First Images: Paris’ Legendary Lutetia Hotel Will Reopen in Spring

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Dating to 1910, Paris’ glamorous Left Bank legend Lutetia hotel has an absolutely glittering history, including playing host to the likes of Hemingway, James Joyce, Picasso, Matisse, Miles Davis and Serge Gainsbourg. David Lynch even styled his own suite. It was also one of the first “fashion designer” hotels, with Sonia Rykiel having opened an on-site boutique, before dazzlingly revamping the interiors during those so fabulous 1980s.

But closed – and sorely missed – since 2014, the Lutetia is now scheduled for a spring rebirth (as a member of The Set hotels), after a $150 million renovation. We have the first images here.

Heading the makeover was exalted French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte; and gone are Rykiel’s flamboyant flourishes, replaced by something of a more rarefied elegance. Though the historic details are all left gloriously intact – especially the stunning Art Deco glass ceiling above the bar.

What to expect from this new era? A chic new jazz lounge (Parisians love their jazz), an open-air courtyard, and surely most importantly, the rebirth of the Lutetia Brasserie, under the direction of three-Michelin-starred chef Gérald Passedat – of Marseille’s Le Petit Nice. Not to mention brilliant people watching, especially whenever the Paris Fashion Week crowd storms the capital.

Come April, you’ll know where to find us.

 

 

BlackBook Urbanologie: London’s Best Russian Restaurants

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Mari Vanna

 

With the Mueller collusion investigation heating up, and Donald Trump antagonizing London mayor Sadiq Khan, we couldn’t think of a better plan than hopping a flight to Blighty’s capital to indulge in some of the city’s best Russian restaurants – which is definitely a thing, since a large expat population has some Londoners referring to Blighty’s capital as “Moscow on the Thames.”

We turned to our partners at Urbanologie for their expertise on the subject.

 

Mari Vanna

Laden with extraordinary attention to detail and elaborately decorated, this quaint (shabby chic) restaurant immediately transports you into an archetypal Russian home adorned with the iconic Russian Bear, stacking dolls and Cheburashka, bookshelves filled with Russian literature and elaborate chandeliers. Following the success of Mari Vanna in St Petersburg, Moscow and New York – the London outpost (opened in 2009) is well positioned in the heart of Knighsbridge and on the doorstep of Hyde Park. The restaurant offers “babushka cooking” – traditional homely fare – with influences from Armenia, Georgia and Uzbekistan and with a contemporary style. Mari Vanna really invokes the feel of an old Russian home and the theme continues through to the menu, which features classic such as borscht – beetroot soup with beef – and well as Olivier salad and beef stroganoff with buckwheat.

Zima

A venture from Russian chef Alexei Zimin that combines Russian street food and drink in a kitsch speakeasy-style atmosphere. Zima occupies the basement of a Grade-II listed townhouse on Frith Street in Soho, right next door to the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. For the interior ‘think Russian dacha and Soviet-era ryumochnaya (vodka bar)’ – adorned with slogan-and-symbol-embossed propaganda porcelain. The site is the first venture for Zimin outside Russia, and combines street and gourmet food in an array of tapas-style dishes featuring classic ingredients from all corners of Russia and the former Soviet Union. Dishes are prepared around ingredients such as sturgeon, herring, scallops, crab, venison and, of course, caviar. As well as food there are Russian beers like Siberian Crown, and cocktails using vodka infusions flavoured with fennel & tarragon; basil & strawberry and lingonberry & apple with curry leaves. Well-known in Russia, Zimin runs his own restaurant and cookery school, Ragout, in Moscow.

 

 

Bob Bob Ricard

This glamorous and very opulent Russian restaurant is perfect for a trip out of the ordinary. The menu is a mix of British and Russian dishes made with unrestrained creativity and a wide variety of luxury ingredients. Expect starters served with vodka shots (chilled to -18C), and every table is furnished with a ‘Press for Champagne’ button, enabling the restaurant to boast the widely coveted ‘most champagne poured at a restaurant in the UK’ title. The eclectic design of the interior is a stand out feature, distinguishing it with marble tabletops, colourful leather upholstery and gold accents. The dining area is separated between the Blue Dining Room (designed by David Collins and inspired by the Orient Express) and the Red Dining Room (with oriental patterns and backgammon motifs in the centre). There are no individual tables but booths, making the place almost reminiscent of an American-style diner. A new City outpost, Bob Bob Cite, is expected to open shortly – with the kitchen overseen by Eric Chavot, formerly of Brasserie Chavot, and the menu features signature Bob Bob dishes with added twists.

 

 

Urbanologie has been described as “the must have VIP lifestyle app,” designed to keep members in the know with up-to-the-minute insider news and exclusive content on the most anticipated restaurant, bar, club and hotel openings. 

The Next Great Weekend Getaway: Norwalk, CT

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Amongst NYC’s many great failures of infrastructure and urban planning, the lack of worthwhile public spaces connecting the citizenry to the city’s waterways is a particularly glaring one. But what if you could simply jump an MTA train, head an hour north and be around all sorts of watery wonders?

You’d be in Norwalk, of course – one of Connecticut’s most urbane, good-looking harbor towns, and arguably a still under-considered getaway from Gotham.

Tri-Staters, obviously, have the tendency to make for New England every spring and fall for all the obvious reasons. But we’ve been popping up to Norwalk for as long as we can remember, especially for its restaurant-rich, historic SoNo district – which also happens to be right on the harbor.

Come spring, the beaches, bicycling and boating opportunities are like siren songs for stressed out urbanistas. But we recently made a well-fed winter weekend of it, complete with one of the prettiest snowfalls we’ve ever experienced.

Here’s what we did.

(Check out the Fairfieldista Instagram page before you go.)

 

Pedego Sono

Proprietor Mike Heslin has a plan: he wants to make the word “Pedego” a verb. In other words, “Let’s go Pedego today!” And once you try these exceedingly cool electric bicycles, you’ll wonder why it took so long for someone to make this a…”thing.” The bikes themselves have compelling names like the Interceptor, the Trail Tracker and the Boomerang – and they’re actually quite stylish rides. Essentially, you can shift constantly back and forth between peddling them like regular bicycles, and throttling them like motorcycles – so, obviously, it’s a ridiculous amount of fun, especially trekking around water’s edge.

 

 

Simple Sono

Admit it, there have been innumerable times when you just thought to yourself, “How can I get that dashing, cultivated Jeremy Irons or Kate Winslet look?” The elegant Simple Sono boutique answers that and many more of your most pressingly urbane fashion questions. To be sure, there’s almost something of an Anglophilia at work in their stylistic mission. They stock men’s and women’s – quite a bit from Europe – and you’ll find labels like Adriano Goldschmied, Majestic Filatures, and Calleen Cordero accessories. Don’t forget to pick up one of the ethereal LAFCO candles.

 

 

Factory Underground

This is a great diversion from the usual, especially for music geeks. Book a tour of this thriving studio, and enjoy the anecdotes of owner Ethan Isaacs and his amiable staff. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek at vintage guitars being repaired; perhaps meet the next great singer-songwriter singing or writing that next great song in one of the rehearsal rooms; and watch raw video footage being edited into something exciting. Check with them about the occasional on-site special event.

 

 

El Segundo

Despite the Latino moniker, El Segundo is actually a thrillingly international affair. The menu is broken up into continents, so you can make a meal of Venezuelan arepas, Vietnamese banh mi, and Portuguese style grilled sardines. Pair it up with a Japanese Road Soda gin cocktail or a Jamaican Red Stripe, and it’s like doing an epicurean world tour. We loved the Indian curry soup and the insanely delicious esquite shaved corn with cotija cheese. The crowd is cool, the music is well chosen reggae and dub.

 

 

Beach House Sono

If you’re counting the days until summer, this is a great place to wait it out. The decor is appropriately breezy and beachy, the vibe totally laid back. No surprise, seafood dominates the menu, from organic Scottish salmon to seafood risotto to rock shrimp tempura. Landlubbers should try the truffle mushroom flatbread and goat cheese wontons. Chef Kane Xu also lords over the super-trendy Beach Cafe, the sister restaurant in Greenwich.

 

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Cigar Factory Outlet

A top international cigar seller, their lounge is one of the few places that you can actually still sit and enjoy a luxurious smoke and sophisticated tipple. We loved kicking back with an Oban single malt and a super smooth Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado, 2014’s Cigar Aficionado #1 pick (they also recommend the Oliva Serie V Belicoso, and the Padron Serie 1926 No. 2 Natural), while owner Brian Shapiro explained to us that the highest quality cigars are now coming out of Nicaragua, and not, as generally assumed, Cuba. They also offer their own El Cobre line from that country, and boast an in-house hand roller, Daniel Cruzeta, for the ultimate bespoke experience. They’re planning more nights with live music and / or DJs.

 

 

Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint

This will automatically be one of your favorite restaurants ever. Run by the charismatic Greer Fredericks, the bar up front is a totally buzzing local scene. And in the elegant main dining room, you could actually score big points for atmosphere on date night. The Southern-influenced food is just ridiculously good: the Cajun confit wings are almost indescribable, as are the truffle grits and the pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese – which might just ruin you for everything else you ever eat. There are also unexpected dishes like roasted butternut squash & burrata salad, or the crispy pork shank cassoulet. Bonus: enjoy a hipster-free live music scene at the wood-beamed, exposed-brick upstairs venue.

 

 

Washington Prime

This is as good a steakhouse as any we’ve been to in the last year. And though they’ve got a ribeye that might just change your life, you’ll literally swoon over the steak tartare with truffle vinaigrette and quail egg, or the thick slab bacon with their signature sauce. Specialties also include the roasted duck and the crab-stuffed filet of sole. Their happy hour, particularly, is totally aces: come for specially priced Copp’s Island oysters and littleneck clams, as well as nicely priced signature cocktails. Atmospheric interiors are rustic-industrial chic, with hanging vines wrapping around dangling bulbs.

 

 

Even Hotel Norwalk

A new Intercontinental brand devoted entirely to health, the vibe at the Even Hotel Norwalk is somewhere between cool, retro airport lounge and casual, contemporary spa – all done in soothing, mellow earth tones. There’s a top class Athletic Studio in house, rooms with workout equipment (including fitness channels on the television) and eucalyptus fiber bedding for that special calming effect. The Cork & Kale Market Bar, which also has organic grab and go food items and awesome breakfast smoothies, is replete with comfy, wi-fi-equipped public spaces for working or just people watching over an evening cocktail. A concept hotel that actually does what it says on the label. (There are outposts in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Seattle, Pittsburgh and Miami on the way.)

 

 

And Yet More Sono…

Stop in for a Deep Chill session at Saraswati’s Yoga Joint; pick up Game of Thrones worthy accessories at Knotted Bone Leatherworks; do some kitschy Euro food shopping at A Taste of Holland; hit trendy Mecha Noodle Bar for pho and ramen, Match for great classic cocktails, Barcelona Wine Bar for happy hour tapas, and Troupe 429 for the city’s best LGBTQ nightlife scene. And do not miss Norwalk’s amazing Maritime Aquarium.

 

 

Where to Eat in Paris in 2018: Three ‘Délicieux’ New Hotspots

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Above, Les Grands Verres

 

Another Paris Fashion Week will be soon upon us. And let’s face it, even models and designers have to eat…sometimes. But even before the City of Light is beset by stylistas (February 27 – March 6), it’s worth snagging a table at any or all of these three new (opened in the second half of 2017), stylish and very buzzy eateries, for both the people watching and the surprisingly not typically Parisian cuisine.

Book ahead, bien sûr.

 

Carbon Paris

Despite the name, the exceedingly hip Carbon is not a copy of anything we actually know of in Paris. The latest from Argentine restaurateur Sabrina Goldin, and influenced by the carnivores’ dens of Buenos Aires, Swede chef David Kjellstenius’ menu is an homage to land, sea and nature – from the Clavisy lamb shoulder to the barley risotto with octopus. Located on a particularly charming corner of the Marais, it’s perfect for a post-shopping repast. Or come late and join the cool crowd in the basement cocktail bar, La Mina, where you’re actually allowed to smoke. (Reminding you, of course, that you are indeed in the French capital.)

 

 

Les Grands Verres

The name actually translates to “The Big Glasses,” which may mark another new trend: the French exhibiting a sense of humor. It’s actually located in the always bleeding edge Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum (with its stark, Corbusian architecture), and it has an epic, Euro-modernism interior to match. All the fashionable signifiers are ticked off: sustainable, Medi-influenced menu by American chef Preston Miller; international specialties (chopped vegetable fattoush, matbucah buccatini); and a sleek, late-night cocktail bar. The people watching is aces.

 

 

La Condesa

Follow the new foodies to this chic bistro in the 9th, where Mexican chef Indra Carrillo does thought-provoking dishes like wild cauliflower with coffee, cod with achiote and summer vegetables, and seaweed marinated veal with rhubarb – offered in special four- and six-course menus, and paired with a selection of natural, biodynamic wines. The elegant interior is all black, white and warm woods, with moody, almost romantic lighting, while the location makes it ideal for a sophisticated pre-opera dinner.

 

 

 

2018 Ski Chic: Montage Deer Valley Opens Après Lounge & Beach Club

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With the holidays behind, and the snow falling like it hasn’t done in years, it is indisputably time to turn our attentions to the slopes. But all that swooshing always makes us thirsty – especially for the good stuff.

And so it is that you’re likely to find us this season stripping off our skis just a little bit earlier, to settle into a furry couch at Montage Deer Valley‘s Après Lounge & Beach Club. The cyclical hotspot – with its cooly mismatched furnishings and moody, sexy lighting – will be especially magnetic this time out, as its underwriter, Veuve Clicquot, is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its exalted Rosé Champagne.

Pairing up with Tsar Nicoulai (whose farms, surprisingly, are not in Russia, but California), it means the caviar – from sustainable American white sturgeon – and bubbly will be flowing late into the wintery nights. Though those not disposed towards the roe, will also be well served with black truffle popcorn and their signature house-made barbecue potato chips.

The Montage itself (sister to the Beverly Hills hotel of the same name), is one of the plushest resorts in town, with posh, fireplace-flaunting rooms, a 35,000 sq. ft. spa with indoor pool, and four restaurants. It’s hosted the likes of Zoe Saldana, Rachael Harris and Bradley Cooper.

Swish!

 

BlackBook ‘Rooms With a View’: Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia

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There are so many reasons we never tire of weekending in Philadelphia. And this time out we were beside ourselves with aesthetic joy, as we were graced with a not insignificant snowfall, turning Center City into a sparkling winter wonderland.

It only served to highlight the genuinely festive ambience of our chosen hotel: the cozily stylish Kimpton Hotel Palomar. Positioned as it is along the buzziest stretch of an always buzzing S. 17th St, it put us within a few blocks ramble of so many of our fave Philly hangs: nouveau British pub Dandelion, bougie-chic a.kitchen+bar, Italophile hotspot Tredici Enoteca, and punky-charming wine bar Vintage. Though our genuinely most treasured moment was meeting a darling little French bulldog named Layla, during the hotel’s spirited evening wine social (in this case, nicely wintered up by the inclusion of whiskeyfied hot toddies).

But we must admit to actually spending way too much time upstairs in room 802 – in good part to simply gaze tirelessly upon the awe-inspiring view just outside our window. It is one of the Palomar’s plush “Spa Rooms,” so the view gloriously extends to the luxurious and picture-windowed bathroom – which you really must see to truly appreciate. (It flaunts a marble-trimmed bathtub that might make Marie Antoinette jealous).

It all looks ethereally out onto the former First Baptist Church, now the Liberti Church, dating all the way back to 1900. Replete with dramatic Roman and Byzantine influences (there are interior references to Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia – make sure to have a look), it appears more like a house of worship you’d stumble across somewhere in the Yorkshire countryside. Completing the architecturally sensational view is the historic Allman building (dating to 1910, by Baker and Dallet), just across the street.

It’s all so inspiring as to make you simply not want to leave the room. And thusly, we recommend just staying in and ordering up some Thai curry mussels and crab-avocado toast from the hotel’s Square 1682 restaurant, who can pair up it up with a bottle of their actually quite good namesake Cabernet or Chardonnay.

Alas, despite the holy proximity, personal redemption is not included in the room rate.

 

An Utterly Transcendent Food + Wine Tour of New Zealand’s North Island, Part II

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On our recent epicurean visit to New Zealand, we ate and drank our way across the North Island landscape to rapturous effect. Truly, the level of excellence we encountered could hardly be conveyed.

Part I of the story detailed our time in Auckland and Waiheke Island. The second half of the trip took us to Wellington and Hawkes Bay.

 

Wellington

If, as we exclaimed within our first hours of arriving in Auckland, Seattle is the American city that most comes to mind when taking in the curved harbor and overcast skies of NZ’s largest town, then Wellington, the country’s capital, is its Portland. Also situated on the banks of an expansive body of water – in this case Wellington Harbour – it exudes a more streetwise and bohemian vibe than its cosmopolitan northern sister; and as such, the food and wine offerings took us down a more adventurous road.
Our digs for the night were the hip QT Museum Wellington, and on our first evening there we took shelter from the rain and wind – the town has actually been dubbed the windiest city on Earth – at their opulent Hippopotamus bar and restaurant. Situated on an upper floor with views of the harbor, the dazzling space, with its mirrored bar, gold chandeliers, stuffed peacock, and Louis-the-something style armchairs sort of transported us to the Ancien Regime era; we may or may not have ordered absinthe. While the dinner menu leaned traditionally French, with escargots, lamb rump, braised Wakanui beef cheeks, and gratin dauphinois dominating, we were excited to see they had vegan options, and opted for the simple and delicious salade végétalienne of quinoa, pinenuts, goji berries & baby spinach – along with an impressive bottle of NZ Pinot.

 

QT Museum Wellington
The following morning we set out to explore downtown, and were met with further evidence of the city’s mind-meld with the Pacific Northwest: its obsession with coffee. Our meeting with John, the manager and bean specialist of Mojo Coffee, had us inundated with more information on the various ways one can make, drink, and basically live a caffeinated existence than we would ever have thought existed. That the company has over 30 outlets in a city of 400K (two thirds the size of Portland) was testament to the populations’ serious caffeine jones.
A charming development in downtown Wellington has been the refurbishment of various alleyways into colorful and art infused ‘laneways.’ As traversing these walkways between streets is a great way to navigate the city, having them splashed with color and street art has brought the crowds; bars and restaurants have naturally flourished.

 

 

It was in one such vestibule that we found the perfect lunch spot in Egmont St Eatery, a light-filled modern café packed with well-dressed millennials and hipsters on laptops; as does Brooklyn and Portland, so does Wellington, apparently. The menu was a delight and we tried the fried fish tortilla with avocado mousse, cabbage, and horopito sauce, and braised paua with dirty rice, shiitake, and crispy shallots.
That evening, following an afternoon exploring the downtown shops, and then a drive into the hills to the very cool Zealandia bird sanctuary, we hit another hip laneway for dinner at the excellent Shepherd – which had us wondering if we were ever to have a questionable dining experience in NZ. Our feast of fried rice with kale, ginger, kimchi, sesame, peanuts, and fried egg and sous vide fish with miso glaze, carrot, ginger, turmeric, and saffron aioli left us in genuine epicurean contentment.

 

 

 

Hawkes Bay

For our final stop on our week-long tour, we took a 55-minute flight northeast of Wellington to the serene vineyard-and-animal-sanctuary-studded region of Hawkes Bay. Distinctly Mediterranean in look and feel, and with the best weather we encountered on our trip, HB was where the enormity of NZ’s Tolkien-like terrain was most apparent.
Lunch at Elephant Hill Winery was our first order of business, and after a delightful tour of the place with CEO Andreas Weiss, we settled in to an elegant repast of oysters and grilled game fish, squid, nam jim, bok choy, fried shallots, and pineapple, accompanied by an 2016 Elephant Hill rosé; Hawkes Bay was quick to show us its sophisticated side.

 

 

The history of HB and its largest city Napier is punctuated by a devastating event; in 1931 a cataclysmic earthquake not only leveled much of the town, but raised the land as much as eight feet, adding close to ten thousand acres of newly dry land to the area. Napier was rebuilt in the style of the time, namely art deco; and while many buildings have been subsequently remodeled, the place remains one of the most intact deco towns in the world.
It was along this quaint pastel backdrop that we strolled on our first evening, eventually alighting for dinner at the thoroughly 21st Century restaurant Bistronomy. Chef James Beck guided us through the menu, which verged on the molecular, without being too ionospherey (Parks & Recreation reference). Sections named Protein, Raw, and Minerals sounded more daunting than they were – our grilled flounder with beetroot & horseradish hollandaise was pretty much as advertised, and wonderful, while the chocolate brownie with lavender, sour mousse, and condensed milk sorbet, while equally amazing, did actually verge on the surreal.

 

 

The following day had us up and out of our rooms at the charming art deco (natch) Masonic Hotel, for a tour of the town, which culminated in lunch at Mister D. To say that this writer is a Rolling Stones fan would be to dredge up that annoying trope about the Pope and Catholicism; we were thusly thrilled that the restaurant was named for their song “Dancing With Mister D” – they even throw annual Stones-themed dining events. Having thus decided this was the best restaurant on Earth, we almost forgot about the food. But we were delighted with their novel takes on the basics: rocket salad, roast fish, poached eggs and the like were all treated with reverence and a touch of whimsy – and their signature doughnuts were a huge hit.

 

 

On our last evening on the island we were treated to the most opulent epicurean experience of the trip, in the form of a progressive dinner. For the uninitiated a “progressive” is where you go to a different restaurant for each course, which may sound like a bit of work; but when the places you go are all highly-regarded wineries – and you’re ferried around in an SUV by a bloke named Gareth who keeps filling your champagne glass – you easily rise to the challenge.
We started with bubbly at the top of a mountain range and progressed through antipasto at Vidal, entrees of Te Mata mushroom and Comté pithivier with wild weed salad and Hohepa haloumi, vine roasted beetroot and burnt honey at Craggy Range’s Terroir restaurant, all accompanied by signature selections of vino, before succumbing to dessert at NZ’s oldest winery, Mission Estate. Established in 1851 by French missionaries, the estate is in the grand tradition of mansion wineries, with a plantation style great house with wraparound terrace, where we took our crème brulee and port, for a final look at the cascading mountains in the distance. It was not the first time we’d thought of postponing our flight home.

 

 

 

For its 40th Anniversary, London’s Blakes Hotel is Offering £40 Rooms

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When Blakes was born into this world, punk has just passed its provocational peak, Margaret Thatcher was still a year away from her Prime Ministership…and Ian Schrager would not be opening his first boutique sleep (The Morgans in New York) until six years later.

London’s endlessly chicest hotel, which was first brought to life by legendary style icon Anouska Hempel, turns 40 this month – and we must say, she’s looking as beautiful as ever. To celebrate this milestone, they’re thoughtfully offering up 40 rooms for the price of just £40 a night – especially generous since we consider it a bargain even at its usual rate of around $400.

Why do we (along with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Becks) so love the Blakes? The inimitable exotic/romantic sleeping chambers range from cozy/Parisian to Signature Suites with dramatic four-posters and classical European opulence…and the romance extends to the eponymous Mediterranean restaurant – opened in June 2016 – which is modeled on a turn-of-the-century steamer ship. A lavishly bohemian courtyard comes courtesy of Brit fashion designer Matthew Williamson.

Those specially priced rooms will be available for booking as of January 8, first come first served – so prepare to employ your best Coachella ticket buying skills to have the best chance.

Happy Birthday, Blakes!

 

From Paris to Positano: ‘My Favorite Cities’, by Globe-Trotting DJ Alex Merrell

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Fashion fave DJ Alex Merrell has been behind the decks for a dazzling list of clientele over the past decade, including Vogue, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Thompson Hotels and the Toronto International Film Festival. She’s also shared a stage with the likes of Cee Lo, Robin Thicke and Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro.

Naturally, said calling has taken her from Brazil to Hong Kong to Morocco to Switzerland and back again – making her quite the accomplished traveler.

 

 

Somehow BlackBook managed to sit her down long enough to enlighten us on her fave cities around the globe; and we were particularly impressed that she shared our undying romance with the City of Light.

“When I started DJing a decade ago,” she explains, “the goal was just to get enough work to cover rent in LA, and that took time. I didn’t imagine I’d get to see so much of the world – thirty countries and counting – in the process. But that, in addition to the wonderful, inspiring people I’ve met and the massive privilege of making a living working in music, have made the past ten years truly incredible.”

 

DJ Alex Merrell’s Favorite Cities

 

Paris

My first ever memory is of walking through glass doors with my mom and seeing a big carousel in Paris when I was two years old. Perhaps in part because of this, the city has always held a special place in my heart. The perfect trip to the City of Light is an even balance of taking in culture – this fall it was the 1932 show at the Musée Picasso and The Rolling Stones’ last stop on their European tour – and doing absolutely nothing with good company…and a great steak. I have a theory that if I make a point of going to Paris every year, I’ll remain forever a romantic; and so far, so good.
You Simply Must: Le Bar at L’Hotel  is lovely for a discreet martini away from the crowds; and the hotel’s history (it’s where Oscar Wilde lived out his last days) only adds to its air of romance and mystery.

 

 

Vancouver

My hometown has endeared itself to me more and more each year since I left over a decade ago. The first breath of air stepping out of the airport is a big, fresh reminder of the natural beauty that is so special and specific to this region. I’m as happy in the winters skiing (badly) in Whistler or spending Christmas on our ranch, as in the summers, riding bikes around Stanley Park and laughing until the wee hours on patios with my best friends, and with a pile of oyster shells on the table. We’ve been known to pull off a midnight skinny dip in the middle of the city, a terrible tradition I hope we carry into our sixties.
You Simply Must: I dream about the aburi oshi sushi at Minami. Go for lunch and get the chef’s premium special for a sampling of all their best fish.

 

Positano

Last summer I ended up in Positano for work and was quickly charmed by its seaside beauty. I returned this year with a crew of friends and rented a beautiful house for my thirtieth birthday. Despite the flood of orange umbrella imagery on your Instagram, this beautiful town still seems relatively authentic, repelling over-tourism with its ubiquitous stairs and lack of franchise stores. In the summers I’m the happiest when I can be in the ocean every morning; and it doesn’t hurt to end days on the beach with a bowl of spaghetti alle vognole and a Negroni.
You Simply Must : Take the boat with a red fish on the mast to Da Adolfo, a lovely little beach club known for its pitchers of white wine with peaches and mozzarella grilled on lemon leaves.

 

New York

I’ve been in NYC for the past five years and every time I return home and see the skyline my heart gets fluttery. The city feels like the highest concentration of energy, opportunity, magic, and guts in the world. Every day I meet people who are much better than me in one way or another: more accomplished, talented, intelligent, funny, grammatically superior. (I probably used that colon incorrectly.) At any rate, I find it massively inspiring. New York is the best place to push yourself past what you believed you were capable of, which likely isn’t sustainable forever; but at this moment in my life I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
You Simply Must: I’m at my favorite neighborhood haunt Via Carota multiple times each week for their delicious, seasonal Italian fare.

 

 

Next up…

Since I was young, I’ve been motivated by wanderlust and curiosity, and would rather spend my time discovering a new culture than luxuriating in the familiar. I’m grateful to have seen over thirty countries thanks to a career that keeps me in the sky frequently. Up next? Japan is at the top of my list, along with South Africa, Portugal and Croatia.