Saturday, December 9, 2006

Daniel Deronda

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There's something to be said for the BBC. When they take a novel and do an adaptation, they don't insist upon squeezing it into a 2 hour film. This 4 part adaptation of the George Eliot novel of the same name was so good that my dentist couldn't resist watching while he was supposed to be working on my teeth!

I wont give away the story - that would be rude. If you enjoy a good period piece add it to your Blockbuster or Netflix queue!

Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

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Tonight I had the pleasure of spending some time with Leonard Cohen. He's earned his title of "Man with the golden voice". He's quite a card, and yet not full of himself. I'd seen other films, documentaries on Leonard, and there were very few minutes of repeats in this film.
Part of what makes it so enjoyable is others singing his songs. Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Bono, Anthony, The Wainwrights, and Jarvis Cocker - to name a few. If you can watch/listen to this and not get chills at some point your soul has already died. It's funny, interesting, beautiful, odd.
No link this time. Add it to your Blockbuster or Netflix queue.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville North Carolina

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Go here. Definitely. Take a day, or better, take two. The house and surrounding shops are worthy of a whole day. The gardens and surrounding areas area worthy of a day, too. They have an inn, a winery, and other odds and ends to keep you engaged for a couple of days, easy. Asheville is beautiful on it's own.

The drive itself is awe-inspiring, rather than tedious. Face it, nobody wants to drive around in some of the other vacation desitnations in our Country. Who wants to drive around the surrounding areas of DisneyLand or DisneyWorld? Not I. When it's the Biltmore Estate getting there is fun.The House is fabulous inside and out.

There is so much to see, you have to work hard to see it all in one day. It's just grand. What other way can you describe places like The Biltmore, Versailles, Stan Hywet, etc? It's awesome to stand in the big old library and see how many books they had. We would love to have a library like that at our house!

Go, explore, have fun, create memories. I wont bore you with all they have to offer.

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, Akron Ohio

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Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens have been one of those awesome mysterious places to me since I was a little girl. We used to go there on school field trips. The girls especially loved going into the gift shop and determining how many trinkets we could get with our couple of dollars.

The Sieberlings built Stan Hywet (Old English for "Stone quarry) in the early 1900s.The Sieberlings founded the Goodyear Tire & Rubber company and built this lovely country estate with their rubber money. It's not as big as the Biltmore Estate, but its every bit as grand.

Last I knew there was still one lady, a descendant of the Seiberlings, living in the gate house. Want to know what's even more interesting about the gate house at Stan Hywet Hall? It was the place where Alcoholics Anonymous got it's start.

If you're ever in Northeast Ohio, check out the Hall and Gardens. Take your camera, it makes for a lovely backdrop.

Miss Molly's Tea Room in Medina, Ohio

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Miss Molly's Tea Room and Gift Shop in Medina, Ohio is a quaint place for mothers and daughters and favorite dollies. It's for Red Hatters and a day out with the girls. It's for going alone and observing. If you have a truly romantic husband, it's for couples.

Sometimes you'll get a great waitress like Michelle, other times you're waitress will be more of a character than a waitress. They're always nice, and the food is always interesting and good, so you can't go wrong.

The lovely attached gift shop is worth the trip all by itself. As a matter of fact, I know many people who have shopped in the gift shop many times, but never had lunch at Miss Molly's. Lunch at Miss Molly's is a treat. I'm not sure how many varieties of loose tea they have, but the list is a full front and back of a menu long, so my guess is somewhere around 50 varieties of loose tea, along with a few varieties of tea bags, gourmet coffees and cocoas, iced tea, lemonade, and the typical soft drink fare.

Miss Molly's will even open up special just for your group of 25 or more. Children's parties are Saturday mornings or Friday evenings. Reservations are recommended, but not required.

Miss Molly's Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Buddha Bar, Paris

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From the outside, the Buddha Bar doesn't look much different than anyplace else in the neighborhood. I sort of wondered why we were headed into the place at all, not being big bar hoppers. I was told it's a place to see and be seen in Paris. A late night hot spot where people like Madonna like to hang out. I like to explore new places, so I wasn't about to protest, but I didn't expect to be impressed.

I say expect to be impressed. Plan on going and having a lot of fun in an energetic crowd. They eat, they drink, they dance. Mostly, they socialize.

The Ritz, Paris France

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The Ritz in Paris is a dining room heard of all over the world. Royals eat there, movie stars eat there, men doing business eat there.When I was there I saw couples and men in business suits. I dont think any of them were royalty or movie stars.

If you sit in one of the rounded red booths in the center of the restaurant, like we did, you feel like your'e in a fish bowl - and everyone's staring at you. They do stare. I tried to convince myself they were just trying to figure out what movies we'd starred in. It's a bit overwhelming for my standards to be stared at by strangers the whole time I have my meal. Especially when I managed to make a sugar cube do circus tricks, although I'm sure that wasn't the fault of the oglers.

Be sure to take a trip to the ladies/gents, as even the restrooms are worth a look. If you want to say you've been to the Ritz, go ahead and go. I'd never try to dissuade you. It's an experience worth having. But I'd vote for Le Train Bleu if I had a choice between the two.

The Restaurant at Hotel Italo, Maracay Venezuela

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One of my two favorite spots to eat in Maracay is the restaurant at Hotel Italo. They have a great menu, wonderful waiters, and the place was always clean and neat. My husband didn't seem to mind their wine list, either. I used to choose their salmon a lot, with a side of fettucini Alfredo, and a lemonade frappe. Their calzones and pizzas are a treat, too. They have a nice kids menu, with a Mickey Mouse pizza generous enough to feed two children.


To see the Hotel Italo website click here: http://www.hotelitalo.com.ve/indexeng.htm

Monday, December 4, 2006

Chanterelle Restaurant, NYC

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Dress for Dinner.

Yes, I know it's expensive, but I'd rather go to Chanterelle once a year than McDonalds 25 times a year. The cost of either alternative is the same. They treat you like you are special from the moment you walk in the door. The whole place feels like it's lit with special lights made exclusively for the Waltucks. It's magical.

The people at Chanterelle have a masters degree in presentation. On top of being delicious, everything is wonderfully arranged and adorned.

To buy me their dessert cookbook go here: http://www.chanterellenyc.com/store.htm

Chanterelle on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Turnberry Isle Resort & Club, Aventura Florida

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Turnberry claims a spot in The Leading Hotels of The World. One visit will show you why. It's grand by most any standards. It's one of those places that could have been uncomfortably stuffy with the wrong management and staff. They did a good job hiring the right people, and have created a comfortable resort. The onsite dining is on par with the rest of the fine dining in the area. Even the food ordered through room service is outstanding. I'd suffered a pancake trauma (something to do with a helpful child exchanging salt for sugar in the recipe) and their banana pancakes helped me to recover.

From the time you drive up and leave your keys with the valet you'll notice the folks at Turnberry haven't missed a thing. They've been generous with the gorgeous marble from the check in areas to the perfeclty appointed, spacious guest bathrooms. This may be my all time favorite bathroom away from home.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Pink Elephants? No. Blue Elephants? Yes!

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You go to a different country and you expect to eat different cuisine, right? How about going to London and getting awesome Thai Food?

That's The Blue Elephant. Leave it to graceful Aunt Margot to takes us to such an exquisite place. She's transplanted to London for some 30+ years now.

This was a fabulous restaurant. It's the kind of food that makes you lose your self control and eat way more than you normally would. It's so worth it.

Everything about this place is exquisite, right down to the ladies room. The hand towels are adorned with the elephant design above.

Hotel Residence Des Arts, Paris

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Do you have a picture of the place you got engaged? This is mine. The only thing is, we were still on the other side of the curtain, in the living area. For the first couple of nights in Paris we stayed at The Hotel Residence Des Arts.

There was a restaurant downstairs, part of the hotel. This hotel on the left bank gave us a different part of Paris within walking distance than the little apartment in Sacre Couer.

La Taverne Suisse

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For a real dining experience I recommend La Taverne Suisse. We had delicious melted cheese, nearly a fondue, with big chunks of boiled potatoes.

Our waiter was quite a... character. As he stood behind the counter across from our table he amused himself by making a rather large show of playing with (and I'm not sure you're ready for this) his boogers. A HUGE show. Luis had to harshly chastise him more than once before he finally, begrudgingly, agreed to quit.

Do boogers make melted cheese better? We may well never know.

Try it for yourself at48, rue de Ponthieu, in Paris.

So You Think You've Had Good Chocolate Mousse?

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Have you been to Le Bistro Romain? They have the best chocolate mousse anywhere. They present it in this big chunky dish resembling a candy dish on a candlestick. It's awesome. It's abundant. It's delicious. Check it out:

Right there at 73 Champs Elysées75008 Paristel: 01.43.59.67.85. There's another one further down the avenue at 122 Champs Elysées75008 Paris. The meal must have been good too, but honestly, who can remember? It was like a bowl full of the best brownie batter ever.

Laduree, Otherwise known as Laa-Dee-Daa!

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If you like your waitstaff as cold as your ice cream, with less sugar, try Laduree at 75 Champs Elysees. They are said to be quite a treat, but a real chocolate connoisseur like myself can find good chocolate in almost any city.
This place was all show and no manners. The chocolate was okay, but not fabulous. The artistic presentation is good, but the French got their reputation for being rude because too many tourists frequent this establishment. It was the only place in Paris where people were downright rude.
The service was as friendly as their webpage, with spinning picutres which wont slow down for you to choose which one to click. Want to see what I mean? Click here: http://www.laduree.fr/public_en/maisons/champs_accueil.htm
If you want a chocolate fix that will fix you I reccomend Bistro Romain, on the Same avenue. The chocolate mousse there is worth the trip!

Where To Go, But Not Eat, In Paris

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The Louvre. Go to the museum. Stand in awe of the Venus de Milo. Adore the Mona Lisa. Dining in the Louvre, however, leaves much to be desired. The people are well dressed, as they are many other places, but the decor and food are just so-so. It's missing that special something, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. Even the chocolate mousse was disappointing.

The gift shops, on the other hand, are almost worthy of a whole day themselves. There are fantastic things for sale downstairs, but especially upstairs.

The day we went to the Louvre, the museum workers were on strike, so we didn't have to purchase tickets, and the lines were moving at warp speed. The most unusual thing about it was all the people using flash photography in there, with nobody on duty to stop them. Are you surprised the museum was open for visitors with nobody to protect everything? I was.

If You Require Fried Cheese In Your Salad, Go Here

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If you require fried cheese in your salad, this is THE place to go.

This place was funny, because the table linens, the food, the waitstaff were all impeccable, but the place was grand in such a funky sort of way. It was far from stuffy. Another great meal in Paris was had at 4 Boulevard des Capucines. From the first bite of the salad until the last of the dessert, this place served up great food. There was a lot of mmmmmmimg going on at our table.

Forgive me for not having a better picture, the place is hard to find online. You can go here to see a 360 view: http://www.toptable.co.uk/details.cfm?spos=22&rid=2178&showMoreReviews=1#ratings

Hemingway ate here. La Closerie des lilas

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According to Frommers, the famous people who have sat in the "Pleasure Garden of the Lilacs" include Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ingres, Henry James, Chateaubriand, Picasso, Hemingway, Apollinaire, Lenin and Trotsky (at the chessboard), and Whistler.

The bartender was perfectly happy to answer our Hemingway questions and tell us about his favorite places to sit.

We didn't see anyone famous, as far as I could tell. We seemed to have caught many lovely, large families with adorable children enjoying brunch. It's a beautiful setting for a sunny day, which is how we got to enjoy it.

It's walking distance to Luxembourg Gardens. What better way to walk off a meal?

http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Features/Cafe_Creme_Closerie.shtml

Le Train Bleu, Paris

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My favorite "WOW" dining place in Paris is Le Train Bleu. Fabulous dining at a train station? Gare de Lyon train station, to be exact. It was so stunning and yet so comfortable. You know those places where you pay gobs of money to feel uncomfortable? Forget about them and visit Le Train Bleu instead. The menu is excellent, as is the service.

Perfect Apartment for Parisian Romance

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There have been some updates to the look of this penthouse apartment since the photo. In my opinion it looks better now. I love the location. You can look out the large living room windows and see the Sacre Coeur. You can look out the little window in the lavatory and see what seems like all of Paris. Mornings with soft rain, accompanied by the opera singer practicing downstairs, make you feel like you're living in some romantic movie. In fact, maybe you are. This place exudes romance.

When you finally do force yourself to leave, you don't have to go far until you're faced with grand choices for food, shopping, or sightseeing. Monmartre has it all. We set up everything with the owner via email and phone calls. Erica sent Isis to take care of us. Isis has a beautiful, warm smile and was available to help us with anything at any time. It's my understanding that Isis is no longer with Erica, but from what I've read Erica still has great people working with her here: http://www.goin2travel.com/bermanliv.htm
April in Paris? Yes!


I've found the online review I left for Erica after our stay. Here it is:
Service: 10 - Best
Value: 10 - BestAttractiveness: 7 - Nice
Overall: 9 - Outstanding


I can't say enough good things about our stay at Erica's Rue Livingstone apartment. There are so many other categories that could also be rated a "10". The bathtub/shower was perfectly appointed. I'm certain that anyone would be pleased with the cleanliness of the apartment. The appliances and fixtures are all very nice and work without any nuances. I loved the windows- both the amount of light they let in and the ease of operation. Speaking of the windows, the view is, to say the least, inspiring. Sunrise is soft and sweet from the bed in the corner. The view of the Sacre Coeur is so much better than the pictures show.


Actually, the whole apartment is so much better than the pictures. It's my opinion that it's bigger 'in person' than I was expecting. The only noises we heard that weren't our own were: the rain on the roof in the morning (how romantic) and the opera singer in the apartment below, also in the morning. I think she added that last speck of perfect romance to our engagement trip to Paris. We had heard (from friends, family) that it was difficult to get a taxi, especially weekends and evenings, but we never once had any trouble, no matter the day or time.


The location was such a great suprise. This apartment is just a hop away from the bottom of the steps to the Sacre Coeur. (that's a great help in telling the Taxi drivers where to take you, since, when you say "Rue Livingstone they seem to be/stay lost.) We found the most charming man in the little cafe at the bottom of the steps.


The single thing that makes this apartment (or any of Erica's rentals) the BEST place to stay in Paris is the kind of attention offered by this team. Erica was always so fast to respond to any email we sent, and once we arrived, Isis was the warmest, most wonderful hostess I've ever encountered. She was thorough and sweet. I felt reassured that if we needed assistance of any kind she would take good care of us. Anyone running a business could learn how to treat people by taking a lesson from this team - they really have that special something. We would stay again and again, and we'll definitely spread the word.

Errolbank Guest House, Dundee Scotland

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While we're in Scotland, let's talk about another little jewel. Errolbank Guest House in Dundee. It's a crying shame Doris doesn't have more pictures online. The ones I can find don't do it justice. I can tell you it's a charming guest house. There is a beautiful garden with a quaint sitting area.

I became quite a fan of the Scottish breakfast while I was in the care of Doris. The Scots don't fool around with breakfast- what an indulgence! It's hearty and delicious. I can't find a picture to do her breakfast justice. It had three kinds of meat, eggs, baked tomato, baked beans, toast, & tea. Possibly oats and potatoes. Who can remember oats or potatoes after all that other stuff?
Contact the guest house for reservations: http://guide.visitscotland.com/vs/guide/5,en,SCH1/objectId,ACC5161Svs,curr,GBP,season,at1,selectedEntry,home/home.html
I found Dundee to be a great town for a girl with some time on her hands. It feels safe and friendly enough to walk around and discover on your own. There's Dundee University, the ocean, (we picked up some black sand, something to do with an extinct volcano, for my father in law), City Square with plenty of shopping including a fantastic book store, and the Discovery ship. Don't let your teenage daughter go there on her own, though, as Dundee has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Western Europe. A whopping 1 in 16 girls! Of Dundee's 115,000 tourists per year, only 15,000 are said to come from outside the UK.


The Dundee City council has even blessed us with a webcam you can control from your computer to check out the sights around City Square. It's pretty neat. Check it out here: http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/webcam/

Murayshall in Perth, Scotland

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I spent a fabulous birthday evening dining at Murrayshall in 2001. We'd set out to dine at a castle, but that wasn't to be. Our driver suggested Murrayshall as an excellent alternative. It met all of our expectations. Murrayshall is famous because of its' beautiful golf course, but the dining leaves nothing to be desired. We were as well taken care of by Katherine, our beautifully freckled, red headed waitress as we've been anywhere we've dined. The food was excellent and the view was stunning.

They've a beautiful grand piano in the dining room, which led to quite a bit of playing, and then singing, by the other group in the dining room. They had come in happy and hungry from the beautiful golf course. After drinks and dinner and dessert, there was a round of happy birthday, led and sung by the other friendly patrons.


If I had to choose between The Ritz Paris or Murrayshall, I would choose Murrayshall every time. There was lots to love about the small part of Scotland I was able to see. This place was quite lovable.