Meditations #74

May 25, 2016

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Tenderness lives where the touch is lightest and the heart lingers.

Souls speaking to each other in the quiet.

It is a sharing, not a possessing, between two beings.

Photographer:  Asuncion Pineyrua

Ballylinch Stud , Ireland


May 22, 2016


“There is a magic to the valley”, they say. I know it. Its seduction lies in the staggering natural beauty of its mountains, rivers, lakes and forests, and in the colorful history so well preserved in the neat and intimate town, the surrounding mines, the museums. There is also the lovely surrounding ranchland, the territory in to which this town of 6000 retreated during the first half of the 20th century when the silver mines went bust, which produces cheese and meats, fruits and vegetables – all, it must be added, organic, artisanal, award-winning. And, finally, there is the contemporary thriving Aspen, the reinvented Aspen so deftly defined and designed by fiercely committed families like the Paepckes. It was these thinkers and doers who founded and funded its arts and environmental studies institutions – the Aspen Festival and ACES. This is a place ‘not out of time’ but, in many ways, ‘ahead of its time’ and that, also, is why it is so appealing. Aspen offers fun, health, intellectual stimulation, artistic outlet – in sum, a way of life that favors its citizens and is hard to come by elsewhere.

DO visit in spring, summer and fall as well as in ski season

DO outfit yourself with the correct clothing – this is the epitome of four seasons in one day

DO allow yourself to get acclimatized to the altitude (7200 feet at Ajax mountain’s base)

DO prepare to explore the secret athlete in you

DO join the full moon cemetery visit with Aspen Historical Society

DO take a dusk badger walk at Hallam Lake

DO take your dog..Aspen is not only dog friendly but dog central. Your pooch will have the time of his life



 Little Nell: A Relais & Chateau property, is the boutique hotel ski in/ski out option and it is terrific. The Paepcke Suite (same family) offers a front row seat to the skiers in winter and a view onto Ajax Mountain’s impossibly green flank in summer. The residences are quieter and more private.

The St. Regis: Just down the road, is a larger hotel with a good spa and varied room combos.

Hotel Jerome: Located in the center of town on Main Street, is a combination of luxury and historic heritage.

Aspen Meadows Resort: The 98 suites look out on to the 40 acres of meadows that are framed by the Roaring Fork River and Castle Creek. This is the home of the Aspen Institute and Festival and, while just steps from town, you feel like you are in the countryside.

 The Limelight: Owned by the Little Nell, LL has good-sized room at more reasonable prices, an relaxed atmosphere, pool, and delicious food.


The Mountains: There are mountains for every activity – from hiking, biking and rock climbing to skiing and paragliding – but Ajax is the mountain that literally falls in to Aspen’s lap. Snowmass mountain, handy for children’s activities, is within 15 minutes, while the other peaks – called collectively the 14ers – call on a range of skills and expertise.

The Rivers: The Roaring Fork is Aspen’s river but, along with others like the Shoshone and the Colorado, all or parts offer themselves for different sports at different times of year. All classes of rafting are available, from a lazy cruise to full on rapids. Kayaking in inflatable duckies is a great afternoon activity. Fly fishing for veterans or newbies is also hugely popular.

Ballooning: Pam does one departure a day at 5:15AM, but it is spectacular.

Paragliding: Alex has two launches in the morning that can be filmed if you wish. Depending on the thermals, the flight can range from 15 minutes to 45.

Horses: Take a long day’s ride up to Maroon Lake, hike around it and then bike back down.

Pure Nature: Visit Hallam Lake, located in town and the seat of ACES, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Gorgeous 40 acres of pristine creeks, meadows and cottonwoods is preserved as a teaching environment for Aspen’s local schoolchildren as well as for visitors. Offering classes, walks, stories and respite.

ACES also operates Rockbottom Ranch which it also uses as a teaching tool about sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry and wetlands preservation.


Pure Culture: Visit the Stallard Museum for an understanding of Aspen’s tumultuous history. Pop over the Aspen Historical Society’s other museum, the Holden Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum, to understand what the silver boom and bust meant to the town. Tour Smuggler’s mine which, over the course of about 20 years, produced, along with other local silver mines, 1/6 of the US’s silver back in the day. AHS offers other wonderful programs from a full moon storytelling tour in the local cemetery to bike rides around town that stop at significant sites.

Mind Body & Soul: The Aspen Institute is a remarkable nonprofit whose mission is to promote wellbeing in mind, body and soul. It produces the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Aspen Music Festival and School. The Music Festival takes place during the month of August, providing classical music performances both by renowned musicians and by its 600 students from around the world. The Ideas Festival draws together leading thinkers to discuss and share ideas.

And… Plenty of Retail Therapy

 Best Day Trip: If you have kids with you, maybe drive to Paonia, CO to Avalanche Dairy Farm to get a bit of loving from some other kids – goat kids. Here, Wendy Mitchell of Meat & Cheese (see below) raises nanny goats to produce her award-winning cheese. 2-hour drive each way. If you have an overnight, drive four hours each way (or charter a Pilatus) and fly to Moab, UT to visit three gorgeous national parks – Canyonlands, Zion or Arches – and be amazed by the sandstone sculptured outcroppings and the dinosaur and Anasazi remains: tracks, bones and rock art. If you overnight, stay at Sorrel River Ranch Resort.


Cache Cache French and old school

Element 47 is Little Nell’s restaurant. It has the deepest cellar in Aspen and hosts a sommelier’s event each year

Ajax Tavern is Little Nell’s informal venue at the base of the mountain offering great burgers and truffle fries 11-9.

Chefs Club by Food & Wine, located at the St. Regis, brings a roster of Best New Chefs for successive star turns

White House Tavern, located in town, has outdoor seating that is coveted at all times of day. Great guac and salads.

Meat & Cheese across the street from White House Tavern is owned by Wendy Mitchell, proprietor of Avalanche Farm in Paonia which raises goats and her creamerie in Basalt that makes delicious cheeses and the sausage. Great vibe and delicious.

Mezzaluna of New York fame, good for pizza

Casa Tua of Miami fame is a club as well as a restaurant

Matsuhisu, Nobu Matsuhisu’s Aspen outpost

Hooch, Wendy Mitchell’s bar and newest venture





Two Best Things This Week

May 8, 2016


I have a  practice which is to think back, every evening, on the three best things I have experienced during the day.  And so, of the 21 choices for this past week, here are two of them:

Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology is the show that opened this past week at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  So large that it is located in the wonderful Robert Lehman Gallery Wing on the first floor, the exhibition addresses the founding of haute couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of mass production. It explores this ongoing dichotomy, in which hand and machine are presented as discordant tools in the creative process, and questions the relationship and distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear.  The clothes are grouped according to the traditional metiers:  lacework, embroidery, artificial flowers, pleating and more.  It is a thoughtful, beautiful show.


Polo Bar, Ralph Lauren’s entry in to the restaurant world in New York, is located across from the St. Regis old school location with an old school vibe and delicious – old school – food.  RL has a knack for making us feel at home, even if it is in an aspirational home.  But here we are again, comfortable, great lighting, and, as I said, delicious food.  We had pigs in a blanket (remember those?) delicious and small enough to pop in the mouth; new potatoes and caviar (divine); salmon (perfectly sized portion); chicken paillard (wafer thin); and even a kale salad (nod to the ‘never too thin or too rich’ crowd).  I found the restaurant a bit frenetic and an overabundance of staff that were a little crazy but, once seated, it was really pleasant.  However..and this does bother is impossible to get a reservation and, once reserved, you are questioned outside of the restaurant by the doorman as to who you are and, again, at the coat’s all a bit much and, I found, rather irritating.

The Trees of Central Park

April 30, 2016

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Find me.

No, I’m not lost. I’m walking with Oliver in the northern reaches of Central Park and have just spotted a red-tailed hawk in the leafy canopy of a wide branched tree.  I love tracking the hawks and listening to the havoc they cause among the sparrows and robins but, today, it is the tree I am looking at.

I pull out my iphone, pull up my Central Park Entire app, and press “Find Me”.

Here we are- gps’d –  hawk, Oliver and me.  And the tree.  What is this beauty?  I press on the green tree icon next to me and up comes the dialogue box –  American Elm – and I find out that this American Elm is considered one of the most amazing elms in Central Park and part of the original Olmstead planting.  I press on the East Meadow, on whose periphery the elm sits, and am told that Olmstead intended for the East Meadow to be an arboretum.  Indeed, it has some of Central Park’s most magnificent trees but it also is – and has been even in my childhood – the play ground of our after school hours and our weekends.

I hold the key to Central Park in my hand.  The team that put this app together – Ken Chaya, Ed Barnard and Nick McConnell – are quite clearly passionate guys.  2 years it took them to map the 20,000 Central Park trees, as well as every rock formation, archway, statue, monument and recreational area.  And then the identification and the history..Oh my, this is a work of art and such a life enhancer for anyone who loves, and uses, the city’s most valuable resource.

Ollie in front of one of Central Park's most venerable American Elms
Ollie in front of one of Central Park’s most venerable American Elms

Meditations #73

April 26, 2016


A Pocket Trip

The recipe:

A nonstop flight

A 4-night stay

One destination

And a singular objective

The result:

A serendipitous encounter

An unforgettable meal

A drop of sun on a gray winter canvas

Adventure, knowledge, laughter

And, of course, memories

Location:  Cotswolds, Engand


to view itinerary:

Haven’s Kitchen

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We are looking for entertaining space because we are happily awaiting another wedding in the family, and so the time has come to vet the venue possibilities.  Haven’s Kitchen, located in a three-story converted carriage house on West 17th Street, is a lovely option.  We were welcomed  by Halle Heyman, an adorable and very capable woman who oversees private events, and given the grand tour.  Haven’s Kitchen is multi-purpose, offering just off the entrance a relaxed cafe with bar stools and serving healthy soups and light snacks.  In back, an open kitchen offers cooking classes.  The private rooms – first and second floor throughs – have wide plank floors, white brick walls, cosy sitting nooks, and a bar.  There is space enough for round or long trestle tables to seat 80-100 guests and for after dinner music and dancing.

The Cotswolds

April 7, 2016


Each Cotswold village, it seems, is more picturesque than the last, and the rolling countryside that links them, lined with thick hedgerows and limestone walls and, in spring, carpeted with daffodils and cowslip, is postcard perfect. Located 1.5 hours from London or just a 40-minute drive from Birmingham, the Cotswolds can provide a richly rewarding experience over a long weekend.

  • DO read up on the area before going to get a good historical sense of the region … the importance of the geology and geography to its economic rise, and the reasons for its suddenly eclipse
  • DO fly in to Birmingham rather than London Heathrow
  • DO rent a car and self-drive
  • DO keep to the back roads to avoid tourist traffic and to guarantee marvelous discoveries
  • DO take advantage of England’s footpaths that crisscross the countryside
  • DO visit the many interesting churches, known as the “wool churches,” for they were built by money made from the wool trade

Wander. Wander by car or on foot or, if you are a lover of horses, you can even ride by day and overnight in different country houses. The celebrated villages – Broadway, Burford, Chipping Camden among them – will be frustratingly busy in summer and virtually impossible to park in. But there are so many other villages that all you need do is to stick to the back roads and mosey along; among my favorites are Adelstrop, Swinbrook (home of the Mitford sisters) and Snowshill, impossibly pretty and surrounded by lavender fields. Visit Northleach which has one of the finest wool churches and a museum of musical instruments and clocks; Cirencester, at one time the largest Roman town outside of London, with another important church that houses Anne Boleyn’s chalice and one of the country’s oldest weekly markets; Lechlade, located at the source of the River Thames and home to William Morris, has ancient walls constructed of vertical Cotswold stone slabs.


Walk. The Cotswolds is a walker’s delight and, frankly, the very best way to savor this region of golden stone villages, woodlands, meadows and valleys, brooks and tight fields. The region is protected as an area of outstanding natural beauty – the largest in the country – and walking along its footpaths will ensure you are far from the beaten path. Your best guide for delicious walks in the Cotswolds are outlined in 50 Walks in the Cotswolds.

Visit. The Cotswolds is famous for its gardens, castles and stately homes, many of which are managed by the National Trust. Heavily trafficked, you can feel utterly local bypassing Hidcote Manor Garden and stopping in at Kiftsgate just down the road. Intimate and riotous with color, Kiftsgate Court Garden was planted post WWI and has been tended by three generations of women. Sezincote, considered by some a “folly”, is a 200-year-old Mogul Indian palace, set in a romantic landscape of temples, grottoes, waterfalls and venerable centuries old trees.


Shop. Poke around in the seemingly endless antique shops in the region, many of the best to be found in Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden and Chipping Norton. Immerse yourself in the Bamford brand, shopping for organic farm produce, home products, housewares and wonderful cashmere and cotton clothing at Daylesford near Kingham. If a long weekend without a pilates session or a soothing massage dampens your spirits, the Bamford Haybarn Spa will give you these and more.   And if outlet shopping is your thing, drive half an hour to Bicester Village Outlet, home to more than 100 high-end designer brands like Marni, Celine and Mulberry.


And remember that Oxford is not that far away either. Visit the Ashmolean or Pitt Rivers Museum and another gem, the oldest botanic garden in England. On a lovely afternoon, rent a boat at the Boathouse and punt down the Cherwell River. End your day at Christ Church Cathedral for choral Evensong at 6PM.

The best season to travel to the Costwolds is in April, May, very early June and then, again, after the summer in early Fall. The flowers are beyond belief in the spring and then, as the months wear on, the thick hedgerows patchwork the farmland and meadows and the ancient trees offer shade to sheep flocks. Avoid the summer months when the crowds descend.


Meditations #72

March 22, 2016

Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

Mystery and Magic.

Magical is the splendor of our earth – its colors and formations, and its endless diversity.

Mysterious is what remains untouched and hidden to us – a valley or peak, and the subterranean caverns of our dreams.

Photographer:  Ryan Deboodt

Soon Dong Cave, Vietnam

Meditations #71

February 16, 2016


Hugging the coastline, their hand-sewn ships ran with the trade winds, laden with dates and dried fish, mangrove poles, coconut oil, pearls and slaves.

 For millennia, they plied the incense route, a maritime cat’s cradle of ports and straits and pirate coasts, weaving together a babel of languages, religions and customs into a glorious trading empire.

Photographer:  Clara Zawawi

Location:  Muscat, Oman


Friday at the Met

February 13, 2016

Ganesha, Cambodia

Friday, at the Met – a wonderful ritual that a friend and I have developed over time.  In sub freezing weather or on a summer evening, the glories of the Met are a siren call to us.  Much of the Met we know but, somehow, we always seem to find a new cabinet of jade objects, a special textile, an old friend of a painting or sculpture. Our footsteps often echo walking the marble halls – the museum is so vast and there are so many rooms that hardly see a visitor – and even in opening exhibitions, Friday evening is a a peaceful time.  It’s a long week, the pressures are non-stop, the computer a fixation; how nice to amble through Southeast Asia, sit in Astor Court to catch up on family news, breathe in the rarified air of Dendur.  And then there is always the mezzanine gallery where the Friday quartet plays a lively concert while happy museum goers stop for a glass of wine and a light bite.





throw pillows