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And Now For Something Refined

rcny1.jpgThe Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park is nothing if not fancy. But crystal chandeliers and triple-shined marble floors aside, the property is as cozy as it is refined. In fact, I spent most of my time perched on one of those glorious velvet armchairs in the Star Lounge, nursing an $18 cocktail as slowly as possible. Some hotels are definitely out of my league, but the best ones make it easy to forget that. more»

I AmSterdam

amsterdam1.jpgWhen I visit a new city, I have a habit of doing this thing where I go completely nuts trying to see everything. Consequently, upon arriving back home, my body raises the white flag, forcing me to make up for all of that lost sleep. So, after everything I did in just three short days in Amsterdam—dim sum in the Red Light District, a chef-prepared meal on the canals’ snappiest boat, the city’s best cheese tasting, a shot of herring, the Van Gogh Museum, a six-hour meal at The Dylan Hotel’s Michelin-starred Vinkeles, the city’s newest Marcel Wanders-designed hotel, the Anne Frank Museum, a mind-bending art-space-slash-hotel, and an unfortunate run-in with a sassy cyclist (of course)—it’s no surprise that I just about went into hibernation upon returning home. Pity so much action rendered so few photos. But, alas, sometimes life is meant to be lived rather than documented. more»

Shore Thing

modern_diptych3.jpgMy trip to Honolulu was as much of a quick jaunt as one can achieve when living five time zones away. My three-night stay may have been bookended with two 10-hour flights, but that didn’t stop me from getting the most out of my trip. Highlights included Doris Duke’s Shangri-La, racing an outrigger, and learning to surf (that last one being something I had predicted I would totally crush with mad skill and yet I turned out to be just as mediocre as ever). But the main attraction for my trip was the new Modern Honolulu hotel, which, with minimalist decor and a cool South Beach vibe, truly lives up to its name. Throw in a Morimoto restaurant and spectacular Waikiki views and you’ve got the hottest ticket in town. Does it get any bigger than Wilmer Valderrama spending his 33rd birthday at the hotel’s Addiction nightclub? (I’m told it doesn’t). Then this happened a few weeks later on one of the hotel’s balconies, just after the Academy Awards, which, if you ask me, would have been a way cooler sighting. more»

Brainwashed and Brainfed

fst_cafeboulud2.jpgMy quick trip to Toronto was all about art and food, thanks to the city’s new Four Seasons Hotel, which was filled with both. All of the hotel’s art was created by local Canadians, from the giant dandelions in the lobby to the gold-foil Artimals in the rooms. Then there was the Cafe Boulud restaurant, whose walls were covered with pop-icon pieces from a non-Canadian, and someone I’m about 95 percent sure is a total hoax. I actually almost spewed my water all over my duck terrine when I realized that screen print of Charlie Chaplin over a spray-painted heart was the “artwork” of one Mr. Brainwash. I had coincidentally just re-watched Exit Through The Gift Shop a few weeks earlier, and was sort of amazed that so many people haven’t quite caught on yet. Of course, who is to say what art is? At least there was no question the next day when I visited Frank Gehry’s Art Gallery of Ontario, which was not only a stunning architectural wonder, but also the exhibition space for the amazing Frida and Diego show. I’m still kicking myself for not buying the book. Oh, and I also fell in love with Evan Penny’s sculptures. Can’t get enough of that uncanny valley! more»

Jupiter Barking

odzala1.jpg“Ugh! Don’t you wish we were still there?” Three months after our honeymoon, this has become my weekly mantra of sorts. It’s like I’m almost disgusted that we are no longer trekking through mud and staring with our breath held at 400-pound gorillas. Luckily, I’ve been granted the opportunity to relive what I’ve taken to calling “The Best Trip EVER!” (capitalization and punctuation compulsory) by writing a few articles about the whole fabulous adventure. The first came out in the January issue of Robb Report, and I’m so happy my editors decided to keep that first sentence in. From what I hear, it narrowly escaped the axe, but I do just love it so! more»

Hey There, 2013

wwg1.jpgNormally around this time, between taking down the Christmas tree and writing the dreaded thank-you notes, I get a little sulky. But this year, I’m just way too pumped about work to succumb to the post-holiday blues. Despite a ridiculous amount of present-giving and party-going, I managed to amass quite the archive of new work over the last month—from photoshoots abroad and at home, to articles on Mexico, Italy, and Africa. But I just about went all over the globe to perfect this piece about the hottest wedding locales of 2013 for Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine. From an elephant ceremony in Phuket to quickie nuptials at the airport in Amsterdam, I think I covered just about every conceivable dream wedding out there. Here’s hoping 2013 is just as fun! more»

Gorillas in our Midst

_dsc5600bcrop.jpgOdzala’s Ngaga camp spoils all typical notions of safari. Not because the gorillas are so much more thrilling to see than most other animals (which they are), or because the setting is so much more beautiful than you’d imagine (which it is), but because you have to work damn hard to see what you came all the way to the Congo for. Unlike my other safari experiences, we didn’t pile into a Land Cruiser and roll past lions and giraffes who marched before us as if on cue. Rather, we walked, and we hacked through giant marantaceae leaves, and we listened, and we waited, and we walked and hacked some more. And when we finally found the gorillas—with whom we were permitted to spend just a single hour each day—we were always, without fail, swarmed by sweat bees that wanted nothing more than to blind us by flying kamikaze-style into our eyeballs. In spite of (or perhaps because of) all of this, interacting with the gorillas is an experience like no other. Whether watching an infant cautiously shuffling down a tree trunk, spying a lone female napping in a tree, or trembling with fear as a silverback charged us within mere feet, every moment seemed poised to be the most magnificent we’d experience for the rest of our collective lives. And if that wasn’t quite the essence of a romantic honeymoon, we at least had private dinners on the terrace of our hairy-looking raffia hut most every night. Oh, and plenty of Ngok. more»

Born on the Bai

langob.jpgMost people don’t fantasize about a honeymoon that entails waking up at 5 AM every morning to slosh through murky swamps and mud so deep you almost lose your shoes. Then again, most couples jet off to Maui or Jamaica to sip Mai Tais and lounge on beaches—something I certainly don’t disparage, but nothing I’d consider particularly life-changing. Since we had hoped for something closer to the “mind-blowing” end of the travel spectrum (and since, truth be told, we’d already been to Maui and Jamaica), John and I decided to go all in and head to the Republic of Congo’s newest, and quite nearly only, safari lodge. First stop was Lango camp, located on the edge of a bai where buffalo, bongos, and elephants regularly congregate for their own version of cocktails and sunbathing. We humans, on the other hand, boated through the Lekoli River alongside hundreds of agile mangabeys, trekked through jungles filled with chimpanzees as startled to see us as we were to see them, and, in-between, dozed off on our porches to the sound colobus monkeys swinging and snacking in the trees above. Of course, this was all just precursor to the main event—gorilla tracking on our next and final stop! more»

Vine Intervention

laresidence2b.jpgEven if I hadn’t been reveling in our newly-wedded bliss, I would have been amazed by La Residence Hotel. Set among private vineyards in Franschhoek, where springbok and ponies frolic, this drop-dead gorgeous oasis along the edge of a picturesque lake was made for honeymoons. I had been to Franschhoek several years before so knew a few of the good stops—Huguenot Chocolates for a mid-morning snack, The Common Room for lunch, and La Motte for some serious Shiraz (a varietal that John claims to dislike, and yet not a drop remained in any of his tasting glasses). But La Residence, in its secluded location behind the town’s suburbs and away from its main street, had escaped me. This time, we were so lucky to stay in the Frangipani Suite, where a marble quarry had seemingly exploded, and the bathroom was larger than our apartment. And will you just look at that pink chair? It’s possible I have never been so sad to leave a hotel. more»

Down by the Bay

kalkbaydip5.jpgPost-Sandy cabin fever is setting in right about now so it only makes sense to drool over our photos from South Africa for the umpteenth time. I had already been completely in love with Cape Town from my previous trip, but our recent discovery of Kalk Bay between the city center and the Cape Peninsula has moved the region to the number one spot on my Places-I-Want-To-Live wishlist (sorry, Barcelona). Even if you pretend not to care about Kalk Bay’s close proximity to Cape Point and Boulders Beach (penguins!), this hip little beach town is out-of-control adorable, from the trendy oceanfront B&B we stayed at to the cool shops along Main Road. My only regret is that we weren’t able to stay longer—but, alas, we had a rigid itinerary that demanded we drink our way through the Cape Winelands. more»

Shagreen and Chandeliers

rivieralounged1.jpgThe aforementioned Oceania Riviera may be less for old-timers than most cruise ships, but what really sold me on the boat was its attention to decor. No vertigo-inducing carpet patterns, no stuffy staterooms with unflattering lighting, and no tacky artwork in the hallways (well, mostly, at least). Rather, a perfect mixture of stylishly of-the-moment and classically grand details made for a swimmingly successful design. Highlights included the Red Ginger restaurant with its explosion of color and chain chandeliers, a Lalique grand staircase, and an art collection that requires its own catalog. Sure, a few over-the-top details—like the funky LED-lit bar that my mom and I just couldn’t seem to stop hanging out in—scream “cruise ship!” but with just the right amount of gaudiness that every seafaring sanctuary needs. more»

Ships Ahoy!

final_dwwnewcruise-1.jpgThe first time I went on a cruise, I disembarked with the mostly-correct notion that ocean liners are for old people with more interest in the 3 o’clock waffle station by the pool than the daily ports-of-call. So when I agreed to write a piece for Robb Report about the return of luxury to cruising, I first had to convince myself that it was even true. My plan of action included reading David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (well, maybe that part was just for kicks), followed by jumping on board the new Oceania Riviera for its maiden voyage from Monaco to Barcelona. Somewhere between the ship’s Canyon Ranch Spa, its Wine Aficionado wine cellar, ten restaurants, a Bon AppĂ©tit culinary school, and yes, a plethora of ridiculous poolside snacks and cocktails with umbrellas, I decided that my first cruising foray—along with its geriatric guests—wasn’t the only ship experience out there. Rather, my second go-round was totally age appropriate and, yes, even luxurious. By the time we docked in Barcelona I was a convert—maybe not for every trip, but at least a few more before I hit retirement. more»

Flying High

_dsc2891b.jpgI have what I like to call a “realistic fear” of heights, which means I’m mostly fine behind a railing at Hoover Dam and I’m even okay sky diving, provided I’ve got an expert strapped to my back. But when it comes to peering over the edge of a towering mountaintop, the very real possibility of falling to my death instills in me a terror that results in vertigo and paralysis. So it only made sense to agree to an amazing week of heli-hiking with Canadian Mountain Holidays, where I climbed 9,000-foot-tall Mount Nimbus, tiptoed along taught cables over roaring rapids, and traversed mile-high swaying footbridges with many a missing step. Physically, I knew I was up to the challenge, but my mental limits were tested time and time again, and despite the occasional internal freak out, I became a regular mountain goat by the end of the week. Turns out, rappelling was the most relaxing part of the journey. more»

Bright Sunshiny Day

lakeplacid1.jpgUnintentional blogging hiatus continues, thanks to post-wedding make-up work and pre-honeymoon preparation (yellow fever vaccinations and gaiter purchases are next on the to-do list!). But thought I’d post a quick shot of my favorite place in the world, Lake Placid Lodge. John and I woke to this stunning view the morning after our wedding last week. So, you know, married life is looking pretty sweet so far.

The Utmost Ends

fpatagonia-1.jpgGuilt consumed me during breakfast this morning when I realized that my last post was nearly two months ago. It became almost unbearable when it occurred to me that my two or three regular readers (you know who you are) might have even noticed my absence, and perhaps even shaken their heads in collective disappointment. So I’ve scurried back to my hotel room to fix that during the 30 minutes I have before heading out to yet another Jamaican resort. No commentary here—except to pick up an August issue of Robb Report and check out my feature on breathtaking Patagonia. Can’t wait to return home to see this bad boy sitting in my mailbox. more»

¡Viva la Tierra!

gottierra.jpgI still kind of can’t believe that I got to go to Patagonia earlier this year. The weird side effect has been that virtually nothing else seems to get my dander up the same way since. The New York skyline? Psh. The Mediterranean Sea? Meh. South Beach? Ho-hum. I guess I’ll just stay home and stare at this page featuring Tierra Patagonia in the May issue of Robb Report instead. more»

One Hundred Ways

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I find it truly amazing that I’ve been to 12 of what Robb Report deems the world’s top 100 resorts. That means way more decadent dinners, drop-dead gorgeous suites, panoramic vistas, and mind-numbing spa treatments than I deserve. What I’m most pumped about though is the volume of my photography that made it into the article—from the bush of South Africa to the vineyards of Chile to the beaches of Mexico and Seychelles—even my hyper-critical self can’t help but sit back and sigh contentedly at these pages! more»

Keep on Moroccan

marrakech8.jpgmarrakech_diptych2.jpgmarrakech5.jpgmarrakech1.jpgSnippets from Marrakech: the entrance to the Medina, local spices and roots for sale in the souks, one of countless ornately hand-painted ceilings at Bahia Palace, a charming riad front door, and, of course, genie pants.

Magic Carpet Ride

pn_diptych.jpgDespite an abbreviated stay of just a couple of nights (resulting in, I think, more hours on an airplane than actually on the ground), my trip to Marrakech last month was no less magical than one would expect. Surely part of it was the labyrinthine souks filled with snake charmers, fortune tellers, and genie lamps, but what really transported me was Palais Namaskar. The new hotel—which I’d sooner dub a resort due to its location outside of the hectic city center and serene atmosphere filled with perfectly-landscaped gardens and lakes—chilled me out virtually on contact. Lake-side yoga, a Guerlain facial, a foie gras-heavy menu, and some seriously sexy Feng-Shui interiors were enough to turn a 72-hour stay into the ultimate retreat. And will you just look at that killer Ochre City sunset? more»

Except for Those Cursed Bees

lapostollediptych.jpgThe Colchagua Valley and surrounding winelands were my last stop in my Chilean adventure, topped off with a stay at Lapostolle Residence, a swank little resort run by the country’s most celebrated winery, Clos Apalta. The property is nothing if not decadent—I started out with a wine-paired five-course lunch and finished with a massage on my casita’s private deck, with a Grand Marnier tasting (using chocolate shot glasses!), an extensive wine tasting, and a tour of the property’s underground, lair-like wine cellar fitting somewhere in-between. With the exception of an unfortunate swarm of bees that were terribly interested in my breakfast jams, the entire stay was damn-near perfect. more»

A Smidge of Santiago

santiago4.jpgTidbits of my time in Santiago, including the chic and sexy Aubrey Hotel; a magical, if smoggy, park in the sky (which I was told features—though viewed no evidence of—excellent vistas of the Andes); a political-statement-slash-tapas-bar; more free art and cultural spaces than an American knows what to do with; and pastel de choclo (look it up, make it, and prepare to have your world rocked). more»