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Test Drive: The 2014 Audi R8 V-10 Plus

Test Drive: The 2014 Audi R8 V10 Plus
Courtesy of Audi

Drive the new 2014 Audi R8 V-10 Plus ($179,645) on the Pacific Coast Highway around Malibu, California, and the authorities will appear in your rearview mirror like they have an appointment. You might be tempted to test how they react to a car that goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds and hits a top speed of 196 miles per hour, but resist the urge. A discreet move into the right lane is enough to convince them that no laws will be broken.

Still, a 50-mile-per-hour speed limit is frustrating when behind the wheel of this newest, slimmed-down iteration of the vaunted R8. Since track time was not on the itinerary, we turned east to get a real feel for the car. Surf shacks gave way to canyon ranches perched atop roads so steep (and deliciously curvy) that the locals keep a four-wheel-drive vehicle at the bottom of driveways for the final ascent.

The R8 V-10 Plus is the kind of two-seater sports car you could commute to work in; the normal driving mode is very smooth, thanks in large measure to a seven-speed S tronic transmission. Though the interior is comfortable, it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that anything bigger than an iPad would challenge its cargo-carrying capacity.

But shift into sport mode for some canyon-carving and the true character of the car reveals itself. (The 550 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque hint at the transformation.) The R8 V-10 Plus spits like a mad beast on a chain with a tap of the brake, and springs forward like a freed demon when the accelerator is toed. It handles a curve like a straight line and is a car that doesn’t like to stand idle. In fact, you can’t even shift into park. The only way to stop is to turn the engine off.

Annie Leibovitz’s American Lens

Annie Leibovitz’s American Lens
Annie Leibovitz

Photographer Annie Leibovitz, best known for her iconic editorial and commercial work, takes a different route in “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage,” an exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina (through January 5, 2014). On tour since debuting at the Smithsonian last year, the show represents a departure from Leibovitz’s seminal approach. “She usually has to answer to somebody,” says curator Victoria Cooke. “This is a personal journey that she made that is all about her own interests, her own aesthetic.”

That journey took the photographer everywhere from national landmarks to parks to the homes and private collections of Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley in search of an understanding of her American heritage. The 78 photographs (shot between 2009 and 2011) in the show feature landscapes, objects and interiors that tell stories within four galleries loosely related to naturalism, England, the notion of freedom and the American psyche. The exhibit (whose appearance at the Columbia Museum is sponsored by Edens) closes its tour in August of next year at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

One highlight is a photo of a dress worn by Marian Anderson, an early-20th-century African American singer. When a concert hall in Washington, D.C., refused to host her, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt helped to facilitate a groundbreaking, pre–Civil Rights Movement performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Other photographs, including shots of the studio where the memorial sculpture was crafted and objects from Roosevelt’s home, provide context, a “sense of flow through history—and connections through history—that aren’t immediately obvious,” says Cooke. 1515 Main St.; 803-799-2810;

Furniture Design on Display in Philadelphia

Furniture Design on Display in Philadelphia
Courtesy of Christian Giannelli Photography

Even to the unfamiliar, the aesthetic is unmistakable: Smooth slabs of wood with natural, unfinished edges and butterfly joints holding together split planks. The look is the legacy of furniture-maker George Nakashima, who celebrated the inherent beauty of wood—knots and all—by pioneering the free-edge style.

For decades, Mira Nakashima worked behind the scenes at her father’s studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania, but as business stalled following his death in 1990, she nearly closed the family enterprise. Now 71, she continued to create furniture in George’s iconic style, interpreting his original drawings and designing new pieces. The result is “Nakashima Woodworkers: An Evolving Legacy” at Philadelphia’s Moderne Gallery, a showcase (and sale) of more than 20 original works by designers in the Nakashima Woodworkers group (on view through November 2).

Works such as the Chigaidana ($18,000), an interpretation of Japanese shelving in black walnut, come from the archive. “It’s a direct translation of a drawing I found in the Widdicomb-Mueller [a now-defunct Michigan-based furniture firm] file—all right angles with a couple of free edges,” says Mira of the 68-inch-tall unit. “The proportions are exactly what dad drew.”

New pieces include the Carpenter Coffee Table ($9,800) by Miriam Carpenter, Mira’s assistant. Inspired by a Claro walnut burl and the harmony of a three-to-two proportion, Carpenter challenged the workshop to create a unique, right-angled joint at the bottom of the base. The firm also introduces it first pendant light, the Ceiling Lamps ($3,000 a unit), which are made from panes of white cedar and washi parchment and combined in series of two or more. 111 N. Third St.; 215-923-8536;

Shopping Spotlight: My Wardrobe

Shopping Spotlight: My Wardrobe
Courtesy of My Wardrobe

Carmen Borgonovo knows exactly where to locate the most fashionable finds. And as fashion director of the London-based online shopping destination, Borgonovo—who was formerly senior style editor at Harper’s Bazaar UK and an accessories editor at Vogue and is a regular contributor to Elle—uses her insider knowledge to bring the best of the fashion world to her audience. Here she chats about the site and what she’d like to wear now.

Q: What is the key to successful fashion e-commerce?
Online shoppers are extremely savvy. They’re looking for sites that are a step ahead and bring something unique and exciting to the market. New brands and carefully curated product offering is an important part of this, but impeccable customer service and a seamless shopping experience are all essential. We like to think that we act as our customers' best friend.

Q: How does My Wardrobe set itself apart?
We focus on offering our customers a unique curation of up-and-coming, emerging and established designers, ensuring that we stand out.

Q: You recently made the fashion-week rounds. What caught your eye?
There have been some truly beautiful collections on the runways this season. From New York, Emilia Wickstead, Thakoon and Proenza Schouler. In London I loved Meadham Kirchhoff, 1205, J.W. Anderson, Simone Rocha, Eudon Choi and Huishan Zhang. Prada and MSGM were highlights for Milan.

Q: What will you add to your own wardrobe?
Culottes for spring!

Q: And what excites you about fashion right now?
The beauty of fashion is that it’s always changing and evolving. It’s wonderful to see young designers growing from emerging talent to become global names. That’s what inspires me each season.

A Tuscan Itinerary: Val d'Orcia

A Tuscan Itinerary: Val d’Orcia
Courtesy of La Bandita

Located in central Italy, Val d’Orcia is the Brooklyn of Tuscany, thanks to an abundance of artisanal everything. It is home to small-batch pastamakers, dairy farmers and upstart wineries that have created a bold new class of Brunello. Tiny workshops sell hand-tooled leather goods, textiles and ceramics. The scent of local Pecorino wafts from the many specialty food shops. And two stylish hotels have put a decidedly luxe stamp on things.

Val d’Orcia’s neo-Tuscan verve is most evident in two rustic-chic La Bandita properties situated in and around the Renaissance town of Pienza. La Bandita Townhouse (rooms, from $265; 111 Corso Rossellino; 39-0578/749-005;, a former convent, sits smack in the middle of one of the most charming towns in Tuscany. The 12 guest rooms are minimalist yet warm, a fusion of crisp Italian linens, honey-colored stone, wood floors and whimsical accents like a handwoven straw bag to be used for shopping. La Bandita (rooms, from $265; Podere La Bandita; 39-333/404-6704; is an idyllic villa surrounded by verdant, Cypress-and-sheep-speckled grounds with airy lounging areas, shaded terraces for alfresco dining and an infinity pool. The restaurants offer a set menu of fresh, local fare served at oversized tables. The communal setup lends itself to making fast friends with, well, everyone.

Try the farm-to-table experience at Monteverdi (39-05/7826-8146;, where celebrated chef Paolo Coluccio whips up dishes like lavender risotto. At organic farm Podere Il Casale (64 Podere Il Casale;, one crosses peacocks and the random donkey before sitting down to a hearty meal and a drop-dead-gorgeous view of the Val d’Oracia valley. Exquisite cheeses, olive oil, pasta and honey are available for purchase.

Arrange a tasting at smaller, cutting-edge Montalcino/Brunello producers, such as Sesti (, Cupano ( and Fonterenza (

Tucked into Via Dogali, an ancient cobblestone street in Pienza, Officine 904 (16 Pienza Via Dogali;, led by a husband-and-wife designing duo, quietly produces some of the most fabulous (and versatile) bags in Italy. The hyper-modern wares can also be purchased online.

A New Performing Arts Venue in Beverly Hills

A New Performing Arts Venue in Beverly Hills
Courtesy of Annenberg Center for the Arts

It can take years to get a project off the ground in Hollywood. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-746-4000; in Beverly Hills—after a series of stops and starts and 17 years in the making—proves just that, opening on October 17 with its own Hollywood unveiling. (Special guests include Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.)

The spectacular building encompasses the original Beverly Hills post office and a new 500-seat theater—all done by architect Zoltan Pali, who was brought in on the build in 2006 and talks here about what the project has meant to him.

Q: What about this was so challenging and time consuming?
Projects like these often take what appears to be some time because of a combination of things. I started working on the project in early 2006, and I must say that even though that seems like a bit of time, it really is not that unusual for cultural projects of this scale. Design was two years, construction was about the same and the entitlement process was about 18 months. There were some gaps in between all that for fundraising and other approvals.

Q: The history of its location is notable.
Pre-2006, it was imagined that the 1936 post office would be transformed into a 500-seat theater while adding a new wing for the studio theater, educational classrooms and administration components. It was my opinion that a better scenario would be to reverse that thinking and actually build a brand-new state-of-the-art theater south of the post office and utilize the post office itself for the [rest]. The 120-seat studio theater fit nicely into the original 1936 mail-sorting room, the classrooms fit nicely into the original loading dock and the administration fit nicely on the second floor, where the postal workers had offices and breakout areas. The old and the new are connected below ground and the basement is utilized for back-of-the-house facilities.

Q: What is your favorite area of the new space?
As the architect, it is difficult to answer—it is like asking what part of your child is your favorite part. However, gun to my head, the space along the pedestrian walkway between the old building and the new building is quite compelling to me. It feels very urban. You get the understanding of both buildings and read each one’s individuality and how they relate to each other.

A Gala for Africa at Spago

A Gala for Africa at Spago
Courtesy of Dream for Future Africa

On October 24, the Dream for Future Africa Foundation, founded by Gelila Assefa Puck, will host a gala at Spago Beverly Hills (176 N. Canon Dr.; for tickets, call 310-205-2549; There will be toasting and special guests (Naomi Campbell and Amber Valetta included), but the heart of the event will be a mission: to offer opportunities and equal treatment to those in need in Africa, particularly children and families.

Following the lead of its first vocational training center in Aleltu, Ethiopia—which opened last month and helps students navigate the space between traditional schooling and a professional work life—the organization is currently focused on opening a series of centers throughout the continent. “It means a lot to be able to give them a promising future into adulthood,” says Assefa Puck (pictured above, seated in the middle), who is married to chef Wolfgang Puck. We chatted with her about the vision.

Q: What prompted you to start Dream for Future Africa?
It was established in 2010. Prior to 2010 I had been supporting a school in a small village outside Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Back then the school had 21 children. Today that school serves over 700 orphans. The idea for the vocational training center was born as the first children we enrolled in the lower school were graduating high school. The foundation’s purpose is for the children who do not make it into a university obtain skilled training to help them transition into a career so they can provide for their families.

Q: How far has the organization come since its inception?
In 2011 we did a groundbreaking with the help of the Annenberg Foundation to build the first phase of the vocational training center. Today that building is fully completed and the first round of high-school graduates enrolled in courses for communication technology, garment manufacturing, textile and sewing. Our mission is to create additional programs to help create sustainability for these children’s future.

Q: What has touched you the most since you started this?
It is touching to watch these children, who I have helped support since kindergarten, graduate from high school and then be able to secure next steps to their future.

Q: And what have you learned?
In Africa a little goes a long way, which is empowering.

A Hotel Re-emerges in Copenhagen

A Hotel Re-emerges in Copenhagen
Courtesy of Hotel d'Angleterre

For two years, starting in June 2011, Denmark was deprived of its most storied hotel—Copenhagen’s 250-year-old d’Angleterre. But after the completion of a massive overhaul this summer, the White Lady, as she’s sometimes known, is back.

The renovation, originally scheduled to last a year, stretched to two when engineers realized the edifice itself was no longer stable. “The building was swaying,” says hotel spokeswoman Pia Rosenkilde. “They found chicken wire, hay and straw in the walls.”

Five hundred tons of steel were added. Ceilings rose to their original heights and walls were stripped away, resulting in 90 rooms versus the original 123. Color palettes changed (the Parisian-style façade going from light cream to gray-white); rooms received new linens, Dux beds and Bang & Olufsen TVs.

Else Marie Remmen—who did the flowers at d’Angleterre before marrying into the Remmen family, who owns it—is the creative force behind the new look. (The Remmens sold the hotel to a group of Icelandic investors in 2007, then bought it back in 2011.) She replaced an old-fashioned portrait of the Queen of Denmark that once hung above the front desk with an Andy Warhol print of her royal highness, and a massive collection of Danish contemporary art, borrowed from a local collector, is displayed throughout.

The hotel has never looked better. Other updates include the new flagship spa for Amazing Space, a top Danish brand, with an indoor pool scheduled to open in December. Ronny Emborg, a rising star on the Danish food scene (he cooked for the Queen before earning a Michelin star at nearby AOC), runs the restaurant, Marchal, and a staff-changing room on the ground floor was transformed into the luxe new Balthazar Champagne bar. Cheers, indeed. Rooms, from $455; 34 Kongens Nytorv; 45-33/120-095;

Chess Meets Fashion in “A Queen Within”

Chess Meets Fashion in “A Queen Within”
By Toby McFarlan Pond

With unparalleled mobility and a tendency toward surprise, the queen is a force to be reckoned with on a chessboard. The World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri, explores her role—in and out of the game—in “A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion and Chess,” a combination of fashion, photography, film and art opening October 19.

“’A Queen Within’ is a very layered, intricate exhibition that is really a 3,000-square-foot piece of art itself,” says curator Sofia Hedman. “I think people will be surprised by how clear the connection between chess, art, and fashion becomes once they've experienced it.”

Hedman examined different archetypes, studying those established by pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung, and created nine different queen personalities—sage, mother figure, magician, enchantress, explorer, ruler, Mother Earth, heroine, thespian—that play out in the exhibit. Designers like Viktor & Rolf and Alexander McQueen are represented; look out for a bespoke diamond glove by Shaun Leane and Daphne Guinness, a bubble dress by Hussein Chalayan and Iris van Herpen's undulating snake frock.

All the objects convey a regal power and singularity, but the show goes far beyond royalty. “We want to spark an interest in chess among females,” says Hedman. “We want them to see the queen within themselves.” Through April 18, 2014; 314-367-9243; 4652 Maryland Ave.;

Top-Tier European Wine Experiences

Top-Tier European Wine Experiences
Courtesy of Butterfield & Robinson

When George Butterfield, founder of the active-travel company Butterfield & Robinson, led a group of travelers on a bespoke wine-focused trip through Germany and France earlier this year, he knew he was onto something special. Based on the success of that inaugural expedition, B&R (with its tagline, “Slow down to see the world”) is venturing beyond its standard biking and walking offerings in 2014 with new Wine Grand Journeys (eight or nine nights, from $14,500; 866-551-9090;

The three oenological odysseys—Spain and Bordeaux; Germany and France; Italy—will roll through stunning landscapes, with stays in hotels like Castiglion del Bosco (Località Castiglion del Bosco; 39-05/7780-7078;, an estate in the Tuscan countryside owned by Massimo Ferragamo, and access to wineries that aren’t typically open to the public. Ornellaia and Antinori, a few of Italy’s most distinguished wine producers, are among them.

We spoke with Butterfield about the inspiration behind the trips, what guests can expect and just how much biking is involved.

Q: What is the concept of the Wine Grand Journeys?
I wanted to offer trips that weren’t limited by budget or time and were simply the best of the best. They are for people who enjoy the idea of drinking great wine and enjoying insider access while biking and walking through gorgeous scenery and staying in fabulous hotels.

Q: How do they differ from a regular trip with Butterfield & Robinson?
Instead of being just biking or just walking they blend both, and they offer access into places that no tour group—not even a regular B&R trip—can usually see, like Gaja in the Piedmont region. At least one of the guides on these trips will have a deep wine knowledge, and the local experts we rely on are recognized in their field. Also, the stays are in small properties that will wow even the most seasoned traveler, like Hôtel les Avisés [59 Rue de Cramant; 33-3/26-57-70-06;] in Champagne.

Q: How much biking is involved?
It is slightly less than on some of our trips—about 20 miles a day compared with 30 to 40. I would say we have a mix of biking abilities as we do on most trips. The Italian trip is hillier than the other two, which is why we are offering electric bikes for those who hate hills.

Q: What is the ultimate inspiration behind the itineraries?
I have enjoyed wine and meeting wine-makers for as long as I have enjoyed biking. The idea of combining my passion for “slowing down to see the world” with biking and wine is the inspiration.

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