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04 Sep 2008

Venice’s Best Hotels and their Restaurants

At the risk of repeating myself, the reason to visit Venice is because of its old beauty and romance. In my opinion that impacts where to stay and dine. I have been lucky to have stayed at Hotel Cipriani, Hotel Danielli, and Hotel Gritti Palace. They represent three of the best and most elegant hotels, and each is uniquely Venice.

Hotel Cipriani – Some rank this Orient Express hotel as the best hotel in Europe , let alone Venice. It is a very short boat ride directly across from San Marco which makes it quiet, yet quite accessible.

If you stay there you will eat at Fortuny or Fortuny Terrace. The restaurant is elegant and the food wonderful. Eat outside though on the terrace overlooking the lagoon.

Tip – Do not let them seat you in the bleachers. Especially if you are staying there make certain that you get a prime table.

Hotel Gritti Palace – This hotel also is a perennial favorite on Best Hotel lists. It was built in 1525 to house the Doge of Venice and has both a perfect location and view. It was on Ernest Hemingway’s list of favorite hotels for whatever that is worth. Generally I prefer to stay in hotels that are more modern. That look and feel just doesn’t seem right to me in Venice though.  

It also has an outstanding outdoor restaurant with spectacular view – Club del Doge.  

 

Hotel Danieli – If the Gritti Palace is not old enough for you try the Danieli. It was built in the 1300s. It also has a great location and views, just next to Plaza San Marco. As you enter the hotel you will gasp at the amazing interior with its marble columns, stained glass, gold leaf ceilings, and Murano glass chandelier. 

 

If you have any funds left after paying for the hotel, you must have dinner outside on their rooftop at La Terrazza. It may be the best dinner view that you have ever experienced and once again this restaurant speaks to the romance of Venice. The only issue we had with either the food or service was that my wife, Allyn, committed the ultimate faux pas by asking for grated cheese on her spaghetti and clams. Who knew? 

 

Harry’s Bar – The only restaurant in Venice that is world famous is Harry’s Bar. Some think it is the best, probably most disagree. Everybody agrees that the prices are astronomical. You may want to pop in to have a Bellini and then go elsewhere. That way you won’t feel liked you missed something special. Don’t even do that if you are looking for a quiet bar.

Trivia – The Bellini (fresh peach juice and sparkling wine) was invented at Harry's Bar.

 









02 Sep 2008

Venice

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and probably the most romantic. It is an entire city of about 250,000 with no cars. It is a group of 118 islands that are very close and connected by about 400 foot bridges.

The canals are the roads comprising the transportation that is not by foot.

These days Venice is a haven for cruises. If you are one of the lucky ones to arrive via cruise ship, you must get up at any hour (even dawn) to enjoy the spectacular arrival. The approach to this port is one of the most spectacular in the world rivaling other favorites such as New York, Hong Kong, Cape Town, and Sydney.

Regardless of how you arrive, take public transportation, the waterbus called vaporetto, either just for a ride or to go from one sight to another.

As far as sights go, you don’t need me for the specifics. However I strongly recommend that you walk all over town and don’t worry about getting lost. You will get back.

For those of you travelling with your lover, you MUST take a gondola ride. It epitomizes Venice.

Best travel months for Venice are June, July and September. August is wall to wall people.

 









31 Aug 2008

Lake Tahoe

We spent a wonderful weekend at Lake Tahoe. Dominik Karelus, one of my best and most senior employees married the beautiful McKenzie Colton at The Resort at Squaw Creek. A great time was had by all.

Through the years I have spent considerable time on all sides of this beautiful lake. There is something here for everybody. Of course the winter snow brings an entirely different experience than the summer sun.

Every time I come here I ask myself why I don’t spend more time here. It is so beautiful.

Most of the time I have spent has been on the South shore where the casinos create a certain buzz.

This time I am on the West (California) side where it is far more rustic with unspoiled natural beauty.

 









27 Aug 2008

Les Misérables

If you only do one thing in London, then go see Les Mis. I don’t know how I have missed it all of these years.

Les Misérables is the world's longest running musical, now in its 22nd year. It is based on the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo. The powerful story is full of passion, about a struggle for redemption.

What makes this production is the score. There are no spoken words. It’s not one of those fun musicals with a theme song that you find yourself humming for days. I am having a tough time articulating its moving strength. According to my wife, Allyn, who wrote music professionally, it is unbelievably musically sophisticated. The score fits perfectly with the tale.

Talk about staying power, it has been performed by 56 professional companies that have opened it in 233 cities in 38 countries, in 21 different languages. That is over 38,000 times to more than 51 million people.

Interestingly, it originally opened in September 1981 in Paris and failure in its short run.

Four years later when the English version opened in London, reviews by critics were mixed, scholars were offended by making a musical of this classic work and many thought it was too heavy to make it. The public felt otherwise.

Les Mis opened on Broadway in 1987, was nominated for twelve Tony awards and won eight including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

London Restaurant tip – A beautiful jungle-like setting is home to Blue Elephant, www.BlueElephant.com which serves “Royal Thai Cuisine”. You can also find it in about a dozen other major European and Middle Eastern cities. Just choose your beverage and order the tasting menu.

 









25 Aug 2008

Wind Surf – 10 Point Report Card

Our one week Italy and Spain cruise came to an end today. My report card follows:

1.   Cleanliness – A: The ship was kept immaculate at all times.
2.    Staff – A-: Staff was uniformly friendly and accommodating. They could do a bit better at remembering names.
3.    Cabins – B:  Even the smallest cabins are roomy. The architecture is so good that they seem even roomier. The only problem is that they have no private decks which is the current vogue for cruise ships.
4.    Restaurant ambiance/decor – A: Surprisingly there are four dinner venues which is considerable for such a small ship. Two are outside and have the feel of being on a private yacht.
5.    Food – C-: Lunch is by far the best meal. Dinner is marginal at best.
6.    Spa – B: It is clean, neat and tidy. They are a bit disorganized on scheduling however.
7.    Gym – B-: The gym has quite a bit of equipment for a small ship, but it is feeling its age.
8.    Sports Platform – A: When weather permits and the ship is anchored at port, a water sports platform is put into place that allows many water activities. It is populated in direct proportion to how many kids are on a given cruise.
9.    Dress Code – you pick it: The dress code is casual. No coats are needed let alone ties. Some think this is heaven; others prefer to dress up.
10. Entertainment/lectures/activities – C-: None to speak of. They do have a large DVD selection and nice TVs in the room though.

Overall the Wind Surf is a good value for people looking for a casual, smaller environment than many other ships and who can entertain themselves. It doesn’t have the elegance of similar sized ships such as those on Seaborne or Silver Seas. However it gives up nothing in the clean or friendly department. It also cost much less.