Sunday, January 24, 2010

Field Trip: Chihuli in Toledo

There's something transcending about visiting an art museum. About an hour and a half from Windsor, there's a gem of an art museum, The Toledo Museum of Art. The Glass Pavilion building is home to an exhibit of Chihuli glass work until Feb. 7th. Admission is free....the part of it I enjoyed the most were the videos showing how Chihuli's team creates their magnificent,organic,beyond-this-world pieces. If you've studied the glass ceiling installation at The Bellagio in Las Vegas you've experienced Chihuli's work on a grand scale.

This photo shows the Chihuli chandelier at the entrance - the only work I was allowed to photograph...something about "copyright". Having just taken a "glass bead workshop" at The Glass Academy in Michigan and struggling to coordinate the torch in one hand and the hot glass in the other to create a few lopsided, lame-looking beads, I was completely in awe of this master artist and his team.

February (the most sunless month in our area) is an excellent time to seek out a local art exhibit and plan an afternoon or day trip.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Renting a Villa in St. Martin: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Why am I in St. Martin two days after arriving home from Aspen? My youngest son was about to start medical school on the island and someone had to help settle him in. Because the first week of January is the busiest time of the year on the island, I couldn't find a hotel room close to the school (opposite Mullet Bay Beach close to Cupecoy) so I opted for renting the least expensive 2 - bdrm. villa I could find in the Terres Basses area (15 minutes to the school) through an agent with Villa Luxe.

The Good
■ beautiful view from the patio, across pool to island of Saba
■ blue and white French country theme (more of a charming cottage as opposed to a villa)
■ stocked for breakfasts without me asking for anything
■ the owners lived next door and were truly helpful
■ spacious bedrooms, two baths with showers, wireless for internet
■ concierge on call to problem solve and make reservations

The Bad
■ the price - it's high season although apparently it's half price come April (I wonder if it would have been cheaper to book directly through Pierres Caraibes, the local St. Martin property management)
■ AC wasn't on when we arrived and I panicked a bit before we figured out that the air conditioning could be easily adjusted even by a non-techno person like myself
■ the owner's dog.....disturbed me the first time I saw him but I got used to him and he became no bother at all
■ a little too "buggy" for me....note to self: if a bed has a mosquito netting canopy, it's not just for decor
■ at the end of the stay I was wishing it was within walking distance to a beach

The Ugly
■ no water from taps the morning after our arrival, so couldn't shower but could make coffee using bottled water...the owner came by about 11 am. explaining that the water was off on the whole French side of the island that morning and that he could play with some valves and put it on for us....but not to use the water for brushing your teeth - which I already had the night before....and definitely ugly would be how I would describe myself as I stood in my pyjamas with curlers in my hair and no makeup meeting the owner for the first time as he explanied about how the French side conserved water on Sunday mornings

The Consensus
The good outweighed the bad - incredibly peaceful, tastefully decorated, well equipped, gave me a real sense of island living. Having owners in residence next door was comforting. I liked the spaciousness and tranquility of villa/cottage living as compared to a hotel and will try renting another one on my next visit - perhaps something closer to the beach though.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Aspen Restaurants

Making restaurant reservations is somehow always my job when travelling with friends.....not sure why, probably because I love to eat good food.....and I've realized that people will usually go along with me if I make the reservation. It can take some researching (a good online source of restaurant reviews is and asking like-minded friends is always a good source. (ie. I hadn't heard of Pacific Grill but a friend told me that his group ate there twice when they were in Aspen last April).

Getting reservations for the week between Christmas and New Year's is problematic in Aspen, especially if you have a large group of seven people like we had. Calling a month ahead of your visit is recommended. I only was clever enough to do this for Christmas Day dinner - Montagne's at Little Nell (970-920-6335). A great atmosphere and wonderful cozy table (partial booth) for our group, but frightfully expensive since they were just serving a tasting menu that night. Other reservations that I could get before we went were Rustique (dreamy risotto...970-920-2555), L'Hostaria (970-925-9022), and Olives (great maitre d from Glasgow who knows alot about single malt scotch - always a mistake the next morning but who thinks about that - and a fun dessert of s'mores which requires roasting your own marshmallow at your table...970-920-3300...oh, and tell them that you don't want to sit in the small rooms on the sides, you'd like to sit in the main room). Pinons (970-920-2021) and Pacific Grill (970-929-9775) could not accommodate us when I called two weeks ahead of time but we did end up getting a reservation by calling the day of. Apparently they usually have some cancellations each night. Also consider eating a little later or earlier instead of the usual 7:30 - 8:30 time slot. A lunch visit to Gwyn's High Alpine (970-923-5188) on Snowmass Mountain is a must at least once during your stay. You can call that morning to get your name on the list for that day.

By the way, there was no consensus as to which restaurant we all liked the best but my sons preferred Pinons (tuna tacos and beef tenderloin topped with foie gras) and I liked Pacific Grill (seafood appetizer platter for the table, black cod, and chocolate fondue - the four types of salt on the table was also a memorable detail).

Next time, I would book a sushi night.....seems like everyone likes sushi except me.As well, I'd like to try Il Mulino (see above photo), the newest outpost of the New York Il Mulino restaurant. We did have a chance to enjoy a drink and pizza at the bar one late afternoon and had an enjoyable conversation with Jean Paul, former teammate of Jean Claude Killy....priceless.This visit I phoned in my reservations after trying to email Montagne's and not getting any reply, but I'd try the email route next time, but again a month ahead if going around New Year.