A Loupe Art Guide to San Francisco, With Street Artist ‘The Apexer’

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Amongst the marquee US cities, San Francisco is a lot of things (best Asian food, most awe-inspiring views, strangest strange people) – but leading incubator of contemporary art has not necessarily seemed to be one of them.

Street artist The Apexer would surely beg to differ. One of SF’s most prolific muralists, he’s part of the city’s Mission-District-based Gestalt Collective, and his work has been included in group exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Luggage Store Gallery and the Pacific Asia Museum (Pasadena). He’s also a featured artist on Loupe, the game-changing new art app that has made it possible to stream art anywhere that you can carry a screen (so, actually, everywhere.) It represents top level art talent from Atlanta to Berlin to Sao Paulo and everywhere in between, making their work accessible to anyone who simply downloads the app.

As part of an ongoing BlackBook/Loupe series, we asked The Apexer (real name: Ricardo Richey) to guide us through the some of his fave art scene spots in SF, from the galleries to the streets to those places where artists can usually be found hanging out with other artists and creative types.

“It’s constantly changing,” he observes, “just like the people moving in and out. It’s always nice to find places that hold their own character through it all, the kinds of places that transform your emotions and sense of space as soon as you walk in. There are a few of those gems hidden in plain site in the city.”

If you haven’t yet done it, you can download Loupe here. You’ll wonder how you ever did without it.



  • Colorful Hayes
  • Mission Portal
  • Outside Lands 2014
  • Outside Lands 2015
  • LA Style Bubbles



The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art just reopened after a remodel that included an additional large building. It now has one of the most extensive modern and contemporary art collections in the world. The outdoor spaces are a highlight for me while at the museum, from living walls to forgotten corners. Make sure to keep a look out for “Where’s Waldo,” as you might find him hanging out on a roof or two.

Ratio 3 Gallery

This gallery is hidden behind a matte black storefront exterior in the Mission District, and once you enter you feel like you’ve just walked through a Willy Wonka trick door. The space is massive, with beautiful lighting from the skylights, and they have great shows from artists like Barry McGee and Ryan McGinley. The unexpected aspect of the location and the quality of the exhibits make this gallery a must visit.



Apexer Mission Portal

This work of mine explores a lot of different ideas, such as geodes and compasses. In the piece you can see my classic crystal terminated points, as well as some gold rings. It is right on a busy intersection in the Mission District, and I wanted to give the public a moment of reflection – a moment to take a deep breath, look at the mountain in the background and see the juxtaposition of the houses and sky. To appreciate the beautiful area.

Andy Goldsworthy Wood Line

If you enjoy the outdoors and nature then you will love Andy Goldsworthy’s work. Wood Line is a group of cut trees placed on the floor of the forest in the Presidio Park; the trees create a long S-curve sculpture going down a gentle slope. This piece will take you out of the city without having to leave the city; as you walk along the sculpture you can smell and hear the forest in the wind. In the late afternoon the sun creates some amazing shadows.



La Taqueria

This taqueria is a cornerstone of the Mission District. Locals have enjoyed the food here way before the TV shows found it and labeled it the best taco in America. When you go, make sure you get the crispy taco with the soft shell taco inside of it, and whatever you want inside of that. While you’re in this neighborhood, there are also a lot of different murals that are cool to check out.

Caffe Centro

This is a little walk up coffee shop in the SOMA District, in an old warehouse area. I recommend ordering the cortado, which is in between a macchiato and a cappuccino. There is an old loading dock across the street that people sit on to enjoy their coffee in the good weather. If you’re hungry there’s a soul food restaurant next door that has a walk up window as well. Just cool vibes all around this shop.



Golden Boy Pizza

Classic square pizza in the North Beach District, with a walk up window and inside sit down area. The inside has stickers all over the place, from bands and artists. At night most people choose to use the window, and that becomes a scene of its own. If you go, I recommend getting a corner or side pizza, because it has more crust on it.

Benjamin Cooper

This is a great hidden bar in the heart of the touristville of Union Square, that you wouldn’t expect and probably couldn’t have found. The door looks like a service door for a restaurant that only has a small sign. You then walk up some stairs to find a perfect bar that can make some of the best drinks (and oysters) you’ve ever had. The vibes are good and it’s a breath of fresh air from Union Square.



Fall Getaway: Chicago’s Deer Path Inn is Anglophile Nirvana

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There are few places we’d rather be in autumn than The Cotswolds, England’s celeb-magnet countryside retreat. But a recent Chicago trip took us to what is surely the best Stateside approximation of the experience: the historic Deer Path Inn. Dating to 1929, it was recently given, if we might say so ourselves, quite a smart makeover – without disturbing a whit of its essential Anglo charms.

Indeed, this is a hotel that takes its proper Englishness very seriously. Located in uber-posh Lake Forest, and just a quick train ride to downtown Windy City, you can veritably shut out the outside world for a few days here, and pretend you’re staying perhaps in Chipping Norton or Stow-on-Wold. Even the music programming (bless) is all Renaissance over Rihanna.

Here are ten brilliant reasons to go this fall/winter.


Lake Forest

One of those impossibly charming little towns, it also happens to be one of the richest in America. There’s an old-timey-seeming train station and a terribly inviting downtown, with elegant little shops lining the century-old Market Square. Bliss.

The Architecture

Dating to 1929, the spot-on Tudor style building in which the Deer Path is housed will make you think you’ve stepped into a nobleman’s estate sometime during the reign of Henry VIII. Ask for a room looking out over the garden, so you don’t actually even have to see any cars from your window during your stay.



The Anglo Soundtrack

Face it, nothing spoils the mood of a historic hotel quite like hearing Katy Perry tunes blasting from the sound system (And we’re pretty sure she wasn’t around in 1929.) Here, the music fits the aesthetic in the most elegant way possible, making for a genuinely atmospheric stay.

The Bedchambers

In a nod to standards of contemporary comfort, this is where the most concessions to modernism were undertaken. And so the rooms are plush but stylishly refined (the Manor House Suites are vigorously recommended), with immersive artwork, elegant antique-styled beds, Frette linens, gorgeous stone bathrooms, and chicly subdued color schemes. Best feature? Rather than the same old cliched mini-bar, there is a classy little bar station with a cultivated spirits selection – perfect for a late night Grand Marnier.


A Proper (But Chic) Afternoon Tea

It took awhile, but cosmopolitan Americans are just now catching on to what the English knew all along: nothing makes an autumn Sunday like a leisurely, fancy afternoon tea. The Deer Path does it trad but modern, with au courant savories like smoked salmon pinwheel, shrimp and lobster salad croissant, and, for that global/Eastern touch, the Deer Path Inn Maki. They’ve got their own 1929 Blend tea; but we loved the Cherry Fig, the Pomegranate Dragon Fruit and the Chinese Snow Buds (all curated by Master of Tea, one Malcolm Ferris-Lay). The scones, especially, are to die for. And it’s all taken in a chic garden-view sunroom / conservatory with strikingly pattered flooring and stylishly contemporary table settings. (It feels a bit like being at Selfridge’s…)

The White Hart Pub / The Bar

Sometimes you just needs a good “bangers and mash.” And The Bar, where the scene gets a bit more buzzy, does one of the best versions this side of the Atlantic. But it also serves up some serious sushi – perhaps a Nigiri platter or king crab maki paired with a Pure Dawn Sake? The subterranean room is done up in cool, contemporary-clubby style, with a coffered ceiling, lots of dark leather – and a private wine room. Next room over is the more cozy White Hart Pub, great for a cider fish n chips, Welsh lamb stew and a couple of pints while you take in a Liverpool F.C. or London Arsenal match.

The English Room

Naturally, they would have a restaurant called The English Room. And while the main dining room, with its beamed ceiling, oil paintings and medieval-ish chandeliers, is a bit more minding-of-your-manners, one can also choose to dine in the casual conservatory or garden. Start with a classic English pea soup, and either stick to the Anglo theme with the almond crusted Dover sole, or cross the Channel for the utterly sublime foie gras in cherry port reduction. The also really know their wines.

The Garden

Lorded over by a majestic and watchful-eyed buck sculpture, this is where fashionable ladies (and gents) come to lunch away the afternoon, especially at the weekend. There’s a graceful fireplace for chillier weather.



Mr. Nutkin

Some of our favorite hotels have mascots: The Jefferson in DC has Monti the beagle, Le Bristol in Paris has its two Burmese cats Fa-raon and Kléopatre. But the Deer Path has a…squirrel. The inimitable Mr. Nutkin doesn’t actually reside indoors, of course. But he lives on the grounds and shows up for regular feedings and Instagram ops. Don’t check out without having met the little guy.

Pair With Your Favourite British Band

Play to the theme by booking in to The Deer Path to coincide with a Chicago tour appearance by your favorite British music artists. May we suggest? Slowdive play the Vic Theatre November 5; Modern English are at the Empty Bottle November 7; and the inimitable (Steven Patrick) Morrissey will be at the Riviera Theater November 25.




Stylish Hotel Openings: Nobis Copenhagen + ION City Reykjavik

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Nobis Hotel Copenhagen 


With all the socio-political strife here at home, Scandinavia seems like a good getaway even on a purely ideological level. But for us, a great new hotel or two always provides that extra incentive to just hop the next flight.

Reykjavik’s cool new ION City Hotel is certainly welcome in a capital that is arguably lacking interesting boutique sleeps. If you’re more inclined to the Danish capital – and prefer something a bit more plush – the new Nobis Hotel Copenhagen opened last week and was immediately ranked with the city’s best. Both are members of the Design Hotels group, those inimitable curators of contemporary hospitality.


Nobis Hotel, Copenhagen

In a rather august looking work of architecture dating to 1903 – former home to the Royal Danish Conservatory – the Nobis is decidedly posh, but in that tasteful, very Danish sort of way. Indeed, the stark, concrete reception area has a bit of the Corbusian about it. But majestic architectural details (etched ceilings, a grand staircase) give it a princely stylistic gravitas.
Rooms have gorgeous arched windows – so much the better for eyeing the city’s storybook beauty (the majestic City Hall is right nearby.) Mod canopy beds and elegant marble bathrooms add a touch of the romantic to the otherwise classical Danish aesthetic restraint.
And since everyone arrives in Copenhagen now seeking culinary ecstasy, the hotel’s Niels restaurant is notably headed up by former Alberto K chef Jeppe Foldager, and serves creatively turned out dishes like Norwegian scallop gratin and Finnish ribeye. The Niels’ Pampering menu let’s you off the decision hook, and leaves your epicurean fate in Foldager’s capable hands.
To do in Copenhagen this fall: MIX COPENHAGEN is the city’s eminent LGBTQ film festival, October 27 – November 5; or go for the Copenhagen Winter Games (November 3-4), where snowboarders qualify for the Olympics while spectators hit the food trucks and party après-boarding to the sounds of international DJ talent.




ION City Hotel, Reykjavik

Despite banking crashes and volcanic eruptions, Iceland remains as exigent a culturati destination as it was when the cognoscenti first began to discover it in the later 90s. Yet, Reykjavik being a relatively diminutive capital, it’s been noticeably lacking a proper selection of new-gen hotels.
So the spiffy new ION City fills a necessary role in helping to keep the parade of cool kids coming to town. It’s sister to the architectural wonder that is the original ION Adventure in the Icelandic countryside – and it sticks to the same aesthetic principals. Indeed, it forwards no cloyingly trendy old-timeiness. Rather, it’s all clean lines, subdued color schemes and warm, rustic woods.
Deluxe rooms have large windows and something of a cosseting, “mod cabin” feel; jump up to a junior suite, and you’ll get an expansive balcony with private sauna. Move down the hallways and hyper-sensory lighting react to your motions (neato). The sylvan chic continues on into the Sumac restaurant, which does Berbere chicken liver mousse, grilled monkfish skewers and pistachio ice cream in cozy-sleek surrounds.
To do in Reykjavik this fall: Iceland Airwaves (November 1-5), naturally, which again features a sprawling schedule of indie stalwarts and bands you can’t pronounce – as well as big name Brits like Billy Bragg and Benjamin Clementine. Or book ahead for the Icelandic Opera‘s production of Puccini’s Tosca – with performances from October 21 through November 18.



Six Things We (Really) Love About the New Moxy Times Square Hotel

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The boundaries of Times Square often seem a little vague, as is the case with so many NYC neighborhoods, surely (blame the real estate agents). And one of the things we love about the new Moxy Times Square hotel has to do with just that: it’s actually located at 36th St and 7th Ave, just far enough away from all the neon glare six blocks north. But it’s also one of those sorts of hotels that we especially appreciate…where you could spend a couple of days crashing without really even having to leave the premises.

We first got down with Moxy while hitting the coming out party for their Berlin Ostbahnhof outpost this time last year. The brand is actually plotting (would we kid you?) about 90 more openings around the world – so one is probably coming to a city near you.

But for now, following a fabulously glam opening party last week, here’s what we’re loving most about the new Moxy Times Square.


Moxy Digital Guestbook

Admit it, you actually love showing off (Erm, who doesn’t these days?). And just beyond the laid-back check-in area is a rather large video screen, flashing images taken on site at Moxy Hotels around the world, so long as you use #atthemoxy. Try to behave – but don’t ever be boring.

The Rooms

Affordable, stylish, and yet not forcing you to have to choose price over livability. Some have cleverly positioned bunks (great for touring indie bands and entry-level models during Fashion Week), allowing for buddy-rooming with those friends who you’re cool with seeing you in your underwear…and probably hungover. Smartly, there’s lots of hooks for hanging your clothes, since dressers take up space. And very groovy bathrooms.


Blank Canvas

Moxy has teamed up with Talenthouse for its art program, and will draw on thousands of creatives around the world in cultivating that program. Much more fun, obviously, than a bunch of corporate-selected artworks just hanging meaninglessly about the hotel. Keep an eye out for their art happenings.

Bar Moxy

Here, all that pretentious “mixology” is eschewed for drinks that actually pack a wallop. And so you have the choice of cocktails with names like South American Swag, Dirty Donkey and Bitten & Burned – nothing ambiguous about those, obviously. Another clever twist? The bar snacks are specialty naans, like the Mexican, with chicken pibil and pickled chilies. Big windows frame the neighborhood, for when you get tired of looking at your friends.




Legasea. Get it? The Moxy’s second floor, seafood-heavy brasserie from the exalted Tao Group is perfect for on-the-go types, fueling up for a night on the tiles, with shareables like the lobster bake and the generous fried chicken. There are also spicy crab beignets, shellfish towers and a make-your-own-sundae menu. Oh what fun…

Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge

Yeah, sure – there are so many rooftop hotel bars in NYC that some of them actually have views of each other now. But Magic Hour is actually…the biggest! And, well, you can see the Empire State Building from here, which never really gets old. Craving something different? There’s (really) a putt-putt golf course with sexy bunny sculptures; and also a rotating (group) carousel, should your tippling habits not make you dizzy enough already. Seriously, if you’re bored here, there’s pretty much no hope for you.



The Coolest European Cities You Don’t Know, Part II

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Above: Tallinn Old Town


We’ve been plenty busy in 2017, museum-hopping in Paris, flirting in Rome and clubbing in the Berlin Kreuzberg underground. But cultivated Europhiles that we are, we’re always feeling the call of some of our less-trodden, yet still favorite cities on the Continent.

Nothing beckons us to Europa quite like the turning of autumn, with its exhilaratingly crisp evenings, stylishly scarfed locals, and those transcendently evocative fragrances that fill the air of each city (the latter a particular treat for those forced to breath the noxious fumes of New York and LA every day).

Part I took us to Antwerp and Maastricht. Next we head further east, to the Estonian capital of Tallinn, and to Austria’s second city Graz.




Clockwise from top left: Hotel St. Petersbourg; Tallinn streets; Kaerajaan restaurant; Kumu Museum


There was a moment around say 2005 – 2007, when Tallinn, bolstered by the success of companies like Skype, became sort of the new Prague: a former Soviet satellite which was now drawing young dreamers from the US and Britain. Only this time they were tech geeks rather than boho literary aspirants.

Now, we would probably love the Estonian capital if only for the fact that it’s home to the Depeche Mode Baar (quick, guess the theme). But its Old Town is as strikingly beautiful and symmetrical as any in Europe – and just strolling the streets is reward enough in itself. There’s also a bright, gleaming modern city (the City Centre) right outside the medieval walls.

On the culture tip, the Kumu Museum is one of the largest in Northern Europe, showcasing two centuries of Estonian art (with an impressive collection of Socialist Realism), as well as special exhibitions of top international contemporary artists. Cold War enthusiasts should check out the KGB Museum, actually located inside the Hotel Viru.

Tallinn is also a considerable epicurean city, with chefs drawing on the considerable bounty of the Estonian countryside (their local black bread is to die for). Art Priori is the avant-garde choice, focusing on creatively realized (mostly) vegetarian dishes in a stunning, art adorned space; MEKK specializes in inventive seafood plates, and its sophisticated bar is a bit of a scene; for something a bit more…Middle Ages, Olde Hansa cooks up wild boar, elk and venison, in an interior that could only be described as 13th-Century chic.

Stay in Tallinn: Both the Telegraaf Hotel and the Hotel St. Petersbourg combine classical elegance with cool postmodern design, and each has a notable restaurant (Tchaikovsky and Heritage, respectively.) The chic Three Sisters hotel has strikingly theatrical rooms – one even has its own grand piano.




Clockwise from top left: Island in the Mur; Graz City Hall; Hotel Wiesler; Kunsthaus Graz


After losing its Empire in the wake of WWI, Austria pretty much keeps to itself now, content to have traded influence on the world political stage for more, shall we say, sybaritic concerns. Yet the fact that right wing demagogues have been angling for power there does genuinely matter within the scope of the wider EU situation.

The country’s “second city,” Graz, is actually one of its bastions of left-wing ideology, home to more than 30,000 university students, out of a total population of 270,000. A UNESCO City of Design, its rather imperial looking city center, with its elegant baroque edifices, is complemented by some of Europe’s most radical works of contemporary architecture.

Indeed, the Island in the Mur is literally a steel island in the middle of the river of the same name that splits the city, with a designy cafe and amphitheater; the Chapel of Rest is a stunning minimalist cathedral by Hofrichter-Ritter Architects; and the Dom im Berg is a spectacular performance space carved literally into rock. The Kunsthaus Graz contemporary art museum (by British architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook) is the city’s showpiece, and looks like a giant blue heart and valves.

Not much of a foodie destination, Graz is more of a cafe town – and you’ll find dozens of boho spots as you stroll the streets, many packed with students. Mitte is one of the artier ones, while Aiola Upstairs has a chic crowd and awe-inspiring views. Design junkies should hit the Kunsthaus museum’s namesake cafe. For nightlife, there’s great bar-hopping around the area nicknamed the Bermuda Triangle.

Stay in Graz: The Augarten Hotel (a member of Design Hotels) has stylish, loft-style rooms, and a pool that doubles as an art gallery. The Hotel Wiesler‘s Philippe Starck designed restaurant hosts a “soul brunch” every Sunday, while the rooms have a cool-minimalism and river views. And Hotel Daniel has affordable rooms, a lobby espresso bar and Vespas available for guests.



Immersive Design Dazzles at the New W Bellevue Seattle

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Though Seattle gets branded by its tech industry, coffee culture and grunge bands (admittedly its last marquee musical moment), it’s actual a strikingly visual city surrounded by majestic lakes, something that has influenced the region’s casual-chic lakehouse aesthetic.

One of the prettiest Eastern “boomburbs” that has recently come into its own is Bellevue, French for beautiful view, it’s the perfect name for this bougie nabe overlooking Lake Washington. It’s now considered the “tech playground” of the Pacific Northwest. And every tech hub needs a good scenester hotel – a role now filled by the irreverently stylish new W Bellevue. Curiously enough, it’s actual the first W hotel to open stateside in seven years – and so was given a splashy opening bash (which we flew out to be a part of) replete with avant-garde performers and a live set by Aussie pop songstress Betty Who.



Paying homage to the aforementioned lakeside culture of the neighborhood, the design plays with that idea all throughout the hotel. The lobby, endearingly named The Living Room, features A-frame beams inspired by traditional log cabins, with a mélange of 70s inspired vintage furniture, and velvet sofas decked with vintage wool plaid throws. Just off that space is The Porch, an expansive alfresco bar with lakeside views warmed by a roaring outdoor fireplace, and boasting romance-inspiring contemporary porch swings created from fishing rope.

“Our design process has evolved to center around each destination’s respective history, environment and culture,” Anthony Ingham, Global Brand Leader of W Hotels Worldwide, told us. “And with Bellevue as a center for innovation in its own right, we are thrilled to unveil this new W.”

No surprise, The Lakehouse is their signature restaurant, serving a Pacific Northwest sourced farm- (okay, lake- ) -to-table menu, created by James Beard winning chef Jason Wilson. Designed as a sort of rockstar’s lakeside pad, the airy and mod space is divided into a garden room, butler’s pantry, “wild modern” private dining room, “wild primitive” dining room and plain old chef’s counter.



25 of the 245 guest rooms have a modern industrial open plan design, with grey hardwood tiled floors and “concrete wallpaper,” with glass showers and soaking tubs in the bathroom. Nodding to the region’s nautical history and its wine country, bedrooms feature a cabernet stained carpet – which, admittedly, might be going a little too “local.” Cool headboards are inspired by inflatable floats – fun!

If your app just got funded, splash out on the 2,300-square-foot, two-bedroom Extreme WOW Suite. Views of sparkling Lake Washington? Hanging bed? DJ booth with a killer sound system, pool table, and open plan jacuzzi? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

But being the culture vultures that we are, we loved the entryway installation illustrating the evolution of the region as seen through the eyes of renowned street artist Gaia. Within it is the entrance to Civility & Unrest, a “secret” lounge offering seasonally inspired cocktails alongside rare scotches and vintage whiskeys in a cozy but, of course, rustic setting. Art pieces by Lady Aiko and Zio Ziegler make for dramatic showstoppers throughout the rest of property.

Best of all? In perpetually rainy Seattle, there’s finally a hotel you might not even have to set foot outside of. Bless.


The Coolest European Cities You Don’t Know, Part I

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We’ve been plenty busy in 2017, museum-hopping in Paris, flirting in Rome and clubbing in the Berlin Kreuzberg underground. But cultivated Europhiles that we are, we’re always feeling the call of some of our less-trodden, yet still favorite cities on the Continent.

Nothing beckons us to Europa quite like the turning of autumn, with its exhilaratingly crisp evenings, stylishly scarfed locals, and those transcendently evocative fragrances that fill the air of each city (the latter a particular treat for those forced to breath the noxious fumes of New York and LA every day).

Part I of our sojourn takes us to fashionable Antwerp (Belgium) and sophisticated Maastricht (The Netherlands). Take note, if you’ve yet to fall for the charms of the Benelux, a couple of days in each city will cure you of that straight away.



Clockwise from top left, The Jane Restaurant; Antwerp architecture; Hotel Julien; MoMu


If fashion has held a central place in your life and you haven’t yet been to Antwerp, you should readily acknowledge a slight tinge of embarrassment. From the Antwerp Six on to today’s new guard of Belgian design, the exalted Royal Academy of Fine Arts continues to turn out some of the most astonishing talent, whose creations can be found in the vanguard boutiques in and around Nationalestraat – where you’ll also stumble upon the hallowed flagships of the likes of Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. Nearby, as well, is the MoMu, the city’s incomparable fashion museum, which as of December 10 will host Olivier Theyskens, She Walks in Beauty. (Between boutiques, stop in for a de rigueur lunch at Verso Cafe, within the concept shop of the same name.)

Antwerp is also a place of staggering physical beauty, with its gothic-looking Flemish Renaissance cityscape and majestic harbor. The latter is now home to industrial-chic restaurants like Het Pomphuis (in a grandiose former pump house) and the sleek, Michelin-starred ‘t Zilte, on the top floor of the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom).

And speaking of vanguard, the thought-provoking M HKA museum, and independent galleries such as Valerie Traan, Stella Lohaus and Annie Gentils are central to Antwerp’s thriving contemporary art scene. If it’s architecture that sets you atingle, plan a leisurely stroll along the Cogels Osylei, a street in the Zurenborg district where art nouveau, neo-Renaissance, neo-gothic and Tudor-revival styles (amongst others) all come together in a strange but elegant sort of harmony.

Antwerp nightlife, it must be said, is totally bonkers. Start with a glamorous dinner at The Jane, fitted into a stunning 19th Century former chapel; the 13-course prix-fixe menu is €140, but the upstairs bar has much more agreeable prices, and seats you closer to God. Continue on to the extravagant scenes at over-the-top dance clubs like Red & Blue, Publik and Cafe D’Anvers. Expect a significant degree of mind-altering.


Hotel Julien is a smart, mostly-minimalist guesthouse with an intimate subterranean spa; Hotel Banks is a stylish sleep amidst the best fashion shopping; De Witte Lelie is the joining of three 17th Century townhouses into a place of utterly ethereal beauty (and favored by notable fashion designers).



Clockwise from top left, Kruisherenhotel; River Meuse; Stijl boutique; Maastricht streets


Famous as the place where in 1992 the modern European Union and the euro were born (the anti-Brexit, if you will), Maastricht is actually a seductive mix of international college town and exquisitely cosmopolitan city. And seriously, nearly everyone seems to have a bloody great sense of style here. With its right and left banks straddling the majestic Meuse River, the ethereal setting might easily have you thinking it can’t possibly all be real.

Wedged almost covertly between Belgium and Germany (Cologne is just 70 km away), history and modernity play very well together in this comely Southern Dutch town. Roman cathedrals bookend narrow 17th Century streets, which are abuzz with urbane cafes, indie fashion boutiques and intimate contemporary art galleries. And to be sure, one of the vigorously recommended activities is just…walking around.

Remarkably, for a relatively small city, Maastricht packs in rather a lot of Michelin stars. Tout a Fait, Beluga loves you, Toine Hermsen, Au Coin des Bons Enfants and the glorious Chateau Neercanne, just outside the center, all boast at least one – and chefs can be wildly experimental. But there are also more bars per capita than even Amsterdam – so a jenever (gin) soaked night on the tiles requires little planning. Still, make sure to hit The Lab for perception-altering cocktails, and Complex for bleeding-edge dance music.

Culture vultures should make time for the architecture and design gallery Bureau Europa, as well as the Bonnefantenmuseum, with its fascinating mix of Italian and Flemish Renaissance and baroque works, and brilliantly curated – Richard Serra, Sol Lewitt, Neo Rauch, Gilbert & George – contemporary collection.


The Kruisherenhotel (a member of Design Hotels) might literally be the most spectacular hotel in the known universe, fitted as it is into an awe-inspiring, 15th Century former monastery and cathedral; the Beaumont, right on the buzzy Stationsstraat, has minimalist rooms and the chic Harry’s restaurant; Hotel Dis is an artistic 7-room guesthouse with its own gallery.






Old Rose is Bringing the (More Neighborly) Buzz Back to the Jane Hotel

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In what was probably the last great flameout of outré New York City nightlife, the Jane Hotel – specifically its opulently histrionic Lobby Bar – arrived on the scene in 2009 and sent the West Village neighbors into an amusing tizzy over all the all-hours fashionista partying. A good deal of it was by those left stranded by the looming demise of The Misshapes – that other last-great-NYC-flameout.

These days, despite the opening of a groovy rooftop bar in 2014, The Jane isn’t causing all that much trouble. And so into the void left by the dissolution of its Cafe Gitane eatery, comes the chic-but-charming, comfy-but-cultivated Old Rose restaurant.

From those purveyors of culinary-cool over at The Smile, it taps the trend of “light Italian” – though we’d specifically recommend the fried egg sandwich with mortadella for breakfast, burrata with house made sourdough for lunch, and clam pizzas for dinner. And like all the best Italian joints, it’s all kept super simple and very tasty.

But seriously, don’t come looking to tear it up – about as wild as it gets is negronis on tap. Which, to be honest, is totally fine with us.


Paris’ Prince de Galles Hotel Opens Exhibit of Ali Mahdavi Celeb Photographs

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In a city of fabulous photographers, Ali Mahdavi stands apart for his ability to capture something just a bit more exquisite, even supernatural in his famous subjects. The outré Iranian shutterbug has shot everyone from Tilda Swinton to Marilyn Manson to Charlotte Gainsbourg; actress and burlesque star Dita Von Teese is his most favored muse.

And Mlle Von Teese is one of those featured featured in his new exhibition “Glamorama: Celebrities by Ali Mahdavi,” at the equally glamorous Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Paris. Other famous faces among the 40+ images include those of Monica Bellucci, Arielle Dombasle, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld. It will be on display through October 23.

“Glamour is all the strategies that are used to achieve an ideal of beauty,” he explains, “that is not necessarily, and far from it, an ideal of conventional beauty – but an idea of personal beauty that corresponds to our own vision of this. Which is the beautiful.”

We asked him to give his most ethereal explication of three of his most exalted subjects.




Dita von Teese

“Dita is my ultimate muse, but she is also a close and very loyal friend. Fifteen years ago, Mr. Pearl and Suzanne von Aichinger introduced us to each other, and I immediately fell in love with her. She embodies the ideal woman that I drew since I was five years old. What I love about her is that she is the embodiment of glamour. At the beginning, she was the beautiful American blond next door, but she decided to become a brunette goddess of glamour! She transformed herself into the most glamorous woman on the planet by using all the tools of glamour inspired by the golden age of Hollywood. She always quotes a fabulous sentence from Helena Rubinstein: “There is no ugly woman, but there are lazy women!” She deserves her beauty that she creates, she is a magical bird of paradise. We did more than 20 sets of shooting, five film, film hologram for Louboutin, a video mapping, some numbers at Crazy Horse. She inspires me because she always drives me to somewhere unexpected! We evolved together and I hope we will continue until we are 80 years old. At this age, she will still be a beautiful woman with long white hair.”

Monica Bellucci

“Monica is my ultimate friend and fantasy. People all around the world ask me questions about her, because she is a fantasy, an ideal woman for any person, an all man’s desire. She is all women, but in an ultimate vision: the Virgin Mary, Maria Magdalena…and also she reminds me of the goddess Hera / Junon. Monica has the same attitude for a big luxury campaign as she does for a more small personal shooting: always chic and elegant with everybody. That is what makes her a big star. After being a supermodel with many campaigns with great photographers [D&G by Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel…] she also became a great actress. There is always a change with her, she is hypnotized by the lens and drives you into new adventures.”

Arielle Dombasle

“While Dita is my brunette muse, Arielle is my blond muse – they are my favorites! She is the most delightful woman on the planet, not only because of her beauty, but all about what she is. Arielle is divine, she is a goddess, she is also someone that you fall in love with immediately, because she is super clever, spiritual and so surrealistic with a huge sense of humor. And more than all, she is a loyal person with whom I have a long relationship with for more than ten years. We had more than ten shootings, four music videos. It is impossible to separate our friendship and our artistic relation. She inspires me because of her surrealism and her strong character.”