On Paris Addiction and the Rather Strange Things It Makes One Does

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There’s something about Paris, and it isn’t the Eiffel Tower. The hold this city has had on the hearts (and purse strings) of generations of Americans is largely unprecedented: London may be bubbling with more cultural ferment, Dublin is really nice but, yeah, you know: Paris.

I lived in Paris on two occasions, once in the early 1990s as a student and then from 2003 to 2007, in self-imposed exile from post 9/11 New York. My addiction grew, I was shooting up Paris on a 24/7 basis, I was in so deep I even had the legal right to stay and work there. That was probably the start of the end of the addiction; getting into the French daily grind exposes Paris-lovers to the other side of the postcard, and it’s not always pretty. Au contraire.

But what could be more Parisian than parking your tired ass at an atmospheric café and spilling your angst du jour to your journal or closest friends? I remember one day at La Palette when my friend Julien pleaded with me for some romantic advice and I felt rather honored by that; the sophisticated Parigot asking the silly American about affairs of the heart. Lovely! It was at mythic Café de Flore that I formulated the first Paris travel blog for state propaganda machine  France 24. Memories! The only problem was choosing which café—so many demitasses, so little time. But I’ve saved you some (time, not demitasses), so please do check out my 11 top Paris café choices now at The Points Guy.

 

 

 

 

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69 Places in GREECE where Brad & Jen may have swam (swum?) NAKED

athens, crete, europe, grecotel, jennifer aniston, mykonos, santorini, Uncategorized

1. According to Greek press reports, when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were still married, they shacked up in a semi-private, fully secret micro-resort on a rocky outcropping opposite the crowded holiday island of Santorini, where the swimming pool is all:

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2. The fact that Brangelina were there does not preclude the possibility of Jennifer Aniston having also stayed there, but if she did she probably did so with someone other than Pitt. Because Jennifer symbolizes limitless talent, beauty and love, we think she might have swum (swam?) naked here as well, at the beach of Aphrodite’s rock which is technically in Cyprus, but on the Greek side of the island.

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The lady on the left is very clearly possibly Jennifer Aniston, and it’s possible that after I (right) left the rock, she plunged into the aquamarine waters and had a little swim.

3. It is very likely that either Brad or Jen may have possibly at one point or another, together or separately, frolicked in the Grecian buff on the shores of this beach on the island of Milos. Milos, where they shot that stupid video for that awful song (if God exists, may She ban it), and that hasn’t yet been overrun with snarky Gallic junior executives from Louis Vuitton like the Ile-St-Louis or…Mykonos. Seriously, take a look at this piece of beach:

milos

4. You may have heard that sexy-back-in-1984 Tom Hanks has a house on the petite Greek island of Antiparos, pictured below. Who cares, when the fact is that Jennifer Aniston was once really possibly seen on a secluded beach here swimming NAKED?

antiparos

5. The 69th place on our list of places where Brad and Jen may have swam/swum naked (missed numbers 5 thru 68? We didn’t buy your booze!) is of course Mykonos. Pictured here is the Mykonos Blu Luxury Resort, which has this great beach…

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….where there have been reported Aniston sightings. For our exclusive account of what happens at an amazing Greek island resort when you are neither Jennifer Aniston nor swimming naked, check out our Grecotel Caramel hotel diary here.

 

 

 

 

 

Did Nile Rodgers just solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? a Tripquake Exclusive

music, mykonos, pop, Uncategorized
nrepk-approved03-1At any given moment  in the late 1970s the mercury could be off the charts at Studio 54, the legendary ‘70s New York disco that would have turned 40 year this year—the same age, incidentally, as that of CHIC, the band Nile Rodgers co-founded with bassist Bernard Edwards and that churned out hits like Le Freak that for a time helped make America’s dance floors burn hotter than a mid-summer’s afternoon in hell. Rodgers, guitar fiend, hitmaker, chart topper, multi Grammy Award winner, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer has by any yardstick earned the right to rest on his laurels, but such is far from the case as recent collaborations with Pharrell,  Daft Punk, Disclosure and more and a fresh CHIC album and tour can attest. He is every bit as iconic as the pop legends whose work he has produced and at the youthful age of 64 a very tough act to follow. And not the easiest guy to get on the phone. But in a world without Bowie, Prince and George,  Good times, these? Well, save that debate for another moment and for now consider how…

1. Nile Rodgers produced Let’s Dance, and you didn’t. 

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2. Nile Rodgers produced The Wild Boys, one of the best Duran Duran tracks ever…

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TQ: The Wild Boys..Whose dark vision was that?

Rodgers: “Mine.  You have to go back in time. We had already done The Reflex and we were great friends. After that, they were so huge they were almost like a boy band but I knew they were real musicians and they played their own stuff, whereas most boy bands are just out there to be pretty and pretend, one or 2 guys may sing, that’s the formula. I knew that Duran wasn’t that, but their fan base was treating them like that so their critics started treating them like that. So I said wait a minute guys, we have to make an extreme left turn because you are much better than that. My dilemma is that I have nothing against guilty pleasure put-together pop bands, I mean music and art is supposed to be for fun, it’s supposed to be for release, and for a lot of people that’s how they get into music, they start with a cute boy band or girl band, they speak to a certain generation, but as they get older and more sophisticated they sort of move on and they get into a higher art form. Duran Duran were at point for me where it felt like they needed to move on to a higher art form. So we did Wild Boys as a very experimental kind of project, and things just fell together with the diretor Russell Mulcahy and it sort of worked out perfectly. And there’s no other Duran record like that before or after.”

3. Nile Rodgers refreshingly reveals not loving lemonade doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, it might even make a you a better one. Wait, what?

lemonade

TQ: Those millennials…disco v. EDM…you probably know where I’m going with this…

Nile Rodgers: “We recently played Glastonbury and we had about 200,000 people at our set. Every song we play in our shows everybody knows – in fact I have a funny line I say to the crowd, ‘You know what, I’m just going to play our #1 records..it’s sort of a joke because I’ve done so many songs. So when they’re watching us play, they are actually fascinated with the technical facility of the musicianship, and that’s something that’s gone away. When we were kids, people made a big deal about the musicians and the way they could play. Now, you see a huge pop star and no one cares about the band …you know, Pink came flying down from the ceiling, Beyonce had like 45 dancers and they are all in sync and it was incredible, you know that kind of thing, but rarely do people say, Jesus Christ, Adele’s band was killing it, who’s the drummer, man they were amazing!”

4. If disco once ruled the world, that was due in no small part to Nile Rodgers and CHIC. Today, disco is mainly remembered for the backlash against it. #What’s up with that?

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Nile Rodgers: “When punk rock was our biggest rival, our best friends were all the punk rock bands, the Ramones, Bow Wow Wow, Blondie…some of the bands we would actually go on to produce. Same with EDM: guys like Avicii, Disclosure, Sam Smith, they’re my best friends! Last night, at 12:46, I got an MP3 from Disclosure because they were in the studio with me and Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars..we were recording two or three weeks ago. After we finished I sent the entire session to Anderson and he probably sent some stuff off to Disclosure unbeknownst to me, so at 12:46 in the morning I get a mix saying ‘Hey Nile, I hope you dig this, this is what I did with the stuff you and Anderson were working on.’ The EDM community and CHIC, which I have to call the disco/R&B/funk community are very closely aligned..that’s why I play on so many of their records.”

Punk rockers kibitzing with the deans of disco, how unthinkable is that? Imagine the implications for erstwhile enemies Washington D.C., or  the Middle East…

5. Like A Virgin

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from Wikipedia: “Nile Rodgers was chosen as the primary producer of the album, due to his work with David Bowie. Rodgers enlisted the help of his former Chic bandmates Bernard Edwards, who was the bassist, and Tony Thompson, who played drums; they appeared on several tracks of the album.”

6. George Michael and that secret single everyone’s talking about…

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Nile Rodgers: “I get a phone call from the estate and they say Nile, we know you’ve been reluctant to give us the music…I had finished this thing on the 22nd of December. I said I’ve been reluctant to give it you because I have so much respect for George and this is so different from what he did originally and David his producer said, you ‘ve got to think of this as like what you did for David Bowie. Let’s Dance was an album basically of old covers…you took a song like Modern Love, like China Girl…

TQ: And made them commercial, unforgettable pop hits.

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all photos of Nile Rodgers by Diego Paul Sanchez

24 Hours at Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort in Rethymno, Crete

aegean, beaches, crete, europe, food, grecotel, greece, ryanair, travel in Greece
Crete is an island as unnerving and necessary as love. Tough though it can be come summertime to dodge the heat-seeking hordes from the north, it’s still a worthwhile place to while a way a week or more to get a feel for Greece beyond its wonderful but cramped capital and the by-now cliche Greek islands like Santorini and whatever flavor-of-the-month isle as anointed by the glossy travel mags your Aunt Selma still swears by. Crete doesn’t have time for what’s trending because it is timeless. It’s mountains, sea, kri-kris and gods, and once in a while it’s a great hotel too. One in particular, the five-star Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort, will make you sweet on Crete, says Anthony Grant.
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Caramel Grecotel lobby: Image Courtesy Grecotel

There are regular flights between Athens and the two Cretan cities of Heraklion and Chania, and they are typically take just a half hour or so. On my most recent visit, I flew to Chania on the island’s north coast, then took a very clean and modern bus forty miles east to the historic seaside town of Rethymno. If you want to rent a car, go with the best, Voyager. Without much luggage, I could have explored Rethymno’s old Venetian harbor and twisting lanes right away but the mood board called for something breezy, beachy and sweet: so I took a short taxi ride to the Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort. Comfortably ensconced on a curvilinear green velvet canapé, I was offered a Cretan iced tea and caramel pop. More, parakalo!

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One of the best places to stay anywhere in Crete, the resort is designed like an island village in characteristic Mediterranean white, with individually decorated rooms, suites and villas, many with mesmerizing sea views.

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And some eclectic touches…

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Breakfast at Grecotel Caramel is not just a meal, it’s an event. Above, fresh baked cookies and other gourmet Greek nibbles. There’s a hot buffet and other foods stations as well.

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Yogurt anyone? Greek yogurt with homemade jams and honey, maximizing your yum.

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Regarding those sea views…take a look:

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The sea-sweet view from Suite 326

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Grecotel pioneered five-star service in Greece. Personalized service is second nature.

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Did somebody say raki? Agreco Farms is Grecotel’s premium line of gourmet products from its own farm. Actually my favorite item from the range is the Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

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Speaking of stuff that’s intoxicating, did you know that when you book a villa at Caramel  you can have it fragranced just for you? I’d suggest the signature Caramel scent.

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We’ll get back to the farm in sec. Crete is about emotion, not chronological order. While a room in the main building suited me just fine (it looked similar to what you see in the photo below), note that if you take a villa you can have a beachside gazebo set up for you at no extra charge (otherwise it’s 50 euros extra). Villa guests get comp beach bags too.

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I met a lovely donkey, who I called Christos, at Agreco Farm. He looked happier to me than most Democrats I know. I wanted to take him home with me…who wouldn’t?  But with these new TSA regulations our rendezvous was destined to be but a fleeting one.

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Agreco Farm has animals, fruit trees, open fields with views to the Mediterranean Sea…

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“When you come to a pitchfork in the field, pick an artichoke. Then eat it.” — Anthony Grant     (photo courtesy Nikos Lyronis)

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Fresh cut Cretan artichoke with olive oil and sea salt.

Yes, so, unlike any other hotel or resort in Crete (unless you can prove otherwise), this one has its own farm – you can’t get any more locally sourced than that. Agreco Farm, set on 100 ocean-view acres in the lush hills above Rethymno. Up there under the sybaritic Cretan sun, manager Nikos Lyronis showed me how to pick a wild artichoke right from the field and eat it. He also introduced me to a kri-kri, the wild goat of Crete. I fed the goat before sitting down for a six-course organic Cretan feast with Charalabos Gialtakis, the Grecotel Caramel hotel manager. It was the perfect opportunity to sample Agreco’s delicious olive oil, wines and cheeses along with more full-bodied Cretan fare. This kind of farm-to-table dining experience, at the farm itself, is a rarity in travel today and gives you a new perspective on the Greek palate.

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Some of that amazing olive oil I mentioned. And it appears that Christos the Donkey’s modeling career is moving ahead at a faster clip than yours truly’s. My #sad!

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Delicious olives and artisanal Cretan cheese are even more delicious savored al fresco.

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Stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini and my favourite, stuffed Cretan tomatoes.

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“We want to to switch on the holiday mood right at check-in,” says rooms divisions manager Yiannis Katsogridakis (left). That mission is accomplished daily at Grecotel Caramel.

Grecotel was one of the pioneers of Greek tourism in the post-war era so it’s no surprise that standards here are high, and nothing feels like formula. With its mix of beachfront villas and family-friendly junior suites, you will get that personalized, five-star feeling whether you are Brad Pitt or a family of four. (Did I mention free kids’ dining in the Tasty Corner?) I could go on but will direct readers instead to the fine website…in a minute.

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During my too-brief stay in May, I had as my neighbor Greek pop singer Natasha Theodoridou (pictured above left) – and as usual, the place where the “locals” check in too is most assuredly where you want to be.

I missed Theodoridou’s concert in Rethymno because by the time I had dashed into town to take some photos of the old Venetian architecture (the whole of Crete once belonged to Venice) and savor some chocolate-dipped baklava, I barely had time to make it back to

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There isn’t a heatwave in Rethymo a little ice cream cone can’t fix. Photo: AG

the property for my revitalizing facial treatment in the excellent spa, the Caramel Wellness Centre (bye bye airport grime!) followed by a swim at the nice, clean beach.

So: Are you there yet? 

 

A few parting shots from delightful Rethymno:

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Rethymno: less touristy than (in our view) overhyped, congested Chania

 

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Walls of the 16th century Fortezza, built by the Venetians

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4 Ways to “Ruin” Your Weekend in Greece’s Second City

europe, greece, travel in Greece

Admit it: you thought all the ruins were in Athens. You thought that Thessaloniki — if you thought about it at all — was a place where there was a lot of good stuff but not much in the way of ancient relics, right? Wrong!

Much as you might like to party like Paris Hilton on a Greek island all summer, you know that there is more to see in Greece than Mykonos. Athens has cultural wealth and sun to spare, but the pull of Thessaloniki is something different. The Greek capital sometimes succumbs to a touristy vibe that is altogether absent in Greece’s second city, just 190 miles to the north. That makes Thessaloniki, which is the capital of Greek Macedonia and named for the half-sister of Alexander the Great, something of a secret.

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Coke? Jesus? OK! Image: AG

INVISIBLE RUINS

The city’s past is denser and more layered than a flourless dark chocolate cake and sometimes as bittersweet: Students of Second World War history will recall Thessaloniki as a place whose large Jewish population was decimated by the Nazis. Did you know that this city was home to the largest Jewish cemetery in the Mediterranean until the Nazis destroyed it? It may not seem easy to destroy 300,000 tombstones, but the Germans made quick work of that — and that was the “nice” part. In 1943, virtually the entire Jewish population of Thessaloniki, numbering 46,091, was hauled off to Auschwitz in cattle cars — a couple of which are preserved on the periphery of the city’s train station. There were 19 meticulously organized transfers. Only 1,950 Jews would return to the city of whose fabric their community had been a vital part for more than 21 centuries. 

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In certain periods in time, it was the one of the highest populations in the city, especially after 1492. The first Jews came around 140 B.C. from Alexandria, the so-called Romaniote Jews. The arrival of almost 20,000 Jewish newcomers deported from Spain, though, was what altered the face of the city. Through their skills and abilities, the (‘Sephardites’) revived the wounded Thessaloniki after its conquest by the Ottomans and contributed to its commercial ascent. In 1870, the 50,000 Jewish residents constituted 56 percent of the Thessalonian population, while in 1941, 36 synagogues were fully functioning. The city’s oldest synagogue burned in the 1917 fire that leveled much of the historic center. The Nazis destroyed all the others save one, the Monastirioton Synagogue, which was built in 1927 and has been beautifully restored. I went inside to take a peek: very light and bright.

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Inside the Temple. Image: Anthony Grant

This Is What Might Happen If You Spend 24 Hours at COLORS Urban Hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece

europe, hotels, travel in Greece

LADADIKA, THESSALONIKI, GREECE — Think Pink. Or green, yellow or cooling blue. Pink was on my mind however because of what had just happened an hour or so before I checked into what is easily the most charming (is it still legal to employ that word?) boutique hotel in Thessaloniki. And this is because, as my Aegean Airlines flight came humming in low over the still-as-glass Thermaic Gulf (a northern finger of the Aegean Sea that tickles the underside of Greece’s second city), the sun alternately emerged from then disappeared behind pillowy banks of sunset clouds in 16 shades of gray, presenting itself in a single, glowing pink beam that progressed with all the stealthy affirmation of cat paws over the ribbon of water, setting it on pink Turkish delight jello-y fire. In other words, pretty gosh darn pink.

That is why I was somewhat relieved to find my room was done up mainly in teal and blue, because that particular day in May no spin on pink decor could have been a match for what the Macedonian sun had so marvelously cooked up before giving in, like me, to the night.

colorsroom2

My room looked like this. The bed was super comfortable. So was the chair on the right, above. Oh and those are my clothes. I mean, probably.

I arrived so late I didn’t realize all that was going at the hotel and frankly, I hadn’t even looked at the hotel’s very good website. My bad, I know, but it was late and I was tired and that’s why I was relieved to find the room was fresh and new, the bathroom immaculate and the bed super comfy. I didn’t even realize until the next morning that the room came with a big private balcony, too.

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Out on the balcony of my room on the fifth floor of the Colors Urban Hotel in Thessaloniki.

Of course, I hadn’t come to Thessaloniki to spend a lot of time in my hotel room: my mission was actually to pack in as much history, and particularly Jewish history, in the 24 hours available to me ahead of my virginal flight on Ryanair. Having the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki across the street was reminder enough that there would be no time for slacking off. Which is a shame, because not relaxing in Thessaloniki borders on criminal activity.

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Aristotelous Square is a short walk from Colors Urban Hotel, and invites lingering. Photo: AG/TQ

So another room, the “Copper Room” was across the hall, and looks in part like this:

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I really liked this room, which has a partial sea view and a bit of a maritime feel. Very light, too.

The hotel features a Garden Bar which does double duty as the breakfast space and as, well, the bar. I took some time to study the libations menu which had been placed in my room. I was stunned by the range of coffees and artisanal teas on offer.

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Hello? You had me at Macedonian Tea with Fennel, Mallow, Anise and Linden

The coffee menu, and another guestroom.

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The Garden Bar is the kind of hotel bar where locals and hotel guests mix easily and breezily. I mean, would you expect anything less in a city where there are giant outdoor fans to keep you cool in the heat of summer? I’m not kidding! Look! See?

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Breakfast was perfectly proportioned and really good. Mine looked like this (not pictured, my coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice: I was really thirsty!)

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And here’s a view of the main seating area. Colorful!

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Here I should make some Wildean statement about how budget should never be a consideration in matters of gastronomy or travel, but nah. I will simply mention instead that Colors is a casual 4-star hotel with  “21 cleverly designed rooms, the freshest cocktails and spot-on body rejuvenation all under one roof.” Replete with a “guest-centric approach…and coolest crew in town that will make you feel right at home. You will get to enjoy sweet stylish comforts and speed-of-light fast Wi-Fi. Make COLORS Urban  Hotel your base camp to discover the city.” Which I did — and so should you!!

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George Michaloudis, Hotel Manager (left) with Anthony Grant (right). Shirt reads: Thessaloniki, Many Stories, one heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

COLORS Urban Hotel is located at 13 Tsimiski Street, the heart of Thessaloniki.