Hey, L.A.

Hiking Runyon Canyon - HOLLYWOOD!

Hiking Runyon Canyon - HOLLYWOOD!

L.A. would have been a terrible place for me to live in my twenties, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, not that I'm entirely sure at 33. But now, when I go there, I start to dream of moving there and having a little garden with orange trees. Planning dinners at restaurants with al fresco seating and a cool breeze. Appreciating every single sunset and the somewhat hazy, unique quality of light framed by palm trees and blue sky. Eating really delicious, fresh, bright food.

People are NICE in L.A., which made me suspicious at first. At Cafe Gratitude in Venice, I ordered a juice and they asked if I wanted to hear the question of the day. "Um, sure," I said cautiously. "Who's your hero??" the girl asked with a giant smile of her face. How nice. It left me thinking about who my hero was for the rest of the day.

I'd have to live and work within a five-mile radius. Commutes in LA. are truly terrible and if I could avoid the 405 forever, I would. I went to L.A. to speak at Virtuoso's agency owner forum at Terranea Resort, which is a wonderful getaway from the city, about 90 minutes from Santa Monica, depending on traffic (the great L.A. disclaimer).

I stayed on for the weekend at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and laughed until my stomach hurt with my brothers and sister-in-law. I updated my L.A. guide here but here are a few favorite photos from the weekend, starting with the view from my room at Terranea.

Finally tried Gjelina in Venice on a rainy night. Totally worth it.

Finally tried Gjelina in Venice on a rainy night. Totally worth it.

Red velvet cupcake and iced tea - snack of champions at Joan's on Third

Red velvet cupcake and iced tea - snack of champions at Joan's on Third

New favorite store: Tumbleweed & Dandelion in Venice

New favorite store: Tumbleweed & Dandelion in Venice

The wonderful Four Seasons in L.A. Best staff, amazing views, and a green goddess juice I ordered three times.

You're indoors but the sunset is pretty incredible at The Huntley in Santa Monica

You're indoors but the sunset is pretty incredible at The Huntley in Santa Monica

The Best View of Lisbon

It's not hard to find a great view in Lisbon because of those famous city hills. I loved views from the Park Bar and the Memmo Alfama. But I think this view, from my room at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, was the best. It's built on one of Lisbon's highest hills, and almost all of the rooms have views reaching out to the water and the Castle of São Jorge.
If you don't stay, come to the hotel and take the elevator up to the running track on the roof. It's the best panoramic view over the city!

Check out my piece, Lisbon Like A Local, on National Geographic, if you're headed that way!

The Paris I Love

When can we go back for more Paris magic?

Like...

Omelets and white wine at Cafe de Flore

(It's not undiscovered, that's for sure. But our apartment was two blocks away and I loved it) 

Your jaw WILL drop when you see the breathtaking Chagall ceiling at the Opera Garnier. Mine did and I kept sneaking back to see it again.

I went on a little Julia Child tour (Her memoirs, My Life in France, are some of my favorite biographical reading ever). I found her apartment on "Rue de Loo!" at 81 rue de l'Université (Anyone else a huge fan of Julie & Julia?) and shopped at E. Dehillerin, which she loved for copper pots. E. Dehillerin is a little confusing. If you want to buy a copper pot, this is the place to do it. I had no spare room for a heavy copper pot, but maybe one day. Look for the folders of prices in random corners. You won't find them on the actual products. No matter what, it's fun to browse.

 

There are Kayser bakeries all over the city that serve the best baguettes. I like mine "pas bien cuit" (not well done). There are two Kaysers now in New York City but it just tastes better in Paris, of course. 

Oh Le Bon Marché. If I could live within your storied, gorgeous walls, I would. Don't miss the Grand Epicerie food hall. It was actually designed by Gustav Eiffel and the entire place is just stunning.

Markets...all of them! There are so many, but I especially love the Sunday organic market on Blvd Raspail and the Avenue du President Wilson market in the 16th arr.

Download Rick Steves' audio tour of the Musée d'Orsay before you go (it's free on iTunes podcasts)- it's about an hour and is a great intro tour if you haven't been before. Some items were moved when I went, so the audio didn't quite match up but it's easy to orient yourself. Or you can just go and stare at this room - it used to be a train station.

Both the Rodin Museum and its gardens are just so lovely (and the outdoor seating at the cafe is a nice place to while away some time).

Feel like being a hotel stalker? Do as I do and march into the Four Seasons George V like you're staying there (I wasn't!) for absolutely gorgeous public areas. The flowers in the lobby are legendary and designed by one of my favorites in the industry, Jeff Leatham. Have some tea (or your favorite adult beverage! or both!) at Le Bar (yes, that is "the bar") or order a snack in Le Galerie Lounge.

It really doesn't get old to see the Eiffel Tower around the corner, just like it doesn't get old to see the Empire State Building in NYC. There is still a little thrill every time I see one of these city icons.

For an inexpensive lunch with a view, head to the top of Printemps department store. You might get lost getting there, but press on. You'll go up what feels like 20 escalators and when you get there, you'll eat cheap but decent cafeteria food with a view of all of Paris (yes the Eiffel Tower!). This helpful piece details the dining options at Printemps - you want the Panoramic Terrace.


Paris just makes my husband want to dance - he is the best wedding guest ever because of his dancing. Truly!


 

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, Arizona

You can't compare Four Seasons to any other hotel brand - they are above and beyond spectacular in every way. Continuing on the Arizona trip with Visit Phoenix and a most amazing group of ladies, we headed to the Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale property is so integrated into the landscape that you couldn't feel any closer unless you were sleeping with the cacti (no thanks!). The desert vistas are home to me, but add in the mouthwatering steak and seafood at Talavera (which has the BEST SUNSET VIEW in Scottsdale), drinks, mini spa treatments, yoga on the lawn, and stargazing with a pro astronomer? I was most definitely NOT at home and it made for a memorable weekend.

The guest rooms are in casitas that gaze out at the Arizona terrain, which is nearly silent at night. And the interiors reflect what I'd want my dream Arizona home to look like - a cozy fireplace and a palette of desert pinks, purples, and oranges. I love so many of the Scottsdale hotels, but this one reflects the Arizona I love the most in its layout and design. Plus we spotted Giada de Laurentiis getting her hair done in the salon before her book signing in Kierland Commons!

The best time of day

I miss these ladies!

Entrance to my room

Loved all these paths through the resort

Arizona PerfectionSo many great views! Caught a beautiful weddingThe lobby at nightLobby during the dayCan't wait to go back when I'm home

Sunday Brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel New York

My longtime beau and I had a fabulous wedding cake tasting yesterday. Truly delicious & not too sweet lemon raspberry wedding cake.  Not for us! But we were invited to help celebrate the Marriage Equality Act passing in New York City and all marriages now being legal in the state. 

At Sunday brunch, we toasted this historic moment with a few other writers.   The Four Seasons Hotel New York has launched a "Dreams Do Come True" wedding package, featuring The Garden restaurant as wedding venue, where we enjoyed brunch.  It's a space that doesn't need much decoration, given the soaring ceilings and proximity to the I.M. Pei-designed lobby. 

Who doesn't love drooling over gorgeous food photos?  The restaurant sources 80% of its ingredients locally, shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket and Esposito Sausages in Hell's Kitchen.

Let me start with the mini-wedding cake.  Looking at the photo now, I want to dig into that slice all over again.

We started brunch with mini cinnamon sugar donuts with a sprinkling of sea salt.  I asked Executive Chef Anthony Zamora which brand of sea salt he uses and he said, without hesitation, "Maldon." Maldon is my favorite too! It's an English sea salt that is truly the best.  Each crunchy flake melts in your mouth.  And it's Gwyneth Paltrow's favorite salt too. 

Cinnamon Sugar DonutsBellinis with white peach puree, champagne, and Bloody Mary's were flowing.  This is a flight of Bloody Mary's, where you can try each variety: spicy, truffle & pickled.  Spicy won by a landslide.

Blueberry & raspberry crumble pancakes were served alongside lemon ricotta pancakes, which were equally heavenly on the pancake scale.  There was crumble actually baked into the pancake.

Wild Atlantic salmon from Sitka, Alaska with summer squash and a zucchini puree

Delicious smoked chicken hash with local corn, roasted potatoes and a perfect poached egg. Nothing like that first ooze of egg.

More information about the "Dreams Do Come True" package can be found here.  I love that the first two nights of your honeymoon are paid for if it's booked at any other Four Seasons around the world.