Category Archives: My Favorite Places to Eat

How Can You Not Love New York City?

I like New York City a lot, and although it’s not my favorite city, I do appreciate its amazing museums and grand theaters.  I love the neighborhoods that stretch all the way from the Battery to the Bronx and the new Brooklyn, unrecognizable to my wife now who went to Bayridge High School and grew up a stone’s throw from the Verrazano Straights.  New York has a busyness to it with its big, broad avenues, and trying to catch the pedestrian lights as you walk so you don’t need to stop and can just zig zag your way from 30th to the park. I love Soho and the Village and always wondered where I would live (probably Soho although the park is stunning).  So my question on New York is why is it so ratty in places?  London can be patchy and the outskirts of Paris are dreadful, but we are talking downtown New York City.  It’s very uneven to me.  Fun, but dirty, and even the late-night scene is sketchy.

My favorite restaurant in the city is Esca.  I love this place – great seafood, nice wine list, but honestly, it’s stuck in the seediest part of town on 43rd Street and 9th Ave, next to porn shops and dodgy quick bites.  It’s weird, New York.  The transportation hubs just seem to be seedier than they need to be.  Grand Central is a beautiful station but it’s confusing.  The shops and kiosks around it are grim.  Penn Station is even worse and is surrounded by dodgy hotels.  Yet here in the thick of it is Madison Square Garden.  Let’s not forget to mention LaGuardia Airport, antiquated and inefficient, with no great transportation link into town.  Welcome to New York.  

So, yeah, I do like New York for two days, grab an overpriced play and go out to a nice dinner, but in the end, no prejudice, London is just a cooler place.

 

What Do You Love About Telluride?

I had a credit from the Hotel Madeline in Telluride, CO.  They were kind enough to roll the credit from a canceled reservation a year ago over to a new reservation this year.  So my son and I hit Telluride.  I had never been before although I had heard lots about it.  We both love to ski so this seemed like a perfect storm.

Getting to Telluride is not easy.  It’s more or less impossible to drive from Denver (6 hours) so a flight to Montrose Airport is the usual way in and that’s what we did.  Montrose is a strange place.  One hour and a half drive from Telluride, it couldn’t be farther.  There is a great diner there, Starvin Arvins, where the eggs and corn beef hash are exceptional.  The waitresses all wear pumps and the clientele can look very different to us folks from the eastern territories.  Not more than 20 minutes from Montrose is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  The canyon is as deep as the Grand Canyon but not as wide.  It was spectacular in the early morning mist to see this giant chasm in a national park right next door to a very bland, modern town like Montrose.

An hour and a half later we arrived in Telluride. The town is really two towns. Mountain Village is essentially the new town.  It’s built along the lines of all American ski resorts with plenty of large fire pits, bars, and fake old new buildings.  However, it was functional and had great access to the lifts.  The Hotel Madeleine was right there – literally just a hop to the lifts.  We were taking advantage of my credit.  Actually, the hotel itself was a bit of a standout.  It had a nice pool, although not big enough to do lengths in, fabulous twin outside jacuzzis, a great steam room, and a slightly overpriced breakfast buffet.

There is a gondola that serves the new town and the old town.  It runs from early in the morning to midnight.  You can ski off at the midpoint or simply use it as public transportation between the two towns.  I loved this facility.  It’s also free and paid for by the state of Colorado as a form of public transportation.  I always think of great moments in travel like the Venice motor launch in from the airport.  This was one of those moments.  At the end of the day just before sunset, we would ride the gondola down to the old town.  Telluride is high up at 13,000 feet so these trips were spectacular and the ride down was thrilling every night.

I really loved this place.  Loved the old clipper mining town and the restaurants down there.  We ate well every night and the tacos at Taco Del Gnar are cheap and amazing.  There was an Italian restaurant close to the gondola that was good but not standout.  But everything was amazing every night especially Rustico and 221 South Oak.  At the top of Telluride, there is a fabulous place to break up the day called Alpino Vino.  It’s the highest restaurant in North America at 13,000 feet.  On a sunny day in the right place and a great table, you can see forever.  Telluride has a population of 2,000 people, seven dispensaries, and some of the best skiing in the Rocky Mountains with great restaurants.  Something for everyone.

 

The Confusing Ways of British Money

british money photo
It seems like an eternity but I remember well when England used pounds, shillings, and pence. The term £sd stood for librae, solidi, and denarii.  The measurement was based on Roman weights and measures and a pound of silver was divided into 240 denarius.  Remarkably and unfathomably, that stood through my childhood – 240 pence to a pound.

I was thinking the other day of that hilarious bit in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. What did the Romans do for us?  Apart from roads, sanitation, baths, building, currency etc.  So, there we were in the UK and Ireland pretty much using a Roman system for currency when the rest of the world had left us way behind and fled to decimalization.  Hey, that’s not going to happen again.  Yeah right, Brexit!  Screw those Europeans and all that Roman stuff.  We will show them.  Oh crikey!

So how bizarre was it to order a pint of beer for ten pence, egg and chips for just one and five, and a bag of chips for just four pence.  Four of chips please!  Or you could buy something classy for 19 and 11.  Imagine things like twopence and threepence, sixpence was called a tanner, and a shilling was called a bob.  “He is worth a few bob” meant that he was rich.  A pound was, and still is, called a quid or a knicker.  Half of a pound was a ten bob note or a tenner.  Lend me a tenner!  They even made a funny play about a tenor and a tenner and the play on words.  Two shillings and sixpence was half a crown or half a dollar.  Confused!?  Exactly!

But actually, the transition to decimalization surprisingly went remarkably well.  Prices rose, of course, but it was the British version of unification in Germany.  I mean we were nearly as efficient as the Germans!  Not as impressive but not bad.  Of course, the Italians did change currency along with most of the European countries by adopting the Euro on January 1st, 1999.  The Brits stuck with the pound!

So, I bought some coins the other day at a museum and it made me laugh.  I thought of egg and chips for one and six at the local café.  Travel changes lives.

 

 

New York

I love New York.

I love the buzz of the city, I love the subway, the crazy yellow cabs, the skyscrapers, the tiny neighborhoods, and of course the theater.

The other evening I saw two plays back-to-back: Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Father.  This was two days after I had gone with my daughter to see The Sound of Music. Nuns, nannies and Nazis, all intertwined around a delightful and timeless score. The Nazi bit was a little grim but it’s pretty light with the sing along stuff! So here I was in NYC taking in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, an intense play, three and a half hours long, by playwright Eugene O’Neill. The Father is a French tale by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton who was the one who single handedly transformed a 1782 Choderlos de Laclos novel to make the incredible play Les Liasons Dangereuses.  It’s pretty intense. It’s a study of the tragedy and gradual deterioration associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Brought tears to my eyes as I thought about my father too.  And what to do after all of that? Head to a great restaurant of course and that would be Esca, my favorite restaurant in New York on 43rd between 9th and 10th Avenue.

The next day, I grabbed the metro and went down to the Empire State Building and took a stroll from 33rd to 14th street on the High Line, a fantastic community effort along the discarded elevated train tracks. It dropped me off right in the meatpacking area and I got to pop into Soho House for a quick bite and a view from the rooftop pool across the Manhattan skyline. I then took a walk through Central Park, saw the seals in the children’s zoo and thought how amazing to have such green space in between all of this bigness and towering glass structures.  Of course I ran out of time and jumped a yellow cab to La Guardia. I should have taken the Acela, but honestly, at three hours and 50 minutes, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense when you have an urgent appointment back in Boston.

Plea number 100: Open up this Eastern seaboard corridor Mr. President and run fast trains down the line.

The Acela is anything but accelerated! It’s slow and the service on board is dreadful. Why is Amtrak so bad?

High Line Park

High Line Park

Central Park

Central Park

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Rome

I love Rome.

From the moment I jump in the cab, there is a sense of gradual transition as you journey into this incredibly beautiful city filled with dust, cracks, and occasional garbage bags. It’s all here.

For me it begins as we pass the Sheraton Hotel.  Out in the distance is Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR), a 1930’s modernist vision community of how Rome should be in the new world.  It didn’t really work out that well but it left us some interesting buildings and now a trendy neighborhood with parks and metro access to both the beach and the center of town.  That’s the other thing about Rome – it’s a beach city.  The Roman port of Ostia is connectible by metro from the beach resort through Acilia and trendy living areas of Rome to the Colosseum.

Then for me the real transition begins.  The first sight of any significance is the white marble Pyramid of Cestius outside Porta San Paolo gate. Then you make that turn up the Aventine Hill with the Palatine Hill facing you.  Residential palaces in pink Roman stone look down on the vast field of grass that is the Circus Maximus, one of the largest arenas in the world during roman times.

It becomes frenetic and exhausting at this point with ancient fragments popping up every second it seems.  The right turn at the bottom of the hill takes you by the Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth).  Opposite from that there is a Greek temple then a Roman temple and as the roads start to move around, you start to see what looks like the Colosseum but in fact is Marcello’s amphitheater, the Teatro di Marcello. Behind that is Octavia’s portal and the Jewish ghetto.  On the right side lies the most glorious juxtaposition of stairways anywhere.  There is the very subtle Capitoline Hill Stairs, the Cordonata, right next to the severe and steep medieval stairway that leads to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli.  On the right hand side beyond the stairways is the slightly incongruous, but ever faithful tourist site for lost travelers, the 19th century wedding cake built to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1870 named the Vittorio Emanuele monument.

We are now in the Renaissance period with the Piazza Venezia with Trajan’s Forum on the right and I have disappeared into Rome before even my first cappuccino.

Rome Pietro Place Peter Jones Rome Steps Pietro Place Peter Jones

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones

Zurich

I had never been to Zurich before and probably will never go back.

Last year I was in Lausanne and promised myself never to return! I added it to my list of boring places – Deauville, Trouville, Biarritz. Places that I was curious about but couldn’t muster up enough energy or desire to return. Cross them off the list and add them to Cyprus and a few other places that I have been inquisitive about and will not go back to. But Zurich…I am torn.

This year we descended upon Zurich because I had heard some great things about it. A good nightlife, diverse restaurants, and an overall beautiful city. We stayed in the Stork Hotel. A fabulous location in a great part of town. Café stools outside overlooking the river made it utterly charming and even with cold weather, they provided blankets! I loved this hotel. A pure Swiss scene with beautiful houses over the Limmat River, three towering clock towers, and an extraordinary museum, the Kunsthaus Zürich, packed chock-a-block with masterpieces through the ages. There was a lot of Giacometti, in fact the whole family of Giacometis, a fair amount of Chagall, and a splash of Picasso and other xtraordinary artists. It had the lot. It was slightly overwhelming!

There were the two principal churches in Zurich with their stained glass windows rendered more spectacular by the artists whose paintings I had just seen in the museum. The walks were pleasant, the streets and squares were made with lots of cobblestones, all extraordinarily clean. Everything spilled onto the lovely river, even the Bahnhof with its underbelly filled with shops and eateries was decidedly clean and accesible. And of course there were swans. Lots of them.

This is a city with enough to do if you plan two or three days max.

On the restaurant scene, there are expensive places that have an iconic history in Zurich folklore like the Kronenhalle. The food there is pure Swiss with rösti, lots of meat, and fabulous desserts. The ambiance is extraordinary. Original artwork is all around – a Chagall here, a Miro there. Not far away there is Brasserie Lipp, one of Paris’ most reputable brasserie’s transplanted into the heart of Zurich. There are less expensive options and of course a few pubs where you can grab a beer, a burger, and watch a soccer game. The nightlife was a bit thin and daytime was a little quiet. Everything was very orderly and very Swiss. The tram system was incredibly efficient and very clean. As I walked along the narrow alleyways by the river and crossed one of the smaller bridges to get to the Church of the Grossmünster, I thought of how civilized this place is. Probably a nice place to bring the kids up. It’s a bit like Vancouver. But I really do not think I could live here!

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones

Sayulita Market Pietro Place Peter Jones

The Beauty of Sayulita

What a pleasant surprise to discover that just 45 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta is a cool, laidback, surfer’s town called Sayulita.

Famous for its beach break, Sayulita has a guaranteed supply of mixed level waves, perfect for the amateur and pro together.

It feels that Puerto Vallarta has been attacked by the overdevelopment syndrome, but Sayulita, with its year-round population of around 2,000, has remained relatively unscathed.

It was first discovered in the 1960’s and was (and still is) a surfer’s paradise.  The beach is a beautiful, huge crescent shape intersected by a river that seems to emanate from the jungle.  Grazing by the river by an old plank bridge are horses and donkeys.

This is a town where the beach is the magnet.  The beach is stacked in the center with surfboards, surf shops, and surf schools.  You can rent everything from paddle boards to boogie boards.  I sat under a very civilized umbrella easily rentable from Don Pedro – a restaurant come beach set-up where you can get fantastic grilled octopus and seared tuna.

Frankly, my idea of fun on a beach is to find a place like Don Pedro that sells umbrellas and lounge chairs and where I can get incredibly fresh and delicious seafood with a drink while watching other people do what I cannot do, namely surf and paddle board!  So I watched expert surfers, beginner surfers (who wore beginner’s t-shirts), paddle boarders, body surfers, and just regular splashed types like me.  At the far ends of the beach the fishermen and the pelicans went looking for their dinner.  I’ve never seen so many pelicans diving in between surfboards in my life.

There are numerous tiny seaside accommodation places and at the end of the beach is a very nice, but not glitzy, hotel called Villa Amor which is where I stayed.  Rooms range between $175-$300 per night for a one bedroom in high season.  Sayulita is loaded with fantastic restaurants, taquerias, and a whole slew of funky bars that stayed open way after midnight.  The crowd was mixed, cool, and very fit looking.  Surfers usually are.

I love this place.  The tiny shopping streets that stray off of the beach, the groovy restaurants, the mix of locals, old hippies, and newcomers.  The beach had a freer feel to it.

If the beach was a spectacular white coral sand beach like the one in Cancun, it would have been ruined years ago with high-rises and packaged tours.  This place never got there.  A fiercely strong local citizenry protected it and the beach was funky enough to not pull the developers in.  One of my favorite shops in Sayulita is Révolucion del Sueño which does an incredible trade with Zapata t-shirts made from beautiful soft cotton.  My only tip to travelers who discover this place, don’t tell too many people.

Sayulita flowers Pietro Place Peter Jones Sayulita Market Pietro Place Peter Jones Sayulita sunset Peter Jones Pietro Place Sayulita water Pietro Place Peter Jones

A morning to remember in Barcelona

A Morning to Remember in Barcelona

We got into Barcelona on the Friday along with the commuter traffic but it really was a pretty smooth journey in.  There is only one thing to look for when you come in from the airport and that is the Sagrada Familia – now in its 134th year of restoration and due to finish in 2026.  On a side note, I have to say, and I am surprised, that they have not put up a Sagrada Familia in Las Vegas.  Let’s face it, if they were to do that it would be done in three months!

But seriously I love Barcelona.  I think what I love most about it is that there are no real iconic sites.  No major distractions to clog up your day.  Yes, there is Gaudi, Parc Güell, the Olympic Village, the Frank Gehry fish in Barceloneta, and Las Ramblas, but it is a city that is just so relaxing because you kind of wander through the neighborhoods without the need to see the Eiffel Tower, Roman Forum, St. Peter’s, the Tower of London, etc.  I grabbed a couple of hours sleep, took a bike tour of the city which was an absolute joy (Un Cotxe Menys Bicicletes), hung out a little bit at the beach area (the cleanest city beach in Europe), and walked back through the El Born district and Gothic Quarter.  In between, I got lunch at the La Boqueria market and had razor clams and more razor clams (navajas).  03

Irish Bars and American Football

Irish Bars and American Football

When you travel anywhere in January, especially in Europe, there is a good chance if you are an American and love American football, there is a major game going on.  As it happened, I was in Barcelona when the Patriots were playing Kansas City so of course my first inquiry on my smart phone was to find an Irish bar.

Irish bars are these remarkable institutions found in every city in the world from Shanghai to Istanbul.  The Irish understand the needs of the modern sports fanatic.  Yes, they sell you Guinness and Harp along with local brews and average food, but the thing they do the best is stay open late so that we can all watch an American football game long after the other bars in the neighborhood have closed.  Irish Bars and American Football simply go hand in hand. My favorite bar in Rome is Scholar’s Lounge and it is ironically next to Berlusconi’s house. I guess he doesn’t mind the commotion with all the parties he hosts!

Irish bars are good for soccer in the afternoon, and American football or baseball into the late evening and early morning. Plus they rock.  They understand that one television screen is not enough – they have 10, maybe more – and everybody gathers there.  I often thing that some people never leave the bars.  In Barcelona, I’m not sure when the bar even closed.  It’s a late city and the Irish bars can outlast any city ordinance for closing.  It must be because my grandmother is Irish that I feel right at home drinking Guinness and watching an American football game in a beautiful city.

Irish Bars and American Football

I’ve followed up my insiders’ guide to Ashland, Massachusetts, with a tour of my second adopted home-town: Boston!

A lot has changed in Boston over the past few years, (hello, artisan coffee and cheese) but one thing remains the same: this city dominates in athletics. Whether your an superjock or a sensualist, Boston is ready for you!

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Rooftop Dining – New Soho House

LondonSohoHouse

Rooftop Dining – New Soho House

London’s Soho House recently opened its new house on Dean Street and, even though it has an early closing limitation because of the neighbors – yes people actually do live in Soho – it’s a little bit of a jewel in the ever-so-crowded craziness of a Soho evening.  It has a small rooftop bar, along with its Greek Street counterpart and the notoriously fun Shoreditch house. It seems like Soho House is heading for rooftop views all over London. Despite the weather it’s kind of cool to look above the chimney tops of London and get a Mary Poppins view of both Old London and the scintillating New London popping up towards the East. Soho House is a private members’ only club and a genuine respite from the madding crowds in post-theater West End. If you happen to know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who can take you in there, it’s a great place to hang out. If you don’t know anyone, oh well…

Looking for a special roof outside of London? Other memorable rooftop bars I’ve visited:

  1. Plaza Santa Ana Melia Hotel Rooftop Bar in Madrid (http://www.melia.com/en/hotels/spain/madrid/me-madrid-reina-victoria/the-roof.html),
  2. Berlin Soho House (https://www.sohohouseberlin.com/en/house)
  3. Shoreditch House London (https://www.shoreditchhouse.com/house/rooftop-restaurant)
  4. NuTeras in Istanbul  http://www.nuteras.com.tr/,
  5. Les Deli – Cieux in Paris http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d3346801-Reviews-Deli_Cieux-Paris_Ile_de_France.html