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Easy-to-Access Urban Parks

Easy-to-Access Urban Parks NPS
Courtesy of National Park Service

The NPS has more than 100 parks and recreation areas close to major cities. Here, four to explore.


Great Falls

Nearest City: Washington, D.C., a 30-minute drive.
What It Is: In McLean, Virginia, the park overlooks the Potomac River’s, well, great falls. 703-285-2965.
What To Do: Early in the morning, hike the one-and-a-half-mile River Trail, which runs along the river’s stunning cliffs.


Santa Monica Mountains

Nearest City: Los Angeles, just outside the city.
What It Is: At 154,094 acres, the country’s largest urban national park is in L.A.’s backyard. 805-370-2300.
What To Do: Go beyond Griffith Park: Hike at Paramount Ranch, where dozens of movies and TV shows have been filmed.


Harbor Islands

Nearest City: Boston, a 20- to 40-minute ferry ride.
What It Is: A group of 34 islands and peninsulas across the harbor from Boston. 617-223-8666.
What To Do: There are tons of activities: Explore a Civil War–era fort, visit lighthouses, hike, picnic, fish and more.


Golden Gate

Nearest City: San Francisco, within city limits.
What It Is: An urban recreational area that’s home to George Lucas’s headquarters. 415-561-4700.
What To Do: Hide away at lux­ury resort Cavallo Point. Rooms, from $400; 601 Murray Cir.; 415-339-4700;

For more on national parks, see U.S. National Parks (Without the Crowds).

Three Ideal Japanese Breakfasts

Three Ideal Japanese Breakfasts
Maya Jimenez

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day, but its benefits—not unlike those of sleep or hydration—are especially appreciated on the road. The Japanese version of the meal, with its satiating, sky-high protein content and lower sugar dosage, which help mitigate midday fatigue, is prized for being hearty, not heavy. And the menus are becoming increasingly prevalent at hotels worldwide. Here are three of the best.

Clement, The Peninsula, New York
Chef Brandon Kida brings his Japanese heritage to the menu at The Peninsula hotel’s brand-new Clement restaurant, where dishes composed of locally sourced ingredients receive an Asian flair, such as miso-accompanied Elysian Fields lamb or Barnegat Light scallops paired with yuzu and apple. Look for the same range at daybreak: A bento box of grilled sockeye salmon, tofu-rich miso soup and pickled vegetables is teamed with a tamagoyaki—a rolled, paper-thin Japanese omelet that is an alternative to the restaurant’s fluffy American version. At 700 Fifth Ave.; 212-903-3918;

Le Cinq, Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
Executive chef Eric Briffard’s dedication to fresh, carefully sourced products helped earn this hotel restaurant two Michelin stars and a local following. The morning-time fare follows suit. One look at Briffard’s ten-plate Japanese breakfast reveals the hyper-specific stops around Paris he took to complete it: daikon turnips and spinach from a Japanese garden in Île-de-France; soya and rice from Japanese delicatessen Workshop Issé; and steaming pots of genmaicha from the tea room Jugetsudo, in the Sixth Arrondissement. At 31 Av. George V; 33-1/49-52-71-54;

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
Guests need not travel far from London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park to get a taste of the world—or the talents of three different chefs. For traditionally inspired British bites, leave it to the team at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, and the crew at Bar Boulud satisfies midday French-bistro cravings. But morning hunger pangs are eradicated in the lovely main dining room, thanks to executive chef Chris Tombling, whose Japanese breakfast is a tray of ten components, including ginger-laced tofu, dried seaweed and a detoxifying juice selection of spinach and pineapple or carrot and ginger. At 66 Knightsbridge; 44-20/72-35-20-00;

Postcard from the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale

Postcard from the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale
Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia

History lessons, almost as a rule, tend to be on the dry side—unless, of course, they’re dispensed by Rem Koolhaas, the Pritzker prize–winning Dutch architect and polemicist known for never following the rules. Under his direction, “Fundamentals,” the newest edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale (through November 23;, which opened June 7, looks at the past hundred years of architecture’s global evolution in ways that are provocative, inspiring and almost never boring.

The main event takes place in Venice’s historic Giardini, where Napoléon Bonaparte’s former garden now houses 30 national pavilions, centuries-old architectural marvels in which the 65 participating countries set up their shows. As a departure from Biennales past, which have highlighted glitzy, unrelated showcases of recent starchitectural achievements, Koolhaas prompted the exhibitors to look inward at the effects of globalization on national identity. Here are a few of the most stimulating standouts to catch this year.

  • Russia welcomes visitors with Day-Glo versions of the classic jet-age flight attendant—women decked out in pink and purple standing at the entrance to “Fair Enough” (pictured above), a darkly satirical trade show selling off farcical pieces of Russia’s architectural history, like vacation packages, metro stations, artist El Lissitzky and more.
  • The United States pavilion, led by a team of New York architects, academics and designers, hosts “OfficeUS,” a functioning architecture firm complete with receptionist, desks, MakerBot 3-D printers and fellows busily researching the past and present of their industry to produce a weekly design relating to an issue in American history. The results will be published in a series of four books at the Biennale’s end. They are happy to talk but by appointment only.
  • Korea puts on the best show and was rewarded for it with this year’s Golden Lion award for best pavilion. “Crow’s Eye View: The Korean Peninsula” is a profound look at both the North and South and how differences in economy and ideology can manifest in buildings. Although photographs of Pyongyang and Seoul show two separate histories with various architectural styles, the two cities share a search for national identity in the midst of rapid urbanization and foreign influence.
  • In the center of the main event is Koolhaas’s own pavilion, called “Elements of Architecture,” an exhibition that zooms in on the overlooked essentials of erecting a building: the floor, the walls, the ceiling…the toilet. An entire gallery, in fact, questions our cultural transformation through the lens of the loo, from using the stone-carved ancient Roman commode to the electronic bidet, under a very compelling premise: “The toilet is the most fundamental zone of interaction—on the most intimate level—between humans and architecture,” reads the exhibit’s wall text.

What to Drink: Cachaça

What to Drink: Cachaça
Avua Cachaça

The fate of Cachaça (ka-sha-sa) in the United States is much like that of soccer: Every few years we cross our fingers and wait for the trend to catch on. This year has proven successful for both imports, thanks to the World Cup and the craft-spirits movement.

Distilled from freshly cut and pressed sugar cane—making it a closer relative to the lesser-known rhum agricole than the more ubiquitous rum styles made from molasses—Cachaça has a distinctive funky, herbaceous nose and a clean, complex flavor profile that varies according to the location of its cane fields and, if aged, the type of barrel (umburana, ipê, cedar, balsam) used.

Despite the variations (there are hundreds of Cachaças produced in Brazil), U.S. liquor stores have only recently replaced the unrefined rocket fuel we associate with the spirit with more indicative, artisanal expressions. Bartenders, in turn, have begun to use it to create cocktails beyond the traditional caipirinha. Here are three bottles to try.

Un-aged: Avuá Prata
Avuá produces two single-estate, limited-production versions that use a family recipe developed over three generations. Prata, rested in stainless-steel casks for six months before bottling, offers a clear view into Cachaça’s grassy, yeasty character, with a pleasantly dry finish. There’s really no end to how you can mix it.

Aged: Novo Fogo Gold
Matured for two years in small American-oak second-use bourbon barrels—which are dismantled, washed, sanded and re-charred before using—Novo Fogo Gold may be the most approachable Cachaça on the market. Hints of vanilla, caramel and banana (all derived from the cask) mitigate the intensity of the spirit’s vegetal notes, making it a gentle introduction to the category. Use it in cocktails that call for brown spirits, like a dark and stormy or a Boulevardier.

Wild Card: Cedilla
We’re not typically drawn to fruit-forward liqueurs, but we’ll make an exception for Cedilla (named after that phonetic marking added to the “c” in “Cachaça” and “açai”). A blend of Leblon’s un-aged Cachaça and the macerated Amazonian superfruit, it is surprisingly dry for such a sweet, viscous spirit. Add carbonated water for a refreshing soda or mix it into cocktails (in lieu of simple syrup) for an all-natural berry accent.

Princess Gloria von Thurn Und Taxis Draws the Chelsea Hotel’s Greats

Princess Gloria.jpg
Photocourtesy of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis

“It’s very important not to take oneself too seriously,” says Princess Gloria von Thurn Und Taxis just a few days after her art opening at the Chelsea Hotel Storefront Gallery.

Dubbed “Come on Darling, Don’t Be Mad,” the exhibit showcases her hand-drawn portraits of the famous faces that have come through the legendary Manhattan hotel. “It’s sort of making fun of myself,” she says of the show’s title. “If you are not really happy about your portrait, don’t worry—this is just the way I see you.”

Long a recreational drawer, Princess TNT of Germany (as she’s commonly known) received the commission for the series—her first ever—back in April. Since then, the autodidact has completed two or three faces a day in preparation. “I’m drawing a person while we speak,” she says during our chat by phone.

Rendered in pastels on 9-by-12-inch pieces of construction paper (“It reminds me of the way we used to draw as children,” she remarks), her depictions of icons like Jimi Hendrix (pictured above), Allen Ginsberg, Robert Mapplethorpe and Edie Sedgwick fall somewhere between the flatness of Alex Katz’s work and the exaggerated realism of a caricature. “My people look very friendly—they are not so mysterious, they are in your face,” she explains. “This is how I am, so I want my portraits to be that, too.”

She is known to patron the arts (works by Thomas Ruff, Anselm Kiefer and Paul McCarthy are all present in her homes), but this series marks her first foray into art as an artist—yet another path the punk-princess-cum-businesswoman-cum-devoted-Catholic has set upon since arriving on the scene in the 1980s in Germany as the young bride of Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis.

And while she hopes this is just the beginning of her commissioned pieces for public spaces, exactly where the portraits will end up once the show closes on July 25 is still up for debate. “Ideally I would like to see them in the hotel rooms, because that’s where they belong,” she says.

For now, however, she’s reveling in the triumph of her inaugural show—to which Jeffrey Deitch, Jeff Koons and Calvin Klein all showed up. “It was such a big success,” she says, “we’re thinking about a closing party, too!” Through June 25; 222 W. 23rd St.; e-mail to make a viewing appointment;

Natori Opens a NoLIta Store

Natori Opens a NoLIta Store
Photo by Lia Chang

What Josie Natori, founder and CEO of the lingerie and lifestyle label Natori, began 37 years ago has grown into an icon known around the world for its sophistication and spark. And with the debut of its first New York boutique, which opened June 16 in NoLIta, it adds a new chapter to its storied run.

“This is not really a flagship,” says Josie. “We’re using this as an opportunity to really make more of a lab.”

Originally envisioned as a showcase for Josie by Natori (the younger arm of the full lineup, which includes Josie Natori, Natori and N Natori), the downtown shop turned into a chance to highlight items from the entire brand catalog—and to learn more about its clientele. Featuring rotating themes to keep things fresh, the store will change its assortment of products every few months. Now through mid-July will focus on a summer-lifestyle concept that includes lingerie, ready-to-wear accessories and home accents from the Josie Natori and Natori lines. One-of-a-kind couture caftans, as well as runway pieces from the ready-to-wear collection, punctuate the current offerings, and selections from Josie’s personal antiques collection of 40 years will be on display and for sale, including porcelain, ceramics, textiles and decorative objects.

But beyond the merchandise, the new outpost allows the brand to experiment a bit in an intimate, 1,100-square-foot arena that captures the Natori spirit and keeps one clear objective in mind: “Making it fun and making it a surprise so it’s not stale,” says Josie. “Downtown is just perfect for that. We’ll have fun mixing it all up.” 253 Elizabeth St.; 646-684-4934;

Copenhagen’s Noma Restaurant Comes to Japan

Copenhagen’s Noma Restaurant Comes to Japan
Ditte Isager

From January 9 to 31, 2015, chef René Redzepi will close the doors of his highly acclaimed Copenhagen-based restaurant Noma and re-create his kitchen at the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. But those looking to taste his renowned signature cuisine—which has claimed number one on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list four times—won’t find it here.

Long curious to experiment with Japanese culinary traditions, chef Redzepi is cooking up something entirely new: a blend of his celebrated “time and place” food philosophy and traditional Japanese techniques and seasonal ingredients that he’s taken months to explore. (Rice, for instance, is something he has plans to integrate into a dessert, though he has never worked with the grain at Noma).

“René will bring something far beyond the typical pop-up restaurant experience,” explains Tony Costa, general manager at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. “Typically a pop-up restaurant is an abridged version of the original—but René wants to do something very different.”

As a result, both the kitchen and the decor of the hotel’s Michelin-starred eatery, Signature, will be transformed to take on its own distinct look and feel. That includes singular tabletop elements and other details curated by both the chef and Costa.

With only 50 spots at each service, they are bound to fill up fast—which is why reservations can be made beginning at midnight on June 23 when booking the Noma at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo package ($1,455 for two). A small number of spaces will be reserved for dinner and lunch outside of the package deal ($380 a person;

“Consider it a team-building exercise I’ve had in mind for a long time,” says Redzepi. “We are walking the plank, and it feels good.” 2-1-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chuo; 81-3/3270-8800;

Music and Culture in Québec

Music and Culture in Québec
Festival d’ete de Québec

When it comes to music festivals, bigger isn’t always better. But when a sizable lineup still manages to feel well edited, as it does at the Festival d’été de Québec (July 3–13)—Canada’s largest outdoor music event—everyone wins.

“Diversity defines us and the program reflects it,” says CEO Daniel Gélinas. “Music is everywhere! Our festival is for the trend-setters, the followers, the curious—all of them.”

More than 300 shows featuring a thousand artists will take to ten indoor and outdoor stages throughout downtown Québec City for 11 days. Ambitious? Certainly. But with the historic capital as its backdrop—and a wealth of street performances and activities held throughout the city—the 47-year-old festival has a charming feel that is difficult to find elsewhere.

Lady Gaga, Blondie, Billy Joel, Queens of the Stone Age and ’90s grunge band Soundgarden headline. A tribute show pays homage to French-Canadian singer-songwriter, actor and poet Félix Leclerc, giving a nod to the happening’s hometown; Nigerian guitarist Bombino and Ivory Coast reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly represent a global contingent. The John Pizzarelli Quartet jazz troupe will play, as will British blues great John Mayall (both at the Impérial de Québec theater, which is pictured above).

“Staying on top is the most challenging aspect of putting together a festival like [this one],” says programming director Louis Bellavance. “We need to reinvent ourselves constantly in order to stay ahead. It’s all about balance.” We can’t wait to listen.

A Legendary Reunion on Broadway

black stars of the great white way
Photo courtesy of Lisa Pacino

In October 2011, Chapman Roberts—the vocal arranger of and performer in hit shows such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar—gathered together more than 300 African American stage performers and behind-the-scenes professionals for a historic picture. “Nowhere in history did there exist a photo of the black performers of Broadway as a group,” Roberts says, adding that once he had such an accomplished crew assembled he couldn’t let the talent go untapped. “We decided to turn the photo into a live concert and celebrate ourselves and our predecessors.” Two years later, the musical revue Black Stars of the Great White Way debuted as a one-night-only event at New York’s Queensborough Performing Arts Center.

Those who may have missed that special show are in luck. On June 23, Roberts brings his production a step closer to the actual Great White Way (Broadway, that is), with a second one-night performance—The Black Stars of the Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream—at Carnegie Hall. More than just a collection of some of the most phenomenal talent to ever grace the stage, the nearly three-hour show is a tribute to pioneering African American performers (Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong), who helped pave the way for future entertainers.

Returning cast members include Ben Vereen, Hinton Battle and Cleavant Derricks—but the star lineup doesn’t stop there. With help from Live the Dream executive producer Norm Lewis, Roberts has wrangled even more wattage for his second go-round, including Tony Award winners Ben Harney and Obba Babatundé. Other legends like Keith David, André De Shields, Larry Marshall, Savion Glover and Maurice Hines round out the ensemble.

The performance is as much a passing of the torch as a historical recount for a new generation. “Legacy is essential to the survival of any culture,” Roberts says. Plus, the show is absolutely riveting and not to be missed. But if you need further convincing: Who knows when—if ever—such a legendary cast can be assembled again? June 23, 8 p.m.; 212-247-7800;

A Limited-Edition Ai Weiwei Monograph

ai weiwei monograph
Photo credit: © Ai Weiwei (TASCHEN, 2014)

Artist Ai Weiwei has been busy. Just over the past few weeks, his works have been on display at the Brooklyn Museum, the Pérez Art Museum Miami and at Art Basel Hong Kong, and will show up on the island of Alcatraz in the fall. Always moving toward the next project, it would seem China’s most famous contemporary artist has little time to look back.

This summer, however, Hans Werner Holzwarth and Taschen release one of the most comprehensive studies of his work yet: A signed, limited-edition monograph ($1,500) done in collaboration with the artist himself.

“Working on a comprehensive monograph of a living artist is like curating a mega-large retrospective exhibition,” says Holzwarth, who spent about two years with Ai putting the book together. “He has become a household name, and now you need to take a comprehensive look at his work to understand how he got there.”

That journey is charted over the book’s 724 pages, which are filled with essays from Uli Sigg, the former Swiss ambassador to China and the artist’s long-time friend; Roger M. Buergel, curator of 2007’s Documenta art event; and a variety of experts on Chinese culture and politics. Exclusive interviews with Ai and myriad previously unseen images—including photos he took in New York, installation shots taken in his workshop and pictures from his studio—round out the display. “With Ai Weiwei, more than with other artists, it is important how things are made,” Holzwarth adds. “We really wanted to glue all the bits and pieces together to show the complete picture.”

As an added touch, each of the 1,000 special-edition copies comes wrapped in a silk scarf based on a detail from Straight, his work that references the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, and every chapter begins with a full-page opener designed by Ai in traditional paper-cut style. “To make an important book like this,” says Holzwarth, “everything has to be specially created out of the artist’s work.”

At least that’s one thing Ai can check off the to-do list.

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