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stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

If one were to die and go to heaven it may look something like a Cathay Pacific First Class flight.  I was disappointed when I called looking for a mileage ticket in Business Class and none were available.  Alas First was available so First it was.  The only problem being that now that I’ve experienced silver caviar service with handwritten notes, my own 100% organic Cotton PJ’s to sleep in, my very own closet with which to stow my own raggedy sweatpants and hoodie, and enough personal space to accommodate a family of three, as well as a sleeper bed that would easily accommodate me and Erela nestled cozily together, champagne on demand, and service with a smile, how can I ever go back to economy on my beloved Delta?

And so that is how I kicked off another trip to one of my favorite cities, Hong Kong.  The flight was just the beginning though as everything about this city is first class.  Arrival at The Upper House is like arriving home to familiar faces. The staff is young and eager but not fussy and all over you the way some high end hotel staff can often be.  They greeted me with a smile, asked about my daughter, Erela, and presented me with  a proposed  itinerary of new restaurants that I might like based on my previous choices.

The rooms are sublime with sky high views over Victoria Harbor and Kowloon, and as agreed by my driver, simply the best bathrooms anywhere in Hong Kong.  Alana my friend, this is the hotel for you!  In addition to four perfect croissants (I promptly ate them all and there began my gluttonous journey) and coffee, was a gift of some mandarin room spray in a sexy glass and wood bottle upon arrival in my room.  Even the smallest room is a minimum of 750 square feet and has a view.  The real treat here, though, is the staff.  Kristina, who had been helping me arrange several morning and half day hikes,  presented me with my very own book of Hong Kong hikes (another gift!) and the night before departure had another Hong Kong book of collected photos as well as an Upper House duffel bag delivered to my room!  How did they know I’d be coming home with more loot than I had room for in my Rimowa?

Hong Kong is a city that is ripe with all of my favorite things in life:   afternoon tea, reflexology, wonton in noodle soup, and access to nature not too far from the urban excitement.  In addition to working the fabric markets (purpose of my trip after all!), I packed lots of these into my days.

stephanie-johnson,-fabric-m

EAT

Start the day with breakfast (and a view!) at Cafe Gray, including a ten grain cereal with stewed raspberries and a pomelo and grapefruit salad.  Afternoon tea at Le Salon de The at Joel Robuchon (twice) with my favorite jasmine tea and sweet delights that are as pretty as they are good.  Plus I love the oddity of eating in a luxe tea salon located in the middle aisle of a mall with views of the Tom Ford shop from your leather banquet.

Lunch everyday at one noodle shop or another.  I hit my old favorite in the Meekok district, sampled new fare at Tim Ho Wan, and on my last day I stumbled upon Mak’s Noodle on Wellington Street.  Tim Ho Wan has numerous locations (and a Michelin star to boot!) and in addition to wontons in noodle soup, they have a full menu including some seriously sweet BBQ pork buns (as well as accolades from folks like Anthony Bourdain).   Mak’s is straight up noodles  and wontons and might be my favorite.  They make the dishes in the window and their dumplings are extra tiny which I like.  None of these places have napkins though and if they do, expect to pay for them.

I skipped dinner most nights due to jet lag but did make it across the street to the Asia Society of the Arts which houses the intimate AMMO restaurant.  They offer mostly pasta dishes featuring seafood and urchin, and I was ready for pasta after a marathon week of dim sum and dumplings.  Although I didn’t eat there, I did pop into Duddell’s one day when I was in the neighborhood.  A mostly expat escape with a clubby feel and a charming garden amidst the skyscrapers.

stephanie-johnson,-maks,-hi

DO

This trip I took advantage of the beautiful hiking Hong Kong has available.  A half day trip to Lamma Island included a ferry ride to and fro (one has to see Hong Kong island from the water!), a nice hike and a seaside lunch at the port.  Another morning had me hiking a portion of the famed Dragon’s Back trail in Shek O Country Park.  My favorite was the hike I took the morning I left.  Peak Tram to the peak!  Nice little hike along the circle path (which would have had insane vistas if it hadn’t been so hazy), and a hike straight down again to Central.

Due to strict orders from the chiropractor (that I mostly follow), I rarely indulge in full body massages and have taken to reflexology instead.  There is no shortage of foot massage spots in Hong Kong but this time I discovered my happy place (thanks to the ladies at the Upper House).  Ten Feet Tall is a laid back oasis with a beach vibe.  White washed wood walls and floors remind you of a private beach club cabana, with privacy curtains and a personal drawer in which to charge your iPhone or Blackberry.  I dimmed my lights, hydrated with coconut water served in the coconut, and settled in for necessary relaxation.  Twice.   At $35 bucks for 50 minutes I would have treated myself daily, but alas the time!

Next time I’m bringing Erela and I really am going to go to Disneyland!

stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

Paris is always magic and our recent trip was no exception.  Like a creature of habit, I hit some of my all-time favorite restaurants and shops, and because the weather was irresistible, I hopped on a boat and viewed the city from the Seine.

DO

Nothing like the EIFFEL TOWER at night!  I’ve seen it a hundred times and visited the top for the views, but seeing that sparkle on the top of the hour always gets me. http://www.eiffel-tower.com/

Take a boat tour along the Seine and get on and off to see the sites.  Better than a taxi and more beautiful than the Metro. . .

Paris feels so much more accessible when discovered on a bike.  You can easily get to know the city and feel like a local by renting from any of the bike kiosks stationed around the city.

LOUVRE.  Mona Lisa.  Do I need to say more? http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp?bmLocale=en

STAY

The COSTES K is a longtime favorite.  Boasting some of the bigger rooms in Paris with clean white walls and sheets to match, I love a swim in their indoor pool to cure jet lag, and you can’t beat the view of the Eiffel Tour from your room.  Alas, they are undergoing a major renovation this fall so I’m not sure what the future will bring, but be sure I’ll have to find out! http://www.hotelcostes.com/

I stumbled upon HOTEL VILLA MADAME while walking through Saint Germaine des Pres. Unbeatable location and looks fabulous. http://www.hotelvillamadameparis.com

EAT

Ok, so L’ENTRECOTE DE VENISE now has an American outpost.  It hasn’t made this classic spot for steak frites any less desirable, and it’s still worth the lines to get in.  Steak. Frites. There is no menu; that is all they offer, with a small green salad to start.  I prefer lunch, and I prefer the Malbeuf location.  Oh, and don’t forget the profiteroles for dessert.  Yummy with a capital Y. http://www.relaisentrecote.fr/uk/index.html

Joel Robuchon’s L’ATELIER is an extravagant treat that’s hard to beat.  Try going for lunch and sitting at the bar.  Start with champagne and ask the staff to recommend their favorites.  A truly perfect dining experience. http://www.joel-robuchon.net/

VOLTAIRE is another favorite for a classic Parisian dining experience.  Be sure to have the deviled egg and ask to sit in the dining room.  Definitely look glamorous and keep an eye out for Sarkozy and his bride.

SHOP

I have to buy macaroons from LADUREE for everyone at home.  These pastel treats are so delish and the box (costs more!) is gorgeous.  And I hear they have recently found the perfect spot to open their first United States shop on Madison Avenue, so maybe you won’t have to travel as far as France to find them. http://www.laduree.fr/

BARBARA BUI is my Paris staple.  I swear I could just pop in and order off the mannequin in the window.  Head to toe, I love her designs and find them a refreshing departure from the expected.  On this trip I splurged and bought the most stunning pair of stilettos.  Sexy, classic, and the best part….no one back home will have them! http://www.barbarabui.fr

COLETTE is like shopping an art installation.  A perfectly edited collection of the season’s best along with great music and gift ideas.  Go there for inspiration. http://www.colette.fr

Stroll through the Palais Royal gardens and stop into CORTO MOLTEDO for a cassette laptop clutch, and into PIERRE HARDY for shoes as art. http://www.corto.com/   http://www.pierrehardy.com/

Can’t get enough Paris?  Check out my Destination Paris collection on ThisNext: http://bit.ly/dFOTCf  As an added bonus, I’m also sharing some packing tips with you!

 

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