Posts tagged ‘Neil Patrick Harris’

Barcelona with the A list

I might as well warn you. You’re going to want to live in Barcelona.

6h0p0216Unlike the crack dealer who fails to mention how much you’re going to eventually need him, I prefer to start with the truth. One vacation to this gorgeous Catalan city is usually all it takes to make you desire it….again and again.

With its endless list of hip bars, inspiring food, whimsical architecture and people who know how to carpe the heck out of every diem, Barcelona gets under your skin, provokes a commitment, makes you consider a permanent address.

So here’s what I suggest. Stay in a place that feels like home. A place that oozes everything that’s cool about Barcelona.

37011_el-palauet-living-barcelona_Stay at El Palauet, a five-star boutique hotel right on Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona’s leafy answer to Rodeo Drive.


Nothing wrong with the W or the Mandarin Oriental or the Intercontinental. Except for one thing. They’re hotels.

El Palauet is where you’d stay if you’re Madonna or Neil Patrick Harris or Lin-Manuel Miranda. Here’s why:

1. It has a fascinating history. Designed in 1906 by the famed architect, Pere Falqués, El Palauet (it means “little palace” in Catalan) is a stunning example of Barcelona’s Art Nouveau architecture. Original stained glass, molded ceilings, carved wooden doors, decorative ironwork and dramatic staircases have all been painstakingly preserved. And each of the boutique hotel’s six suites feature high ceilings, ornate balconies and sleek contemporary furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames, Ero Saarinen, Philippe Starck, Antonio Citterio and other designers you can also find in the permanent collection of MoMa New York.

2. Did I say suites? They’re really more like apartments. Each of El Palauet’s six offerings rings in at a whopping 1600-square feet and has a fully-stocked kitchen, dining room, living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

3. George Jetson would feel right at home. You’ll be grateful that each suite also comes with a personal assistant, because well, the technology is so space age that, unless you’re Steve Jobs, you might need help. There are mirrors that turn into TV’s, bathroom lighting that adjusts to suit your mood and iPads that control everything from the lamps to the air-conditioning to the in-house music system.

4. You don’t need a cab. La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s Unesco World Heritage Site and the one must-see on every tourist itinerary, is a short fifteen-minute walk. Other Gaudi masterpieces, La Pedrera and Casa Batllo, are also in the neighborhood. And if Gaudi’s name doesn’t excite you, add these neighbors to your Christmas card list: Hermes, Jimmy Choo, Prada, Louis Vuitton.

5. You can be famous without anyone noticing. From the rooftop terrace where you can soak in a hot tub, lounge on chic white leather sofas or sauna the day away, you can look out over your newly-appointed city without anyone noticing. And if you really want anonymity, you can come and go through a discreet back door entrance.


6. Your wish is your personal assistant’s command. Christian, our personal assistant, had a little black book with gourmet chefs from around the city were just waiting to come to our suite to prepare meals. He also had a line on babysitters, hair dressers, masseurs, personal shopping assistants. As I said, if you can dream it, El Palauet can make it happen.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn an organic oases in Albuquerque

It’s not surprising that Maggie Gyllenhaal and Neil Patrick Harris would bring their kids to Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, the Albuquerque inn that Bon Appetit just chose as one of the top ten best hotels for food lovers.

Harris, of course, grew up in Albuquerque and while he once told a reporter he’d never dream of staying anywhere except with his parents at the home he was raised in, he and partner David Burtka now have two-year-old twins. Enough said. Besides, it’s never too early to teach Gideon and Harper, the twins who were born October 2010, where their food comes from, a lesson about which Los Poblanos is avidly passionate.

The 25-acre organic farm, not only grows 60 percent (90 percent during growing season) of the hotel’s meticulously-prepared food, but it has chickens, cows, honeybees and giant purple-blue lavender fields.

As for Gyllenhaal, she hopes to instill the same field to fork-style knowledge into her New York brood, offering them a chance to gather eggs and milk goats. And, besides, she and her brother Jake have a thing for exquisite food. The duo, along with their mom, appeared on two episodes of Molto Maria, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network.

San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, has been watching over the growing of food at Los Poblanos for some 81 years. In 1932, Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, a former Congresswoman from Illinois, and her husband, Albert Simms, a congressman from New Mexico, started an experimental farm on 800 acres that stretched to the Sandia Mountains. They started New Mexico’s first dairy, experimented with sugar beets and other crops and built a greenhouse for new varieties of roses and chrysanthemums.

They also commissioned famous Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem to renovate their ranch house and design a 15,000-square-foot cultural center for political and community events.

La Quinta, as they called the cultural center with its carved doors and mantels by Gustave Baumann, tinwork by Robert Woodman, ironwork by Walter Gilbert and fresco by Peter Hurd, still hosts meetings and weddings and still serves as the cultural heart for this inspiring farm that, needless to say, holds a prominent spot on the National Historic Register. Since 1976, when it was purchased by Penny and Armin Rembe, who raised their four children on the property, it has been lovingly overseen by three generations of the Rembe family.

As I drove up the cottonwood-lined lane leading to Los Poblanos’ hacienda-style courtyard and sun-drenched dining room, past the expansive lavender fields, strolling peacocks, kitchen gardens and pond with lotus blossoms—I could feel the extraordinary energy of this landmark New Mexico ranch.

As I feasted on the locally-sourced cuisine, melons from nearby fields and eggs from hens that strut through the property, I felt as if I’d entered a different time, a different place with no clue that I was in the desert or a short four miles from one of the largest cities in the Southwest. Executive chef Jonathan Perno, a New Mexico native who trained in France, London and San Francisco, makes good use of the farm’s heritage, heirloom and native crops, incorporating things like tepary beans, chiles, cardoons, figs, parsley root, jujube dates and epazote into what he calls “Rio Grande Valley cuisine.”

And while scheduling didn’t permit taking one of the many workshops offered at Los Poblanos (things like aromatherapy, botanical art, field sketching, wine tasting, barn animals 101), I learned a lot just walking around the gardens, being inspired by the ecological consciousness subtly perpetuated by the living museum’s water conservation programs and use of natural biodegradable cleaning products.

As Kenyan manager Nancy Kinyanjui said, “We don’t want to hit people over the head with it, but we hope they recognize our commitment to sustainability and possibly take a little green consciousness home with them.”

The inn’s 20 suites and rooms have adobe kiva fireplaces, hand-hewn ceiling beams, hardwood floors, folk paintings, painted viga ceilings and, of course, the farm’s signature lavender spa amenities. Breakfast, also made with ingredients from the property’s organic farm, is included.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Cultural Center, 4803 Rio Grande NW, 505-344-9297.

St. Tropez, France for parents: Elton John and David Furnish

Elton John, David Furnish and eight-month-old Zachary spent most of August in St. Tropez. Where did the doting parents go when they wanted a little beach time? The same place Naomi Campbell celebrates her birthday every year. Le Club 55, one of the most exclusive beach clubs on St. Tropez’s three-mile Pampelonne Beach.

Getting reservations for Sunday brunch at this beachside landmark is nearly impossible, not because it caters to celebrities (anyone’s welcome), but because everyone from Saudi princes and fast-lane billionaires to film and rock idols like to dine under tamarisk trees on its white-canvas-shaded deck. Lunching at Club 55 has long been a St. Tropez rite of passage.

The featured attraction? A gorgeous megasalad with monstrous heads of cauliflower, tomatoes big as softballs and perfect mushrooms, carrots, scallions and cucumbers, all artistically arranged atop a thick slab of cork. Oh yeah, and the beach.

Club 55 was launched in the year 1955 after the mother of Patrice de Colmont, the current owner, was asked by Brigitte Bardot, who mistook their family cabana on the north end of the beach for a restaurant, for 80 roast beef sandwiches. She wanted it for the crew on her film, And God Created Woman, that turned St. Tropez into the household name it is today. Even though it’s open to everyone and remains faithfully democratic (the King of Belgium was once asked to wash his own dish to help out the overbooked kitchen), Club 55 requires reservations.

It has a relaxed family-friendly vibe (that’s why Elton invited pal Neal Patrick Harris to come along with his 10-month-old twins) complete with backgammon tables, beach umbrellas and foam mattresses and its beach boutique sources the best small labels from around the world including handmade fabric sketchbooks and diaries by Willow Rose.

Click here, for more on the club the French call Cinquante Cinq.