Friday, November 27, 2009

More East Winds...

Dinner at East Winds is elegantly served with proper and traditional cutlery. I appreciated my fish knife and fork. I warned you about fussy service...

The only Steinway grand piano on the island is at East Winds and it is a fitting addition to the low-key, high taste, experience. Like the single camellia decorating the table, the Steinway accompaniment gives the atmosphere an element of simplicity and ease. You can literally hear the lapping sea beneath the music, coupled with the wine, linens and a candlelight dining, you feel like floating away! The palm frond roof overhanging this large round “beach hut” dining room, known as the Flamboyant Room is, to say the least, ideal–the food, fresh, flavorful and uncomplicated.

A rondoval room is a hexagonal shaped room. According to GM Leach, they’re found in East Africa and a few other West Indian Islands. East Wind’s rondovals are situated in the middle, low-point of the property, hugged by the botanical landscape. We were told that they often are blessed with a soft breeze. Nice, because these rooms do not have air conditioning. Nevertheless, they were my favorite of the three room categories East

Winds has to offer. And they were the least expensive! Until Christmas week these rooms are $470 per night based on double occupancy. Considering, this is an all-inclusive resort, with a boutique hotel feel, this is a very good value. The 30 rooms throughout the resort share a similar décor–tasteful, simple, with a touch of “stylish beach cottage” thrown in.

The Bamboo Lounge was the hippest room at East Winds. Guest can enjoy this lounge for evening cocktails or Champaign or a morning coffee. Again, it is a round room with built in “coves” for seating. The aqua and coral color combination of the upholstery fabric as well as the ratan furnishing work together to create an ideal contemporary “West Indian” design experience. Sit here, and you relax. Walk out to the beach and you escape...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Low Key, High Service, East Winds Inn, St. Lucia

Gareth Leach, General Manager of East Winds Inn in St. Lucia told me that often his staff will tell him, “Don’t worry, you can go do something else.” He isn’t being plied with the cliché Caribbean phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy.” It is actually true; they will get the job done without him hovering. After 18 years at East Winds, Leach says, “I’ve always found St. Lucians to be very well motivated.”

Housekeeper, Merle Prospere, has been at East Winds for 20 years. Some of the gardeners celebrating their ten-year, or more, are familiar faces to East Winds guests returning again and again. One English woman I met was vacationing at East Winds for the tenth year in a row. Obviously the resort is serving up a vacation formula that works flawlessly for their clients, while keeping themselves contentedly employed! A first time guest, expressed, “It’s pretty near perfect!” This is what makes it so…

East Winds offers a very intimate, appropriately elegant, without being up tight, vacation experience. Recreation is basic, off the grid, and to my mind charmingly English–ping pong, shuffleboard, reading (there are books available in all the common rooms). If you’re a garden enthusiast, the grounds are lovely and one can identify tropical plants with the help of a printed guide. A new yoga space is available with classes twice per week. It is a large, elevated, open roof pavilion, with no walls on three sides and glossy floors. You can do your downward dog and see the

birds and blooms–feel the breeze.

While an East Winds vacations seems low-key and no-fuss, the staff does seem to fuss over you. A vegetarian may check out Chefs menu by 2pm. If there isn’t anything that peeks his or her fancy, Chef will meet with said vegetarian to create additional menu choices for that evening. Gluten free travelers can bring their own gluten-free flour and the East Winds kitchen will bake bread for them. Tea is served every afternoon. The swim up pool bar is self-service. Here, kids do love to “play bartender” but staff is also

available to prepare a special drink or two or…. And I should mention that all alcohol, including Champaign, is included in the price of your room, as is all dining.

And a lovely dining experience it is! See my next post for further details on that front.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ladera, Above and Beyond

I feel like my life is something out of "Where In The World is Waldo" book. Today I'm on the island of St. Lucia, the Ladera resort, to be specific. This hotel's tagline is honest and accurate. It is way Above the bay below, situated on a steep hillside (small mountain, really) with views of St. Lucia's iconic Piton Mountains, left and right. It is Beyond any Caribbean fantasy I've ever had. Perhaps I'm not dreaming large enough! I've selected a few photos here to give you an idea of what this open-air hotel is like, but they don't compare to the real thing. Below are just a few reasons why I'm loving this spot on


• No need for moisturizer. The air has a smooth, thick velvety quality. You can get a real lung full of oxigen. Why? It's tropical, essentially a rain forest. I'm staving off a cold and
the air quality seems medicinal. Not to mention the Black Water Baths. (Ac
tually I will mention them another time!)

• I did say tropical. Flora, fauna and fruit of exotic varieties are hanging

and winding and boasting their way throughout the resort. The word paradise comes to mind.

• GM, Warren "Waddy" Francis said Ledera is "... different than what has been coming on the island the last couple years. We're authentic and we want to remain authentic." The tree-house experience of the multi level "artisan" villas coupled with the "treasure island" views is almost u
nreal! But it is authentic, actually just what you might expect, but at the same time, you kind-of can't believe it!

• Taking an "open air" shower, no doors, just two walls, seeing the cove below and a cloudy sunset beyond the horizon, gives a whole new meaning to outdoorsy. Oh, and the shower has mosaic walls. One, is of a giant tulip, the other, a daisy. Cheerful.

I know I've been blogging about Italy lately and St. Lucia is a 360. They are entirely opposite, but both pallets are full to bursting with visual bounty... Here comes a big rain...The tree frogs' song is high-pitched and chirping...
Must get ready for dinner. Would love to get some comments! Caio, or later my friend?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Close Encounter With A Saint

Prior to visiting The Basilica of Saint Anthony, known to the people of Padua as Il Santo (The Saint), two different friends on two different occasions told me of their emotional encounter with visiting "Saint Anthony." A good friend from my church in Pelham, NY told me that when he visited the Cathedral, he was moved to tears by the spectacle of believers praying on, and around Saint Anthony's tomb. He explained that written intentions and photographs are shoved in lattice work flanking the tomb. Even though he prepared me for the visual abundance of prayers, needs, intervention requests and devotions I would encounter, I was still humbled by the "crying out" of pilgrims quietly asking Il Santo for help. And I too, was moved to tears.

I saw a huge, muscular black man with palms and forehead touching the foot of Anthony's tomb, bowing in prayer. His stance of humility and devotion was moving... I saw countless pictures, especially of children, in the lattice work. Believers of every age and race were bringing their concerns to His alter. I was there in the evening just before closing. This turned out to be the best time to visit. I found this out a few days later when I returned at mid-day. Then, it was noisy, frenetic and busy with tourist. But my first encounter will be the one I will always remember. It doesn't take much for me to pray. I do it often. I was grateful to have the opportunity for some quite prayer and reflection in this semi-dark 13th century masterpiece of Roman and Gothic architecture.

Most Catholics will tell you that St. Anthony is who you go to to pray for lost things, either actual things, or lost hope, or faith. I am a Catholic, but raising my kids Episcopalian. This discussion is complicated and off topic for this blog. Visiting Il Santo did get me back to my Catholic roots. I relished the imposing grandeur and sumptuous artifacts filling the many sanctuaries of this Basilica, all dedicated to the glory of God.

What to Do:

Besides witnessing the faithful at Saint Anthony's tomb make sure you see The Chapel of the Relics (Treasury Chapel). My boy would have loved this. Here you'll find in a spectacular reliquary (a big opulent gold urn-type vessel) Saint Anthony's tongue! Above this is a reliquary of his jaw bone. Still another holds his voice box. Saint Anthony was known to preach with great fervor and learning. It is documented that he traveled thousands of kilometers preaching to tens of thousands of faithful. Perhaps it is fitting that these "vocal relics" remain in tact for both the faithful and curious to see.

If you feel called, visit the Blessings Chapel too. A Franciscan priest is available to bless visitor and pilgrims. It's a quiet, intiment chapel, not terribly intimidating and a blessing, said in Latin or Italian, can be good for the soul. Especially one that has been preoccupied by commitments of work or family.

What to Wear:

As with any Catholic Basilica the world over, do not wear shorts or no sleeves (I'm not sure if this applies to Saint Peter's in New York City, however). You may wear long pants and short sleeves. Dresses or skirts that are not too short are allowed. Many a faithful have been turned away from Cathedral doors by their attire, so consider what you are wearing before you go and dress respectfully.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Padova, known as the city of frescos, but check out the Ghetto

Between Venezia and Vicenza lies the university town of Padova. From science to art, Galileo to Giotto, Padova says to visitors, "I am smart, accomplished, artistic and civilized. Look at me." One becomes dizzy trying to fathom the art, science and culture that this city has harbored over several centuries.

What to do: No visit would be complete without a seeing The Basilica of St. Anthony, but that is an entire discussion for another post.

A smaller less "important" destination attracted me, the former Ghetto. Via S. Martino e Solferino marks the center of the Ghetto. Beginning in the 14th century Jews established a neighborhood in this area of the city. Then in the 17th century 4 doors quite purposefully segregated them from the rest of the populous.

Obviously space in the Ghetto was at a premium, causing many homes to grow up
instead of out. Today the neighborhood is cozy and welcoming. Lanterns oozing a golden glow and narrow pathways, invite tourists, friends and neighbors to linger. Much like New York City's lower-east-side Jewish neighborhoods, the Ghetto has gentrified, groove-i-fied really. It's all chic house-ware stores, shoe stores, local fashion boutiques, and funky bars and restaurants. So if given the time what you might do, is shop!

What to eat: We stopped at Bar Corte Sconta on Via Dell'Arco. This was a small bar open to the street serving up assorted crostini, including a local favorite of baccala, or cod. Swigging Soave, a personal favorite (imported from just miles away), we journalist welcomed a chance to just hang.

Where to stay: Hotel Majestic Toscanelli. I ducked in to this hotel to grab a brochure. Attracted to the facade and the location, it looked like a nice, reasonable four star–but I can't recommend it beyond that.

More on Padova, the Basilica, and an outstanding lunch next.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vicenza: the city of Palladio

MyStylist-Travel Advisory

Where to go:

Located in the center of the Veneto Region, Vicenza is an architectural dream-scape. Connect with a narrative history of architecture at its finest. Take in that which is Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-classic and more. This "theater-city" is a must on anyones itinerary exploring the region.

What to do:

Get a guide. Ours was Monica Facchini. Monica and her colleagues will customize a tour for a group from one to 50 people. The tour may encompass Vincenz's "Pallidio" city center, as well as several of the 16 Palladian Villas in the Vicenza provence.

The breathtaking Teatro Olimpico is a must see. This is the first modern public theatre built and used during the Renaissance. It screams, Shakespeare. Palladio's design direction was to build a theater in the "Roman Style." Mission accomplished, and how! Commissioned by the Accademia Olimpica in 1555, an organization which still meets in the theater, Oedipus Rex is one of many plays you can see at Teatro Olimpico today (from Spring to Autumn, plan ahead).

Palladio did not live to see his full design executed, the architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi realized the Olimpico dream. Scamozzi's use of architectural perspective, creating the illusion of seemingly endless streets on the stage is extraordinary. As is his use of trompe l'oeil throughout the building.

Ever conscious of budgetary constraints, Palladio requested that all statuary to be made from stucco. Napoleon had a mind to rip them off, but was dissuaded when he found out they were not real marble. Sometimes it pays to watch your lira.

What to wear:

As I mentioned in older posts. Italian women are fashionable and sexy. Live your Sophia Loren fantasy, put on a Ferragamo scarf, grab a Furla bag, drape on some gold*, wear a push up bra and let Vicenza celebrate your architecture. (But wear comfortable shoes!)

*Note: Vicenza is a leading European gold industrial area with over 1,200 firms crafting traditional to modern designs...all in gold...hum...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Italy, 411

I'm hounded repeatedly by Max Hartshorne of GoNOMAD to blog, blog, blog. It builds community around your passions, for me that's style and travel, it promotes your business, that's MyStylist and travel writing, and it hones your editorial and writing skills. Unfortunately, I drop the "blog plate" sometimes. Last week, case in point. So here I am again, endeavoring to spin more blogs about my trip to the Veneto Region of Italy. Obviously, I'm back home, laundry is done, kids can once again hear my familiar nagging voice. Will they ever hang up their wet towels?

Before I get started on the "stylishly special" things about the region, I wanted to share with you some basic and very useful information about planning a trip to Italy:

You should know about The Italian Travel Promotion Council (ITPC). This is a trade organization of reputable American tour operators in Italy. These tour operators offer the best and most creative solutions for designing a memorable trip to Italy, taking their customer's interests and passions into account. You may ask, "Why engage a tour operator? Why not craft my own tour using the internet?" Entirely possible. BUT many, many people do not engage a stylist to help them with their wardrobe. However, if they did, the outcome would be better (shameless plug, I know)! AND using a tour operator doesn't necessarily mean you'll be paying more for your trip (using a good stylist can save you money too).

A few interesting tour operators I met during my trip that I highly recommend:

The Parker Company, Mario Scalzi is a big, burly, take charge guy who is going to rent you an Italian villa and take all your varied needs and wants into account while doing so.
Perillo Tours, admittedly I was skeptical about this well know brand, but Steve Perillo and his Italian counterpart, know their stuff. They're proud of the company's history and they've got a gold mind of institutional knowledge clients can benefit from.
The International Kitchen, I'm dying to try one of these tours. I personally enjoyed a lovely meal with these folks and if their hospitality at the table is as good as their tours, I'm sold. For anyone who loves to cook, eat and travel, check them out!
Distinctive Journeys International, no-nonsense Anna Pappas-Carroll crafts high-end custom tours to give you access to places of style, "distinction," and taste.

As with any travel planning, check out the government sponsored tourist links:

Italian Tourism and specific to the Veneto Region, Regione del Veneto

Expect several more MyStylist–Travel Advisories on the Veneto Region this week! And please comment!