Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Basel II

Some of you might be disappointed that is entry is not about banking regulations but rather my second attendance of the Miami Art Basel. Alas, my cousin Melissa, who I went to Art Basel with last year, could not attend. So it was just me… and Tony, Marzena, Tue and Caroline in a suite at the Fontainebleau. Someone had to represent the family after all.

My trip down to Miami was smooth, and my plane arrived earlier than scheduled – this is probably because I did not fly Delta (AKA Don't Ever Leave The Airport). After checking into the hotel, grabbing a bite to eat and buying some food for the suite, my friend Lesley, who lives in Miami, picked me up, and we went to Bal Harbour to enjoy some coffee. Admittedly, we also enjoyed the sales and both bought matching leather shorts, to unleash our inner Tommy Lee, and cute summer jumpers from Calypso. After a delicious dinner with my shopping buddy, I headed back to the Fontainebleau to find my suitemates.

As I walked into the hotel, I spotted them heading into Arkadia, one the clubs in the hotel. I immediately changed into my most Kardashian-esque outfit and joined them for some fun. Fun was had by all, and I slept like a baby, even though there were three of us in a king-sized bed – the suite was a bit smaller than I would have liked.

The weather was beautiful, and after a breakfast cooked by Marzena, we enjoyed a walk on the beach and made our way over to the Convention Center to see some art. There was a 45-minute wait to get in, so I went to the pool instead. I headed back to the Convention Center later in the afternoon while my suitemates were at a yacht party. By that time, the line was gone, and I got to enjoy the art without the crowds.

When I left the Convention Center, I headed back to the hotel, where I found my neighbors having quite the party. I tried to take a nap but the techno music was making the room vibrate. Fortunately, the phone rang – Lesley to the rescue! She graciously invited me to dinner and to spend the night in her guest room. Since the suite was quite crowded, I packed my bag and off I went to Lesley’s techno music-free abode.

Lesley, her friend Lidya and I enjoyed a tasty dinner and wine. I also got to meet Lesley's adorable dogs, Bruce and Brandon. The next day, thanks to Lidya, I did something that most people probably do not do at Art Basel: I got a Brazilian Keratin hair straightening treatment. Lidya works for the original Marcia Teixeira and was kind enough to give me a treatment. If any of you curly haired girls ever find yourself in South Florida, get to Lidya immediately! I think my hair has already grown an inch. Also, I recommend staying at Chez Lesley – she is the Jewish Martha Stewart. You will be more comfortable there than any five-star hotel.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Le Yoga Retreat

There has been much popular demand (six people!) awaiting my report on my September yoga retreat. Dear readers, your wait is over!

After the chaotic Israel trip, I decided that I needed a relaxing vacation. I was thinking of places to go when I received an email from one of my yoga teachers about a retreat he was running in the South of France in mid-September. I immediately contacted him and signed up to attend. So I packed my yoga clothes, called Delta and off I went to France.

The plane ride there was not fun. Delta’s finest had traveled through time from 1974, replete with comfortable seats and one TV screen for every 30 seats. Alas, I did not have a view of the tiny 2-inch communal screen. Moreover, the guy next to me was wearing the exact same outfit as me. No, I was not dressed like a man. I was wearing a blue-and-white checked shirt and white pants with a blue scarf. (I wore it better!)

My seatmate took our his-and-her outfits as a signal that he was supposed to talk to me the entire flight. I know what you are thinking – I should be onboard with talking. I can talk with the best of them. However, I had taken a little pill to take the edge off, but due to the Delta seats and this guy talking about clubs he wanted to go to in St. Tropez, I did not sleep a wink.

The yoga retreat hospitality manager picked up my roommate-to-be and me at the airport and then drove us to the villa in Tourette, where the retreat was held. The villa was beautiful and my room comfortable.

Upon arrival, I was informed that there was a brunch, yoga class and dinner scheduled for that first day. I had a few hours to spare, so I decided to take a little nap. I asked for a wake-up call about a half-hour before brunch. When I awoke as the sun was setting, I freaked and ran to ask the hospitality manager why he had not awakened me.

Apparently, he had tried, but I just kept sleeping.

Having jolted myself awake, I was tired but frenzied as I tried to speak to my fellow yoga retreaters. I felt like an idiot for being the only person to sleep the day away. I blame my seatmate.

I went to bed hoping the next day would be better … after looking for flights home. I calmed down and looked forward to a fresh start in the morning.

And a fresh start it was. The next day and the rest of the week were fabulous, one of the best weeks of my life. I ate healthy food that actually tasted good. I had a vaguely invasive massage, but my shoulders never felt better. I saw some fantastic contemporary art at Maeght Foundation (yes, Grandma, I went - it was the first planned excursion), toured French towns and swam in the Mediterranean. Most importantly, I met some great people. One read my palm and another of whom did my zodiac chart. Another became my personal financial advisor and followed from store to store reminding me of the recession.

Despite the rough start, I loved the retreat. If any of you are looking for a great week of yoga, contact me, and I will share the details.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fit me on the Jitney!

Last week was one of those terrible weeks where everything I touched turned to crap… or should I say pony? While airing my woes to my friend Brian, he suggested a change of scenery might be good and invited me to his Hamptons share house for the coming weekend. Four of our other friends would be there, and as Brian pointed out, a bad time with this group would be impossible. We immediately booked a reservation on the Jitney. The great thing about the Jitney, as opposed to train, is that you don’t pay when you make a reservation and a reservation guarantees you a seat. Also, you can cancel the reservation at anytime. And unlike the train, you get served water and snacks.

As the week went on I became more and more excited about going to East Hampton. Maybe getting away would end my funk. The minute I boarded the Jitney on Friday evening, my luck had already changed. Luc, Daisy, Brian and I were able to find seats together and we made it to East Hampton in less than three hours. (Lisanne and Saleen met us there.)

The next two days were fabulous and filled with eating, shopping and the beach. The beach could not have been better – not too hot, not too cold and not too crowded. Kadima was played, naps were taken and the movie Soul Plane was discussed. Shopping was quite fun and I got some great pieces, including a much-needed fur hat. I highly recommend a boutique called Vinita Rosa – and tell Lorraine I sent you. I also recommend Roberta Freymann. She has great tunics, pajamas and quilts.

Saleen was kind enough to drive us around East Hampton the entire time. He provided great tunes – all Tom Petty, all the time, with a special attention paid to disc four of The Live Anthology.

We ate dinner both nights at restaurants that began with the word Blue: Blue Parrot and Blue Sky. At Blue Parrot we saw two of my favorite Johns… Jons, and no, I do not mean the bathroom or my clients. Jon McEnroe and Jon Bon Jovi were having dinner together. I also managed to have coffee at Golden Pear both mornings and lunch from two different Citarellas. Two is a theme. We even managed to crash Lisanne’s computer twice while attempting to download the movie Step Brothers. There was also a lot of debate over whether Casino Royale was it an idiotic movie. I do not believe so.

Btw, clams casino, did Brian mention he wanted to order it? No? Are you sure? Don't worry, I'll ask again later.

The accommodations were fantastic. I slept on a very comfortable air mattress is Brian’s room and discovered that he talks in his sleep in Spanish. I believe he was saying something about clams casino, but I cannot be sure.

Moral of the story: If you are depressed, go to the Hamptons with good friends and listen to Tom Petty.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kangaroos, Kinneret and Kicked off a Kibbutz (Almost!)

In May I spent ten days in Turkey with my friend Lauren. While there, we kept noticing the similarities to Israel: the food, the architecture, the weather, and even the people looked the same. Little did I know I would be going to Israel soon thereafter.

The day we arrived back in New York, I received a wedding invitation from my Israeli friend, Iddo. The wedding was to be held at a kibbutz in July near the Sea of Galilee, or Kinneret in Hebrew, and I was told to be prepared to ride a donkey, swim and sleep in a tent. Having just been a 30-minute flight from Israel, I had no intention of going back to that part of the world so soon. But then I thought, when will I ever be invited to a wedding on a kibbutz again? Also, I like donkeys and swimming.

My friend Jon was invited to the wedding as well. He booked our flights El Al, which I was really excited about because its security is second to none. However, I was not thrilled to hear Jon tell the El Al booking agent that I needed to be seated behind him because I had a flatulence problem. Once I had our confirmation number, I fixed our seating arrangements, putting myself in a nice window seat near the front of the plane… and Jon in the very back of the plane. The airplane gods were on my side too: I had an empty seat next to me and Jon had two overweight men sitting next to him.

The first two of my five days in Israel were spent in Tel Aviv, I shopped, swam, ate, explored and suffered heat stroke. (Note: do not visit Israel in July or August. The heat is unbearable and it is overcrowded with tourists.) About 60% of establishments are air conditioned, so there was some relief. The shopkeepers of Dizengoff Street thought I was crazy for walking around in the heat of the day. Many of them advised me to go back to my hotel until the sun went down, when Israelis come to life. At night along the beach, there is volleyball, folk dancing and a lighting system that projects into the water for surfing after dark. The joggers and cyclists also emerge after sundown. Needless to say one does not sleep much in Tel Aviv.

My favorite things about Tel Aviv: the juice bars, burekas, the shopping, great boutiques on Shanken Street, the beach, and hotel security (they were very willing to help me remove Jon from my room).

The second part of the trip was spent on the kibbutz. I traveled there from Tel Aviv with my Israeli friends who live in New York. We drove in a caravan style, and though the trip was only 90 minutes, we stopped for a coffee break and then for a very Israeli picnic consisting of hummus and pita. The Israelis thought this was a major trip that required at the very least two stops. I had to laugh. In the States many people make a similar journey twice in their daily commute.

Upon arriving at our destination, an Israeli friend gave me a crash course on kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz). This particular kibbutz was not privatized, but was an authentic kibbutz rooted in socialism and utopian ideals. In other words, it was one of the poorer kibbutzim.

Indeed, it was certainly not the most modern place, but except for the insects, it was quite charming and peaceful. Our communal tent, which was actually an art studio, was, to my delight, right near the barn. The kibbutz had five well cared for horses, a herd of cows, some chickens and a very large swimming pool (for the humans, not the animals). The pool was fabulous but only provided some very temporary relief from the heat, thanks Jon and Oded. I only got to enjoy the pool for about an hour as we were asked to leave because of the boys' illicit behavior.

Over drinks late in the evening, I was thrilled to learn that there was a kangaroo reserve less than 2 km away from the kibbutz. I excitedly looked to my friend Sagi who drove me to the kibbutz, but before I could say anything, he immediately said in his very Israeli accent, “We are not going there.” Everyone died laughing.

The actual wedding was beautiful, and the bride and groom both looked smashing. There was great food and music and fantastic company – 300 people in total, just an average sized Israeli wedding. Most of the guests came for only the ceremony and reception, and did not stay to actually experience the kibbutz.

On our return trip to Tel Aviv, we only made one stop for gas, but I was happy to discover that the kangaroo farm was next door to the station. The kangaroos were very Israeli and, unlike me, tried to avoid the midday heat by gathering under trees. It was so hot that I couldn't be bothered to argue my case about going inside. Seeing them from the distance was enough.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No Crabs in Seattle

When I think of the Fourth of July, BBQs, fireworks, the beach and sun come to mind. This year I took anon-traditional route when my trip to Newport, RI was canceled. I joined four friends for a weekend in Seattle, WA. I had wanted to visit Seattle since the 90’s. Remember grunge, MTV’s The Real World and the movie Singles?

We had ideas about going to the fish market at Pikes Place and the Space Needle in the city, and then driving outside of Seattle to hike and enjoy the outdoors. We rented a car and even discussed driving to Vancouver for a daytrip. But the car sat in the parking lot most of Day 1, and we ended up returning it early in the trip. This is because I was thrilled with all that Seattle had to offer and quickly dismissed ideas about leaving the city proper.

After meeting my friends at the correct Denny’s, (Note: there are actually 3 Denny’s near the Seattle Airport.), we headed to the Space Needle and were delighted with the pretty park surrounding it. We particularly enjoyed the International Fountain where my friend Todd invented a game where each of us had to touch the silver part of the fountain without getting wet. I lost that game and ended up spending the afternoon in wet clothing. Next up was the Duck Tour. Do not make fun; it was actually quite enjoyable and a great way to see the city. The Duck is an amphibious World War I vehicle, which first shows you all Seattle’s sites while driving on land. It then drives into the water to give you a tour of Union Lake. Music and trivia are also involved in the tour.

I did spend a good third of the tour trying to make reservations at Salumi, which was apparently closed that weekend. For the first time, Anthony Bourdain disappointed me. His only Seattle restaurant recommendation was a no go. However, throughout the long weekend, we managed to eat at fabulous restaurants despite him. The Edgewater, Elliot’s and Green Leaf were all fabulous as were the sandwiches at Beechers.

We went to the top the Space Needle, and the view was fabulous even while suffering a panic attack. We visited Pikes Place as well. I saw the famous fish throws and sampled the seafood, but the best part hands down were the mini donuts at Daily Donuts. We visited that donut stand more than once.

The weather cooperated during the trip. It only rained one afternoon and I did not really mind because we were shopping in Nordstrom. Nordstrom was started in Seattle, so yes I flew 3,000 miles to go to Nordstrom and I will tell you the deals at their Anniversary Sale were worth it!

Our trip ended with foot and head massages in Asia Town. One person warned us that you can catch crabs at that type of massage parlor. I am happy to report the only crabs we got were the ones we ate. So Seattle gets a clean review. Also, the people seem nice and honest. Just ask my amiga Shana who left her jewelry all over the city and got it back the next day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Farewell to Hemingway

For the first time by popular request, here is the very first Pony and Trap blog entry! And no, the request was not from my mother, but rather from my dear friends, Lynsley, Shanta and Tessa.

I thought I should start by explaining the name of the blog. Pony and Trap is Cockney slang for rubbish, nonsense or of poor quality. It is often shortened to just Pony. One could say “I am going for a pony” (going to the toilet) or that something is ‘pony’, meaning no good. So yes, if you want to read my rubbish, please keep visiting Pony and Trap. The name was fitting for a few reasons: I am of British ancestry; I ride horses and ponies; and some of my blog entries may be nonsense. I have a collection of notebooks filled with essays about my travels. But I wanted a new place to store my thoughts. As much as I used to love the Moleskine notebooks that make me feel like Ernest Hemingway, they are just not cutting it anymore; they are simply pony.