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Griffith Park Now Offers Shuttle Service to Hollywood Sign Viewpoint

The Hollywood Sign

The Hollywood Sign is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Los Angeles. Now the Department of Recreation and Parks have made it a little bit easier to get a clear shot of the Hollywood Sign by offering a shuttle service on weekends (and selected holidays) from Griffith Park to a viewpoint of the Hollywood Sign and then on to the Observatory.

Hiking trails overlooking Griffith Observatory

The shuttle costs $10 for adults and tickets must be purchased online here so be sure to book before you go. You’ll also want to pack your zoom lens, as the viewing point offers a clear view, but there is still quite a bit of distance between the shuttle’s viewpoint on Mt. Hollywood Drive and the sign itself.

View of Downtown Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory

The shuttle service also stops at the trailhead for a hiking trail that will get you even closer to the Hollywood Sign, approximately an hour and 15 minute hike to the closest viewpoint you can reach by foot. After 20 minutes at the viewpoint, the shuttle continues on to the Griffith Observatory where you all get killer views of downtown Los Angeles (especially on a clear day).

Early morning view of downtown Los Angeles as seen from Griffith Park Observatory

The shuttle service to the Hollywood Sign viewpoint is expected to run through the end of 2014.

Griffith Observatory Shuttle Service info can be found here.

Griffith Observatory
2800 East Observatory Road
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(213) 473-0800

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A Stay at the Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence, Italy

Gorgeous views of Florence from the Villa San Michele

There are a lot of luxury hotels to pick from in Florence, but there is only one in Fiesole hills in a converted 15th century former monastery that has a facade attributed to Michaelangelo– The Belmond Villa San Michele.

An alter from Villa San Michele’s former life as a monastery in reception

My husband and I chose the property from among LHW’s excellent edit of Italian properties. I love repurposed buildings and the Villa San Michele has managed to keep much of the Renaissance charm of the monastery intact while providing all the expected perks, luxuries, and excellent service that are expected from a Belmond property (note: The Belmond Brand was formerly known as Orient-Express).

Interior hallway at Villa San Michele

With gorgeous terraced gardens, a pool, a fabulous restaurant, a fitness center and a kids club on site, you don’t have to leave Villa San Michele to have a great time. But the staff wants you to get the best out of your time in Florence so the hotel offers a complementary shuttle for the 15 minute ride to the city center.

A simple and elegant room at Villa San Michele

The 21 guest rooms and 25 suites are classically elegant and surprisingly spacious considering some of them used to be monks cells. The bathrooms are modern and stocked with Bulgari amenities.

Marble drenched master bath at Villa San Michele

A bowl of fruit and bottle of Champagne were our welcome amenities. There was also a card from General Manager, Aaron Kaupp, inviting us to a wine reception on the lawn. When the General Manager goes out their way to meet with guests, you know that the service is top notch.

I’m guessing the monks didn’t eat this well

The breakfast spread is impressive, with an amazing selection of baked goods, meats, cheeses, and fruits in addition to cooked items. Eating delicious pizza for breakfast on the covered terrace overlooking Florence was especially delightful.

The baked goods on the breakfast buffett

The hotel’s concierge, Maurizio, the concierge was so great, we had him make our dinner reservations for our entire stay in Florence. He also set us up on a crazy good wine tasting tour of the nearby Chianti region.

Buffalo mozzarella, tomatos and pizza in the atmospheric La Loggia restaurant

Eggs Benedict and breakfast delights

Lobster pasta for lunch at Villa San Michele

Such a pretty dining experience

The covered terrace of the hotel’s La Loggia restaurant

Villa San Michele’s Gorgeous green lawn and terraced gardens

Stunning views overlooking Florence at Villa San Michele

A dreamlike archway at Villa San Michele

You can check out special offers (including stay two nights, get your third night free LHW offers for Villa San Michele here.

Belmond Villa San Michele

Via Doccia 4, 50014 Fiesole, Florence, Italy

Tel: +39 055 5678 200

Email: reservations.vsm@belmond.com

Reservations: + 39 0185 2678 803

Rates start at $711.39 (534.00 EUR) for Classic Double Room (with complimentary American Breakfast)

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Discovering Torre Alberghieri: Wine Tasting in the Chianti Region of Tuscany

Hand painted wine bottles at Torre Alberghieri

One of my favorite days this summer was spent exploring the Chianti winemaking region in Tuscany. The concierge at the Belmond Villa San Michele arranged a wine tasting tour with a car and driver. The weather was fantastic, and it was a marvelous way to explore the Tuscan countryside outside of Florence.

The  line up of hand painted bottles at Torre Alberghieri

Located about 12 kilometers outside of Florence, Torre Alberghieri features a fabulous 19th century villa and also offers agriturismo accommodations on site. The villa is owned by charming resident artist and winemaker Rodolfo Guarnieri. He has really nailed the “live in a villa in Tuscany” dream.

Torre Alberghieri makes excellent Chianti Classico

Torre Alberghieri is known for it’s excellent small production Chianti Classico. It’s delicious, but the production is so small it’s not available on a large commercial scale.

The Line up of Torre Alberghieri wines

Wine Tasting at Torre Alberghieri

During the wine tasting, Rodolfo admitted he preferred his beach house to his Tuscan villa. I can only imagine what that would look like.

After the wine tasting, we ordered six bottles of wine to have shipped home

Artist slash winemaker Rodolfo Guarnieri

If you’re looking for things to do in Florence or a great day trip, arrange a trip to Chianti Country. The wine pairs well with the fantastic scenery, and Rodolfo Guarnieri is a charming host and talented painter and winemaker.

Rodolfo’s open air painting studio (complete with hammock)

The Family villa and outdoor spaces are filled with Rodolfo’s amazing paintings

The tower of the family villa at Torre Alberghieri

 

Azienda Agricola Torre Alberghieri

Via di Pancole, 141,

50022 Greve in Chianti, Firenze

Tel. +39 338 499 0052

Fax. +39 556972

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Where to Eat in NYC: The Mercer Kitchen

 

The Heirloom tomato salad at The Mercer Kitchen

I’ve never had a bad meal at The Mercer Kitchen, and after yesterday’s lunch, I realized I needed to write a post about the SoHo restaurant which is one of my NUC faves. Located underneath the Mercer Hotel, The Mercer Kitchen has chic minimalist interior design (designed by Christian Liaigre) and killer food that is good enough for foodies, but isn’t overly complicated.

Looking up at the Mercer Kitchen

Executive Chef slash owner Jean-Georges Vongerichten has an incredible menu filled with interesting riffs on seasonal cuisine. There were so many appetizers my husband and I wanted to try, we knew what we wanted to order that we never even glanced at the entrees section of the menu.

The shrimp cocktail from the Raw Bar

I started with the Sweet Pea Soup, which was incredibly fresh tasting and light and perfect for a summer lunch. For protein, I ordered the shrimp cocktail from the Raw Bar. My husband had a tomato-centric meal, starting with the Market Tomato Gazpacho and then following up with the Heirloom Tomato Salad with basil, Serrano chili and onions.

The Ginger Margarita hit the spot on a hot summer day

Keeping with the tomato theme, my husband had a Bloody Mary and I had a light and flavorful Ginger Margarita. The meal was satisfying yet light and HELLA DELICIOUS. It reminded me why I always enjoy coming back to the Mercer Kitchen.

Sweet Pea Soup with Vegetables and Croutons

Next time, I need to get back here for dinner… or at least get to entree section of the menu.

Reservations suggested. You can book through the Mercer Kitchen website or OpenTable.

The Mercer Kitchen

99 Prince St, New York

NY 10012, United States

(212) 966-5454

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Check Out My HipStop: St. Lucia Piece in the New Summer 2014 #HOT Issue of SNAP Magazine

A honeymooner going coconuts in St. Lucia

The summer 2014 #HOT issue of Snap Magazine is live and available for free in iTunes here. It’s filled with stunning images, recipes (chorizo breakfast tacos, anyone?), a hot summer playlist and my HipStop: St. Lucia piece.

The cover of the Summer 2014 #HOT issue of Snap Magazine

Left: Sugar Beach does umbrellas right  Right: squirtguns on the table at Dasheene

I love shooting assignments for Snap. The hard part is picking which images to send in the final edit. In this post I’ve included a few of my favorite images that did not wind up in Snap.

I met this fruit and vegetable vendor at the market in Soufriere.

Left: Diamond Falls Right: The Rain Forest Walk at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort

All the images in Snap are shot using the apps created by Hipstamatic. I shot all of my St. Lucia images for Snap using Hipstamatic’s Oggl app, which allows you to changes the film and lens after you’ve captured the image.

Palm Frond Sunset at Sugar Beach in St. Lucia

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