St Barths: An island like no other

 

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make the place beautiful”

St Barth; an almost unreachable destination in the French West Indies is the perfect hideaway for the jet setter. Surrounded by pristine white sand beaches, unspoiled nature; mountains and the turquoise clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean this associated Island of France had a long history before becoming the top destination for celebrities in search for privacy.

I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing
The airport in St Jean – St Barth is actually one of the most difficult landings in the history of aviation

The Beginnings: In 1493 Columbus landed in St Barth and named the Island after his brother Bartolomeo; the first inhabitants of the Island were the Arawak Indians; hostile conditions and the lack of gold were crucial for the Spanish Crown and St Barth remained forgotten for centuries; later ruled by the French; then sold to the Dutch to be returned to the French; St Barth started to be noticed by luxury resort developers just in the 1950’s when Rockefeller built his private home in the top of the mountains in Colombier; West side of the Island.

 

The discovery of St Barthelemy.  Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
The discovery of St Barthelemy. Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.

Today; the most expensive yachts in the world are no strangers to St Barth and every day is almost a competition on size and style.

The Eclipse
The Eclipse mega yacht owned by Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich, I spotted from my balcony at the Beach House in Corossol.
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach

Shopping: For luxury shopping the Quai de la Republique; Le Carre D’Or; a Caribbean version of Beverly Hills with the most desirable designers and limited edition collections made exclusively for St Barth. I spent many hours at the Dolce & Gabanna flagship store opened just a few months ago with its own Martini Bar for D & G collaboration. The colorful collection reflects the spirit of the Island; floral scarfs; bejeweled mules, oversized sunglasses, embellished straw baskets and wedges and the 1950’s inspired cocktail dresses just makes us want to wear them all and go for a stroll in a Moke (the ultimate transportation in the Island) around Gustavia.

The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
The Moke
The Moke is the best transportation in St Barth. Wearing a hand embroidered dress and Mayan necklace.

St Barth is the culinary capital of the Caribbean; suddenly we see people walking with baguettes on the streets and freshly made pastries can be found at any of the Boulangeries and Patisseries; at supermarkets all of them carry French brands and is like going to Paris in the middle of a tropical setting.

Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach
Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach

Flamandes: The lifestyle of the Island is resort chic with impeccable service and attention to details, the French touch is notorious; For lunch I truly enjoyed The Cheval Blanc in Flamandes; it was also the best beach for swim and great cuisine by Chef Yann Vinsont. The Cheval Blanc is part of the LVMH Luxury Resort collection.

Flamandes Beach
Flamandes Beach

 

Lunch at Case de L'Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH
Lunch at Case de L’Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH

Grand Cul de Sac: Lunch at Le Sereno in Grand Cul de Sac is another must on my list; from its sister 5 star hotel “Il Sereno” in Laco di Cuomo; Le Sereno exudes style; designed by renowned Parisian designer Christian Liaigre.

The lagoon at Sereno Beach is also perfect for paddle boarding or canoeing in the afternoon. Great place to spot the turtles swimming on the water or picking up giant conch between the rocks.

 

Next to Le Sereno; Le Guanahani is another impressive luxury resort with a Spa by Clarins and its distinctive tiki bars by the beach; Le Guanahani offers true island feeling.

Le Guanahani St Barts
Wearing an embroidered vintage Manila shawl at the beach of Le Guanahani – Grand Cul de Sac, St Barth

St Jean: Dining in St Barth: a must is the Eden Rock at the “In” Beach of St Jean just next to the airport; with two signature restaurants: “On the Rocks” at the top of the cliff or “The Sand Bar” both headed by Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges.

Eden Rock St Barts
Eden Rock St Barth by night

St Barth preserve its Colonial charm from the Dutch era; the Creole and the French; signs on the streets are both in Dutch and French.

Creole Village St Barts
At the Comca-Comca Creole Village in St Jean wearing a custom embroidered Otomi dress

Shell Beach: Walking distance from the lively port of Gustavia and just steps from divine dining spots like Bagatelle and Bonito; we are in Shell Beach; a small portion of the Island covered with shells of all types and colors; you never know when you’ll find a unique one in the middle of all these shells.

Shell Beach
Shell Beach and Flamingo espadrilles by Soludos @soludos weaved basket with Oaxacan accesories

St Barth has it all; from hiking thru the mountains and spotting baby turtles on the way to incredible views of the secluded Island in Colombier to infinite white sandy beaches in Saline or the freshest catch of the day to your table.

Shell Beach St Barts
Shell Beach

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous.

Until the next destination.

Posted on Fashion & Wine Magazine http://www.fashionandwinemag.com

 

 

 

Miami’s cultural and gastronomic tours

With so much to do in Miami it is hard to decide where to start your day but if you are in the Downtown area, need a great cup of coffee and at the same time support your local roasters stop by Eternity Coffee Roasters on 117 SE 2nd Ave.  They have a roasterie and tasting room where you can choose your grains, make your own blends and they will roast it and brew for you on site.  I took my European friends to the tiny shop and they all agreed the coffee was superb, the espressos made just right, the aromas and the blends fantastic.

Just like in the wine world, the coffee can be tasted and appreciated, today there are more coffee connoisseurs who are showing interest in the “art of the barista” (coffee barman) So now you know, when you need your Java dose try Eternity Coffee and get the whole experience of coffee tasting.

The roaster at Eternity Coffee shop and tasting room.  Their single origin grains are mainly from Colombia from Farm direct trades.
The roaster at Eternity Coffee shop and tasting room. Their single origin grains are mainly from Colombia from Farm direct trades.
Choose, smell and taste the finest grains at Eternity Coffee roasters coming directly from the Farms in Colombia, Guatemala and other plantations in the world.
Choose, smell and taste the finest grains at Eternity Coffee roasters coming directly from the Farms in Colombia, Guatemala and other plantations in the world.
The flavor profile of each coffee is indigenous from the grain itself some of them with wild flower honey hints and herbal notes, hazelnut, milk chocolate, vainilla or tangy cranberry
The flavor profile of each coffee is indigenous from the grain itself some of them with wild flower honey hints and herbal notes, hazelnut, milk chocolate, vainilla or tangy cranberry

If you didn’t make a trip yet to Miami’s newest Museum the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) there’s no better time to do it then now and there are no excuses to be immersed in the contemporary art world with all this Museum has to offer. Arrive to the Museum by car, foot or take the Metro Mover stopping at the Museum station and you will be right there on 1103 Biscayne Blvd. Each second Saturday of the month there’s a free admission for everyone, a program sponsored by Target.

Most of the Latin American Art collection including Botero, Diego Rivera and Wilfredo Lam comes from Colombian-born developer Jorge Perez who donated $40 million in cash and art to earn naming rights.  Perez, the son of Cuban exiles, has been a major force in Miami’s urban redevelopment.

A visit to the PAMM will definitely open new ways to look at art and think twice when labeling Miami as a less cultural town.

Ai Weiwei "According to what?" retrospective at PAMM on display through mid March
Ai Weiwei “According to what?” retrospective at PAMM on display through mid March
The Museum is open from Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm.  Tickets are $12 for Adults and $8 for Seniors and Children 7-18 years old
The Museum is open from Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets are $12 for Adults and $8 for Seniors and Children 7-18 years old
Piles of crabs installation by Chinese Master Ai Weiwei during the Opening reception of the PAMM
Piles of crabs installation by Chinese Master Ai Weiwei during the Opening reception of the PAMM

Time for lunch? Visit the Historic Miami River neighborhood, one of the oldest in Miami.  At a settlement from the early 1840’s is where you will find Garcia’s Seafood and Grill Fish Market located on 398 NW North River Dr. you will find fresh fish and seafood from the boats to your plate served with the traditional Caribbean seasonings and flavors.  For over 40 years The Garcia’s (a Cuban-born family of 11 kids) have been offering affordable dining with fresh catch grilled to order on a casual riverside setting.

Grilled Yellowtail, stone crabs sides of fried plantains (tostones), yellow rice and fried sweet plantains (maduros)
Grilled Yellowtail, stone crabs, sides of fried plantains (tostones), yellow rice and fried sweet plantains (maduros) with grilled shrimp. These side dishes are perhaps part of Miami’s Cuban traditional gastronomy
Garcia's fresh stone crab
Garcia’s fresh stone crab

Now is time to visit another great unconventional Gallery on a Historic site in Downtown Miami, CU1 Gallery at the Security Building on 117 NE 1st Ave.

The Security Building in Downtown Miami was the most imposing building at time of construction.  Constructed in the Beaux Arts architectural style,  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The Security Building in Downtown Miami was the most imposing building at time of construction in 1926. Constructed in the Beaux Arts architectural style, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
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CU1 Gallery is a photo space located inside the iconic Security Building. You can visit the gallery Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 6 pm. Free admission
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“Look at Me” was the first opening exhibition at CU1 Gallery where you can take a look through the photographer’s lens inside the vault at The Security Building
"Look at Me" showcased works by European photographers, most of them with extensive backgrounds in editorial and fashion advertising.
“Look at Me” showcased works by European photographers, most of them with extensive backgrounds in editorial and fashion advertising.
For the European partners of CU1 Goettlicher, Weber, Schmidt and Mueller, Downtown Miami will be facing an incredible art renaissance, it's going to happen.
For the European partners of CU1 Goettlicher, Weber, Schmidt and Mueller who believed in Miami’s art life, Downtown Miami will be facing an incredible art renaissance and it’s going to happen.

“Eye to Eye” is the current exhibition at CU1 Gallery on view until February 14 2014.  What are you waiting for? take a look at one of the newest innovative galleries in Miami.

Now get ready for the next art exhibitions on board of the SeaFair docked at the Chopin Plaza next to the Intercontinetal Hotel from January 16th to the 20th of 2014.  it is a unique experience to appreciate works of local and international artists showcasing installations, paintings, photography and sculptures.  See you on board Miami !!!

The Miami International Art Fair (MIA) is coming on board of the mega yacht SeaFair on January 16th to the 20th
The Miami International Art Fair (MIA) is coming on board of the mega yacht SeaFair on January 16th to the 20th

(C) 2014 Montserrat Franco

Best kept secrets in Downtown Miami

Take a stroll in Downtown Miami like a local and if you live in Miami discover or revisit these great spots once again. Start with a good coffee at The Urban Öxy proudly brewing Panther coffee , a local roaster located on 101 NE 2nd Ave. I really love this coffee shop where everything is made from scratch so you can have your coffee the way you want it.
Prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, try some of the grill sandwiches made to order with roasted artichoke, sun-dried tomato, goat cheese, provolone, Swiss or for the sweet tooth the mini cupcake selection or the homemade oatmeal cookies with pecan, dark and white chocolate chips, cranberry or macadamia nuts, absolutely delicious.

The Urban Oxy serves Panther coffee, a Miami based specialty coffee roaster
The Urban Oxy serves Panther coffee, a Miami based specialty coffee roaster
Black chalkboards on the walls of the Urban Oxy, a coffee house with a soul of its own
Black chalkboards on the walls of the Urban Oxy, a coffee house with a soul of its own
Homemade sweets like vainilla and red velvet mini cupcakes, brigadeiros (a brazilian chocolate delight) and coconut sweets at the Urban Oxy
Homemade sweets like vainilla and red velvet mini cupcakes, brigadeiros (a brazilian chocolate delight) and coconut sweets at the Urban Oxy

Now that you’ve got your coffee and read your newspaper why not taking a visit to the Freedom Tower, just at walking distance located on 600 Biscayne Blvd. across the American Airlines Arena, the Freedom Tower is one of Miami’s magnificent landmarks constructed in 1924 on the Spanish Colonial revival architectural style, conceived originally for the Miami News, serving later as center for Cuban refugees during 1962 to 1964. Today is home of the Miami Dade College Museum of Art and Design and you can enjoy the contemporary art and photography exhibits as they are free and open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays until 5 pm.

The Freedom Tower was modeled after the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville
The Freedom Tower was modeled after the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville, the alligators climbing on the tower were part of the “ForeverGlades” exhibition in 2013 in collaboration with Galleria Ca D’Oro Rome-Miami
Detail of the roof and chandelier Inside the majestic main lobby of the Freedom Tower
Detail of the roof and chandelier Inside the majestic main lobby of the Freedom Tower. Photo credit: David Franco
"Rituals in Haiti" the newest photography exhibition taking place at the Freedom Tower
“Rituals in Haiti” the newest photography exhibition taking place at the Freedom Tower. Photo credit: David Franco
The Mural at the Lobby on the Freedom Tower.  The Freedom Tower is an icon of faith, democracy and the generosity of the American people
The Mural at the Lobby on the Freedom Tower. The Freedom Tower is an icon of faith, democracy and the generosity of the American people

And for those who are craving of cultural things to do in Miami there are no excuses, this is exactly what we will do if we were in NYC going from one Art Gallery to another and then stopping for some coffee and cupcakes, really? At least I will.

Now having fulfilled your cultural appetite why not going for lunch just a few blocks away on another historical building of Downtown Miami, yes I am talking about ‘Soya & Pomodoro” a truly hidden gem, a place were you can seat and relax like in NYC’s SOHO while enjoying comfort Italian food on a very particular setting.

Soya & Pomodoro located on 120 NE First St. inside another historical landmark The Shoreland Arcade Building built on 1925
Soya & Pomodoro located on 120 NE First St. inside another historical landmark The Shoreland Arcade Building built on 1925
Detail on the entrance of Soya & Pomodoro restaurant.  The Shoreland Arcade Building is part of the National Register of Historic Places
Detail on the entrance of Soya & Pomodoro restaurant. The Shoreland Arcade Building is part of the National Register of Historic Places
The casual dining at Soya & Pomodoro located on the building that is the last remaining intact arcade in Downtown Miami featuring large arches and pilasters with masonry medallions exhibiting symbols of Florida's history.
The casual dining at Soya & Pomodoro located on the building that is the last remaining intact arcade in Downtown Miami featuring large arches and pilasters with masonry medallions exhibiting symbols of Florida’s history.
Absolutely amazing the "Fazzoletti di pere e formaggio" fresh pasta filled  with Taleggio cheese and fresh pears on a bed of creamy ricotta and shrimp sauce
Absolutely amazing the “Fazzoletti di pere e formaggio” fresh pasta filled with Taleggio cheese and fresh pears on a bed of creamy ricotta and shrimp sauce
The Shoreland Arcade Building constructed on the Beaux Arts architectural style,  very present in the heart of Downtown Miami
The Shoreland Arcade Building constructed on the Beaux Arts architectural style, very present in the heart of Downtown Miami

Soya & Pomodoro is also great to visit on the evenings for dinner, Thursdays
or Fridays when they have live jazz and… talking about live Jazz another
great place to visit in Downtown Miami is “Le Chat Noir” this intimate suburban spot next door to Soya & Pomodoro has anEpicurean market section were you can get your selection of cheeses and charcuterie and a bottle of French wine, then go downstairs to listen to jazz and blues truly soulful musicians.  If you are looking for
an alternative atmosphere, this is the place to be.

Le Chat Noir features live jazz and blues in the cellar on  Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:30
Le Chat Noir features live jazz and blues in the cellar on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:30
Vintage pictures and postcards on the wall going downstairs to the cellar at Le Chat Noir for live jazz.  You can order also appetizers and wine at the Bar while listening to the finest jazz music.
Vintage pictures and postcards on the wall going downstairs to the cellar at Le Chat Noir for live jazz. You can order also appetizers and wine at the Bar while listening to the finest jazz music.
Hope you enjoy this short Downtown   Miami tour for a day, keep coming to the blog for new places   to dine, shop and live a cultural life in Miami.  See you soon   !!!
(C) 2014 Montserrat Franco.  All   pictures by me, except for the ones with credits.

 

 

 

 

Brickell’s Little Italy dining destinations

There’s no doubt one can live the “Dolce Vita style” in Miami and if you don’t think so, just try some of these suggestions when coming to Downtown and Brickell areas.
With so many options in Italian dining because of the new wave of Italians coming to the magic city for fun, for business and for a change like everybody else who is part of this big melting pot.
Miami can’t be more blessed than now starting with the big Brickell development boom less than a decade ago when Trattoria Rosinella and Perricone’s Restaurant and Marketplace opened followed by Segafredo and more recently Toscana Divino and world acclaimed Cipriani.

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I love the “Cioppino” served at Perricone’s. This is a traditional Italian American dish originated in the San Francisco Bay area, it was originally the fishermen’s stew made with left overs from fish and seafood dishes.

At Perricone’s you will find the same ambiance you may encounter in New York’s Little Italy district; friendly staff, reasonable prices and generous portions, typical of Italian American eateries, the market with a very good wine selection, artisan chocolates and everything you need for take away when on a rush for a quick home fixed up, just try the “antipasti” (appetizers) like stuffed peppers with rice or porcini mushrooms or the stuffed tomatoes with mozzarella cheese.

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The home made fresh pasta at Perricone’s served with Gradma Jennie’s signature pomodoro ragu sauce topped with fresh basil and ricotta cheese

They have their own extra virgin olive oil and table wine, Perricone’s is definitely a place for a business lunch in the quiet and lush gazebo surrounded by tropical plants so characteristic of our territory.
For a more intimate dining with candle lights you can opt for the charming “al fresco” garden or one of the cozy rooms in the wooden cottage.
At Perricone’s they are so cool they will even pick you up from your hotel or office on their own Eco friendly cart service.
Perricone’s features a generous and affordable Sunday brunch, live music weekly and hosts the monthly Brickell Art walk like the other restaurants around to mention a few : Baru Urbano, Dolores but you can call me Lolita, the Red Bar (why not? Brickell should have it’s own art walk too)

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Delicious homemade meatballs at Trattoria Rosinella topped with their own tomato sauce, fresh basil and parmesan cheese

Trattoria Rosinella is the perfect spot to start your day “alla Italiana” before going to work (if you have time of course) Italians take their time to stop by the local coffee shop for a Capuccino and “cornetto” (a pastry filled with Nutella, fruit jam or plain) you can get yours freshly made at Rosinella’s bakery.
This family owned restaurant and bakery has always a lunch special menu of the day with home made pastas and fresh sauces made from scratch and aromatized with garden herbs.

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The crab and lobster stuffed ravioli over a 3 cheese sauce

Coming myself from a home cooking tradition I can tell when mamma is cooking in the kitchen and that’s exactly the same feeling you’ll get at this mom and pop eatery where fresh ingredients are the key to their success, simple dishes made to order and a culinary knowledge passed from generation to generation making the soul of a true trattoria and guess where? In the heart of Brickell just across from the newest Italian ultra modern and design development “Millecento” by Pininfarina.

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The bakery has always something to take home or to taste right there. I love their fresh bread selection and pastries.

Now I am going to brag about this place and is one of my favorites spots after work, it will be yours too once you try it.  Just stop for an aperitif by the bar inside Toscana Divino and get some “antipasti” with it, go for one of the classic Italian drinks or a glass of Italian wine (and their wine list is pretty extensive) well selected from the Tuscan region with some cold cuts and cheeses.  I love their burrata plate with arugula and pomodorini (cherry tomatoes) always served with a small dish of sea salt and their aromatic extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany over some warm home made bread.

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The salmon tartare at Toscana Divino

Toscana Divino is the highest expression of modern Italian Fusion cuisine with the talented and creative executive Chef Julian Baker who gets inspired blending Tuscan flavors adding old world touches.   Toscana Divino is also a one stop restaurant and fashionable place where you can find the finest handmade goods from Florence like those oversized Italian leather purses or the stylish Tuscan glassware that is used at the Restaurant.

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Brunch at Toscana Divino is delicious paired with a Bellini o Mimosa cocktail

The brunch is superb and for those who love wine, good news, they also host monthly wine tasting and classes. So if you shop around Mary Brickell Village and decide to take a coffee pause and a decadent pistachio cake; an aperitif with friends after work, a business lunch or a quality dinner with that special one, Toscana Divino is the place.

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Why not some caviar too at Toscana Divino, I can’t get enough of the pairings with the tartare and mixed greens, capers, chives and sour cream but here my recommendation is with some oak mature Chardonnay

Segafredo is definitely the meeting point in Brickell, a casual and modern baroque seating outdoors and indoors with trendy lounge music spinned by local DJ’s has been for years the choice destination for young professionals.  I like to go to Segafredo at sunset for an aperitif or to chat with friends I haven’t seen in centuries. The music might get too loud after 9 pm when the drinks and cocktails are the best option.  Their cocktail menu is fantastic, try their specialty coffee drinks like Espresso Margarita or Coffee Martini made with a double shot of Segafredo Zanetti coffee.

Start with some brick oven pizza served at Segafredo topped with prosciutto and aragula with fresh mozzarella slices and a dash of extra virgin olive oil
Start with some brick oven pizza served at Segafredo topped with prosciutto and arugula with fresh mozzarella slices and a dash of extra virgin olive oil

From Thursdays trough Saturdays Segafredo’s  night club Spazio Nero is open with bottle service or drinks at the bar.  The mini club gets packed with the local crowd, the resident and guests DJ’s spinning to the latest progressive house music.  Very soon with the opening of the new SLS Hotel and Residences, Brickell’s nightlife will take an entire new spin and we can’t wait for it to happen.

The frappe at Segafredo Zanetti in Brickell
The frappe at Segafredo Zanetti in Brickell, a great option in our hot Miami days

For more than 80 years the Cipriani family witnessed film stars, socialites and paparazzi at their landmark Harry’s Bar in Venice; from Sophia Loren to Greta Garbo, Fellini and Marcello Mastroiani, they all came to dine and be seen at the legendary Harry’s Bar.  In 1948 the Bellini cocktail was created there and now you can get yours at Cipriani in Brickell/Downton Miami location.

The impeccable service at Cipriani restaurant inside the Viceroy Hotel and Residences in Brickell.  Cipriani is a symbol of Italian fine dining around the world.
The impeccable service at Cipriani restaurant inside the Viceroy Hotel and Residences in Brickell. Cipriani is a symbol of Italian fine dining around the world.

Cipriani is all about “who is there” and “who has been there” Can’t get enough of Sobe’s glamorous dining at top restaurants in 5 star hotels?  Well then you come to Cipriani for more and you never know who is going to show.  The celebrity approved restaurant is finally here in Miami.  Reservations a must and dress to impress attire is suggested, after all, don’t you want to show off those new Giuseppe Zanotti design shoes?

The Carpaccio was invented in the 1950's at Harry's Bar in Venice founded by Giuseppe Cipriani.  Today you can taste the Carpaccio at Cipriani Brickell and be part of years of culinary history.
The Carpaccio was invented in the 1950’s at Harry’s Bar in Venice founded by Giuseppe Cipriani. Today you can taste the Carpaccio at Cipriani Brickell and be part of years of culinary history.

Dolce & Gabbana, Visions of Sicily

For the fashionable pair Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, their beloved Sicily is an endless font of inspiration. With several collections on a row from New York to Milan Fashion Weeks they take us on a tour to rediscover Sicilian traditions, architecture, and history through Fashion.

The sumptuous gold-thread embroidery, religious and devotional hand work as seen on the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo with the most stupendous  Byzantine mosaics.
The sumptuous gold-thread embroidery, religious and devotional hand work as seen on the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo with the most stupendous Byzantine mosaics.
Montserrat Franco in Dolce & Gabbana's Byzantine dress
Montserrat Franco wearing the Byzantine dress

 

Detail of 12-13th century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator at the Monreale Cathedral
Detail of 12-13th century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator at the Monreale Cathedral
The Cathedral of Monreale is the pinnacle achievement of Arab-Norman art.  Founded in 1172 by William II.  A Benedictine Monastery was built next to it.
The Cathedral of Monreale is the pinnacle achievement of Arab-Norman art. Founded in 1172 by William II. A Benedictine Monastery was built next to it.
An add from the Fall/Winter 2013 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana featuring Monica Bellucci
An add from the Fall/Winter 2013 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana featuring Monica Bellucci
dolce
Details from the runway at the Milan Fashion Week 2013. The sumptuous gold, the Cardinal red, the Sicilian widow black and the pure white. This collection is a romantic view of the Sicilian women going to Church, wearing their lace veils and rosaries, the accessories are exaggerated with bejeweled crowns that makes them part Saint and part principessa.
Montserrat Franco wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, bag and dress from the Sicilian Baroque collection
Montserrat Franco wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses from the Sicilian Baroque collection
In Dolce & Gabbana tailored suit during one of my visits to Southern Italy.
In Dolce & Gabbana tailored suit during one of my visits to Southern Italy.

The 2013 Fall/Winter Collection is all about Domenico Dolce’s homeland, honoring the materials of homespun craft (needlepoint, tapestry) the faded baroque splendor in the palaces and basilicas of Southern Italy, an invitation to look deep in to our lost traditions and beliefs, no matter what they are.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco

Ralph Lauren, an American in Paris

With an emotive celebration on a cool Parisian evening; Ralph Lauren presented his Fall/Winter 2013 collection and took full charge of the restoration of L’École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) which was home of Degas, Manet and Hubert de Givenchy among the most illustrious students.

Detail from the runway of the 2013 Fall Collection by Ralph Lauren
Detail from the runway of the Fall/Winter 2013 Collection by Ralph Lauren, among the guests to the exclusive Gala and Fashion show attended the Princess Charlene of Monaco, the actress Catherine Deneuve, the American Ambassador in Paris Charles Rivkin

L’École des Beaux-Arts, founded during the reign of Louis XIV is one of the oldest Institutions for Fine Arts in the world. The renovations will start in 2014.
The Chevalier of The Legion of Honor Ralph Lauren received this title in 2010 by Sarkozy and soon after was recognized with the keys of the City of New York by the hands of Mayor Bloomberg.

Detail from the Fall 2013 collection presented at the Beaux Arts
The new collection was inspired in the Russian sobriety using the dark night black along with Bordeaux, Prussian Blues, forest green and amethyst.
The new collection was inspired in the Russian sobriety using the dark night black along with Bordeaux, Prussian Blues, forest green and amethyst.
This was the historic debut of Ralph Lauren in Paris.  Two years ago he hosted the exhibition of his classic car collection at Musee des Arts Decoratifs with more than 155 thousand visitors.
This was the historic debut of Ralph Lauren in Paris. Two years ago he hosted the exhibition of his classic car collection at Musee des Arts Decoratifs with more than 155 thousand visitors.

With this act Ralph Lauren gives back to Paris, a city that inspired him so much. Just a few years ago he restored the 17th century palace in the charming Saint-Germain-des-Pres, now one of his biggest flagship stores in Europe and home of “Ralph’s”, his Restaurant, serving prime steak from cows raised on his ranch in Colorado.

Detail of the flagship store at the Parisian Latin Quarter with the style of Ralph Lauren.
Detail of the flagship store at the Parisian Latin Quarter with the style of Ralph Lauren.
In the courtyard of Ralph's The Restaurant, he opted for a French wine list selection instead of our American wine list, an act of diplomacy.
In the courtyard of Ralph’s The Restaurant, he opted for a French wine list selection instead of the American, an act of diplomacy. Yet at Ralph’s the best burgers of Paris are served.
In Paris, Ralph's serves American Modern cuisine.  Reservations are highly recommended.  The service is very French.
In Paris, Ralph’s serves American Modern cuisine. Reservations are highly recommended. The service is very French.

The young boy who started selling ties after his Military service, 45 years later runs an Empire of 5,1 millions of Euros. For the first time he presented his fashion show in Paris at the Beaux-Arts and we didn’t see him with his regular black T-Shirt but with impeccable black tie holding hands with his wife Ricky.

Ralph Lauren, the Chevalier, the boy from the Bronx, the true American spirit.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco

Montserrat Franco in Ralph Lauren

La Maison d’Hermès opens a new Temple of Luxury in Milan

With a private and impeccable event the French Luxury Maison Hermès opened the doors of its new Milan flagship store on Via Montenapoleone 12, Milan’s fashion “quadrilatero”.   The Neoclassical palace was dressed up in the famous “giallo ambrosiano” the characteristic yellow color of the city and the exhibition of Pégase d’Hermès, on display in the city’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

The Pegase of Hermes on display at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, artwork by Christian Renonciat, celebrates the opening of the new store

The choice of Pégase statue it was inspired by the bronze sculpture ‘Eloge du Cheval’, which was also built by Renonciat for the famous Ecole National d’Equitation in Samur, France. Made of beautiful handcrafted wood, the wings represent the free spirit of Hermès.

The infamous "Kelly" bag is one of the best seller items, named after Grace Kelly, the bag made fashion history in 1956 when the Princess of Monaco attempted to protect her pregnancy from the paparazzi.
The infamous “Kelly” bag is one of the best seller items of the Maison, named after Grace Kelly.
Grace Kelly and her Hermes bag during her pregnant days
The Kelly bag made fashion history in 1956 when the Princess of Monaco attempted to hide and protect her pregnancy from the paparazzi.
The Birkin bag pictured here in furious red is more flexible than the Kelly and can remain easily open at the top.  The Birkin has two handles when the Kelly has only one handle.
The Birkin bag, created after Jane Birkin, the haute-hip English born but a long term resident of France is more flexible than the Kelly and can remain easily open at the top. The Birkin has two handles when the Kelly has only one handle.

Older than Louis Vuitton as a brand, Hermes is the epitome of elegance and style.  An Institution in the “savoir fare” (know how to).  In 1837 Hermes was already the leader in saddle horse making, requested by Royal Houses.  Today; from the hands of the same family, the tradition continues, evolving in smaller accessories and luxury objects of desire, the must have: bags, foulards, belts, etc.

The Hermes, horse and chariot logo.  The Maison was created by Thierry Hermes (1801-1878)
The Hermes, horse and chariot logo. The Maison was created by Thierry Hermes (1801-1878)
Enamel bracelets House of Hermes artistic vision.  Detail from the Great Odalisque by Ingress, 1814.
Enamel bracelets. Maison d’Hermes artistic vision. Detail from the Great Odalisque by Ingres, 1814 (oil on canvas) at The Louvre, Paris.
The iconic Hermes belt
The iconic Hermes belt
"The Carre" made under the Lyonese school of twill silk making.
“The Carre” made under the Lyonese old school of twill silk making. The Hermes scarf is a style icon, worn by Royalty and celebrities, coveted and admired, is not only a square of silk but a stuff of legend.
And for those avid fashion readers I recommend this book by Nadine Cole.  Since the first scarf made in 1937, the House of Hermes has produced more than two thousand different designs.
And for those avid fashion readers I recommend this book by Nadine Cole. Since the first scarf made in 1937, the House of Hermes has produced more than two thousand different designs

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco