On September 28, Franka Holtmann, general manager of Le Meurice in Paris, received the prestigious French Legion of Honor. The award—France’s highest decoration, which recognizes military and civilians alike for their bravery or honorable service to the country—is a tremendous accomplishment in its own right, but even more so for Holtmann, who is the first female GM to ever earn this distinction. A veteran of the hotel business for more than 20 years, Holtmann worked at Paris’s Hôtel Plaza Athénée and Hôtel de Crillon before the Dorchester Collection appointed her the head of Le Meurice in 2006. In a few short years she has transformed the then-sleepy 175-year-old palace hotel back to its original glory, most notably by commissioning Philippe Starck to design the spectacular interiors of the public spaces and restaurants. The elegant 18th-century atmosphere has been reimagined with modern twists and surrealist touches—pops of color, playful furniture, oversized crystal chandeliers—injecting new life into this quintessential Parisian hotel. —The Editors
Before we left for Italy, we interviewed several guides for our tour of Rome and decided on a Departures recommendation of Salvatore Barberi. Even though your article on him was amazing, it did not do him justice. Barberi was extraordinary. We were with another family who had also traveled all over the world, and we agreed that he was by far the best guide we had ever had. Barberi is a scholar, yet he also captivated the children. He followed through on every one of our requests, which was to see everything. He provided inside access to all the most exclusive and special experiences that we could fit into our itinerary. And his drivers were professional and skilled. Above all, Barberi was charming and delightful to be with.Rye, NY
Salvatore Barberi can be reached at 39-335/282-615 or through walksinsiderome.com.
A Toast to Your Health
Departures deserves applause for the informative, inspirational article “New York’s Top Personal Trainer” [September], which encouraged readers to incorporate fitness, balance and discipline sensibly and realistically into their lives. As a clinical psychologist, I have found that while charismatic leaders may differ in their approaches and beliefs, it is always the relationship that makes a situation work successfully. It’s also what patients and clients remember most. Congratulations on the successes described in the article. Let us wish everyone such achievements in maintaining a new behavior for improved vigor and health. And here’s to ending our nation’s galloping epidemic of obesity.Chicago, IL
I just returned from a wonderful trip to Canada and have to rave about the boutique Hôtel Le St.-James, located in the heart of Old Montreal. A beautifully restored former Merchants Bank building from 1870, it was truly one of the nicest places I have ever stayed in. The entire staff knew our names; the concierge arranged for a two-day trip to Quebec City, held on to our luggage and had it waiting for us in the same room upon our return. And when I forgot my bracelet in the room after departing for the airport, they mailed it to me at home.Haverford, PA
Married on Abu
My wife and I were so surprised and delighted by the article about Abu safari camp [July/August]. We were actually married in 1993 on top of the elephants Abu and Benny with babies Sirheni and Cathy by our sides. We arranged to get married in Africa before leaving for our trip, but our outfitter kept the details a secret. On the morning of the wedding, we were loaded in vehicles and set off for a mystery site where the nuptials would take place. We eventually arrived at a clearing surrounded by giant fig trees, where we were finally informed that we were to be married on the elephants! We sat on Abu and Benny side by side, with the minister on a third elephant. It was the most memorable event ever.Boerne, TX