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The Embellished Heel

It’s 30 years since Paul Simon released his iconic album Graceland, which featured the song Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes. And while this surreal footwear concept is yet to be fully realized (to our knowledge), this season has seen something similar on the catwalks: the embellished heel. To accommodate dramatic decorations, the styles have been quite substantial (like the block-heel Aquazzura Cleopatra sandals pictured), but this trend is less about the heel shape and more about what’s on them – from Miu Miu’s bejewelled stilettos to Charlotte Olympia’s wedges with metallic cogs and wheels, and Sophia Webster’s rainbow-hued collections with pom-poms and raffia fringes. Dolce & Gabbana have trumped them all, though, with Mary Janes boasting doors on the heel that open to reveal a beaded heart: shoes that even Liberace might have deemed “a little on the flamboyant side”. Generally speaking, though, this trend has been most successful when it has focused on clear gems. Proof, perhaps, that like the heroine of Simon’s song, you can be bling from your head to your feet. aquazzura.com

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The E-bike

For anyone concerned about the environment, electric-assisted bicycles are the future of urban transportation. Combining pedal-power and electric drive, they are emissions-free and require minimal exertion. We’re now seeing a new breed of curvaceous creations such as the Vintage Electric “Tracker”, pictured. Based in California, Vintage Electric began making e-bikes inspired by 1920s racing motorcycles three years ago. “I built the first one in my parents’ garage, started riding it around and everybody wanted one,” founder Andrew Davidge says, “so I decided to give it a shot. My second design, the Cruz, was inspired by California beach cruisers.” Davidge’s creations, with a top speed of 36 mph and a range of 35 miles, have been snapped up by everyone from Silicon Valley CEOs to the Prince of Monaco. And the sector received a further boost in January when Californian legislation came in distinguishing e-bikes from mopeds, so they no longer require a license and insurance. “With an e-bike, you can often get to places quicker than in a car,” says Davidge. “They will radically change how people get from A to B.” vintageelectricbikes.com, fullycharged.com

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The Faberge Egg

This year marks 100 years since Peter Carl Fabergé, goldsmith to the Russian Imperial Court, delivered his last Fabergé Imperial Egg. The Russian Revolution brought an abrupt end to the House of Fabergé, with the artist-jeweler and his family forced to flee Russia. Founded in 1842, the House was famed for the series of Imperial Easter Eggs created for the Russian Imperial Family between 1885 and 1917. The first, the Hen Egg, was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III in 1885 as a surprise for his wife. Crafted from gold, it contained a golden hen and a tiny diamond replica of the Imperial Crown, its presentation inaugurating an annual event that continued for 31 years. In 2007 the company was reborn, crafting exquisite jewelry and watches. Of the 50 eggs Fabergé made for the Russian Imperial Court, 43 have survived, and now the company has revived the tradition, launching a series of Fabergé Four Seasons Eggs. The four-inch-high Winter Egg pictured comprises 6,676 diamonds and 44 aquamarines, and opens to reveal a bespoke jeweled surprise. Definitely a gift fit for an empress. faberge.com

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The Succulent

Houseplants were once considered woefully uncool among the young and hip. Anyone with a hectic social life would surely find it impossible to find time for plant-watering, and owning a yucca might hamper one’s ability to jet off to Berlin at the drop of a hat. But now hipsters from Williamsburg to The Mission have embraced the houseplant, with one proviso: it must thrive on neglect. Enter the succulent, a plant that positively demands not to be watered. Succulents come in a dizzying array of shapes and colors, and most evolved with water-storage tissues that allow them to survive in the dry environments with minimal sunlight found in most homes. The most popular are from the Crassulaceae family, like those pictured. And no Williamsburg windowsill is complete without a “terrarium”, a Victorian invention that creates a microclimate for houseplants. New Yorkers can visit Adore Floral to “custom-pair” succulents with stylish vessels, while San Francisco’s Flora Grubb Gardens organizes “potting parties”. The houseplant, it seems, is here to stay. adorenyc.com, floragrubb.com

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The Ski Poster

In January, a 1934 poster advertising alpine resort Gstaad sold at auction for nearly $108,814 – a world record. The sum paid came as a shock even to Christie’s, who had offered a guide price of $15,000. Christie’s holds sales of vintage ski posters twice a year, and the prices have been rising steadily. Originally printed in runs of 1,000 or 2,000, they provide a visual record of the development of resorts from Chamonix to Aspen. London antiquarian bookseller Henry Sotheran Ltd. began specializing in trading vintage ski posters (such as the 1951 poster by Edward Lancaster pictured) ten years ago, and now organizes an exhibition every November. According to Richard Shepherd of Sotheran’s, the posters are growing ever more popular: “They were often thrown away at the end of the season, so few survive in good condition.” The posters typically fetch around $1,000 – and while some buyers are drawn to them for their investment potential, Shepherd puts the posters’ popularity down more to their romantic quality: “They’re a wonderful reminder of a golden age of travel.” sotherans.co.uk

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The Black Noodle

Black food is one of the more unusual trends to hit the blogosphere this year. The seeds of this phenomenon were perhaps planted in 2015 with Burger King Japa’s Kuro Burger, tinted with bamboo charcoal. Since then, culinary mavericks have displayed their own take on the trend, from Melbourne bakery Lune’s squid ink and cumin croissants, to the black ice cream at Morgenstern Finest Ice Cream shop in New York. For most foods, the inky colour is achieved using coconut-shell ash, squid ink or food coloring. In some cases, however, it comes from charcoal powder; there’s even a restaurant in Indonesia, Black Pempek, a “pioneer of black charcoal”, offering several sooty-looking dishes. Of course, enjoying these requires a change of mindset, as our brains have been trained to view black as signifying burnt food. But in the case of one delicacy, the cool factor is matched by health benefits. These black King Soba noodles, pictured, are made from deep purple and black grain rice – rich in minerals and fiber, with a deliciously nutty flavor. Black food… coming soon to a plate near you.

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The Color

As Vogue reported this year: “No matter how many we encounter, there is just something about a sunset that ignites the imagination. And this has got designers thinking, too; from yellow to fiery orange and cinnamon, there isn’t one color this spring but an ombré of glowing sunset hues. ”After decades in the fashion wilderness, it seems orange is suddenly the color du jour. Sunset hues have been turning up in fashion and interiors features with a regularity not seen since the pop art-inspired days of the 1960s. With color specialist Pantone singling out shades of red as key colors for this year and next, expect to see plenty of bold fabrics. Already spotted on the catwalks of Fendi and Hermès, oranges and warm reds look set to reach their peak in 2017. And the teaming of burnt amber with deep blue – the ultimate sunset combination – was a highlight on the Céline runway and has been seen on prints by Victoria Beckham. This vibrant palette is all about projecting a sense of confidence, action and positive non-conformism. Our guess is, we’ll be seeing more of it. After all, who doesn’t love a sunset?

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Speedy Returns

Anyone who remembers how the classic car boom of the late 1980s ended in a dramatic bust might be inclined to steer clear of sinking their life savings into a collection of old automobiles. But perhaps they should think again. A cursory look at the prices being achieved for the most sought-after models shows that the market is currently at an all-time high.

 
A prime example of its buoyancy was seen in February of this year when French house Artcurial set a new record price in Euros for any car sold at auction by hammering down a 1957 Ferrari 335S Spider Scaglietti for €32.1 million (about $35.7 million). Two years ago, the highest price ever achieved for a car in dollars was reached at Bonhams for a 1962 Ferrari GTO: $38.1 million. The message is clear: classic cars are now officially regarded as blue-chip investments, with their value increasing at a higher rate than the stock market, property and even gold. In the 2015 passion investment index by the private wealth managers Coutts, certain classic cars showed an increase of 40 per cent in 2014 and a 400 per cent increase since 2005.
 
Not that the appeal of old cars is purely financial. For most buyers, the real pull lies in the fact that they are rolling works of art that not only look great and evoke a golden era but offer the potential for a huge amount of fun, too. In recent years, the number of events being staged for veteran, vintage and classic automobiles has grown exponentially. Today, instead of just polishing your pride and joy and taking it for an occasional weekend jaunt, you can actually use it for anything from an organized tour with a group of like-minded enthusiasts to a road rally, hill climb or all-out circuit race. In May, for example, the biennial Monaco Historic Grand Prix saw hundreds of vintage and classic cars racing around the legendary circuit in seven different classes catering for everything from 1930s Bugattis to the wildest Formula One cars of the 1970s. So, if you fancy owning a classic, which should you buy? The choice is, of course, myriad, but here are five that are on the wish lists of most lovers of historical cars.

 

Jaguar E-Type

Created by former aircraft designer Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar’s E-Type was the fastest production car on the market when it was unveiled in March 1961. With a top speed of 150mph, a 3.8-liter, 265-horsepower engine and jaw-dropping looks, it was declared by Enzo Ferrari to be “the most beautiful car in the world”. More than 72,000 were built during a 14-year production run. The most popular, however, are the “Series 1” models, with the best open-top “roadsters” currently commanding around $250,000, and fixed-head coupés only half as much. Jaguar recently built a series of six “continuation” cars to finally finish the Lightweight E-Type project which, 51 years ago, resulted in the creation of a series of highly-focused racing versions of the car. Only 12 of the intended 18 cars were ever made, leaving the remaining half-dozen allocated chassis numbers on file. These were used by Jaguar’s Special Operations division to build the “missing” Lightweights, which sold for more than $1.5 million each.

 

Ferrari 250 GTO

Said by many to be the most beautiful car ever created, a mere 39 examples of the legendary 250 GT “Omologato” were produced between 1962 and 1963, originally to contest the FIA GT World Championship series in the three-liter class – the “250” in the title referring to the 250cc capacity of each of the engine’s 12 cylinders. Although designed as a pure racing machine, the GTO is renowned for its ease of use as a road car. The most paid at auction to date is $38.1 million, although one example is rumored to have changed hands in a private deal for closer to $50 million.

 

Porsche 911 Carrera RS

The Carrera 2.7 RS of 1973 was intended purely for racing, but Porsche had to build 500 road-going examples to qualify the car for inclusion in the Group 4 GT category. It proved so popular as a high-performance street machine, however, that production only stopped after 1,508 had rolled off the line. Much of the appeal of the RS lies in the fact that it combines 150mph performance with reliability and surprising economy. The best examples now fetch between $1 million and $1.5 million, but beware: early 911s are notoriously dangerous in the hands of the uninitiated. When cornering, the golden rule is “slow in, fast out”, because if you lift off the throttle on the apex of a bend, there’s a good chance it will spin off the road.

Bentley "Blower"

“The world’s fastest lorries” is how Ettore Bugatti rather rudely described the pre-war Bentleys that dominated the Le Mans 24-Hour races during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The “blown” 4.5-liter Bentley was unveiled at the London motor show in 1929 having been privately developed by “Bentley Boy” Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin as a higher-performance version of the standard four-liter. Just 50 production cars were built, all of which could top 100mph, making them among the world’s first supercars. Examples rarely appear for sale, but those that do command sums in the region of $1.5 million. Four years ago, however, the 1932 single-seater, record-breaking Blower that originally belonged to Birkin fetched a record $7 million at Bonhams.

 

Lamborghini Miura

Made famous in the opening scenes of The Italian Job, in which a bright-red example can be seen driving along an alpine road to the strains of crooner Matt Monro’s On Days Like These before being pushed off a cliff by a Mafia bulldozer, the Miura was the first ever mid-engined, road-going supercar when it was launched in 1966. According to legend, it was designed by Lamborghini engineers in their spare time, as company boss Ferruccio Lamborghini was more interested in grand tourers. Featuring a 12-cylinder, four-liter engine, Miuras are known for their brutal power, weighty gearshift and over-light front end. But on a challenging back road with a good driver behind the wheel, thrills are guaranteed. Add to that a range of wild color options and past owners ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Shah of Iran, and you can see why values have risen from $800,000 five years ago to more than $2 million today.

 

Images: Getty Images, Alamy

 

Jaguar E-Type

 

Ferrari 250 GTO

 

Porsche 911 Carrera RS

 

Bentley "Blower"

 

Lamborghini Miura

1_BacktoBeginning_issue8

Back to the Very Beginning

Two years ago, a friend I hadn’t seen in years phoned me from Washington, D.C. He was in the city on business and knew I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but he said he didn’t have time to visit “the South”. I told him something that surprised him. “You’re in the South, Jonny. Look out of your hotel window. That’s Virginia on the other side of the Potomac River. I live 50 miles west of there. Tell me when you’re free, and I’ll take you on a drive. It’s another country out here – great characters.”

 

I understood my friend’s surprise that cool, cosmopolitan D.C. was a Southern city, largely because I had to amend my own hoary clichés about the South when I moved here from New York five years ago to a historic 1733 Quaker village named Waterford, in the Piedmont region of rural northern Virginia. We could see the Blue Ridge, part of the Appalachian Trail, from our front porch.

 

We’d moved because my wife, a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee, wanted our kids to feel the grass beneath their feet, but still have proximity to D.C. I wanted all the Southern stereotypes: mint juleps, crumbling antebellum mansions, redneck moonshiners tending stills on starlit nights. What we got was something so utterly different it still surprises me today.

 

The land around us turned out to be far more Hamptons than hillbilly. Luminous green meadows dotted with sheep and horses stretched to the horizon; historic country homes with wrought-iron gates and oak-shaded driveways stood sentinel on hilltops, like mansions out of Edith Wharton novels. On any given weekend, we would drive winding, stone-fenced country lanes to our local tavern and run into scarlet-jacketed fox hunters riding to hounds. Loudoun, it turned out, was the richest county in America.

 

But the wider region was rich, too – in history. The land between the Blue Ridge and Route 15, a narrow north-south blacktop that runs 180 miles from Pennsylvania, past Waterford, on down to Charlottesville, Virginia, is one of the most historic corners of the U.S. It’s The Place Where America Happened. No fewer than nine presidents have lived on it or nearby; some of the greatest battles of the Civil War, including Bull Run (first and second) and Antietam, took place here, and world historic documents, from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution, were either drafted or inspired by events on its route.

 

My friend had two days to spare, and I took him on the drive I take all visiting friends: a 350-mile loop from the Capitol, west on Route 50, through the chic horse country towns of Middleburg and Upperville (where Jackie Kennedy rode to hounds), and down Skyline Drive on the crest of the Blue Ridge into rural Rappahannock County. We would stop at Montpelier, family home of James Madison, father of the Constitution, then loop back up Route 15, Highway of Presidents, arguably the most eventful road in U.S. history.

 

I picked him up at the St. Regis, where he was staying, and we did a brief Capitol tour, cruising past the Lincoln Memorial on The Mall, and the Jefferson Monument along the Potomac. No fewer than eight U.S. presidents were born in Virginia, the Old Dominion, including four of the first five. George Washington’s grand estate, Mount Vernon, stands on a high bluff overlooking the Potomac near Alexandria to the south of us; it’s not on our route but it’s an essential stop for any D.C. visitor.

 

For the first 40 minutes, Route 50 is bumper-to-bumper through the suburban sprawl, but nearing Aldie, a strange thing happens. As if you’ve crossed a border, the development clears, and you’re suddenly in glorious countryside: luminous green fields; forests of maple, oak and birch; the Blue Ridge Mountains shimmering in the distance.

 

Route 50 meanders 3,000 miles from Maryland, through America’s heartland to California, but the 30 miles where it passes through Aldie, Middleburg, Upperville and Paris in the Piedmont are arguably the most gorgeous 30 miles in Virginia. The towns date back to the 1700s, when the road became a busy route for traders from colonial Georgetown and Alexandria accessing the farms of the Shenandoah Valley across the Blue Ridge. Stables, inns, taverns and mills opened to cater to passing carriages and horsemen, and as the settlements grew, grand estates sprang up on their outskirts. Today, Middleburg is a sort of Hamptons for the D.C. set, but with horses instead of beaches.

 

I park outside Country Classics, a raffish boutique selling tweed coats and cravats, and watch as blondes in jodhpurs and leather riding boots step out of mud-splattered Range Rovers. Middleburg is the heart of the Mid-Atlantic show-jumping, steeplechase and fox-hunting scene. Even the coffee shop is called the Giddy Up. We pop into the Red Fox Inn for coffee, the oldest building in town, a low-slung fieldstone “ordinary” from 1729 that reminds me of the Dickensian taverns of London. Above the front desk are gracious thank-you letters signed by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, from visits the former First Lady made here in the early 1980s.

 

It was Jackie Kennedy who put Middleburg firmly on the map, 20 years prior to penning those letters. When J.F.K. was president, she wanted a weekend retreat from the White House for her and the children. The Kennedys rented Glen Ora, a grand estate south of town, one of those sprawling mansions with oak-shaded driveways. Jackie joined the Orange County Hunt, her kids attended the local pony club, and the paparazzi followed. Middleburg was never the same again.

 

We pop across the street to The Home Farm Store, a former bank converted into a gourmet food store by Cisco Systems co-founder turned organic farmer, Sandy Lerner. Everything here is from Lerner’s farm, Ayrshire. After a six-dollar Scotch egg, we motor west. It’s early afternoon and the Blue Ridge shimmers above fields of boxwoods and beech. Then, like a mirage, a red British phone box appears as we enter Upperville. Welcome to the Hunter’s Head, my favorite country pub.

 

The tavern is a warren of cozy, low-ceilinged rooms, their walls covered with cartoons of foxes in riding hats. Built as a farmhouse in 1750, it looks like it’s been serving ale to ruddy-faced regulars since George Washington’s time. We tuck into bangers and mash with fresh bread, then walk off lunch in the village. It’s tiny, with the handsome sandstone Trinity Church, a few stone houses hugging the road, and a gun shop selling vintage muskets and Remingtons. As John Updike noted in a 1961 poem for The New Yorker, Upperville is even fancier than Middleburg:

 

In Upperville, the upper crust

Say “Bottom’s Up!” from dawn to dusk

And “Ups-a-daisy, dear!” at will

I want to live in Upperville.

 

“Mr. Rogers, cocktails in the parlor at 6.45pm. Don’t be late!” It’s time to meet some local characters, including Nat Morison, 76, seventh-generation Virginia Brahmin, owner of Welbourne, a 1770s country estate on a rutted dirt road, 15 minutes’ drive away (near the famous Foxcroft School for girls).

 

Welbourne, a custard-yellow colonnaded mansion on Nat’s 500-acre family horse farm, is a Piedmont mansion that doubles as a guesthouse. It was turned into an “invitation-only” inn back in 1930 by Nat’s grandmother. Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald were invitees, and both wrote stories about it. I stay in Wolfe’s room (creaking four-poster) just past the library, where an imposing portrait of Nat’s bearded great-great grandfather, Confederate Colonel Richard H. Dulany, stares at me from the wall. Dulany rode with the great Gray Ghost, guerilla fighter John S. Mosby, in the war, and road signs throughout the Piedmont still venerate “Mosby’s Confederacy”, as the region became known.

 

American Heartland

Above: Wyant’s store, 12 miles west of Charlottesville, Virginia, lies in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the spectacular 105-mile Skyline Drive. Below: the Hunter's Head, Upperville

 

You visit Welbourne for warmth and character, not frills. Sherry, Nat’s garrulous Connecticut-born wife, gives us “the tour”: three floors of dust-covered armoires, antique travel chests, shelves cluttered with faded Country Life magazines and leather tomes on war and horses. Picture Downton Abbey, if Carson, Mrs. Hughes and the rest of the staff had gone to the village fair 30 years ago and never returned. The music room (Nat collects – and plays nothing but – pre-1930s New Orleans jazz 78s) has a still-working Aeolian Vocalion gramophone and an out-of-tune 1907 Steinway. “It’s the eternal question,” Sherry sighs. “Fix the pipes or the piano?”
 

To me, this sounds like an unmistakably English sensibility, but when I mention this over cocktails (Virginia Gentleman bourbon on the rocks), Nat bellows at me like I’m crazy. “England? How would I know? I’ve never been out of America – except to New Orleans.”
 
In the morning, we motor south, leaving Route 50 for Fauquier County on a narrow, stone-fenced lane towards The Plains. A promising sun is burning off yesterday’s cold, and the land changes subtly here, becoming flatter and drier, yellow grass in open fields making it resemble Montana. The Plains are aptly named. The actor Robert Duvall has a horse farm here and is a regular at the local Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase in May, the Piedmont social event of the year. My Waterford neighbor,Tom, a political consultant, tells me he does more business in one afternoon at the Gold Cup than he does in a month at the Capitol.
 

It’s time to hit the Blue Ridge, and from The Plains we drive due west, detouring through the orchards, hollows and deer-specked valleys of Naked Mountain, part of Sky Meadows State Park, before accessing Skyline Drive at the resolutely blue-collar Front Royal. Built in the 1930s as a public works project, Skyline Drive is a spectacular 105-mile traverse running north-south through Shenandoah National Park on the crest of the Blue Ridge. There are 75 cliff-edge viewing points on its course and low hanging oaks and willows form a natural tunnel part of the way. To me, Skyline Drive is more than a road; it’s a barrier and symbol. Below, to the west, the Shenandoah Valley, its great river a muddy snake on the plains, is the start of the American heartland, while down to the east, the Piedmont, as green and delicate as a country garden, clings to the ways and manners of the Old World.
 
Skyline Drive ends in the town of Charlottesville, home of another Virginia President, Thomas Jefferson, author of the original American document, the Declaration of Independence. His majestic plantation, Monticello, which he built in French Revival-style, stands atop a hill overlooking a sea of green forest. Somehow, 230 years of development in the nation he helped found have not encroached on his view.
 

We don’t have time for Charlottesville, though, and instead keep it local, exiting Skyline Drive on Route 211 at Thornton Gap, descending into Sperryville, a river-splashed Piedmont farming town somnolent in the shadows of the Blue Ridge. Seventy years ago this was a bustling outpost, last stop before the mountain for traffic heading south-west to New Orleans and beyond. Then, in the 1950s, the highway was built at Front Royal, and Sperryville fell into slumber. In retrospect, it saved the town. Today, it’s a bucolic retreat with a creative subculture of organic farmers, artists, chefs and artisans. I make my way to the River Arts District, former apple-packing sheds on the Thornton River, converted into studios, galleries, and a tapas restaurant.
 

The highlight is the Copper Fox Distillery, where fortysomething Rick Wasmund makes award-winning ryes and whiskeys using a unique technique: he accelerates the aging of his spirits by adding a sachet of small “chips” of charred wood (oak, apple, and cherry) to the aging barrel, increasing the wood surface area. The result is astonishing: rich, smoky spirits with a delicate, fruity finish. I ask him how he came by the method, and he tells me he was caretaker at an old mansion in Middleburg that had eight fireplaces. “I had to light them every night, and I got to experimenting with smoke and wood, which got me to thinking about whiskey.” A brief stint at a distillery in Scotland and, lo, an idea was born.
 

We consider the power of ideas an hour later. We have taken the scenic 231 South for an hour and found our way to another presidential home: Montpelier, home of James Madison, the fourth president. A handsome two-floor neoclassical mansion on a 2,500-acre estate, Montpelier was built by Madison’s father in 1764, and remained in the family until 1840. In 1901, it was bought by the duPont industrialists, who added a garish mural to its façade and a steeplechase track – as you do. But in 2008, after a painstaking $24-million restoration, it was returned to the way it originally looked back in Madison’s day.
 

From the second-floor library, I look out on the same incomparable Blue Ridge view Madison had surveyed in 1786 as he considered all those weighty questions. A towering intellectual, he read more than 400 books in seven languages while he was drafting the documents that would form the basis for the U.S. Constitution, including, as our guide explained, texts in original Latin, Hebrew and Greek. “They don’t make ’em like that anymore,” someone next to me mumbles.
 

It’s late afternoon by the time we double back on to Route 15, now part of The Journey Through Hallowed Ground national heritage area that links Jefferson’s Monticello to the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania, 180 miles to the north. Several other battles took place at points along its route including Manassas, site of the First Battle of Bull Run, the brutal first big clash of the Civil War. Waterford, my own town, lies just off it. I take Jonny to see it before driving him back to the St. Regis in D.C. We sit on the porch sipping a bourbon as the sun sets over Blue Ridge. For some reason I think of New York City and the big move south. I have no regrets. I’m in Virginia, where America began.

Your address: The St. Regis Washington, D.C.

History in the making

Above: a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to the Red Fox Inn in Middelburg. Below: rustic beauty and old-world charm characterize this historical region just outside Washington, D.C.

 

Karmakamet final

A Little Place I Know

A South Indian
restaurant in Mumbai
by Naeem Khan

 

Trishna, Sai Baba Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai

I first ate at Trishna ten years ago, and now whenever I’m back in Mumbai I just have to go there. The restaurant is hidden away in a back street in the Kala Ghoda area, which has a lot of art galleries and cafés. It’s been there for about 50 years and is owned by a family from Mangalore, which is on the coast in South India. As Mumbai restaurants go, it’s not particularly cool or fashionable, but it serves the best food in the world. The first time I went to Trishna I was a bit surprised – the furniture is basic, it’s quite dark, with pictures of Mangalore and a large fish tank – but I’d heard so much about it from my brothers I thought, “OK, I’m willing to experiment.” Since then it has become a bit of a hotspot, with a more international clientele, though the décor hasn’t changed. The menu mainly consists of Konkani or Mangalorean cuisine, so there’s a lot of fish and seafood. The best thing is the giant crabs. The way they prepare them with chili and garlic is just incredible. For me, Trishna is the taste of India. It’s not northern Indian cooking, which is predominantly Mughal, it’s South Indian, which means things like light coconut curries, steamed lentils, seafood and grilled fish, so it’s much healthier. It’s spicy though, which I love. For Indian food to be really special the ingredients have to be totally fresh. At Trishna you can tell that the coconuts have just been picked and the spices are all freshly ground. The crabs couldn’t be fresher: they actually bring a huge live crab to your table before they cook it. These days I go to Trishna about twice a year, usually for a family gathering. My brothers and sisters and I have been going there for 10 years, so it has a lot of happy memories. Going there has become a kind of joyful family ritual, with delicious food.


Naeem Khan is an Indian-American fashion designer based in New York
Your address: The St. Regis Mumbai

A vintage perfume
shop in Bangkok
by Simon Westcott

 

Karmakamet, Chatuchak Weekend Market, facebook

This tiny little perfume shop is the sort of place you really have to look out for. Actually, you’ll probably smell it before you see it. Inside, it feels like an old-fashioned Thai pharmacy, full of dark wood shelving with scratched mirrored walls and medicine cabinets stocked with the most beautiful candles, fragrances and perfumes. The brand has been around since the 1970s, and the shop since 2001, selling the most intoxicating melange of essential oils, room fragrances, perfumes and all things scent-related. Although they use ingredients from all over the world, there’s a distinctly Asian influence in their scents, which include East Indian Sandalwood, Silver Needle White Tea and Siamese Lemongrass Peppermint. Each product comes in such beautiful vintage, hand-made packaging that you almost don’t want to open it. I’ve got so addicted to their scents that whenever I’m in Bangkok, I stock up. Products I buy most are the room diffusers, in scents like the earthy, masculine Egyptian Fig and zingy, fresh Pomegranate; travel candles, which I take wherever I go; and stashes of things to give as gifts. Last time I bought a Siamese Lemongrass Peppermint candle, and whenever I light it, I’m transported back to leisurely evenings in Thailand, sitting in the warm, heady heat listening to the cry of a nearby gecko. Lots of brands have tried to emulate it, but this place is the real deal.


Simon Westcott is head of Luxe City Guides, which offers sophisticated, opinionated pocket-sized guides to 36 cities around the globe
Your address: The St. Regis Bangkok

An Istanbul emporium
of objects for bathing
by Rifat Özbek

 

Abdulla, beside Fez Café, Grand Bazaar, abdulla.com

If I had to recommend just one shop in Istanbul it would be Abdulla, on Halicilar Street in the Grand Bazaar. It’s a totally unique shopping experience that offers the best of traditional and contemporary Turkey. The bulk of what Abdulla sells was made especially for the hammam, or Turkish steam bath. He has the very finest quality hand-loomed peshtemals, or Turkish towels, which are 100 per cent natural cotton, luxuriously thick and tasseled. He has such a beautiful range, all neatly folded in perfect little piles. As well as stocking specialist objects for the hammam, such as takunyas (wooden hammam slippers), keten zincir (scrubbing mitts), ponza (scrubbing brushes) and tas (small metal bowls), Abdulla also sells robes, scarves, hand thrown ceramics and a few fun pieces and divine vintage treasures that may include a rare piece of tribal jewelry or clothing. His soaps have a great following because they are 100 per cent natural, made with olive oil and scented with herbs and flowers: juniper, sandalwood, nettle, almond, citronella. He really has done all the work for you when it comes to sourcing and manufacturing using the best local craftsmanship. Once you’ve browsed his wonderful wares you can pop next door to his Fes Café, with its wonderful old brick arched ceilings, for delicious traditional treats such as baklava and sweet apple pie, accompanied, perhaps, by a cup of thick Turkish coffee or fresh mint tea, served on a beautiful old metal tray, with a glass of water and a little toothpick with a square of delicious lokum, or Turkish delight. A lovely way to end a shopping trip.


Rıfat Özbek is a Turkish fashion designer who transforms vintage fabrics into cushions sold at Yastik in Istanbul, Le Bon Marché in Paris and Dwell in New York
Your address: The St. Regis Istanbul

A museum of
Islamic antiquities
in Cairo by Dr. Zahi Hawass

 

Gayer-Anderson Museum, Ahmed Ibn Tolon, sca-egypt.org

The Gayer-Anderson Museum is situated right next to the oldest mosque in Cairo, Ibn Tulun. The building it’s housed in has had many owners over the years, one of whom was a woman from Crete, which is how it became known as Beit al-Kritliyya [“house of the Cretan woman”]. It actually consists of two houses. Between them there’s a passage leading to the eastern door of the mosque. When I was young, I used to travel from my village to stay with my aunt. I would visit the pyramids and then play soccer with friends in the streets around this house. The first time I saw it, something about it touched my heart. Its architecture is truly unique. The museum itself takes its name from Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson, an English army officer who in 1935 wrote a letter to the Committee of Arab Antiquities asking to live in the house. He told them he would furnish it in Islamic style, and fill it with precious antiquities. He also promised that, when he died, he would leave everything to them. The committee approved and Anderson began collecting Islamic furniture and artifacts from Egypt, Syria, Asia, Persia, China and Europe. He lived there until 1942, when he was forced to leave Egypt due to ill health. The houses were turned into a museum about 40 years ago. My favorite exhibits are the ostrich egg and the mazwalla [sundial] found in the mosque of Ibn Qalawun, which was used as a watch to announce the time for prayer. I also love the objects that belonged to Gayer-Anderson, displayed in his office, such as his gramophone, typewriter, bottles, personal photographs and a decree from King Farouk. It’s a fascinating window into the past.

 

Archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass is the former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities
Your address: The St. Regis Cairo