Friday, December 25, 2009


By Barbara Barton Sloane

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. This National Historic Landmark and Historic Hotel of America is located in the Hudson Valley region of New York state. Owned by the Smiley family since opening day in 1869, I had the happy occasion to attend its 140th birthday party being celebrated this year. This is a resort dedicated to life’s simple pleasures and there’s no shortage of that here.

Mohonk Mountain House is the ideal place for a family reunion. There’s even an on-site Family Reunion Coordinator who will reserve a social room and customize activities for your gathering. The Spa here has been named one of the top 25 resort spas in North America by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, and they offer some effective treatments to escape from the world, if only for a little while. There’s the Eagle Cliff Deep Tissue Massage assisted by warm packs placed on specific areas of the body, the Mohonk Red Massage which begins with inhalation of calming Evergreen essences and traditional Thai stretches to rebalance the body. I opted for the Fragrant Earth treatment which incorporated the many medicinal herbs found in the surrounding region. First I was “polished” with rosemary salts, then my scalp and body were massaged with extracts of pine, fir and oakmoss, and finally, I was “awakened” with a stimulating peppermint foot massage. Immediately following this dreamy escape, I made my way down to the Lake Lounge for the afternoon traditional English tea service including delicious house-baked cookies.

There’s a wealth of engaging activities at Mohonk. A great way to start the day is with the “5 Voices of Birds” hike on forest trails. If you have a black thumb, like me, you’ll find enlightenment with a tour through the greenhouse and a chance to hear the history of their Victorian gardens. Feeling Victorian? Why not dress like one and get your picture taken in full 19th century regalia. Depending on the season, there’s rock climbing, skating, cycling, boating….the list goes on. For kids, the Tykes and Children’s program keeps them busy for hours. There’s also an Evening Children’s Program so mom and dad can enjoy their evening cocktail in peace. From early morning, throughout the day, up to a Victorian Gala Dance at 9:00 pm, there’s a whole lotta fun going on here. Fireplaces blaze in winter, and rocking chairs on gracious porches overlooking the lake, calm frazzled nerves in warm weather. So if you want to loll about and do nothing, it’s perfectly ok. In fact, it’s a capital idea, and one that I chose for much of my stay.

A blissful offering, unique to this resort, is the Three Minute Meditator. Nina Smiley, Ph.D, and co-author of the book by the same name, teaches meditating skills which can be done in three minutes. I am serious! You come away from this charming 19th century resort with a practical skill
that can be practiced whenever needed. I personally “three-minute meditate” several times throughout my day and guess what? It works!

Summer is here but, as we’ve seen, the weather outside can still be frightful. A weekend at Mohonk Mountain House, surrounded by glorious nature, is your ticket to revive and restore.


Your Adventure is Written in Stone

by Barbara Barton Sloane

Few places on earth match the beauty and tranquility of the red rocks surrounding St. George, UT. Here, nestled on 55 scenic acres of Southwestern Utah’s Mojave Desert and a short two-hour drive from Las Vegas is The Red Mountain Resort and Spa. I visited the resort recently for a few days to both kick back and to get physical at the same time. What better way than to don a pair of uncomfortably tight climbing shoes (they’re supposed to fit that way), and join a group of six rock-climbing newbies who found the sheer cliffs both as daunting yet as exhilarating as I.

The resort arranged for this activity and Ben, our guide/instructor was youthful, cool, and had the ability to inspire each of us to rise to the challenge, as when I found myself clinging to sheer, smooth rock-face with nowhere to place my foot or to grasp even a twig-sized outcropping. Me, calling down to Ben: “There’s nowhere for me to go…I want to come down now.” Ben: “No.” Okaaaay. Lest you think our guide a sadist, actually he was just ensuring that I looked closer and deeper, both onto the rock cliff and into myself, to find somewhere, somehow to continue to the top. I did. Thanks, Ben.

The Sagestone Spa at Red Mountain is a multi-million dollar space of tranquility which debuted three years ago and is devoted to de-stress and detoxify guests through a series of innovative offerings, including their Sandstone Signature Treatments which are hand-crafted, using products from the rain forests of Brazil, salt and clay from Utah and the precious Resurrection plant found in the Arizona desert.

After clinging to sheer red rock for what seemed like forever, I deserved a welcomed treat and that came in the form of a Canyon Warm Stone Massage (70 minutes, $160), which did precisely what the brochure said. It relieved my aching muscles and revived through a massage with essential oils combined with warm canyon stones applied to all the right places. Restored, I was ready to join the others at the Canyon Breeze Restaurant to enjoy a healthy and tasty dinner prepared by Executive Chef Dale Van Sky.

Each day I enjoyed a bracing swim in the resort’s Olympic-size pool and then wound down with a dreamy session in the heated whirlpool. The sublime finale to my day was shamelessly lazing in a hammock set amid shade trees and flowering lilac and bougainvillea and then retreating to my very pretty guest room decorated in soft earth and desert tones and swooning on my custom-designed bed. Nighty-night.

The Red Mountain Resort and Spa has been named by Forbes Traveler as one of the “10 Best Healthy Resorts” and by Travel + Leisure as one of the “World’s Greatest Resort/Spas.” The energetic and enthusiastic staff, with a nearly 3:1 ratio of staff to guests, is dedicated to providing an optimum adventure environment along with great service and personal attention.

The outdoor programs at Red Mountain include daily guided hikes, rock climbing, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, as well as National Park excursions and back-country wilderness trips. Focusing on fitness, there are over 50 classes to choose from including cardio salsa, hydroaqua fitness, yoga and Power Pilates to Boot Camp! Their Healthy Living classes run the gamut from spirit hikes to meditation, nutrition and self-awareness workshops. No, the Red Mountain Spa is not your mother’s spa, nor would you want it to be. Guests come to relax and de-stress, sure, but also for the thrill and chill. With the end of summer rapidly approaching, back-to-school and continuing education opportunities are on the minds of many. The resort encourages continued self-improvement with a series of Back-to-You programs designed to meet individual goals, including Life Compass Retreat, Fast Track Weight Loss, and Nutrition programs. Not to worry about what to do here. It’s a safe bet you’ll keep busy at Red Mountain.

Perhaps my fave activity at Red Mountain is the Pound Puppy Hike. What is that, you say? For the guest who can’t bring Fido along, the Pound Puppy program provides the chance to hike with a shelter dog and in the process, bring smiles to canine and human face alike. “We feel the Pound Puppy Hike is a healthy, happy opportunity for both guests and shelter animals,” explains Tracey Welsh, the General Manager. “The puppies will be rewarded with additional hours of playtime and the guests will feel good about sharing their fitness time with a cuddly four-legged friend.” Win-win, right?
This innovative resort program suggests you bring your teen (between the ages of 12-17; from $159) with you to enjoy their Core program which includes a daily morning hike, unlimited fitness classes, Tai Chi, use of the Resort facilities – bikes, walking trails, strength studios and much more.

The room rate at Red Mountain is $159 per person, per night, double occupancy for the “Stay & Dine Package,” up to $379 per person, per night, double occupancy for the “Premium Package.”

With its myriad healthy and adventuresome programs, its elegant spa, its sumptuous guest rooms, and hiking through pine forests with a happy, panting puppy by your side, this is one very special destination. Come visit the Red Mountain Resort and Spa ( You’ll open your heart, expand your mind and enter sacred space: your own.

Red Mountain Resort & Spa
1275 E. Red Mountain Circle
Ivins, UT 84738

Monday, November 16, 2009


by Barbara Barton Sloane

Stepping into an ankle-deep puddle, I almost lost my footing and quickly had to grab the hand of an elderly gentleman who then ceremoniously led me onto a large wooden plank sitting atop several inches of water, courtesy of the Grand Canal. Walking the plank before I reached the hotel door, a fierce gust of wind blew off my hat and turned my umbrella into a bowl-shaped, useless thing. After this inauspicious start, if one were to look at me they’d see someone with eyes sparkling and a mouth turned upward in a silly grin. So why is this gal smiling? It’s simple – I’m in Venice, and I dare anyone, in any weather and under any circumstance, not to greet the site of this Wonder on the Water without smiling. Impossible. Can’t be done. My venture into the Veneto region of Italy did, indeed, start off soggily but soon the fabled sun that graces this region was out and my umbrella was in – back in my luggage, not to make another appearance for the rest of the trip.

Once ensconced in my room at the Luna Hotel Baglioni, I was quickly transported into a Venetian dream with a window that looked out on a canal, water softly plashing against the hotel’s walls. That evening, my travel companions and I had a special treat awaiting us. We walked a short distance to Piazza San Marco and stood transfixed by a luminous silver sky, mauve clouds scudding quickly across the Campanile, and of course, ubiquitous grey pigeons swooping overhead in gay greeting. We dined at the renowned Caffe Ristorante Quadri which dates to 1725. Over the years everyone from Stendhal, Proust, Wagner and Byron has dined here and in this pinch-myself moment, now me!

The best ride one will ever have and one of life’s great pleasures – plying the waters of the Grand Canal. I had the feeling I was in a living Canaletto painting, the sky an impossible blue and surrounded by ancient palazzos, their colors soft terra cotta, cream, gray and beige. This great road of water was filled with vaporetti, motorboats and gondolas, the boat moorings like peppermint sticks jutting up from the water - a scene that will thrill even the most jaded world traveler.

One could say Venice has just about everything to wish for. Just
about. Built on water, the city, of course, doesn’t have much greenery, trees, parks or gardens. Enter Certosa, an island situated a mere 15 minutes by ferry from Piazza San Marco. This verdant refuge from the tourist-clogged streets of Venice is a tranquil escape. One night I stayed at the Certosa Hotel, a peaceful oasis in the lagoon. Certosa and its sister hotel/restaurant Venissa on the island of Mazzorbo, a few minutes by ferry from Certosa, are the creations of Gian Luca Bisol whose wine producing family goes back to 1542. Both hotels’ restaurants are managed by the incomparable chef Paola Budel whose culinary offerings are delicious and memorable.

Wherefore Art Thou
The city of Verona is 71 miles west of Venice, and is, of course, the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. A long-forgotten editor of one of the Bard’s plays wrote: “Verona, so rich in real history has an even greater charm for those who would live in the poetry of the past.” Hummm - live in the poetry of the past - that’s my kind of neighborhood, and the past is ever present in this, one of the great cities of Italy.

Our sightseeing took us, naturally, to Casa di Giulietta, a house the city acquired in 1905. Many locals believe that in the 19th century the house was a bordello, but I prefer to close my eyes and picture the dear girl leaning over her balcony, swooning over that Montague boy.

A visit to the Giardino Giusti, created in the 14th century, is one of Verona’s highlights. A wall of cypress trees created a cool and relaxing spot where we chilled after having made the challenging hike up to what is called the Monster Balcony for an incomparable view of the city.

Passage to Padua
This is a major art center of the Veneto. Standing below the imposing façade of Padua University, Italy’s second oldest, we learned that Dante and Galileo were once professors here. In the square, we heard a loud commotion, singing, shouting and laughing. Turns out it was a large group of the university’s students serenading a recent graduate in a traditional and bawdy fashion. The embarrassed girl was being marched through the square wearing a crazy costume, her head adorned with a shower cap, flippers on her feet, and carrying a sign that proclaimed her graduate status. The crowd sang something our guide loosely translated as “You’re a doctor now, big deal, go…….yourself!” All in good fun, but I suspect the graduate would be very happy when her “fun” was over.

The modest Chapel of the Scrovegni is one of the best reasons to visit Padua. Sometime around 1305, the artist Giotto did several frescos on the Chapel’s walls, and we stood enthralled before one of his most awe-inspiring, “The Last Judgment.”

An Architectural Delight
In the 16th century, Vicenza was transformed into a virtual laboratory for the architectural experiments of Andrea di Pietro known as Palladio, one of the great architects of the High Renaissance. Here we came upon the alabaster-white Basilica Palladiana shimmering in the sunlight. On our city tour, we were rendered speechless by one of Palladio’s greatest masterpieces, the Olympic Theater which was completed five years after the architect’s death in 1585. The trompe l’oeil renderings on stage are, themselves, worth a visit.

Medieval Marvel
In Treviso we strolled through this well-preserved ancient city gaping at the fantastically frescoed houses. We sat on a bench by a slow-flowing canal and enjoyed a spectacular lunch at the Park Hotel Bolognese, a villa of the late 1800s. Viewing Dante’s Bridge, we were told it was so named because Dante actually referred to this town in his “Paradiso.”

Enchantment Enhanced
The treasures of the Veneto are many, its charms incalculable. However, choosing to visit this region of Italy with all that it offers can be daunting, with the worry that one will miss some dream-worthy site. The Italian Travel Promotion Council (ITPC) is an organization that represents 20 major U.S. tour operators working with Italy and is committed to giving American travelers the best possible experience. Suggestion: to ensure quality, reliability and value, when planning your trip be sure that your local travel agent partners with one of the 20 tour operators affiliated with the ITPC.

The time to depart Italy arrived but no final farewell for me. I preferred to say Arrivederci- so long for now, see you again. And by the way, that silly grin that adorned my face when I arrived – well, I’m still smiling, and when you visit the Veneto, you’ll smile too!

Veneto 411

Hotels Restaurants
Baglioni Hotels, Venice & Verona Gran Caffe Ristorante Quadri, Venice

Certosa Hotel Palazzo and Giardino Giusti
Isola della Certosa, Venice Verona

Residenza Art Deco, Venice Villa Pace, Park Hotel Bolognese, Treviso
(for a private loft/apartment experience)

Hotel Savoia & Jolanda, Venice Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista Venice
NH Mantegna, Padua

Italian Travel Promotion Council
Tel: 310-649-1684

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Carnival Time in Rio

by Barbara Barton Sloane

Cidade Maravilhosa – Wonderful City. This is the name the Cariocas (residents of Rio) fondly call their town – and with good reason. A city of six million inhabitants, Rio de Janeiro has a special vibe all its own – a Samba vibe, to be sure, and it all begins when we deplane at Tom Jobim, an airport like no other. Warm smiles greet us, music pulses from all corners of the building, and men and women sway to the beat of Samba. The city is gearing up for its most famous event – Carnival – and so are we!

First reached in January, 1501 by Portuguese explorers in an expedition led by Amerigo Vespucci, the Europeans thought at first the Bay of Guaranbara was the mouth of a river which they then named “Rio de Janeiro,” river of January.

Our ride from the airport to Copacabana Beach seemed to take just about as long as it probably took those explorers to discover Rio. Traffic here is appalling and driving even a very short distance takes hours. Finally ensconced in my hotel room, I checked out the scene from my window. Below all was bustling and vibrant. I smiled as I glimpsed the familiar sight I’d long associated with Rio, the wave-patterned sidewalks and Copacabana Beach. Gentle waves washed the shore and the ocean curved off into the distant, odd-shaped mountains beyond.

To call Rio informal is a gross understatement. The sidewalks teemed with people in various stages of undress – short shorts, minis and teeny, tiny string bikinis that adorned bronzed, beautiful bodies. This is not a place for the shy, the retiring, or for my boring, one-piece black bathing suit. In fact, I’m sure the color black must be banned in Brazil. Instead, a kaleidoscope of riotous color reigns. Later, peering from my window at 3 a.m., I was surprised to see the beach still alive with countless strollers, water gently lapping at their ankles. I’m told that Rio’s citizens routinely hit the beach on their lunch hour, as well. For them, the beach is an integral, necessary part of life. Quite simply, here life is a beach.

I planned on getting in some beach time myself, but the main reason we’re here is for Carnival so let the cutir (fun) begin!

The first records of this festival date back to 1723 when immigrants from the Portuguese islands introduced it to Rio and, by 1855, Carnival acquired unique elements derived from the African culture – organized parades, luxurious costumes, music, masks and flowers. Fast forward to the 21st century with the event drawing 500,000 foreign visitors and tens of thousands participating in spectacular parades with fantasy floats and dancing till dawn at the Sambodrome – an event that everyone must experience at least once in life. During these four days offices, banks and shops close. Everything stops and the insanity begins. As sure as the glorious sun shines on this luminous city, without fail, Rio’s Carnival will take place again in 2010 from Saturday, February 13 through Fat Tuesday, February 16.

Gearing up for my first night of Carnival, I spent an inordinate amount of time that morning choosing my dress for the famed Copacabana Palace Ball. Satisfied that I had a killer outfit at the ready, I joined our group for some serious Rio sightseeing. And what should be our first sight? Just the largest art deco statue in the world, Cristo Redentor, Christ the Redeemer, the beloved symbol that looms over the city and is considered its protector. It is 73 years old, 98 feet high and rests atop Corcovado Mountain. My reward for climbing the 220 steps to the top (there’s an elevator if you don’t fancy the climb) is a euphoric feeling of standing on top of the world with a panoramic view of sea, sky, mountains and the beaches of Lagoa, Ipanema and Leblon.


That evening, we had the special privilege of attending the prestigious Carnival Ball, an event I like to refer to as my very own “15 Minutes.” Why? Because to enter the Palace, we walked a Red Carpet (yessss!) while hundreds pressed up against a fence which separated the invited from – well, from those that were not. Flashbulbs popped as we entered this classic hotel and once inside, pure fantasy. This event offered the chance to mingle with the glitterati, international VIPs, top starlets and models, the works. The theme of the ball was “Opera Magic” and as I wove my way through the costumed Carmens, Aidas, Rameses and Rudolfos, I had to pinch myself to believe I was really there. Like most other Carnival events, this ball lasted till dawn and I was grateful that next day’s sightseeing was put off till very late morning.


Because of its height and its unmistakable outline, Sugar Loaf is one of Rio’s main attractions. On a cable car that has been in operation since 1912, the first leg of our ascent took us to a height of 720 feet above sea level and stopped at the Morro da Urca plateau. There our car was boarded by a group of boisterous musicians who gaily played and sang us to the summit. Sugar Loaf is a green, unearthly peak that rises over the city and affords a bird’s eye view from Copacabana Beach to the Corcovado Mountain. Feeling adventurous? You can take a helicopter ride which leaves from the first plateau. Really adventurous or slightly mad? Try climbing up this mountain. I peered down over the sheer vertical side of Sugar Loaf to see tiny, ant-like figures attempting to make their way to the top. They, more than we who rode a cable car, would find the stunning views a most just reward.

Throughout the four days of Carnival, there are Bandas (street parades) that take place in the many Rio neighborhoods. Each Banda consists of an orchestra playing well-known music that everybody sings along with. I marched along the Ipanema Banda irreverently titled “Que Merda E Essa?” (no translation needed). The streets were filled with hordes of enthusiastic people dancing the samba in costumes, bathing suits, special T-shirts and even in drag. The crowds were so thick I was literally carried along, at times wondering if I’d ever see my safe, relatively quiet hotel again. Happily, I hung in there. I made it!

The highlight of Carnival is the Samba Parade which is held at the Sambodrome (this coming year on February 14 and 15). The parade starts at 9 p.m., both nights featuring six Samba Schools, each group with as many as 10,000 revelers (you read it right) marching down the Passarela do Samba, the runway. The event ends at dawn the next morning. The phrase Samba School is actually somewhat of a misnomer. It is not a teaching institution; you cannot go there to learn to Samba (a dance unique to Brazil and invented by poor Afro-Brazilians). Instead, the 70 Samba Schools in Rio represent eight neighborhoods that work all year to build the floats, make the costumes and choreograph the dances they will perform in the parade. All night we sat mesmerized, viewing the parade in this amphitheater which was designed by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Back in the mid-eighties, the Samba Parades had become too big for improvisation in the streets and needed a professional site to perform in. When commissioned to build the Sambodrome which was to be completed in 110 days, Niemeyer said “We built the capital Brasilia in four years. We certainly can build the Sambodrome in four months,” and he did. About the Samba Parade, may I just say that it is an utterly unbelievable spectacle in color, grandeur and splendor, something you’ve gotta see to believe.

Too soon, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday arrived. Carnival in Rio is a unique experience. Discard inhibitions, wear a wild costume, just let go and have a blast. In short, it’s a moment you will never, ever forget. And, however cheesy it may sound, Rio de Janeiro - mad, magical and mysterious - allows you to live out, if only for a brief moment, your fantasies and dreams.
Cutir - Party on!

Rio Orthon Palace Hotel Santa Teresa
Great location on Copacabana Beach Bohemian artists’ neighborhood
A.v.Atlantica, 3264 R. Almirante Alexandrina, 660
Tel: +55 (21) 2106-1500 Tel: +55 (21) 2222 2755

Copacabana Palace Hotel Brazil Tourist Office
5-Star, Deluxe
Av. Atlantica 1702
Tel: +55 (21) 2548 7070

Porcao Rio’s Aprazivel
Traditional Brazilian Barbeque Dine in a garden
Av.Infante Dom Henrique Rua Aprazivel 62
Tel:+ 55 (21)3461 9020 Tel:+55 (21)3852 4935

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


by Barbara Barton Sloane

The sky, as we deplaned in Ireland, was deep gray and portending rain at any moment but the guide who met us allayed our weather worries by saying that it only rained twice last year. – once for five months and once for seven months. Alrighty then. But just think: if Ireland weren’t so rainy it wouldn’t be so green. And green is good! Whatever the weather – fair or foul - one is warmed just basking in the hospitality, friendliness, and good cheer that is a trademark of the Irish. Erin go Braugh!

Our trip concentrated on the West of Ireland as we traveled from the stunning Ring of Kerry and up along the coast to the exciting city of Galway. We began our journey on the Dingle Peninsula, the most westerly point in Europe and an area with a wealth of historical monuments, Gaelic culture and literature. The mountains here are lofty and brooding, and the Conor Pass is the highest mountain pass in all Ireland. On the morning of our drive to the Gallarus Oratory, the atmosphere was dreamlike. A fine, milky mist enveloped all and the landscape, divided by 400 year old hedgerows, gave the fields a look of giant green checkerboards. Cheerful yellow grouse grew everywhere and all was covered by fat, white clumps which, on closer inspection, turned out to be hundreds of sheep.

Perched on a windswept hill covered with wildflowers, we arrived at the awe-inspiring Gallarus Oratory, a 1300-year old stone building still in perfect condition and one of the finest examples of an early-Christian church. As we gazed at this monument with its intricate stonework, our guide explained that a Neolithic technique called “corbelling” was used to lay the 4-foot thick, dry-stone walls that stand firm without mortar and which are still waterproof after several centuries of buffeting by Atlantic gales. That fact alone was enough to put us in the mood to offer our own personal oration to the master builders of the Gallarus. The most common feature of the Irish landscape, and which we saw in abundance, was the ring forts, or human settlements. Irish folklore tells us that the fairies were believed to inhabit the forts. After their defeat by the Milesians, the people of the Goddess Danu went underground in the many ring forts and became fairies. I peered into a fort but sorry to disappoint - I saw no fairies.

On the blustery and chilly tip of the Dingle Peninsula we toured the Blasket Center which celebrates the story of the Blasket Islanders and here a stone fort still stands, proof of its possible occupation 2,000 years ago. After the Great Famine (1845-48), the young people left, mostly for America, and by 1953, the once vibrant population had vanished. Today, on a visit to the deserted Great Blasket, you will see stunning scenery and if lucky, maybe even glimpse a dolphin or whale. The profoundly moving photographs, artifacts, documents and utensils preserved at the Center are a true testament to these unbelievably hearty people and the unique literary achievement of the island writers who have preserved a lifestyle that is no more. We dined that evening at The Chart House, Jim McCarthy’s attractive, stone-built restaurant that has been a Dingle favorite for over 10 years. A particular hit with our group that night was a specialty of the house, the Black Pudding; another, the lamb, totally organic and so fresh we could taste the heather from it. After dinner, bowing to an old Irish saying: Luigh leis an uan agus eirigh leis an ean: Lie with the lamb, and rise with the bird, we did precisely that at the cozy Dingle Benners Hotel.

Waking to birdsong, we were off to Killarney to visit the Killarney National Park in County Kerry. Driving to the town of Killarney we passed scores of fresh and tidy pastel colored gingerbread-style houses which gave the villages a rainbow-hued effect. The towns looked like they belonged in Disneyland, but in a good way – happy, peaceful, a place where you’d like to hang out. Killarney National Park is 10,236 glorious woodland acres replete with mountains, lakes and waterfalls. Once in the park, we engaged the services of a horse-drawn jaunting cart whose driver, Billy, embodied droll and hilarious Irish humor, keeping us in stitches the entire ride. He asked, “What do you call an Irishman buried 2,000 years?” Dunno. “Peat!”

After a particularly memorable, restoring sleep at The Killarney Park Hotel, sinking into deep down up to our ears, we set off for County Clare and the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs are perhaps Ireland’s most renowned attraction. They face out onto the Aran Islands, and stand 5 miles long, towering above the wild and roaring Atlantic below. Live, traditional Irish music played as we hiked pathways with heart-stopping views over the 700 foot tall cliffs. There’s a very good, award-winning exhibition at the Moher Visitor’s Center called The Atlantic Edge. It’s a virtual reality, cliff-face journey which allowed us to experience a Birdseye view of life on the cliffs, both above and below sea level.

Though not the largest city in Ireland, Galway may be its most interesting. It is medieval and intimate with narrow streets and lanes bulging with shops, pubs and restaurants. Here is where the Irish language is the strongest with bilingual signs on all shops and roads. It’s also home to the striking G Hotel designed by Philip Treacy. The public rooms are wildly glamorous and evoke old Hollywood. It is like no other hotel I’ve ever experienced and has been designated as one of the top three hotels in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. That evening we enjoyed dinner at the well-known Kirwan’s Restaurant and I topped off the evening with a visit to the hotel’s G Spa, contemporary, elegant, a place where absolutely nothing has been spared in design and quality. I enjoyed a massage that kneaded away all my bodily knots acquired from days of site-walking. A spring was restored to my step and I was once again ready for whatever was to come.


What was to come was the sprawling and spectacular Ashford Castle! Located in County Mayo just a half hour from Galway, it dates back to 1228 when monks set an evolving building process in motion. Later, the Castle became a summer home of the Guinness family until it opened as a hotel just before the start of World War II. Ever since, guests have delighted in rooms tucked away in turrets, two restaurants and a range of country sports including falconry, horseback riding, golf and clay pigeon shooting.

Falconry…. hummm…. it sounded exotic and intriguing. I thought it would be fun to watch but noooo, that wasn’t in the cards. I was cajoled and shamed into joining in, donning a thick, weird looking leather glove and yes, allowing a falcon to rest on said glove. When it flew off to a faraway tree, a bit of meat was placed on my glove (euww), and the dear bird, with phenomenal vision, zoomed back onto my arm and whoosh! both meat and bird were gone. This was a completely memorable experience, one that wimpy me was ultimately glad I had.

We had high tea in one of the glorious castle rooms amid towering ceilings, glorious boisirie, cascading red velvet draperies, suits of armor and period furniture. Make no mistake about it, we were in an honest-to-goodness, real-life castle whose lifestyle I could quickly get used to. Ashford Castle is one of the most luxurious resort hotels in the world – a legacy 700 years in the making.

We ended our Ireland fantasy at Adare Manor in the county of Limerick. Uh oh, just now I feel a limerick of my own coming on:

In Ireland a Manor called Adare
Has charm that’s unmatched, I swear.
An estate that has 5 stars,
If you searched from here to Mars
You’d nary find a spot that’s quite as fair!

Sorry. However, Adare Manor is, indeed, a singularly special place consisting of 840 acres of sweeping parklands, cultivated gardens, mature trees and the river Maigue, one of Ireland’s finest trout rivers. The Manor House was once owned by the Earl of Dunraven and was built in the 1830s. Among the many eccentricities of the house: there are 52 chimneys (one to commemorate each week of the year, 75 fireplaces and 365 leaded glass windows (one for each day of the year). Adare Manor offers world class facilities including two top restaurants, an equestrian center, fitness room, indoor heated swimming pool, a spa, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, and a Robert Trent Jones designed golf course.

All good things must come to an end, and ending with two of Ireland’s most famous and beloved castles is as good a way as any. In closing, let me pass along to you some old Irish advice: to ward off those cute but mischievous fairies when visiting, take a bit of the foxglove flower, aka Dead Man’s Bells or Fairy Fingers and rub some of the sap on your clothing. Guaranteed, you’ll see nary a Fairy! What you will see, however, is this magical, mystical land, and that alone is worth the trip!

To celebrate Ireland’s famed painter son, Francis Bacon, on exhibit now through March 7, 2010 there’s an immense archive of Bacon’s studio material as well as selected paintings dating from 1944, many of which have been rarely shown. Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, Parnell Square, Dublin,

Ireland 411:

Saturday, October 3, 2009


by Barbara Barton Sloane

An elegant, bearded man swaddled in pure white robes, wearing a kefiyeh headdress encircled with a black rope band and surrounded by four large, no-nonsense bodyguards walks through the Four Seasons Cairo lobby. When my waiter brings me tea, I ask him who that very important looking man is and he explains it’s a sheik from Saudi Arabia. “You’ll see lots of them here. This is, after all, The Four Seasons,” he says with a proud smile. Yes, that says it all. Whether in Boston, Washington or Cairo, Egypt, this hotel chain with its demanding high standards frequently hosts celebs, heads of state, and occasionally a lucky travel writer like me.

Known to locals as Umm al-Dunya, “Mother of the World,” Cairo is a city of 18 Million which swells to over 20 Million daily counting the workforce. I swear I can see many of those millions right below my hotel window, a virtual feast for the eyes: streets teeming with people, a cacophony of bleating car horns, tall pastel-colored apartment buildings, their balconies alive with clothes flapping in the breeze. Tiny, shadowed alleyways almost obscure men sitting around tables eating, smoking, visiting. A colorful profusion of veggies, fruit, nuts, flowers, perfumes and handicrafts are displayed in front of the shops as hawkers implore you to taste, smell, buy or at least join them for a glass of tea. Oh yes, I am, indeed, in Cairo, Egypt and anticipating the exotic adventure that’s about to unfold.

After resting for a few hours, our group was driven to The Citadel, an open-air amphitheatre on high where exhibitions, artistic events and concerts are held. The view from there gives onto the entire city below and as the lights of all Cairo came up, it was magic. We dined on spicy, traditional Egyptian fare while musicians played tunes on ancient instruments, singers sang with seductive, mournful voices and whirling dervishes in long white gallabiyas twirled trance-like for what seemed like hours. They never get dizzy, I’m told, because their dance is divinely inspired. After my long flight and feeling somewhat dizzy myself from the mesmerizing performance, I was glad to return to my hotel and prepare for a big day ahead.

A visit to the Egyptian Museum began with what was one of the highlights of the trip: a lecture by the one and only Dr. Zahi Hawas, the world’s foremost Egyptologist and the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Dr. Hawas discussed some of the museum’s 2,500 artifacts culled over 5,000 years. The treasures of the museum were heart-stopping and it is said that to see the entire collection it would take 9 full months, every day, from 9 to 5. The Tutankhamen exhibit was my favorite, with the 18k gold mask of Tut, his chariots, sarcophagus, and including golden jewelry enclosed in his tomb for over 3,500 years. I longed to have the time to just gaze into each and every splendid vitrine and simply let the heady atmosphere envelop me. Sadly, t’was not to be as the plan was to spend the evening at the Sofitel Hotel. Boarding a wooden felucca docked at the foot of our hotel, we had a leisurely 10 minute sail across the Nile to the hotel’s Buddha Bar where we sampled Egyptian hors d’oeuvres and inventive cocktails. With lights glistening on this mythical river, good company and great drinks, it was, in all, a fine Cairo evening.

The next day we crossed over one of the 11 bridges from Cairo to the section called Giza on our way to the Pyramids and Sphinx. Though the three Great Pyramids are the most famous monuments, the site has actually been a Necropolis since the beginning of Pharaonic Egypt. Shortly after we arrived, a sand storm kicked up turning the sky from blue to milky white, the wind whipping sand particles into every possible crevice of our bodies. It made picture-taking difficult, as did the hoards of tourists. But, intrepid travelers that we were, we got our shots and bragging rights about enduring a sandstorm at the Pyramids and living to tell it!

That evening, dinner was at the Robayat El Khayam, the historic restaurant of the Mena House Oberoi Hotel. Lavish, over-the-top, a true Hollywood set, this is not to be-missed. An ethnic-inspired show of dancers and singers was a fun accompaniment to our meal.

After checking out of our hotel, we took an hour-long flight to Luxor where we boarded a Nile cruise ship for a four-night trip to Aswan. The first stop on our cruise was the Temple of Karnak. Although badly ruined, no site in Egypt is more impressive. It is the largest temple complex ever built by man; in fact it’s a city of temples built over 2000 years for the Theben triad of Amon, Mut and Khonsu. The Great Temple at the heart of Karnak is so big, at 54,000 square feet and 134 columns, it is the largest room of any religious building in the world and its grandeur is incomparable.

The Temple of Luxor is in the renowned city of Thebes, the city of a hundred gates, close to the Nile and parallel with the riverbank. Inside, one is in the midst of a multitude of columns which seem to rise to the sky, bearing intricate designs and painted in reds, blues and greens, colors that today are as vivid as when they were first painted. Two statues - huge, strong and handsome guards - stand on either side of the entrance to this Temple. Since it has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day, one can conclude that these guards have done their job exceedingly well.

The following day we toured the Valley of the Kings with its best-preserved hieroglyphs and home to at least sixty-two New Kingdom pharaohs and ranking officials. There is an Egyptian belief that “to speak the name of the dead is to make him live again.” Thus, all the kings’ tombs are inscribed with names and titles, along with images and statues – so that they will live again. A sweet and comforting thought. That evening back on our cruise ship, I pulled a chair up to the rail and literally watched Egypt float by before my eyes, a spectacular end to the day.

A quick breakfast on board, and we’re off to the Aswan airport to fly to Abu Simbel. The two temples at Abu Simbel are among the most magnificent monuments in the world. Even more extraordinary was their removal and reconstruction to keep them from being lost forever under the waters of Lake Nasser when the Aswan High Dam was completed in the late 1960’s. Gazing up at the four gargantuan Pharaohs carved into the mountain, and knowing that heaven and earth were moved to save it, was a touching and poignant experience.

“The Nile does not change. Indeed, I don’t know of another place in which everything changes as much and yet nothing is ever changed. You feel quite at home.” ( Henry Adams, 1898). Eternal Egypt - exciting, enriching - an experience whose memories will last forever.


A Magical Master’s Tour from the Riviera to Provence

by Barbara Barton Sloane

The light shimmers bright and golden on a cerulean sea. A soft, warm breeze stirs the palm trees and threatens to take my napkin off into the blue. I’m sitting at a terrace café on the Cote d’Azur, drinking a cappuccino and asking my friend Karen to pinch me to prove I’m not dreaming. Since the beginning of the 20th century, many of the world’s greatest artists have made this the birthplace of modern art. Painters have long celebrated the sensational light, the sensual climate, the diversity of the landscape and the beauty of the Mediterranean.

Both on the Riviera and in Provence, France was paying homage to Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and we saw important exhibits of Picasso’s work including some paintings never seen before. My group of five women had the lucky opportunity to view exhibits, studios and homes of Picasso, as well as those of Matisse and Cezanne – two painters that had a profound impact on the artist.

Southern France played an essential role in Picasso’s life and the soul of this great Spanish artist continues to be felt here, so we began our sojourn in Nice, a city that has inspired artists for centuries. In fact, it prompted Matisse, upon moving here to exclaim: “When I realized I would see this light every morning, I could not believe my good fortune and I decided to live here for the rest of my life.” Nice is elegant and trendy, cheerful and bustling, and when the sea spray meets the fragrance of the tall Aleppo pines, this town is downright bewitching!

We visited the Matisse Museum (, a Genovese-style villa filled with his masterpieces and personal possessions. After the museum, walking around the town, we experienced a deeper level of appreciation for Nice as we saw it now through the eyes of Matisse. Our hotel, the Beau Rivage ( just happens to be where Matisse himself lived till the end of his life. Sadly, my room there was not the one he occupied, but from my window the view of the sea and the special Nicoise light was exactly what the artist saw and that alone sufficed.

Next, we went to the Riviera town of Vence. There’s an Old Town of quirky houses showing the patina of time and a walk through its colorful market captivated us with the scent of delicious herbs and bouquets of lavender. Here we found the Villa Le Reve ( where Matisse lived and worked from 1943 to 1949. Today it’s a charming house that can be rented by groups of artists. After touring the studio, we descended upon the garden where a small group of Swedish women were attending to their easels on the vast sloping lawn, all the while taking their inspiration from the grand master. Matisse named this place The Dream, a name that is, quite literally, spot-on!

The enchanting Picasso Museum,( in the Grimaldi Castle lies amid the calm beauty of pine groves and is located in the town of Antibes. This is the first museum to be dedicated to the painter, and it is home to some 245 of his works. The exceptional exhibit includes his gay and lyrical work “La Joie de Vivre” – the joy of living – with flute playing fauns, dancing goats and a female nude modeled on his then love, Francoise Gilot. Our hotel, the Garden Beach Hotel, ( afforded us smashing views of the sea. Antibes has grand estates, dense vegetation and park-like settings. F. Scott Fitzgerald, staying here wrote: “We’ve found a splendid location – a big house, the seaside, and the casino is hardly 100 m. away.” Apparently the Fitzgeralds were enchanted by Antibes, as were we.

The town of Vallauris is where Picasso discovered the art of ceramics. From the summer of 1948 until 1955 when he left, he created 4,000 ceramic works. In the town square rests his iconic bronze “Man with a Sheep” which he gave to Vallauris in 1950 when he was made an honorary citizen. One of the artist’s most famous works “War & Peace,” his last great political composition, was installed in the 12th century chapel of the Vallauris chateau in 1959. It is a powerful work that takes the viewer from the horrors of war to peaceful times. Picasso depicts his belief that all is possible through peace with images of a boy plowing the sea, fish swimming in a bird cage, and birds happily existing in a fish tank. Through peace, all is possible.

Leaving the Riviera and driving to Provence, the landscape began to change dramatically, from exotic plants and palm trees to purple mountains and fields filled with yellow rape flowers. Aix-en-Provence has always been associated with water. Springs and fountains abound in squares and along streets lined with centuries-old plane and olive trees. This was once a Roman city, and it is thoroughly Mediterranean. Artists’ studios, artisan shops, restaurants, cafes and market stalls today make this ancient city modern and lively.

In Aix at the Granet Museum ( we viewed an exhibit which brought together a hundred works by Cezanne and Picasso and saw the significant influence Cezanne had on Picasso throughout his life. Of Cezanne, Picasso said “He was my one and only master.” I discvered first-hand how the paint colors Cezanne favored were used again and again in Picasso’s works. It was interesting to compare the artists’ works, and two in particular were most revealing: Cezanne’s “Man with a Pipe” and Picasso’s “The Smoker.” Picasso once said “I don’t paint what I see but what I feel.” In these two paintings one observes how Picasso, inspired by the Cezanne work, painted essentially the same subject but in abstract form. We also visited the Chateau Vauvenargues, which lies at the foot of the Sainte-Victoire Mountain, and is where Picasso worked and died. In this austere castle he now rests alongside his wife Jacqueline.

Picasso was deeply attracted to the city of Arles whose extravagant atmosphere, climate, and bullfights reminded him of his birthplace, Spain. The town is known as “the daughter of the South” and cultivates a way of life that cries out to be sampled – on terraces, in shaded alleyways or beneath trees in tiny village squares, and boasts seven UNESCO-ranked World Heritage monuments. We visited the Reattu Museum ( which has 57 drawings and two paintings by Picasso, including the charming “Portrait of Maria,” Picasso’s mother.

Our last stop: Les Baux, a pearl of Provence. The town is ranked as one of France’s most beautiful villages and is home to a most wondrous thing: the Cathedrale d’Images (www.cathedrale-d’,an audio-visual center carved out of a quarry featuring, until January 3, 2010, Picasso! You will gorge on his beguiling images shown 50 feet high on thousands of feet of rock face used as screens. The works appear in unrestrained profusion of colors, curves and shapes which swirl around you and are set to some great music, including Nino Rota’s haunting theme from The Godfather and his circus music from 8 ½. This is an immense retrospective from every period of the artist’s work and I believe it could be considered, truly, something new under the sun. It’s fabulous!

Picasso did not paint what he saw but what he felt. “We need to get to the bottom of the story,” he said “and see all the pictures underneath a picture. I have tried, by destructuring, to illustrate and help reveal the hidden picture.” On this magical romp through Picasso-Land, we felt what he felt and, as his feelings were revealed through his work, we gained a profound and lasting insight into his world.

If You Go:


By Barbara Barton Sloane

“We’ll always have Paris.” Those iconic words uttered by Bogart to Bergman in Casablanca so many years ago are just as true and meaningful today. Maybe even more so. You see, recently Bertrand Delanoe, the Mayor of Paris, has created something called Paris Tourist Day, meant to encourage Parisians to adopt a more cordial view of tourists. Launched two years ago – and acknowledging that an estimated two million jobs here are linked to tourism - this project looks to become a regular fixture. This lesson in Parisian etiquette includes the vow to take the time to give information to visitors and to attempt to reply to them in their own language. Merci!

A Cemetery Extraordinaire
On a recent visit to Paris, I came with a check list of all the “must-dos” that I hadn’t done in the past. At the top of this list my first day in town was to visit a cemetery. No, not just any cemetery - the Pere Lachaise Cemetery with its starry lineup of illustrious corpses - indeed the celebrity resting place in Paris. Hopping on the Metro to the far reaches of Belleville in the northeast part of the city, I visited the graves of old-timers such as Delecroix, Proust and Bizet, as well as the more recent dearly departed Jim Morrison, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. Opened since the 1790s, Pere Lachaise was designed as a public park and still today is a green and pleasant, albeit somewhat somber place to wander. With the help of a map supplied upon entering, one can check out the sites of almost anyone French, talented and dead. They’re all here.

Bubbles in a Glass of Champagne
That evening, local friends, knowing my love for glamour, luxe and the great American songbook, suggested we visit the very elegant Georges V Hotel ( An acquaintance of theirs, Flavien Compagnon, sings and plays piano in the Georges V cocktail lounge, and, turns out, the entertainer’s love of Cole Porter and George Gershwin matched mine exactly. Sitting on a burgundy velvet banquet, sipping some bubbly, the room low-lit by crystal chandeliers and fragrant votives, and with floor to ceiling windows giving onto a perfect formal garden in the distance, it was a pinch-me moment. My companions gladly obliged.

Twinkle, Twinkle Eiffel Tower
Departing this grand hotel, my friends had a perfect nightcap idea to end the evening: a visit to La Tour Eiffel. We timed it just right. Moments after we arrived at this most iconic symbol of Paris, the Tower began to do its thing - The Great Eiffel Tower Light-Up! Back on New Year’s Eve 1999 to mark the new millennium, 20,000 light bulbs were added to the tower and illuminated. And because we all like things that sparkle, the tower continues to be lit up every night for 10 minutes. We watched as this grand structure came alive, twinkling and dancing before our eyes! The Eiffel Tower, symbolic and special, became something magical to behold. Ever since its appearance on the Parisian skyline in 1889, the Eiffel Tower has drawn both criticism and praise aplenty. Guy de Maupassant called it a giant and disgraceful skeleton while Paul Gaugin hailed it as a “triumph of iron.” I second old Paul’s sentiment. What a kick-off to my first day in Paris! Bonne Nuit.

Going In Seine
Another day I took a Bateaux Mouches cruise on the Seine at twilight when the sky was pale mauve turning to shell pink. The lights were coming up all over the city, and each monument was bathed in its own special glow. No matter how many times you take this lazy meander down the Seine, slipping silently under Paris’ 37 bridges, gazing up at the Notre Dame Cathedral and gawking at the stately, exclusive residences on the Ile St. Louis, it never fails to thrill.

Yes You Can Can
What is a trip to Paris without visiting the neighborhood of Montmartre and experiencing the touristy but oh so fun show at the Moulin Rouge? This world-famous nightclub opened its doors in 1889, and the show that I saw was not dissimilar from what I might see in Las Vegas with one delightful exception: this is, after all, the place where the French Cancan was born over a hundred years ago, and today the Cancan dance still ends each show. I can report that the, er, end is quite saucy and tres French. The 60 Doriss girls sure Can! Leaving Moulin Rouge and looking forward to some quiet and calm, I retired to my hotel, the innovative Hotel Jules (, a touch of grace in an otherwise frenetic part of town. A homey, timeless ambience was what I was seeking. I found it here.

Field of Dreams
The Champs Elysees remains a symbolic gathering place, from July 14 Bastille Day celebrations to New Year’s Eve displays – not to mention the joy of sitting at one of its sidewalk cafes, aperitif in hand, simply people watching. I stayed around the corner from the Champs at the Hotel Marignan (, a peaceful haven in the heart of this bustling business and fashion center. This property has a cozy, intimate feel, with an added plus: Alain Ducasse’s Restaurant Spoon is on the hotel’s site, serving a light and inspired menu from all corners of the globe.

One of the coolest and most colorful neighborhoods is Montparnasse with its good-time feel which recalls the area’s artistic heyday of the 1920s and 30s. Bars, restaurants and cinemas abound and it was here on August 25, 1944 that the German forces surrendered Paris. My stay in this environ was made all the more pleasant by checking into Hotel Le Littre ( Consisting of just 90 guest rooms with views of either the charming rue Littre or their quiet courtyard, Le Littre is equipped with all the up-to-date features you’ll need to be totally comfortable.

All too soon, it was time to say Au Revoir. Translation: “Till we meet again.” I feel confident that’s gonna happen. After all, I’ll always have Paris!

Paris 411

If you’re planning to go, be in the know! The most complete Paris Guide: TimeOut Paris. ( It helps you find all the best spots in Paris – restaurants, landmarks and places only the locals know about. It’s essential!


The Scoop On What The Stylish Are Splurging On Right Now

by Barbara Barton Sloane

This Fall, runways erupted in luxe layering, opulent textures and shiny, sculptural designs. A favorite of the social set, Raul Melgoza of Luca Luca is honing his point of view. “Feminine in look, strong in character” is how he has described his image and for Fall he’s stayed with an understated palette, charcoal and burgundy, with touches of jewel-tone teal from time to time. Melgoza offers up a refined collection with luxurious embellishments and – a first for the designer – fur. One wool-knit vest, shown as a belted dress was layered totally in fox. His collection’s emphasis though, was on suiting with the flat-front silk-wool pants that opened the show being one of the exciting options, worn with a shiny, granite-colored, hip hugging jacket and encircled with a black fur shawl collar. The designer downplayed the glitz and glitter allowing the opulent setting of the Plaza’s Palm Court to make up for that.

Rufus Wainwright was on one side of the aisle, Mischa Barton on the other, but once the lights went down at Miss Sixty’s show, all eyes were on the models stomping down the catwalk in one street-sweet getup after another. Skinny acid-washed jeans, patterned tights, graphic tops and shiny jumpsuits illuminated the looks. One sculptural, cheetah-patterned suit had perky, pointed shoulders, a wide, thrice-closed black cummerbund, the pants streamlined and worn inside short ankle boots.

Elie Tahari couldn’t help bringing a little fun to his creations, and so for Fall, even a sober tweed jacket and skinny black knit pants were finished off with an embellished obi belt for a hint of shine. Continuing the animal-print theme, Tahari showed a trim burgundy top and skirt encircled with a wide, patterned belt and topped with a short leopard print coat. You might be headed to the office, the look said, but that doesn’t mean you have to be glum.

At Ralph Lauren, the show opened with a little black dress but he soon moved into taupe-y tweed suiting, soft pastel knits and rich velvet dresses. Along the way he showcased his great-looking outerwear while referencing such treasured motifs as haberdashery, the equestrian world, and a spot of Anglophilia for good measure. Lauren made a point of showing plenty of cozy coats and jackets. One of the highlights, a toast colored, fitted jacket glammed up with sumptuous Mongolian lamb, was paired with Jodhpur pants tucked into sleek brown leather boots. The look fairly glowed and, for 15 minutes at least, Lauren had you believing that everything is going to be just fine.

Donna Karen may not have invented uniform dressing in the eighties but she went a very long way toward making the idea a sexy one. In these financially troubled times, she’s now brought the clever, potentially budget-saving concept back for Fall, resulting in one of her strongest looking collections in years. It starts with a jacket or draped jersey top with major sculptured shoulders and a wrapped or belted waist. It ends with either a long, lean skirt or tapered trousers. That powerful, triangular silhouette cruised down the runway in all sorts of arrangements, and a favorite was a coffee-colored, floppy shawl-collar jacket, tightly belted in brown leather, paired with an espresso-hued pencil skirt ending just at the knee. This look was ready to be pulled apart and reconfigured with any number of different pieces. Karen’s design has been battle-tested not only for sex appeal but also for ease. Now that’s a uniform we’d all like to slip into.

Since Phoebe Philo departed, which is a rather long time ago, Chloe has been struggling to get its mojo back. Hannah MacGibbon is now at the desk and after a rather rushed debut last season, she’s now showing signs of getting a grip. She has offered up for Fall a soft version of the early eighties, all high-waisted, fluid pants, wrapped belts and big blanket coats, a much-needed dose of the easy glamour Chloe was once known for. MacGibbon’s green velvet pants cuffed with crystal hit a nice casual note for the girls who have the confidence to walk into a party in flats (albeit very special ones). Sauntering down the runway was a model in a slouchy, soft, sand-colored jumpsuit, harem legs stuffed inside ankle boots, a self-belt tied at the waist and long sleeves worn unbuttoned. The designer was hitting a spot that evoked something of Saint Laurent and generally this show put Chloe back on firm footing, just like the old days.

From the first look out, a taupe suede trench coat worn with a big fur stole, it was evident that Derek Lam would be giving the ladies what they wanted. With superluxe versions of the sportswear that his girls know and love him for, Lam touched on more than a few of what has shaped up to be Fall’s key items, including skinny black leather trousers, an oversized tuxedo jacket, and draped, wrapped jersey dresses. Giving the long sweater and tights a super cool, modern twist, Lam scored with a dove gray knit, mock-turtle top and below, super tight pants in a slightly paler shade of the same color palette, polishing it off with the knees done up in shiny satin for a little sixties spin.

A full squadron of female flying aces took off at Hermes. Soundtracks from Casablanca and propellers turning in the background accompanied the models just in case some dullard in the house didn’t quickly get the meaning of the Amelia Earhart headgear and bomber jackets. An adorable gal in a russet leather suit, again fur-collared and belted, continued the flight theme, wearing an insouciant aviator cap topped with goggles. With this show, Jean Paul Gautier winged it with aplomb. It’s a season for leather, after all, and since Hermes is the ultimate venue for luxurious skins, the conceit gave full vent to the house expertise.

Overall, Fall 2009 has a somewhat forties mood floating around. Styling is at its furthest distance from seasonal trendiness. That’s especially the case in an era when even the very rich are hunkering down and extremely costly purchases should come with a lifetime guarantee of utility.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Always Turned On!
By Barbara Barton Sloane

Known for fun, Atlantic City is a relative bargain get-away at this challenging financial time. Of course, visitors still come primarily to gamble, but today Atlantic City offers a growing number of options for a get-away, whether it’s relaxation you seek, great dining, or shopping its sprawling retail outlets.

Miss America’s Gone but So What?
Calling itself “The city that’s always turned on,” Atlantic City definitely lives up to this claim. From New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse to deep sea fishing and everything in between, this place is full of fun things to do. On a recent visit, I chose to spend my weekend quietly relaxing at two of the city’s premier spas, The Water Club at the Borgata Hotel and the Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Atlantic City.

Roman Splendor
The Qua Spa, which opened a year ago and is modeled after the famous Qua Spa in Las Vegas, offers an alluring and artful oasis guided by the healing and calming powers of water. Here I found lavish Roman Baths, beautifully appointed rooms and a range of treatments from Chakra Balancing, Crystal Body Art and a beguiling treatment called Dieci Mani, which means “ten hands” and features the touch of five therapists. Opting for something slightly more intime, I went for the Chakra Balancing treatment. Everyone needs their chakras balanced sooner or later, right? That evening I enjoyed Asian Fusion at the Buddakan Restaurant where both the food and the décor are authentic and inspired. (

Sybaritic Pleasures
The next day I wandered over to the Water Club at the Borgata Hotel. This is the city’s first boutique/lifestyle hotel, and offers a distinctive cosmopolitan setting while just steps away from entertainment, nightlife, gambling and dining at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Checking out the Immersion Spa, grand at 36,000 square feet, I was welcomed into a soothing world as I passed through a river rock archway with cascading water, lush indoor greenery and an interior of slate, green marble, stone and glass. I took a plunge in its 80 foot long, two lane infinity-edge lap pool and then rested on a lounge by floor- to- 42 foot ceiling windows. For romantic interludes, Immersion offers a Japanese-style room with Hanoki soaking tubs and ensemble massages. I tried the funky-sounding soft-pack flotation device table and I must say that my body treatment on this watery platform was enhanced by a feeling of literally floating away. That evening I had dinner at Bobby Flay Steak, a restaurant at the Bogata. I had the Surf & Turf Skewers (lobster and steak), sweet potato soup with smoked chilies and baked Alaska for dessert. Friends, haute cuisine has come to Atlantic City. (

The Fab Four Are Back!
The Beatles “Live” Tour opened here in 2007 at the Tropicana Casino and Hotel’s Liverpool Club. Called “The British are Coming!” this clever production depicts the Beatles “Live” US performances, beginning with their unforgettable appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show through their historic Shea Stadium concert. This is a show the whole family will enjoy

Summer Shows
On June 4, Harrah’s Resort Hotel & Casino is hosting a beauty pageant slightly different from the Bert Parks’ kind. It’s the Ms. New Jersey Senior America Pageant in which fifteen elegant ladies, 60 years and
older, will compete for the coveted title of Ms. New Jersey Senior America
( John Edward, famed for channeling those who have gone up, up and away….appears at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino on June 9 ( .The ageless Tony Bennett enchants one and all at Caesars Atlantic City on July 10 & 11 ( Jimmy Buffett will continue looking for his lost shaker of salt on August 23 at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall ( and, as a fitting end to summer, on September 13-17, Trini Lopez (yes, he’s still alive) appears at the Hilton Casino Resort ( Lots to do, lots to see. It’s Atlantic City and its better than ever.

If You Go:

Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Bureau


Boston: A Five-Star Get-Away

by Barbara Barton Sloane

If you’re suffering from lingering cabin fever, a sure-fire cure awaits. Boston is one of America’s favorite cities and an appealing get-away just a few hours drive away. This town is distinguished by its 21 vibrant neighborhoods where pride and cultures from all over the world are celebrated and cherished, making it truly world-class. In Boston’s Downtown Crossing neighborhood, you’ll find great shopping with all of the top department stores represented. In the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, there are over 40 push cart eateries and 17 restaurants. Newbury Street offers world-renowned shopping in some of Boston’s most chic and fashionable stores. The Prudential Center is a glamorous, sky-high mall with an endless array of restaurants, shops and more.

America’s Walking City – Freedom Trail
One of America’s first walking tours, The Freedom Trail is a perfect introduction to Colonial Revolutionary Boston. The Trail takes you to 16 historical sites in the course of two or three hours and covers two and a half centuries of America’s most significant past. There’s also a Boston Harbor Walk, a Walk to the Sea and a North End (Italian restaurants! Yum!) Walk.

If you prefer to do your walking indoors, Boston is Museum City with art from Ancient Egyptian to Contemporary. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is modeled after a 15th century Venetian palazzo surrounding an interior courtyard garden, and housing one of the most remarkable art collections in the world, including works by Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, Degas and Sergeant. The Historic New England Museum is the oldest, largest and most comprehensive regional preservation organization in the country. The Museum of Fine Arts has ground-breaking exhibits, and has one of the world’s largest Asian art collections

What’s Going On
The Transatlantic Volvo Ocean Challenge Race will berth in Boston for 10 days, April 27-May 16, 2009, and will offer visitors a spectacular international dockside “village” at Faneuil Pier. The Tall Ships Sail, July 8-13, 2009, is one of America’s Top 100 events. The tall ship the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle will lead the Parade of Sails on Wednesday, July 8, and other tall ships from all over the world will participate in this event.

Bedding Down in Bean Town

Boston overflows with top-of-the-line luxury hotels. The Liberty is just a year old and your stay here will be a comfortable and singular experience, to say the least. You see, The Liberty was, in its former life, the storied Charles Street Jail. It’s been converted into a 300 room luxury hotel located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Dining at this hotel is quite special, as one of the 3 on-site restaurants is The Clink where bars have been left on the walls. This will hopefully be the closest you’ll ever come to dining in a jail. The food is good and the atmosphere is unique. (

For an intimate and very inviting sanctuary, there’s none better than The Four Seasons Hotel Boston. Situated just opposite the Public Garden and historic Beacon Hill, it is the only New England hotel to be the recipient of both the Mobil Five-Star Award and the AAA Five Diamond Award. The hotel continues to rank in Zagat Survey as No.1 in Boston, and one of the top 50 US hotels. Its Restaurant Aujourd’hui is one of only two AAA Five Diamond restaurants in Massachusetts and dining here is a truly five-star experience. Walking through its high glass doors and entering the sleek new black granite lobby, you just know you’ve found a luxurious and restorative retreat. (

On a recent trip to Boston, I also visited the modernist 60-room Fifteen Beacon Hotel located, naturally, on Beacon Hill. The artwork throughout the hotel includes works by some of the country’s most renowned artists, and each room is individually designed so that no two rooms are alike. A fine feature: the building’s original cage elevator and its cast-brass railing dominate the hotel’s lobby and provide guests with a taste of “Old Boston.” The lobby’s walls are mahogany and sitting besides its cozy fireplace radiates a very warm welcome, indeed. Fifteen Beacon’s restaurant is called Moo and is a modern steakhouse. (

Boston has much to offer if you have children in tow. There’s the Boston Children’s Museum with something to keep kids of every age interested and engaged. For small tots, they have a Play with Clay and Messy Activity programs, for older ones, Music and Movement and Orgami making. The Museum of Science offers, for kids grades 1-6, an Overnight Program with interactive activities, a Theatre of Electricity and a Lightening Show.

Renowned for culture, world-class educational institutions, and championship sports as well as enjoying its place at the very forefront of American history, Boston can accommodate and entertain you as few other cities can! (


There’s a Reason it’s called The Wild West

by Barbara Barton Sloane

Hang on to your Stetson, Pardner! Get ready for excitement, tension and exceptional drama. There’s a rootin’, tootin’, rip-roaring, down-and-dusty rodeo that takes place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada every July - the famous Calgary Stampede known as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth - and yep, it’s happening again – July 3-12, ten days of bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, saddle broc riding, tie-down roping and more fun than should be legally allowed! Calgary, located in the heart of the Canadian West, one hour from Banff and the Rocky Mountains, is a vibrant, bustling city of over one million inhabitants and the proud host of the Calgary Stampede since 1912.

How the West Was Once
Because of the unique origin of rodeo, it has a fascinating history. From the vaqueros to the American cowboy, rodeo history is filled with interesting characters and a multi-cultural mix of customs and practices. At the heart of rodeo, however, is a sport which arose out of cattle herding and was based on the skills required of working ranch hands. A highlight of the Calgary Stampede and one of the most exciting events unique to this rodeo – Chuck Wagon Racing. It is nothing short of heart-stopping! Also, the Stampede’s bucking stock is a rare and highly respected breed; their bulls are a hard-hitting, no-nonsense bunch that challenge the best cowboys in the world.

I had the fun-filled pleasure of attending the Calgary Stampede last year. It was the most memorable western experience I could ever have wished for. A ten-day citywide celebration welcomed over 1.5 million visitors and more than 2 million are expected to attend this July. .

The moment I de-planed, I just knew that this experience was going to be something really special. The airport was filled with happy, partying people and live, loud, good western music with songs like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and that perennial Hank Williams’ favorite, “There’s a Tear in my Beer.”

Cowboy Gear Par Exellence
Before the Stampede kicked off, my colleagues and I had the chance to visit a couple of true Calgary institutions. Smithbilt Hats is a company that’s been around since 1919. They are the only full line hat manufacturer in Western Canada and their hats, made of felt, wool, fur and beaver are sheer works of art. Bryce Nimmo, president of the company, allowed our group to try on some spectacular styles. It was fascinating to see what a simple piece of felt goes through to become a cool Smithbilt cowboy hat, selling for up to $1,000!

On to the Alberta Boot Company. Tim Gerwing, the General Manager, explained that for 30 years this company has outfitted royalty, movie stars, the Royal Canadian Mounties and ordinary people from all over the world who are smitten with the Wild West. Several of our group were fitted for their very own pair of custom cowboy boots which, considering the way they’re made, will probably last forever.

We lunched at the colorful restaurant Buzzards Cowboy Cuisine. A live band was playing “I’m a Good-Hearted Woman in Love with a Good-Timin’ Man” which set the mood for a party. Here, steaks and burgers rule as does their authentic Buckaroo BBQ Buffet. They also serve a most exotic dish, a little deep-fried part of our friend, the bull. I won’t describe it here, just suffice it to say I did not try the dish, but if you’re at Buzzards and curious, hey, you’re braver than I!

Early morning of the next day, we began our adventure at Rope Square, where hundreds had already gathered to line dance, enjoy the flap jack flip and play a traditional game called the “Hat Stomp”. You can probably imagine what this involves. Oh well. Retrieving our flattened and dusty cowboy hats, we hit the Stampede Midway at the fairgrounds. This place has enough to impress even the biggest thrill seekers, from hair-raising rides to challenging games, live music, agriculture shows and hundreds of shopping and food experiences - something here for the whole family.

The Wow Factor
Soon, the reason we were here – the rodeo! We witnessed amazing events: bronc riders exploding out of their chutes and being shaken like Margaritas in a blender, calf roping done in seconds and with no harm to the animal, and bulls roaring into the arena, their riders twisting, turning, flipping sky high and trying to stay on for the required 8 seconds. Eight short seconds, piece of cake, right? Not if you’re on a flinging, jumping 2,000 pound crazed creature who wants nothing more than to get you off his back! But stay on and ride the bulls the cowboys did, and with élan and class.

Grandstand Show Spectacular
As the sun set, magic filled the night and the 90 minute outdoor musical extravaganza began. It was nonstop entertainment by internationally acclaimed guest artists (this year Kenny Chesney will perform) at once dazzling and explosive, as the show concluded with an amazing award-winning fireworks finale! It was fitting end to a spectacular event. So, all you cowboy and cowgirl wanna-bes, pull on some boots, put on a Stetson and come on up! The Calgary Stampede is sure to transport you from the world as you now know it!

If You Go:
Calgary Stampede Ticket Information (
Buzzards Cowboy Cuisine (
Murrieta’s Bar & Grill (
Heritage Park - Canada’s largest living historical village (
Hotel Arts – Home of Calgary’s best martini, “The Derelict”, (
Brewster’s Kananaskis Guest Ranch (
White Water Rafting (
Calgary Olympic Park – for the fastest zipline in the world (
Tourism Calgary (
Travel Alberta Canada (

Saturday, February 28, 2009


by Barbara Barton Sloane

Keeping with Diane von Furstenberg's theme, “Rock Goddess,” her spring collection featured many “frock stars.” The mood was breezy and in a nod to the seventies, the models wore flowers and feathers in their loose hair, plissé gowns, short tunics, safari dresses and denim flares. There were prints that pop and a particularly eye-popping number was an orange, ethnic-inspired print dress which fell just above the knee with sheer, billowy sleeves and a v-neck created in filmy chiffon, a look that has become a DVF signature. Most pieces were boldly colored, some trimmed with crystals and beads. And should von Furstenberg’s hippie chick long for a touch of elegance – a subject with which the designer is on intimate terms – there was a gold jacket and tuxedo shorts. Glammed up at this rather dour economic time, the overall effect was one of unbridled optimism, something we can use right about now and if it comes in the form of a floaty, flirty dress, so much the better.

The boys – Badgley and Mischka – have been together for 20 years, and this spring they’re opening their first store on – where else – Madison Avenue. A celebratory time for the duo, and their spring collection is, indeed, something to celebrate! Ever looking forward, the look for spring is a pared down lineup of styles with a modern twist. Lightweight is the word here – “everything weighs ounces,” Mischka tells us. Satin, gazar, and without the jewel encrusted surfaces of late. A model with a lighter-than-air, cream lace number floated down the runway, the dress accented with a matching cap-sleeved coat evoking an ethereal theme. “We’ve just sprinkled fairy dust,” Badgley said of this collection. They have, indeed.

Printastic! Nicole Miller indulged her love of prints, and for spring it’s mosaic patterns. When it comes to global inspirations, Miller is a frequent-flyer. On a trip to Haiti, Voodoo caught her attention and has inspired the spring collection. One exuberant print even featured rows of Voodoo dolls. Evoking the exotic, Miller sent down the catwalk a super cool frock, celery in hue and with a graphic print pattern that popped. Keeping the looks balanced, however, Miller grounded the magical with the practical showing men’s wear inspired pieces – boyish blazers and cropped slouchy trousers. Overall this tomboyish inflection gave Miller’s spring collection a happy, “up” feel.

Other designers' collections for spring may have a “batten down the hatches” feel. Not so for Carolina Herrera, whose customers have recession-proof portfolios. And if they don’t? Well, you can be sure they’re not going to let
it show. Her color palette paired hot persimmon with hibiscus, tweed trimmed teal faille, and in true Herrera fashion, black and white continued to play a starring role. Fresh and fabulous was a black pencil skirt ending just above the knee paired with a sweet white crepe shirt, big black and white flowers cascading down the front. Scaling back embellishments, here spring is about the ruffle. Herrera has always featured skirtsuits but this season we see short jackets with trousers cut cigarette-style and ending several inches above the ankle, a la the toreador. Pretty party dresses in unstructured chiffon gave the look of sexy lingerie and fit the bill for spring’s dinners, galas and art openings.

The first frock making its way down the runway at Blumarine was a nude draped halter dress with a demure ruffled neckline which suggested this might be a spring collection differently inspired. Continuing the nude color palette, Molinari showed crisp beige cropped trousers with matching top and bright blue cumberbund cinching the waist. But Anna Molinari is a gal who never met a sequin she didn’t like and after that spare introduction, it was back to her familiar embellishments. Beads and yes, sequins made an appearance on pretty, feminine cardigans, as well as on waistlines of pants and necklines of tops. Draped mini dresses and gowns of tulle were a refreshing respite after so much glitz.

On Dennis Basso’s mind this season was clearly East Coast blueblood weekends. Southampton, Nantucket, you get the picture, with patio and terrace dressing, as he explained before the start of the show. Perfect for a Parrish Museum opening was his flirty, tobacco colored satin skirt with a large gay flounce at the bottom topped with a white shirt worn casually open at the neck. Striking just the right air of insouciance, i.e. “I’ve got it but I’m not really flaunting it!” How do you work one’s signature fashion – furs - into cool evenings lounging in a wicker chair on a patio? Basso has somehow managed that, keeping his furs light, breezy and somehow seeming right even on a Nantucket evening in June. Broadtail boleros worn over filmy garden print chiffon frocks somehow struck the right note.

Down came last season’s gold antlers and up went a Moroccan lamp. North Africa has inspired Ralph Lauren for spring, bringing to mind Yves Saint Laurent. However, Lauren has been creating now for more than 40 years and has taken inspirations from every continent but Antarctica, so if the Moroccan theme was a tasteful, respectful nod in the late Parisian designer’s direction, it was still a fresh look at some of Lauren’s past biggest hits. We saw inspired takes on the silk-satin slouchy silhouette, bronze or white linen suits worn with matching shirts, and great, swaggering trenches in buttery leather and parachute silk. Soft dressing for spring/summer was rendered beautifully in a clean and easy outfit of white linen, harem-cut pants worn with white shirt and jacket and polished off with a wide brown leather belt worn loose and low. Kicking up the glamour, Ubah Hassan, a model from Somalia, resplendent in a gold lame column gown and beaded headdress, closed the show. Kudos to Lauren for addressing the diversity issue on the runways, and for a collection well done.

Dsquared 2 revisited Charlie’s Angels. Using Esther Canadas, Fernanda Tavares and Nadege to play Jill, Kelly and Sabrina, the trio strutted out in long brown jersey dresses accented with topaz stones to stunned applause. However, Dan and Dean Caten resisted the urge to go kitsch and instead they focused on sportswear, the all-American kind that they excel at, keeping with the seventies’influence. Two of the strongest looks – a long, lean three-piece suit in Bianca Jagger white and a filmy strapless gown with ruffles at bust and hem. In a decidedly Angel Jill outfit, a model sauntered down the runway wearing trousers in a pale toast color, the jacket denim, of course, and embellished with a bounty of buttons a la Sergeant Pepper. There were several cutout swimsuits with gold chain details, but happily the show didn’t feel peep-showish as it has sometimes in the past. Altogether, it was one of Dsquared 2’s most wearable collections in seasons.

This season, designers put basic black and stark white on the back burner, favoring, instead, vibrant hues, fresh florals and crisp, ethnic prints – the essential looks of Spring and Summer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


by Barbara Barton Sloane

It is one of the most beloved and visited of New York City’s landmarks. Let me introduce you to the very grand Grand Central Terminal. Most people refer to this Beaux-Arts beauty as Grand Central Station but it’s actually a Terminal because this is where train lines originate and terminate. And, lest we all forget, this iconic structure is not just a tourist attraction – it’s one of the world’s busiest train stations and a landmark with a complex that has become a community in itself.

Going back to the terminal’s beginnings, in 1869 shipping magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, owner of the Hudson River Railroad and the New York Central Railroad, purchased the property between 42nd and 48th Streets and between Lexington Avenue and Madison Avenue for construction of a train depot and rail yard. On this site rose the first Grand Central.

Designed by architect John B. Snook, the depot was built at a cost of $6.4 Million and officially opened in 1871. There was further expansion to the building in 1898 and 1900, and the reconfigured depot was reborn as Grand Central. The updated station featured a classical façade, a 16,000 square foot waiting room and distinctive ornamentation, including monumental cast iron eagles with wingspans of 13 feet. One of these eagles was salvaged, and today rises again above the terminal’s entrance on 43rd Street and Lexington Avenue.

This original station was demolished at the turn of the century due to noise, pollution and safety issues, culminating in a catastrophic train collision on June 8, 1902 which killed 17 and injured 38. There was a public outcry for electronic trains and expansion of Grand Central which would ultimately cost $80 Million ($2 Billion in today’s terms). For this new building venture, a select group of architects were invited to submit designs in a competition. The winning submission was from the St. Paul firm of Reed & Stern in collaboration with the New York firm of Warren & Wetmore.

Construction would last 10 years. Excavation was an enormous undertaking as the grade of the rail yard was lowered to a depth of 30 feet below street level. Yet, in spite of the upheaval, rail service continued uninterrupted and Grand Central Terminal officially opened to great fanfare on February 2, 1913 and more than 150,000 people visited on its opening day. Grand Central was now the busiest train station in the country with a bustling suburban concourse on the lower level and famous long distance trains like the Fast Mail, the Wolverine and the 20th Century Limited departing from its main concourse This was a very glamorous time for train travel and one that is depicted in many movies during this period. In 1947, over 65 million people, the equivalent of 40% of the population of the U.S., traveled the rails via Grand Central Terminal!

But the Terminal was about to fall victim to the same forces that originally enabled its construction. By the early 1950s, as post-war America transformed itself into a nation of suburbs and automobiles, revenues from long distance rail travel were plummeting. At the same time, the value of prime midtown Manhattan real estate had risen dramatically and in 1954, the railroad commissioned plans to demolish Grand Central Terminal and replace it with a 6 million square foot office tower.

Nothing came of this plan but in 1963, the 59 story Pan Am Building (now Met Life), went up at the rear of the terminal, sealing off Park Avenue and completely obscuring the view of the terminal from uptown. At the same time, the interior of the terminal was being parceled out for billboards and advertising in an effort to increase revenues. As many can recall, there was, during this time, a gigantic Kodak billboard hanging on the eastern wall of the Great Hall, all but obliterating the dramatic arched windows with their thousands of glass panes and the soft rays of light which illuminate the Main Concourse. This was not Grand Central’s finest hour.

In 1967, the recently established Landmarks Preservation Commission, formed in response to the demolition of glorious Pennsylvania Station, designated Grand Central Terminal as a landmark, thus protecting it by law. Still, plans to significantly change or alter the interior, to demolish the façade, and to build a 55 story tower above the terminal persisted, but over a litigious ten year period, the Landmarks Commission, with the not insignificant help of one Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, thwarted all changes.

In December, 1976, the National Register of Historic Places named Grand Central Terminal a National Historic Landmark, sparing it from the wrecking ball. However, Grand Central was far from saved. After decades of deferred maintenance, the building was crumbling. In 1983, Metro-North took over the operation of the terminal and soon after began a systematic program of repairs and improvements. In 1988, a revitalization plan was undertaken as well as a retail plan to address amenities and services. In April, 1990, a $425 Million master plan for Grand Central Terminal was implemented and construction began in 1996 with the cleaning of the Main Concourse and the Sky Ceiling. A few years later, with the final scaffolding dismantled and the last construction crew departed, this venerable New York City landmark embarked on a new chapter of its history. Now completely restored with pedestrian circulation overhauled, climate controls added, 100 shops and restaurants and a fresh food and produce marketplace, Grand Central Terminal is once again New York City’s premier meeting, shopping, dining and transportation hub.

A few interesting facts throughout Grand Central’s history:

• In 1923, John W. Campbell rented a spare room in the terminal as a pied a terre and had it decorated to recall the interior of a 13th century Florentine palace. Today, The Campbell Apartment is a luxurious, intimate cocktail lounge popular with commuters, tourists and New Yorkers alike. In this same year, the Grand Central Art Gallery opened on the 6th floor of the terminal, and in 1937, the Grand Central Theatre, a 242 seat movie house, opened.
• The floor of the Main Concourse measures 200 feet by 120 feet and the vaulted Sky Ceiling mural is 120 feet above the Main Concourse floor.
• The sculpture group above the main entrance is entitled “Transportation”, stands 50 feet tall and 60 feet wide and weighs 1500 tons. It depicts Mercury, Minerva and Hercules and was created by Jules Couton. The structure sits upon a monumental clock with a diameter of 13 feet.
• Every day 700,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal, which is the population of Alaska!
• It is the second most visited site in NYC after Times Square. 200,000 people visit it every day.
• The retail space in the Terminal garners half a billion dollars a year for goods and services, and every day 10,000 people lunch here.
• The clock above the information booth has been valued at between $10 to $20 Million. Every face of the four-faced clock is made out of one solid piece of precious opal.

When you visit Grand Central Terminal, be sure to stop by the New York Transit Museum. Here you’ll find the history of New York City’s mass transit system in displays and photographs. You can pick up gifts and memorabilia. Maps too. Grand Central Terminal, as ever, continues to help us on our way!

Tours of Grand Central
Wednesdays at 12:30 pm
The Municipal Arts Society sponsors a tour every Wednesday at 12:30 pm. Meet the tour guide at the center information booth on the Main Concourse. There is a suggested donation of $10 per person.. For information call 212-935-3960

Fridays at 12:30 pm
The Grand Central Partnership sponsors a free, 90 minute walking tour of Grand Central Terminal and the surrounding neighborhood. The tour meets in the Sculpture Court of the Whitney Museum on East 42nd Street across from Grand Central. For information call 212-883-2420 or visit