Travel

il Ballo del Doge

palazzo Pisani Moretta

A lot has been written about il Ballo del Doge in Venice. It is put on by costume designer Antonia Sauter and was celebrated for the 18th time this year.

Pisani Moretta, the palace in which the event is taking place, is gorgeous and the costumes, worn by the guests and mostly created in Mrs. Sauter’s Atelier in Venice, are the best and most beautiful anywhere to be seen during Carnevale – no doubt!

The artists are also of high caliber and the performances well worth watching.

Now then, why am I not in complete awe like so many of my fellow reviewers?!

Maybe, because of the incredible high expectations, created by labels such as Vanity Fair’s “the most exclusive ball  in the world”. And indeed, my expectations were high, justifiably I think, for the price of 600 Euros for a few hours of a post-dinner event.

I decided to skip the dinner, which would have added another 600 Euros to the bill, and also the half hour VIP event prior, which came for the price of another 300 Euros. I am not sure, what could happen that would make 30 minutes worth 300 Euros – that is 10 Euros a minute – so I can’t comment if it would have been money well spent.

Either way, arriving at quarter past midnight – the post-dinner part was supposed to start at 11pm – we still found ourselves in the setting of the dinner debris as part of the stage for the post-dinner performance.

While not being able to comment on the quality of the food, seeing the labels of the wines, which were served, I can safely say that I don’t regret not having spent 600 Euros on the dinner though.

The performers were of really good quality, but the moderator, while definitely cute and dazzling, could have benefitted from a little more practice.

The other point of confusion for me was the arrangement of the performances. While good – I have to repeat myself again – I wasn’t sure, why people dressed to the nines want to stand around for 1.5 hours and watch 5 back to back performances covering opera, magic and burlesque.

Entertainment is a crucial part of any event, but to make the guests mere onlookers seemed to underutilize the tremendous effort people put into their appearances, clearly meant to be looked at, not just for only watching others.

Downstairs, where the actual party was supposed to happen, a very mediocre DJ was playing outdated music. And no, relabeling it retro or classic, wouldn’t do the trick here…

And this assessment is not just based on my opinion. The dance floor, while packed, wasn’t throbbing with happy dancers, but because there was no other place to stand. To be fair, the clothes require about 5 times more space per person than anyone usually would, and the lack of room is a natural side effect.

The animation dancers were ok, but the almost naked male unicorn on stilts with fur over the crucial parts got a little stale after crossing the dance floor for the 3rd time – some people did seem to enjoy the petting though…

Other challenges in my opinion were that certain drinks ran out at 1pm, the bathrooms were in pretty rough shape and had no attendants, and that the party was declared over by 3.15 instead of the advertised 4am.

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience though and the price is justified for what was on display. With some tweaking, good could also have been great – after 18 years smaller glitches should have been ironed out by now. Or maybe the attention to detail is getting lost after the initial excitement. Either way, while definitely an impressive show, I am not sure, if it is best in the world. I am glad, I went, but I don’t think I need to go back next year.

However, for amazingly stunning costumes, Antonia Sauter Atelier will definitely be my first choice! And please remember, this is just my assessment, I am incredible picky and even though, in my opinion not everything was perfect, il Ballo del Doge is worth a visit, at least once, to have seen it – I am glad I did!


the best hotel in the world?


the Vanya Vilas Resort in Ranthambhore

Well, what can I say…? Usually I only blog about the most amazing places that I completely love and the Vanya Vilas is certainly not a bad a hotel.

However, the best hotel in the world? I don’t quite think so!

Maybe due to the extra high expectations, the things that were not quite up to par were even more obvious. It certainly has some 5 star qualities, but a long way to go to claim the title of the best hotel.

Problem no. 1 is the location, which obviously can’t (and shouldn’t) be changed: tigers need to be where they have some peace and quiet and that most certainly can’t be next to a busy airport. However for the traveler, who needs to reach the resort, this means a flight to Jaipur and then a 3.5 hour drive to Ranthambhore.

El Bulli is not exactly easy to get to either and that therefore should not be held against any esteemed establishment. However bouncing around on Indian dirt roads for 160 kilometers is not necessarily adding to the fun.

Once arrived, the gates are inviting and gorgeous and the hotel main area is quite nice. Drop dead, “Oh my God!”, I never saw anything so beautiful in my life beautiful? No! But not bad either. It looks a lot like the Raj Vilas in Jaipur and was obviously designed by the same architect and interior designer.

the tent interior

The tents are lovely and add a very nice individual note to the experience. They are generously sized (a good 70 sqm) and scattered over the resort that there is a lot of privacy. I am not sure about the tiger fur inspired carpets and chair covers though…

The food is good, but the prices are ridiculous, as are the room rates. Even for half the price, still close to $550, it felt too much. I am not someone regretting spending money on something great, but if I would have to sign a bill for over a $1,000 a night without any food, I most certainly would have complained.

The staff is mostly attentive, but has its Indian moments. Sorry, not quite politically correct, but if certain things can’t be done (even though they surely could, if one tried) and it is then blamed on all kinds of other circumstances, I don’t feel I am in a 5 star experience. On the other hand certain things were made possible that created a top of the line specialness and that also needs to be pointed out!

Back to the food: Deep, the head chef is fabulous, but he only has one dining room and a lot of demanding customers and unfortunately a lot of screaming children to please. He is extremely flexible, caters happily to his guests’ wishes and gladly goes out of his way to make people happy. Hats off to Deep – I would have happily wrapped him up, take him to Bombay and have him cook in a restaurant close by that I can enjoy his lovely creations more often!

The breakfast is mediocre though and a selection of 4 processed cheeses and 3 different fruits for INR1,000 (about $23) is a joke. That is the “buffet”, which also has slices of salami and salmon and 2 types of cereal, and in addition to the breakfast menu, which in total after a coffee, juice, some eggs and said “fruit cheese platter” sets you back a good $100, there is nothing special to say about that.

The massages are lovely and comparably cheap. A couple’s massage with milk rose bath afterwards is to be head for around $275 and the spa staff is very experienced and deserves praise.

What can I say, all in all: not bad, but certainly not worth $1,500 a day. It was nice to go, but I am pretty sure I can think of many other places I would rather go for that kind of money that I enjoy a lot more!


the Venetian Alternative

Palazzo Abadessa

There are many beautiful hotels in Venice such as the Gritti, reviewed earlier in this blog. Unfortunately those beauties usually also come with a rather hefty price tag.

A great alternative, as beautiful and special as the big names, but definitely more reasonably priced, is the lovely palazzo Abadessa in Cannaregio, just off Strada Nuova.

The rooms are comfortable and very Venetian, the staff is delightful and the breakfast  (included in the price) delicious.

Unfortunately there is no room service or restaurant, but a daily happy hour in the grand foyer and the free mini bar make up for the lack of those conveniences.

The location is also wonderful: close to the Ca’d'Oro vaporetto stop and the Rialto Bridge, it is away from the masses, but still right in the middle of everything.

The next time you come to Venice, give the Abadessa a try, you won’t regret it!

a room at palazzo Abadessa


The Gritti Palace

the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal

There are hotels and then there are institutions and The Gritti definitely deserves a “The” in front of its name!

Not only is it outstandingly beautiful in its old world majestic charm, but also fabulously well run with friendly attentive staff, which is not always a given in beautiful Venice.

The rooms are to die for – here a picture of La Dogaressa Suite – and well worth the rather steep price tag:

La Dogaressa Suite

But nothing is cheap in Venice. So forget all about money and let yourself get swept away by the timeless beauty of this fabulous city and have a toast on the pleasures of life at Bar Longhi or celebrate with a nice Michelin star dinner at Club del Doge!


The Pawn

The Pawn in Hong Kong

The Pawn in Hong Kong is a lovely gastro pub, set over three stories and featuring two distinct dining experiences:

There is the Living Room, the Dining Room and the Roof Terrace. The Pawn is located in Wan Chai at 62 Johnston Street and the place is definitely worth a visit.

While the Living Room has simpler and more casual fare, the Dining Room focuses on modern British cuisine with a daily changing menu, and both are absolutely delicious!

The design of the restaurant is very appealing in a “purposeful deconstructive” kind of way, which gives it a welcoming and cozy feel, but is still fresh and modern at the same time.

Check out their funky website for a taste of their style and feel: http://www.thepawn.com.hk/


back in Hong Kong

Conrad Hotel, Hong Kong

Thank you (and at the same time sorry) to my beautiful readers for sticking with me and for my absence recently! It’s not that I didn’t travel, or didn’t go out, but I had an unforgivable low, which I promise is over now!

Scusi, dear all – more to be coming soon on the beautiful things going on in this beautiful world:

As of now, I am in Hong Kong, back at the Conrad Hotel, which is part of Pacific Place, connected to the ShangriLa and JW Marriott, creating a fabulous starting point to experiencing this amazing city!

The advantage of staying here is that, if you book the executive level rooms, not only do you get your breakfast included, but also a 2-hour champagne (or whatever catches your fancy) after hour cocktail experience, including fresh sushi, nibbles and delectable desserts. All of it for free – or included in the price of the hotel, which I guess made you pay for it already… However, it still is really nice!

Plus, a gorgeous view of the harbor and the skyline of Kowloon!

Now, if you don’t know what do with your fall, book a ticket to Hong Kong and enjoy this most wonderful of cities at its best!


Joss

Joss in SoBo

And here I was, thinking that I knew all the non-Indian places in South Bombay – and I was wrong! I discovered this lovely Eastern-fusion place, called Joss just this week. It is where it is for quite a long time, but for some strange reason, we never went – big mistake!

Joss has a nice interior – the picture doesn’t do it quite justice – it is way more stylish and the ambience a lot more pleasing – and the menu is quite a revelation.

Not necessarily haute cuisine, but solid, good Asian-fusion! Everything from sushi to stir fries and laksas. Well executed and authentic in taste and presentation.

It is opposite Jehangir Gallery just off M.G. Road in South Bombay. Don’t miss out on the place the next time you are in the area!


best Italian in SoBo

Vetro in the Oberoi

There are a couple places that serve Italian food in Mumbai, some are good, but few are great – Vetro definitely is!

A jewel of a place right on Marine Drive in the Oberoi hotel one should not miss:

The interior does its name justice: Vetro means glass in Italian and the style is very contemporary. Next to the dining room, the restaurant also sports a tasting area for wine with quite knowledgeable sommeliers guiding you through a nice selection of wines from all over the world with a little taste of cheese to go along with it.

But the highlight very clearly is the food: real authentic Italian fare, beautifully presented and created with a lot of attention to detail and an experienced hand.

Eating our way through the menu written in Italian – with English translations, no worries – we didn’t have a dish that didn’t please.

I really fell in love with Vetro again. I’ve been there before and somehow had forgotten about this gem of a restaurant, a mistake I shall not make again – I can’t wait to go back very soon!


Elle happy hour at the Harbour Bar

Harbour Bar at the Taj

Yesterday we hosted our very own Elle sponsored happy hour at the Harbour Bar at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai – very glamorous!

Elle magazine’s group publisher bestowed the honor on us to invite our friends to be hosted at the reopened and newly renovated Harbour Bar at the luxurious hotel in South Bombay.

We celebrated accordingly and I think everybody had a great time. If you like, check out the pictures in the next Elle magazine India!


Hotel Nasco in Milan


hotel Nasco lobby

hmmm…. what can I say?

Usually I make it a point only to cover things that are super fabulous and hotel Nasco certainly doesn’t fall in that category. It is supposed to have 4 stars and I am not sure, who gave that rating and based on what. Hotel Daniel in Paris has 4 stars and there are worlds between those two places…

The location is not “convenient to all things in Milan” as advertised by trip advisor, but a good mile outside its center. Maybe trip advisor is not the right place to turn for that kind of information in the first place though – my mistake, I guess!

The restaurant doesn’t need mentioning, because there isn’t really one and the room service pizza comes from the freezer section of the supermarket, indeed conveniently located around the corner!

However, there are two things very worth to point out about hotel Nasco: pretty much all of their staff is fabulous, kind and friendly beyond anything one can expect, and the price for the night is stunningly cheap – go figure!

I don’t recommend the hotel, but it was an interesting experience nevertheless and the smile of one of the front desk employees was brightening my day every time!


a gem in Paris

hotel Daniel in Paris

This hotel is a beautiful hidden gem right in the middle of Paris! On Rue Frédéric Bastiat, just off bustling Champs Elysées, it is very conveniently located and a true oasis in Parisian luxury. The hotel is a little jewelry box with great attention to detail in its decor and lovely caring and friendly staff!

the restaurant in the Hotel Daniel in Paris

The restaurant is also a true delight and simply everything about this place is fantastic – maybe not the price, but it is expected not to be cheap to deliver such pleasures. Don’t miss out on this beautiful place the next time you are in Paris!


travel coming up

Having taken some time  off after my India TV appearance, I will be back with new information on my upcoming trips to the US, Italy, Switzerland and France.

Next week, it is off to Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, then to Venice, Italy, after that Geneva in Switzerland (I like the parallelism of the two lakes Geneva) and then last, but not least Paris, France!

I will report on hotels, restaurants, stores, shops and general travel excitement to keep you posted on the worthy spots you may want to visit yourself.

In the meantime, have a wonderful rest of the week and I am looking forward to sharing more of my adventures with you all soon!


Happy Birthday, Indigo!

happy birthday

Just a quick note to praise a very, very good restaurant in Mumbai: Indigo in Colaba, South Bombay. A hit with Mumbaikers as well as foreigners for the last 11 years, Indigo is celebrating their 11th birthday this Sunday.

Happy Birthday, Indigo!

If you would like to join the celebrations, there will be a special 11th birthday brunch on Sunday, April 4, 2010 from 12pm onward.

For further information on Indigo, their menu, location and to make reservations, check out their website at http://www.foodindigo.com/


Valhalla menu

fine dining experience

We are getting ready for April 6th and 7th at Valhalla and here is the menu to whet your appetite ahead of time – I am looking forward to seeing you there!!!

sparkling wine with

1. hot gruyere thyme gougeres

and

2. romaine lettuce with heart of palm, pomegranate & champagne vinaigrette

Sauvignon Blanc with

3A. grilled shrimp

or

3B. char-grilled vegetables

with hot and cold dipping sauces

and

4. pea cappuccino

Pinot Noir with:

5A. stuffed basil pesto chicken filet

or

5B. stuffed fire roasted bell pepper

on lemon butter rice

and

6. cannelloni with spicy tomato sauce

Shiraz with

7A. lamb in red wine

or

7B. mushroom medley stew

on creamed mashed potatoes

and

8. blue cheese mousse

9A. panna cotta with caramel and chocolate sauce

or

9B. melon & dragon fruit sorbet