Tag Heuer Just Debuted a Sleek New ‘Connected Watch’ That Can Also Keep You Healthy

 

 

Perhaps it’s an omen of a sorts, that we were able to sneak in one last splashy launch party before the coronavirus lockdown in NYC. And the introduction event for the sexy new Tag Heuer Connected Watch definitely provided enough glamorous diversion to hold us over for the next few weeks.

And there are plenty of reasons to love this sleek new timepiece, which combines the fashionable looks of TG’s statement Carrera watch with the functionality of a smartphone, the brand’s third generation version of this line.

Very much designed with sporting types in mind, there’s an impressive range of bells and whistles that are intended to measure your performance and vitals. Indeed, through a Google Assist program, it comes connected to a sports app that will track your GPS and heart rate, with accelerometer and gyroscopic sensors to synch up with sports such as cycling, running and golf. It can all be integrated with Apple Health and Google Fit.

 

 

Most impressive is the ability to transition from different looks as you change your mood—giving it a sort of underlying fashionplate/superhero vibe. To be sure, it easily switches from a dressier steel bracelet to a sportier rubber style, via interchangeable and distinctively good looking straps. The works are housed in an elegant 45mm steel or titanium case, while the touchscreen OLED display offers five different face options, for instance the classic analog Tag Chronograph, the Heuer 02 skeletonized dial, a digital animated orbital face, and their heritage timekeeping stopwatch.

On hand for the final hurrah (for now) were Frederic Arnault of LVMH, along with brand ambassadors Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Oliver Cheshire, Paulina Vega and VIP’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Broderick Hunter and Young Paris. It was a pretty fabulous note to end on—but we’ll be back soon.

 

Above two images by BFA

72 Hours in Marrakech: Fancy Coffee, Secret Gardens + a Glamorous New Oberoi Hotel

 

 

 

For the last half century, Marrakech has been synonymous with the sort of glamorous boho chic style epitomized by jetsetters Talitha and Paul Getty Jr., whose 1969 photograph atop their 17th century Moorish palace by Patrick Lichfield continues to exist as an eternal style inspiration for fashion designers and decorators.

The exotic allure of Morocco‘s most cosmopolitan city continues to draw the cognoscenti, from its dramatic landscape of red desert that starkly contrasts with the snow capped Atlas Mountains, to the rise of palatial five star hotels, to the intriguing confluence of French and Arabic culture. Marrakech is indeed still a fashionable destination, but with a rich cultural history, where the old city blends effortlessly with the new, and historic architecture, landscaped gardens, handicraft shops, and authentic cafes make for endless fascinations.

Our most recent trip was specifically to check out the new exceedingly glamorous new Oberoi, Marrakech, set on 28 glorious acres just outside the city, and offering every luxury imaginable.

Here’s what we did.

 

Jardin Majorelle

In the ’70s, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge would spend extended periods of time in Marrakech to find inspiration for his collections. They were seduced by the idyllic Jardin Majorelle, an oasis of colors influenced by Henri Matisse and nature, and conceived by French painter Jacques Majorelle. In 1980, when it was going to fall victim to a real estate development project, Yves and Pierre purchased the garden and villa and lovingly restored it to its current glory. One of the most visited attractions in Marrakech, we were similarly seduced by the beautifully landscaped botanical garden, filled with exotic cacti amongst meandering paths and ponds that surround the enchanting indigo blue villa as the strikingly elegant centerpiece.

 

 

Dar El Bacha Museum of Confluences

We were excited to visit one of the best preserved examples of Moroccan architecture and design, the Dar El Bacha Musee de Confluences, which was formerly the governor’s palace and home to the notorious Thami El Ghouli, Lord of the Atlas. The elaborate masterpiece exemplifies the sumptuous lifestyle of the Pasha during the French occupation, with its luxurious decoration, elaborate courtyard, carved cedar wood paneling, coffered ceilings, and Andalusian Arab-style geometric zellige tiles.
Inside the courtyard was Bacha, one of Morocco’s most celebrated and beautifully styled coffee shops. Oozing with French colonial charm, the airy greenhouse setting was bedecked with antiques and old school waiters dressed in white jackets and fez caps (which we particularly loved). The coffee specialists guided us through their extensive menu, offering over 200 varietals and flavors, served from golden decanters with fine china place settings…yet all for a surprisingly reasonable price.

 

 

Le Jardin Secret

Tucked away off a busy street in the souk was Le Jardin Secret—The Secret Garden, of course—one of the largest and oldest palaces in the medina. Formerly known as the Riad Loukrissi, it was once the opulent home of Qaid U-Bihi, who was head of the Haha tribe. We immersed ourselves in the lush, peaceful setting of the the exquisitely laid gardens, before exploring the 400-year-old palace, which housed a wealth of information on the history of Marrakech, ancient Moroccan architecture, and Arabic culture.

 

 

Jemaa el Fna

Wandering around the souk in the ancient Medina, it felt as if time had stood still. Narrow, winding streets were filled with vendors selling Moroccan handicrafts, such as indigenous lamps, handmade shoes, woven bags, caftans, rugs, leather goods, textiles, silver jewelry, pottery…as well as Argan oil products, food and spices. We proudly learned how to haggle discounts of up to 50%. We also got a bit lost, only to realize that all roads led to the sprawling central square, Jemaa al Fna, which was a feast for the senses.
As the sun set, the square came to life as part circus and part street fair. Locals and tourists convened around different food stalls serving Moroccan tagines or spit barbecue grills, made with both familiar and more exotic parts of the animal. Snake charmers, henna tattoo artists, Berber water men, and other cultural curiosities descended for photo ops, which added to the chaotic, multi-sensorial experience…obviously not for the faint of heart.

 

 

Mimouna Restaurant

For a special dinner one evening, we headed over to the new city, characterized by posh shopping malls and wider avenues, to experience the refined but unstuffy Mimouna restaurant, in the five-star Dar Rhizlane boutique hotel. In a lush garden setting with floor to ceiling windows, it serves some of the best contemporary Moroccan cuisine in Marrakech. With a seasonally changing menu, we appreciated that the kitchen’s experiments with new flavors added an interesting twist to classic tagines and seafood dishes. The elegant dining room featured brown zelliges, a beamed ceiling and dramatic French chandeliers, making for a sumptuous atmospheric experience.

 

 

Essaouira

A two hour drive west of Marrakech was the beautiful seaside port city of Essaouira, the ideal day trip, and a favorite weekend destination for locals—who go for the wide white sand beach and surf. A special treat, on the ride over, we actually spotted goats clambering up the argan trees. Only found in this part of the world, they possess unique sets of hooves that allow them to climb and feast on the nuts up in the tree.
The name of the town translates to “little picture” in Arabic, which is appropriate, considering its picturesque setting…which you might know as Astapor, the mythical city in Game of Thrones. Navigable by foot, we started at the bustling port, filled with fishing boats, and proceeded to explore the well preserved, ancient white-walled medina, before walking up to the fort for breathtaking views of the dramatic coastline. There are any number of port cafes for freshly caught local seafood.

 

 

Oberoi, Marrakech

As the bar for luxury in Marrakech keeps rising, the recently opened Oberoi, Marrakech has gone a long way to set the new standard. Set on 28 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, filled with citrus orchards and olive groves with views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, the spectacular oasis was actually located about 25 minutes minutes from the ancient walled city—giving it a seductive air of seclusion.
A testament to the intricate craftsmanship of Moroccan design, the central courtyard was modeled after the historic 14th Century Medersa Ben Youssef, and designed by world renowned architect Patrick Collier. It incorporates dazzling design elements, including a large shallow reflection pool, intricate archways and tile work which was all hand created by over 500 Moroccan artisans, taking five years to complete. And it shows.
We definitely felt like royalty in our luxuriously appointed deluxe room with private terrace (there are a total of just 84 rooms and suites).

 

But the majority of the accommodations were actually deluxe villas, with Andalusian design elements, and each with a large pool in a private landscaped courtyard…as well as a master bedroom and sitting/dressing areas, airy marble bathroom, and with beautiful, hand-painted, traditional zellige tiles and hand-sculpted wall panels. A Royal Suite offered views to the canal, orchards and Atlas Mountains; while the sprawling Presidential villas had 1,700 square feet of plush living space, as well as private gardens.
Spending the afternoon by the large outdoor pool area, landscaped with sweeping palm trees in a desert oasis atmosphere, we enjoyed an alfresco poolside lunch at the chic Azur restaurant, which offers light and healthy Mediterranean inspired dishes. Later, at the beautiful Oberoi spa, we took a dip in the indoor pool overlooking the orchards; there was also a yoga pavilion and fitness center, and a range of of Moroccan and Ayurvedic spa treatments, including herbal massages and hammams, all of the particularly luxurious kind.

 

 

But the Oberoi is also a culinary destination unto itself. And the traditional Moroccan cuisine at the exquisite Siniman restaurant, overlooking the regal courtyard, was a particular indulgence. The gorgeous dining room décor featured high ceilings, ornate tile work and carved columns. Live Moroccan music elevated the fine dining experience to something uniquely magical.
The terrace at Tamimt made for one of the more breathtaking dining experiences we’ve ever enjoyed, with views of the grand canal, the orchards and the Atlas mountains. And the contemporary Indian/Mediterranean fare can be had for both breakfast and dinner. But even the indoor dining room was elegantly decorated with frescoes lit with grand chandeliers surrounding tufted banquettes.
But we capped our visit with cocktails and champagne at Vue, the Oberoi’s stunning alfresco bar, which enjoys those very same views. And we couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else…ever.

 

We All Deserve a Decadent New Year’s Eve in St. Barth

 

 

It gives us anxiety every year. Just when we’re getting into holiday chill out mode, someone asks, “What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” – and we start stressing about it.

This year, as our gift to you, we ran reconnaissance to get the lowdown on one of our fave island destinations, the ever glamorous St. Barth. After all, considering what a divisive year it’s been, the only way to say goodbye to 2019 is in the most glam way possible.

And sure, it has long been a magnet for movie stars, models, A-listers and the general cognoscenti – with the sexiness of the French Riviera, but Caribbean in style. But it’s also charmingly relaxed, which was just what we needed.

We checked into the perpetually chic Nikki Beach, and spent a few days in, on, and around the secluded white sand beaches and warm aquamarine sea – and we can definitively say this will very much be our place to be as we take leave of 2019.

 

 

First, those beaches: Of the 22 on the island, each has a totally unique personality, though by land some of the best are only accessible by a rugged cliffside hike or drive along a narrow, twisty road. But should your 2019 IPO have been a success, you can just charter a yacht from MasterSki Pilou.

Many consider Anse du Gouverneur to be the best – it’s directly in front of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich’s sprawling estate – with its expansive stretch of white sand beach, and a sea of green from the lush vegetation in the surrounding hills.

The Grande Saline has the most secluded feel, and offers au natural sunbathing, for those with a thing for exhibitionism. As the bay is protected by a natural cove, the water is calmer – and it’s surrounded by natural beauty.

 

 

Colombier Beach is perhaps the most remote, and is set against the most dramatic and undeveloped backdrop. It’s not easy to reach, requiring a steep 20 minute hike along a narrow, craggy cliff – definitely not for the faint of heart. So just bring the yacht, and arrive by sea.

In the days leading up to the 1st, Nikki Beach (a luxury hospitality concern with fourteen beach clubs, four hotels and resorts, a lifestyle division – including fashion boutiques and a magazine – special events, and Nikki Cares, a non profit charity) is actually celebrating its 20th anniversary, with a full blown Forever Young blowout bash on the 29th. Neon Jungle will then bring the grooves all day (12pm – 7pm) on the 30th, before two editions (9pm – 12am, 12am – 4am) of “Rocking the Palace” will take over on New Year’s Eve. Kygo will be manning the decks, and the theme will be lavishly “Marie Antoinette” – though we strenuously recommend not losing your head. Rather, just plan to do your best to live up to the “Versailles 2020” motif.

We sampled some of Exec Chef Antoine Durand’s creations, and for the 31st he is designing a vibrant international menu, including some of the best dishes from different Nikki locales – with sushi specialties, seafood salads, rotisserie meats, decadent desserts…all expected to be paired with copious amounts of champers. And they’ll be carrying over some of the celebratory vibe from their Friday Rosé parties.

 

 

 

But for romantics, we also checked out Tamarin St. Barth on Route des Salines, surely the most beautiful dining destination on the island. The vibe is that of a surreal tropical paradise, set in a lush, exotic garden, landscaped with swaying palm trees and gently lit ponds. Candlelit dining in the enchanting setting is almost indescribable, with French inspired and beautifully plated dishes – all sourced from local purveyors – including lobster risotto, slow roasted pork belly “Ibaïama” and mahi mahi “à la plancha.”

But appealing to the gastronome in us, and lording gracefully over Gustavia Harbor was Bonito, the island’s most revered French culinary experience. The understated elegance includes panoramic vistas of the megayachts docked in the Caribbean, and the twinkling lights of the hillside villas. The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Laurent Cantineaux and Chef de Cuisine Aurélien Rouille, who conjure elevated French fare with a Peruvian twist, focused on fresh seafood. We decisively concluded that the tiraditos, ceviches and anticuchos were the stars of the menu.

Though if we’re bring honest, just kicking back at the bar, watching the sunset with an artful cocktail by drinks alchemists Jimmy Cassar and Johann Grillitsch, was as perfect as it gets. We’ll see you there on the 31st.

 

BlackBook Interview: Pondering Vanessa Beecroft’s Performance Piece of the Kappa Logo

 

 

Marking their half century birthday, Italian sportswear brand Kappa tapped Genovese artist Vanessa Beecroft to stage a live performance of their iconic logo at Lot 11, Miami’s newest public skate park (at 348 NW 2nd Street) on the opening day of Art Basel Miami 2019. By collaborating with British author and art curator Neville Wakefield, Beecroft brought the Omini Italian trademark logo of the ’70s to life with 50 different iterations.

“Crosshatching minimalism, performance art, film and fashion,” Wakefield enthused of his collaborator, “Vanessa’s durational performances have always stood out as a form of live portraiture. By animating the iconic Kappa logo, she invites us to explore not just the ever evolving relationship between the individuals – here represented by the Omini couple – but also that of a brand to the world at large.”

 

 

On the occasion of this performance, Beecroft – an artist principally known for her tableaux vivants, (“living paintings”), which in the past, have been predominantly performed by women in various states of dress and undress – staged her first live performance featuring both sexes. The performance included 100 street-cast models paired into couples to resemble the Kappa® logo.

BlackBook spoke with the iconic and elusive artist about the meaning of it all.

 

How did the collaboration with Kappa come about?

I was fond of the original Kappa logo from the ’70s, and my work has never before presented a physical interaction between a man and a woman. It is predominantly female, so this was a chance to see if I could address the relationship. My perception of the relations between two individuals has been nonexistent, so I used Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabrieski Point and La Notte for inspiration. In these films, there is a lost communication between the two parties and we are left with an open ending. While my work is still self-referential, based on a study of the female form, and its position in the physical and spiritual worlds, this performance is an opportunity for me to explore an interaction and new interpretation of a couple today. It was a challenge for me to do a performance in which there is an equal number of males and females.

How did the theme play out?

The logo was initiated in the ’70s when there was a hope for equality, and for males and females to have similar rights and clothing. In my perception I would like to see if the two parties can merge into one unit. I feel this struggle for equality still exists today, maybe in reverse, but I still find that males and females belong to different worlds. This casting was very young and I feel that the youth today really have a different perspective and are much more promiscuous. The beginning of the performance has all of the couples staged as the logo in the skate ramp. We give them some rules in which they can break the original position. I will leave it up to them to show me what is going to happen naturally, but I do have a choreographer who wants to show me some potential movements.

What was the look that you were going for to dress the models?

The look was to camouflage the blending of the skate ramp, so I used classic Dickies pants that were the same color as the asphalt and mixed with some vintage Kappa wear. I tried to get as close to nudity as possible, so women are wearing a leotard and males the Dickies.

Why did you take a break from performance art?

My performance art is based on demand, and I would only do this if I’m invited to a venue. I had four kids, but they also brought my attention to other aspects of my work like sculpture and painting. That was something I always wanted to do but I never had the time because of the constant requests. But the performance was always there, just less frequently. Even with my collaboration with Kanye West, I still used that skill in a different environment.

 

 

Which performance has been the most challenging?

Honestly, I never felt many challenges. Probably one of the most challenging aspects was in dealing with people of color in America, which has brought me a lot of trouble. I had a lot of backlash and was afraid and worried of having done something that wasn’t right. I still do it, and I’m determined – sometimes I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but I’m stubborn and I follow my intuition.

How do you think your work has evolved?

The evolution has been including more races and genders, and the world has also become more political and social. Working with Kanye has also allowed me to touch on different themes that I couldn’t have done on my own.

How do you like working with famous brands?

To be honest I was raised to be anti-capitalistic and I am still. I feel like it’s a sense of duty to interact with the brands in a way that would subliminally criticize them. At the same time brands are great supporters of the art world, so I have no choice. When you work within an environment like the art world, you’re safe and it feels almost unreal. I like to venture into worlds that are not mine. That’s when I discover things that have a different effect.

What are you looking forward to the most?

Usually I am obsessed to see if the image will be iconic and if it looks like a painting or a drawing. That’s my main reference and more than the performative aspect I want to see the flat image. I want to see if this is going to work because I don’t rehearse. I also want to see what will happen between male and female, and if it will touch me in a way that I will change.

What are some of your next projects?

I am directing an opera for Kanye West about Jesus’ birth. It’s a sequel to Nebuchadnezzar, which just played at the Hollywood Bowl. I also have a painting show in LA that features very large oil paintings that I’ve been doing over the last two years.

 

Report From Art Basel: Chatting w/ Vik Muniz About Japanese Bonsai and The Artistic Fantasy Land

 

 

Kicking off the 2019 Art Basel Miami Beach was the star studded Ruinart champagne sunset fete, which celebrated Vik Muniz’s art series Shared Roots, the inspiration behind an evening that brought together high culture and sublime gastronomy.

The centerpiece of the evening was the launch of the Vik Muniz x Ruinart Champagne Leaf limited-edition prints, 100% of sales of which went to benefit Imazon, a Brazilian nonprofit dedicated to Amazon rainforest conservation. As the sun set, guests were treated to a delectable Mocequa fish stew by the legendary Chef Daniel Boulud, inspired by the artist’s Brazilian heritage and crafted to pair with both Ruinart’s beloved Blanc de Blancs, and the debut of the house’s first ever rosé.

 

 

Joan Smalls, Karolina Kurkova, Shea Marie, Caroline Vreeland, punk-architect Peter Marino, Gaia Matisse, Hank Willis Thomas, Aureta Thomollari, Marion Guggenheim, Jennifer Lopez and Olivia Perez mixed with the culture cognoscenti and art-world insiders within the lush Miami Beach Botanical Garden, as DJ (and fashion designer) Timo Weiland set the mood with a typically smart set of tunes.

As a sculptor and photographer, Muniz is passionate about understanding his subject – so for this project he took lessons on tree drawing at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

“The other student was a Japanese Bonsai artist and theatrical performer,” he recalls, “and she had this thing about what trees felt, and would emulate the trees with long arms.”

 

 

“When you see something up close with so much attention to particular detail,” he continues, “it becomes a mirror for the entire universe. This is an essential element to how trees behave. When you draw a live tree with a pencil, I realized you are also drawing a dead tree. So I decided to make a drawing out of pieces of a dead tree. A tree in itself is a narrative, vines go places and they are a portrait of what they are looking for.”

He proffers that art can function as a tool, or instrument, for bettering our relationship with the teetering environment – and that artists veritably help us connect with our senses for deeper engagement.

“When you have this kind of collaboration,” he reckons, “you recontextualize the meaning for people who work in the wine industry. You give them a different perspective on what they are working with. Being around Ruinart connected me to something I wanted to work with for a long time: trees.”

 

Yet he emphasizes that he does not wish to make his art blatantly political – hoping instead that it will inspire viewers to actually think for themselves.

“Artists live in a fantasy land that doesn’t reflect the realities of everyday,” he observes. “So we challenge people to think differently and see things in a different way.”

Muniz’s beautiful and textural Leaf prints can be purchased for $5,000 on Clos19.com, with just a total of 30 available for sale.

 

OK, This Was Our Other Favorite Art Basel Party: Pierre Gagnaire x Perrier-Jouët

 

 

As luxury brands vie to connect themselves to the most celebrated creative figures of our time, quite a lot of it plays out as spectacular experiences during Art Basel Miami. Perrier-Jouët certainly outdid themselves this year, with their reinterpretation of a lavish nature banquet that was inspired by the Art Nouveau movement, a period which marked the inception of the storied champagne house.

Through a collaboration with their curated Artisans of the Wild – three-star Michelin Chef Pierre Gagnaire, designer Andrea Mancuso, and supermodel Winnie Harlow – Perrier-Jouët was able to conjure an extravagant, sensorial dinner party at The Faena Hotel, that mixed theater with a multi-course menu by one of the world’s most exalted chefs.

 

 

“Nature dictates my cuisine and gives it meaning,” explains Gagnaire, who created a structured cuisine that resembled edible masterpieces of art, incorporating the brand’s cuvees as an ingredient as well as a pairing. Hervé Deschamps, Cellar Master of Maison Perrier-Jouët, and designer Mancuso, of Analogia Project, worked together for a whole year to imagine a new artistic champagne ritual called Metamorphosis, a collection of glassware that was on display at Design Miami.

Mancuso elucidates that, “like Perrier-Jouët champagne [my design] tells stories, creates surprises and conveys emotions.”

 

 

Metamorphosis forms part of a new tasting experience exploring the metamorphoses of nature and the way Maison Perrier-Jouët transforms grapes into champagne using over 200 years of savoir faire. Over the evening rare vintages were flowing into Mancuso’s intricate bespoke glassware, and choreographer Bianca Li unveiled a Metamorphosis dance performance to guests throughout the banquet, bringing a touch of fanfare and theater to the evening.

Well done.

 

Dom Pérignon + Lenny Kravitz: This Was Our Fave Art Basel Party

 

 

For experienced “Baselers,” Art Basel Miami Beach is not really just about the art itself, but also, of course, about the lavish and extravagantly-spent-on parties that take place before the fair actually opens to the public. Our pick for the best of them all this year was Dom Pérignon pairing up with Creative Director Lenny Kravitz to recreate The Last Supper (you know, that Da Vinci painting?) at Alan Faena’s gorgeous waterfront home, to celebrate the release of Lenny’s limited edition Dom Pérignon collection – including the Vintage 2008 and Rosé 2006.

 

 

Following Lenny’s ‘Power of Inspiration’ photo exhibition in NYC, which enlightened how inspiration is the catalyst and also the magnet for drawing together the exceptional and the very talented together, this extravagant evening brought that very spirit to life. Lenny and Mr. Faena hosted several of their closest friends for an intimate dinner, whipped up by Chef Francis Mallmann (who counts Gwyneth and Katy Perry amongst his fans), followed by a larger VIP party where the cognoscenti from the art, entertainment and fashion worlds sipped and schmoozed.

We spotted Paris Hilton, Luka Sabbat, Rosario Dawson, Tommy Hilfiger, Sean Penn, Mario Sorrenti, Caroline Vreeland, Leonard Blavatnik, Timo Weiland, Yves Behar, and Caroline Daur and so many more, all grooving ’til the wee hours to a set by everyone’s favorite superstar DJ Diplo.

 

Beauty at the End of the Earth: Three Days in Finnish Lapland

Image by Markus Kiili 

 

We recently had the privilege of following none other than Carly Rae Jepsen to Finland, for a unique and unforgettable performance. Whilst there, she and we all fell in love with the peaceful landscape of the fabled Lapland.

Located above the Arctic Circle, the unspoiled wilderness that is the Finnish Lapland is decidedly remote and silent, yet is abuzz with visitors once winter arrives. In summer and autumn, it offers long days lit by the midnight sun, with a temperate climate, actually making it a year round destination. Over 70% of Finland is covered by forestry, with nature at one’s beckon – the world’s cleanest air making it the perfect life reset and recharge.

Here’s what we loved.

 

Levi

Levi is the largest ski and recreational resort in Finland, and lies 170 km north of the Arctic Circle. We soaked up the majestic scenery of the mountains and lakes, as we hiked through the forest and foraged for wild superfoods – that could at any time include cloudberries, lingonberries, chanterelles and porcini mushrooms – which are all free for the taking.
During the summer there are 45 days of 24 hour daylight, which culminates in a crescendo of golden hues of yellow, red and caramel in autumn. The Aurora Borealis Northern Lights show starts around mid-August and lasts through early April, and can be witnessed on any clear night. The dancing cosmic display is as dramatic and breathtaking as it is unpredictable.
We stayed at the luxurious Levi Spirit, designed as sprawling log cabin villas, with a modern Nordic decor and luxuriously appointed amenities. Situated in the middle of a forest, we appreciated how the floor to ceiling windows virtually brought nature indoors, especially as you’re cozying up by the fireplace or indulging in your ensuite hot and steamy Finnish sauna or jacuzzi – which tops out at over 110 degrees celsius.
The restaurant served Lappish and international fare with a view, specifically a 360 degrees one of the surrounding fells and plains of Lapland.

 

 

Yllas

Consisting of two authentic Lappish villages surrounded by seven fells, Yllas is a gateway to one of Finland’s most famous national parks, Pallas-Yllastunturi. We explored the park by hiking and following the trail alongside the waterfall, where it’s not uncommon to see reindeer strolling along beside you. We ended the day with an authentic Finnish sauna experience, followed by a quick frigid dip in Lake Akaslompolo, for the ultimate hot/cold experience.
Perfectly located at the base of one of the gondola lifts in Yllasjarvi is the Lapland Hotels’ Saga, which offers magnificent and changing views of the landscape depending on the time of day and year from its vantage point of 1000 feet above sea level. Our room featured contemporary Finnish decor, with a private balcony overlooking the slopes, and we warmed up from the outdoors by the fireplace. There are also spa and sauna facilities on site.
We tasted traditional Sami and Lappish dishes at the cozy Restaurant Rouhe, which uses locally sourced ingredients for a seasonally changing menu. Some of the local specialties included sautéed reindeer with lingonberries, braised lamb shank in a rich blackcurrent sauce, and oven roasted arctic char and pike perch.

 

 

Ruka

Ruka is a stunningly beautiful ski resort – but it was very much about where we were staying. Indeed, Rukan Salonki Chalets offers charming lakeside log cabins in the middle of Lappish nature, with decor created from locally sourced materials, embodying the spirit of Lapland, with the comforts of home and a few luxurious touches. Naturally, each chalet also came equipped with an ensuite sauna.
Perhaps our favorite meal of the trip, the fine dining spot Restaurant Rukan Kuksa offered a seasonally shifting menu created from the wild food and ingredients harvested around the Lapland. The atmosphere was chic but cozy.
But we couldn’t leave the Lapland without a Forest Yoga session with MyTrail, meditating atop a peak bathed in the warm light of the sunset under a canopy of birch trees. The majestic scenery of the verdant valley and rivers below made it a truly unforgettable experience.

 

 

Getting There by Finnair 

The most convenient and luxurious way to travel to the Lapland from the US is via Finnair, which offers daily direct flights to Helsinki from JFK, with easy connections to destinations in the Lapland. Their Nordic Business Class represents all the best of that legendary Scandinavian hospitality (i.e. a lovely staff), with flat reclining seats, signature menus created by top Finnish chefs, a signature Finnish cocktail program (no more dull airplane vodka tonics), and, our favorite, the very fashionable Marimekko designed amenities kit.

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Following Carly Rae Jepsen to Finland

 

 

Taking cues and inspiration from nature’s soundscape, beloved singer/songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen traveled to Lapland, Finland – with the support of House of Lapland, Finnair and Visit Finland – to record the fan favorite track “The Sound (Live in Lapland, Finland),” from her fourth and latest album, Dedicated. Filmed and recorded completely outdoors on a remote lakeside jetty in Lapland’s Ruka-Kuusamo region, the performance was stripped of the electronic elements and recorded with organic and tranquil instrumentation.

Says the Canadian Carly of her love of Lapland: “Nature is a part of my childhood and my very best memories. Here in Lapland I’ve been amazed by how the quiet space allows for ideas to float into my head. It has been unlike anything I have ever experienced.”

Lapland is perhaps best known as “the home of Santa Claus,” and for the Northern Lights – but Jepsen’s video also showcases a different side of it, including the striking “midnight sun.”

BlackBook followed her there, to chat about the album, ongoing tour, and her newfound Scandinavian love.

 

 

How did you choose the Finnish Lapland for this project?

It was my first time in Finland, and I got a call to see if I’d like to explore the Lapland. I felt like it was a magical opportunity that happened to fall into my life! Honestly, my road manager thought I was going to be too tired – but nothing was going to stop me from [doing] this. It’s been the best decision, we’re having a blast.

Weren’t you homesick?

Going home isn’t necessarily the thing you want to do. You want to have a vacation for yourself, and this reminds me very much of Canada – but slightly different, especially the trees and the people. It’s been exactly what the doctor ordered. We did a Finnish sauna in the middle of a lake, and I got to try different foods like reindeer. It’s always fun to immerse yourself in a completely different culture, which helps you grow and is healthy for your brain.
We set up on the wharf where the sun was setting and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We were done for the day, and I can tell my group was having a fantastic time when all we wanted to do was stay on the wharf, play games and take pictures. I love finding that joy with the people I travel with, because it’s just so vital if you are going to have this type of lifestyle and have your band members be your friends and family.

You’ve talked about your early days in Vancouver, playing in small clubs and working in a coffee shop, as some of the happiest days of your life. Could you tell us more about that? And how has that journey shaped your career?

I would say that those days were the happiest, as I developed my artistry out of college and took the path less travelled. It’s where I learned how to hustle and I worked hard for it, which is something I pride myself on. I really enjoy songwriting too, and I tend to overwrite until I find something that is really right; it ends up being 200 songs that I edit down to 15, which is what happened for my latest album.
But I would say this tour has been the most joyful experience so far.

Tell us about your new album Dedicated, and what it means at this moment in your career. 

I had a couple of different working titles until I landed on this one. There was actually a song that didn’t make it that was called “Dedicated,” which wrapped up a lot of what I had been writing about. I understand what that word meant to me in life, and I think if I am dedicated, it’s to this project. And it’s also to the meaning of love, holding out for that right person…

 

Is there a “right” person in your life right now?

Right now I am newly single. But I still have so much love for the boy.

It’s been eight years since you had your first hit. How has fame affected you?

When “Call Me Maybe” came out, it was Top 9 on iTunes in Canada and I was like, “Let’s throw a party, this is amazing.” The fact that it took off beyond that is still a gift of my life. I learned that there were many things that I thought I was going to love that I didn’t about the fame game. One of which is that I wanted the focus to be more on the artistry rather than the celebrity. I was pretty sure after “Call Me Maybe” that the best decision was to slow down a little bit and take my time, I wanted to figure out what kind of pop music was really authentic to me. I’m really glad we took our time with it.

Were there any songs that you’ve written that you expected to really take off and didn’t?

I don’t think I’ve ever had any expectations for what songs do in the world. Trying to chase the success of “Call Me Maybe” was never an intention of mine. First of all, I didn’t think it was possible; second of all, I just felt an empty happiness forgetting why I got into those coffee shops in the first place, which is using songwriting as a way to communicate and interact. As long as we keep finding the people we do connect with, that’s all that matters to me.

What other singers have inspired you?

Cyndi Lauper I find really inspiring. I’ve also had a Phoebe Bridges song on loop in my head this entire trip, and her lyrics are on a Joni Mitchell level for our era. I’ve always thought the types of careers that are attractive to me are like the James Taylors of the world, which was the first concert I’d ever been to.

 

 

How would you describe your personal style?

Playful, I don’t really have one set look I go for. I think on stage I get to be the extreme version of my theatrical side. But day to day when I’m home, it’s anything I want to wear, whatever I’m in the mood for that day. I love clothes and fashion, but I think if you don’t get to play, what’s the point?

Do you have a personal stylist?

Hayley Atkin is a stylist I’ve worked with for five years. She is like me but a tiny bit braver.

What are your next projects after the tour?

I’m just thinking day to day now, because we are literally going until March, Japan, China, Australia and then we hit Europe again. I think if we get through the tour I can have a long sleeping beauty sleep and then we will be ready to answer. Maybe I will move to New York afterwards for a couple of months. New York has always been my city for rejuvenating after a heartbreak. So I’m going to let the city romance me. Every time I’m there I feel like songs come easy to me.

Where in New York would you live?

In Soho, that’s where I landed first when I was performing in Cinderella. Jack has been trying to convince me to move to Brooklyn and I have also tried Greenwich Village. I think Soho is where my heart will take me. Some friends of mine are talking about how we can bring a pop musical to fruition. This is a ten year plan, and who knows if it will happen…but maybe New York will get me one step closer.