arizona sunset.  A very merry day.

 

{GO!} Christmas in NYC: Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx

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The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is the perfect Christmas activity for everyone - for kids who will love the model trains zipping around and adults that will appreciate the replicas of NYC landmarks.

Here's the kicker: the replicas are entirely made of plant items like bark, leaves, pine cones, and nuts.

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The show takes place in the garden's beautiful Haupt Conservatory, a Victorian glasshouse, and runs through January 16, 2012, so if you have a chance, get yourself to the Bronx to see it before it closes for the year.

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I loved the replicas of famous landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Brooklyn Bridge but was especially intrigued by stunning structures that have been torn down, like the old Penn Station and glorious old Fifth Avenue mansions and townhouses.  I've studied a lot about the (awful! criminal!) decision to tear down Penn Station and the preservation laws that came out of the rubble in the 1960s.

Other favorites included Yankee Stadium and Washington Square Park. Don't miss this show!

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