Dear frequent-flier free spirits,
When I wasn't chained to a desk in an office, I managed to have a fascinating year of flitting from Bermuda to Palm Springs, Rome to Palermo. Here is my year in pictures.
New Year's Day in Bermuda: a harbinger of hope near Horseshoe Bay. I flew down to the pristine British Overseas Territory to visit my cousin Kathy and her family.
As Hyacinth Bucket might say, yelling to everyone within earshot of her white slimline telephone: "It's my cousin Kathy, the one with a swimming pool, sauna and room for a pony!"
Kathy has a lovely house with lovely hospitality in Hamilton, located conveniently near the Pink Princess Fairmont Hotel, home of the formidable hand-shaken bartender piña colada. It packs a wallop!
At the end of January, I escaped the wet gloom of NYC and took a jaunt to the divine desert community of Palm Springs. I never got used to the 3-hour time change and fell asleep early every night (the bed at the Alcazar Hotel was like sleeping on a cloud)—so, I might have missed out on a few swinging nights at the Purple Room (next time) but I awoke every day at 5am and walked down to the corner of North Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road and watched the sun rise. The dawn's early light kissing the sky and the mountains is one of the greatest shows on earth!
The main reason I went to Palm Springs was to visit Patrick McDonald, North America's most important dandy institution. Patrick relocated to Palm Springs from NYC, transmogrified into the Desert Dandy and helped run the charming shop No. 6 Palm Springs with his twin brother Michael. Now Patrick is back in NYC because he missed the limelight—and the soup at Veselka!
During my stay I took a tour with Palm Springs Modern and visited some of the most fantastic examples of mid-century modern architecture in the world! The clean lines of modernism are the perfect complement to the zen minimalism of the desert landscapes. My idea of heaven.
The Edris House by E. Stewart Williams, 1953
Side view of the iconic and meticulously restored Kaufmann house (yes, the one that appears in the famous "Poolside Gossip" photo). Designed by Richard Neutra, it is widely considered to be one of the finest works of residential architecture in North America (along with Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water," which was commissioned by the same family.)
Another view of the Kaufmann house designed by Richard Neutra.
A very rare Studebaker Avanti, manufactured in Palm Springs in 1963.
I had a lovely outdoor brunch with Michael McDonald and Carlos King at the Escena Lounge & Grill where we had a visitor: a very chic roadrunner!
My close pal, the Hollywood-based lesbian rock star Carole Pope, took a private stage coach down to the Springs to join me for some desert sun and tiki drinks at Bootlegger Tiki.
Bootlegger Tiki is located on the site of Don the Beachcomber's PS outpost, which opened in 1953. Don the Beachcomber arguably invented tiki pop in the U.S. in the '30s and here he served his trademark Zombies and Cantonese food dressed up as exotic Polynesian cuisine (just add pineapples!). Now, only a small area of the space is dedicated to the old tiki mecca, and Bootlegger Tiki has updated the aesthetic by serving more refined versions of tiki cocktail classics.
Here I am in what quickly became my daily cocktail-hour booth enjoying what I think is the most delicious cocktail on the menu: the Pod Thai. It's made with Selvarey rum, house-made cardamom lemongrass syrup, coconut cream, lime juice and Thai basil. I need more of this in my life!
Carole and I stayed at the idyllic Alcazar Palm Springs, located in the chilled-out Uptown Design District. The Alcazar, opened in 2011, is a classic Spanish Colonial building transformed into a modern boutique hotel that oozes charm and relaxation. In the 1930s, the property was a secret hideaway for celebrities who went there to dry out (which was the last thing I was there for!) and in 1950 it opened as a hotel called the Pepper Tree Inn.
In July, Diane Pernet and I were invited to my favorite city, Rome, to cover the bi-annual fashion event Alta Roma for A Shaded View on Fashion.
The Inn Crowd: me, Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style and fashion writer Rebecca Voight at the Rome Times Hotel before the Azzedine Alaïa cocktail at the Galleria Borghese.
Skin is always in: python halter top by Azzedine Alaïa.
The man of the hour: Azzedine Alaïa during the morning press preview at the Galleria Borghese.
Designer Alessandra Carta, moi and Pashion magazine editor Susan Sabat at the Alaïa cocktail. (No, that is not Vaseline on the lens—it's what happens when you hand a real camera to someone who is used to taking photos only with an iPhone. Oh, the times we live in....what a world, what a world...)
Trigger warning, dolls! The Galleria's most famous sculpture: The Rape of Proserpina.
The Galleria's gorgeous ceiling.
A diaphanous delight at the Rani Zakehm show at Alta Roma.
Enrico Palazzo, Diane Pernet and I arriving for the Zoolander 2 wrap party at the Villa Brasini.
Diane, who has a cameo in Zoolander 2, took a moment to chat with the film's star Ben Stiller.
Susan Sabet during the open house at the Accademia di Costume e di Moda.
It was boiling hot this past July in Rome, so Diane and I sought air-conditioned refuge in a cash machine.
During my leisure time in Rome after Alta Roma, I visited the show of Uruguayan sculptor Pablo Atchugarry at the Mercati di Traiano.
Say it loud and wear it proud: I love-a the spaghetti! From the "Tales About Fashion & Food" exhibit at the Mercati di Traiano.
Tiki madness in the Hotel Locarno garden with designers Alessandra Carta and Paola Balzano.
The Holy Trinity: Alta Roma's Conseulo Aranyi, luscious Italian olives and the Locarno's Earl Drunk.
In September, I was back in Italy—Palermo, Sicily to be precise—for my yearly end-of-the-summer holiday. I was over the moon for the Arab-Norman architecture.
Just about every day I had an aracina, bigger than my head, for breakfast at Arancini Bomba. This one was filled with spinach and mozzarella but my favorite was the sausage ragú version. Divoonly delicious and gloriously greasy.
You see the most curious things wandering around the rambling back streets of Palermo. I loved this '70s-style spaghetti ad wheatpasted to a crumbling shack.
I met Sicily's most important art gallerist, Francesco Panteleone, and he took me on a tour of his family's mesmerizing, multi-level religious articles shop.
I paid homage to one of Italy's founding fathers, Giuseppe Garibaldi, in the Giardino Garibaldi, famous for its mammoth banyan tree and the arrow-motif fence.
The so-called Fountain of Shame, named thusly by a group of frustrated nuns who had had to gaze at its nudity from their cloister window.
I visited the fascinating Museo Internazionale delle Marionette (puppet museum) and wandered around alone in its spooky rooms, absorbing the history of Sicilian puppets that began sometime in the early 19th century.
This looks like a Christmas present from Krampus for hopelessly naughty adults.
I took a day trip to the town of Monreale, which seems to have more consideration for the impossibly blue Mediterranean than Palermo does.
The reason one goes to Monreale is to visit the jaw-dropping 12th-century cathedral, famous for its gilded mosaics that depict just about every story in the Bible.
Meanwhile, back in Palermo...
The famed Quattro Canti.
The most transcendent dish I ate in Palermo was the bucatini con sarde at Casa del Brodo: a perfect composition of wild fennel, sardines, currants, pistachios, fennel seeds, pine nuts, pepper flakes, saffron and breadcrumbs. This is what life is all about.
Palermo's massive cathedral.
One of the games you play in this city is trying to locate all of the Genius of Palermo statues. This one was tucked away in a tiny garbage-piled alleyway. Pre-Roman in origin, this mysterious icon is the laic patron of Palermo. One interpretation is that, because Palermo has an ancient history of colonization and conquerors, the snake represents the foreign presence which eats from Palermo while imbuing it the knowledge and cultural contributions.
During one of my epic flânerie, I stumbled upon this Genius in the Piazza della Rivoluzione.
I rented this splendid apartment in Butera28, which is run by Nicoletta Polo, the Duchess of Palma, in the Palazzo Lanza Tomasi (the last home of the author of The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa).
View from the Duchess's garden.
Nicoletta Polo Lanza Tomasi, the Duchess of Palma, by the bay laurel tree in her garden at the start of "Cooking with the Duchess," a cooking class that I took.
Nicoletta took us to one of the city's oldest markets, Il Capo, to buy ingredients for the lunch we prepared. Here's where we got the swordfish for our involtini.
At Capo Market.
Me in the Duchess's kitchen zesting some lemon for the involtini (swordfish rolls) stuffing.
The white gloves were out for the silver-service lunch. We started with the ruvidelli con pesto alla Trapanese.
Later that evening, the Duchess and I attended an opening at Francesco Panteleone's gallery in the Quattro Canti. Here she is with Francesco exchanging stories about their lives and businesses in increasingly popular Palermo. (The New York Times did a story about the city shortly after my piece appeared on A Shaded View on Fashion.)
During the opening, I met Stefania Galegati Shines, who is wearing a clever Clash-goes-classical t-shirt designed by Palermo Studios. Stefania gifted me this fab t-shirt along with an "Out in Palermo" version. Among the city's top movers and shakers, Stefania and her husband Darrell recently opened the club Caffè Internazionale.
Palermo is famous for its street eats and this grilled pork and peppers sandwich, consumed with a Negroni outside my favorite dive bar in Vucciria, was the food of the gods.
Dinner at Bisso with Nicole and Rafaella.
In November I was back in Bermuda to spend Thanksgiving with my cousin Kathy and her family.
Chic Vespa, check. Chic Burberry trench, check. An incredible bargain on luxury fashion, check. A helmet for protection on the battlefields of Longchamp and Chanel? Priceless. Kathy returns from Black Friday shopping in downtown Hamilton.
Move over palm trees, the Christmas tree has arrived in Bermuda!
Kathy and I went out for industrial-strength piña coladas at the Fairmont Hotel. We checked out this creepy-cute bunny by Tom Sachs.
Dinah Shore, eat your heart out. A relaxing game of luxe miniature golf on the sea was a perfect way for me to unwind after a hectic year in aggressive New York.
Thank you for taking this trip with me.