The Missoni name is synonymous with luxury fashion and decor, so it’s no surprise the Missoni-brand hotels embody both. The minimalist design perfected by the Missoni label translates into a sexy, seductive masterpiece. In 1969, Women’s Wear Daily, then considered the ultimate word on fashion, wrote “Missoni is in the lead with one of the most sinful dresses among those inspired by Art Déco”. Now, with one hotel under its belt and another one opening on March 1, Missoni is taking its legacy fashion knowledge making its mark in the hospitality industry.
At the helm of the label for 50 years is Rosita Missoni who, along with her husband Ottavia Missoni, created a unique and imitable style that’s coveted by designers around the world. In 1997, Senora Missoni handed the reigns of the fashion label to her daughter Angela, but has since devoted her time and talent to MissoniHome collections. The collections arm of the company helped foster the 2005 relationship between Missoni and Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group and together the two companies launched the first Hotel Missoni in Edinburgh in 2009.
On the eve of the latest Missoni hotel opening – Hotel Missoni Kuwait opens March 1 – I caught up with the fashion house matriarch to learn more about the concept of hotel design, her dream destinations and the talk of Europe – the Royal Wedding.
Read my entire interview with Senora Missoni on Huffington Post Travel
I arrived Berlin eager to see all I could in three days, but I had a secret mission to research my family’s past. Germany’s history is tumultuous, to say the least, and it’s not uncommon for tourists to want to explore the country’s dark past — this visit was no different for me.
I took two steps into the square where the gray stone slabs were purposefully placed on the ground, and was immediately confused. I wasn’t sure what was going on, which way to turn or which path I should take. The walls seemed normal at first — almost as if I could carry on a conversation with friends as I walked through toward an unknown destination. Seconds later I was lost in a maze of gray. The slabs had grown bigger, I felt smaller and could hear my own breathing. There was little light and I felt trapped; I was afraid to speak, and unsure what I even would say. I maneuvered my way through the maze of gray, wondering when the end will come. Suddenly, and without warning, I emerged among the smaller slabs of gray and into daylight. Suddenly, I was free from the maze. I had survived. This was Berlin’s way of reminding all who walk through this memorial that 6 million Jews never found their way out, and were never free again.
Read more from my column in Huffington Post.
Before we entered the ancient burial ground on Kapaula, Clifford Naeole offered a chant introducing me to the 400-plus Hawaiian ancestors who lay 40 feet under in the lush gardens overlooking the Hawaiian islands. He touched my arm gently midway through the chant – a signal for me to make my introduction. “Melanie Nayer, from Boston,” I said, as instructed. The introduction by Naeole and my acknowledgement to his ancestors is a customary way to enter the burial ground, and let them know you’re family.
Reminder at Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
Naeole, the cultural director for The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and Maui’s resident historian, took me on a tour of the Kapalua grounds. My history lesson was more of an emotional and spiritual journey, something neither Naeole or I expected.
I arrived in Maui for one night before making my way to L’anai, where I would spend the holidays. The purpose of the trip: reflection and relaxation. It had been a busy year and one not without its complications. It was the first year I’d spend away from my family at Christmas, but also the first Christmas I’d spend focusing on me. I was exhausted, and while this trip wasn’t without its work, there was also time carved out for exploration on the beautiful island of Hawaii. At first concerned by my solo travel to Hawaii, my friends slowly warmed up to the idea of it. The island of honeymooners and newlyweds could be distracting and depressing, or it could be the opportunity for a “Melanie-Moon” — a 10-day island excursion where the focus was on me.
I left the Maui airport mid-afternoon on Dec. 15, located the car service I had pre-arranged and settled in for the 45-minute drive to Kapalua. First thing the next morning I was on my way with Naeole, which would be a morning I’d never forget.
See photos of Hawaii
There’s an undeniable beauty about Hawaii. It’s hard to explain and photographs don’t always do it justice, but imagine the first time you saw the perfect sunset, or the way the streets look after the first snowfall of the season. The Hawaiian landscape is to writers what a great wave is to surfers – you can’t explain it, you just marvel in it.
Naeole and I made our way to the edge of the ancient burial ground, looked past Maui toward the other islands and brushed away the mist of the water that crashed against the rocks. The wind was whipping through the air on this particular day, and according to Naeole, it’s something to pay attention to. According to Hawaiin legend, the wind is the voice of your ancestors; the mist is the touch of your ancestors; and the rainbow (a common scene on Hawaii, although I hadn’t seen one yet) is the journey of your ancestors — where they came from and where you are going.
We walked the grounds and chatted about prosperity, spirituality and mystery. We shared our stories of success and heartaches, We discussed the history of Hawaii, the state of affairs today and loves lost and found on the grounds of Kapalua. I had come to Hawaii to be alone and pull the year to a close. While most people looked at me with pity when they heard this, Naeole just smiled – some things, he understood, just have been to done alone. When the time is right, there will be someone who will see the world the same way you do.
Naeole walked toward the flowering bushes that lined the burial grounds and separated the hotel from the historical site. He picked off a flower – which was only half a flower – and told me the legend of Naupaka.
It is said that two lovers, greatly devoted to each other, came to the attention of the Goddess Pele. Pele found the young man desirable and appeared before him as a beautiful stranger. But no matter what Pele did the lovers remained devoted to each other.
Angered, Pele chased the young man into the mountains, throwing molten lava at him. Pele’s sisters witnessed this and to save the young man from a certain death they changed him into the mountain Naupaka. Pele immediately went after the young woman and chased her towards the sea – but again Pele’s sisters stepped in and changed the young lover into beach Naupaka. The two forms of the flower Naupaka can never reside together as they are separated by distance and climate. Both flowers are half blossoms, never to be fulfilled as a whole, but it is said that if the mountain Naupaka and beach Naupaka flowers are reunited, the two young lovers will be together again.
I wasn’t in Hawaii to mourn a love lost or find a new romance. I was here to channel my energies, pay homage to my year and plan the year ahead. My life as a travel writer holds distinct differences from my reality, but there’s a spiritual connection I have with my work and my career. It fulfills me on levels many can’t understand, but I still look to the Gods every now and again for a sign of good fortune and guidance. My professional life and my personal life might never unite, but their separate worlds work in harmony. Somehow I connected with the story of Naupaka, and I suspect all along Naeole knew I would.
When I stepped into the historic room I was immediately transported to another time and place. The Starlight Roof at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City was an institution; a legend; the site of celebrities and debutantes, where romance oozed from the corners and love at first sight started from the moment the retractable roof opened to the stars.
The Starlight Roof Ballroom opened in 1931 on the 19th floor of the iconic New York hotel. With unprecedented views of New York City stretching all the way to the Hudson River in the early 1900s, the Starlight Roof was the grande dame of the city. Today, the Starlight Roof still sits on the top floor of the hotel, which now overlooks Park Avenue. The hotel’s ballroom, the largest ballroom in the city, is four stories high with several adjoining smaller ballrooms and endless reminders of what once was, including chandeliers, gold-plated grates and of course, the views of New York City. While the view has changed slightly thanks to new buildings that arose over the years, the Starlight Roof maintains its passionate decadence as the Pièce de résistance of the hotel.
The Waldorf Astoria was the world’s first skyscraper hotel and today still exudes the glamour and grandeur of a luxury hotel. When the hotel first opened in 1893 at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street it captured the hearts of not only New Yorkers, but travelers from around the world. People flocked to walk the marble hallways, feel the gold-plated banisters and marvel at the crystal chandeliers that decorated the various rooms in the hotel.
In 1929, the hotel was torn down to make way for the next New York landmark—The Empire State Building. In true Waldorf fashion, however, plans were drawn for an even bigger, better Waldorf-Astoria at its present location on Park Avenue. Over the years, the Waldorf Astoria has become a fixture of New York attractions and stands as a landmark building on the famous Park Avenue. While the hotel has been renovated, updated and rejuvenated over the decades, it remains a constant companion to those who call it home during their travels.
The current Waldorf Astoria is combination of history and modern design. From the Clock Tower (which was originally part of the Chicago World’s Fair) to the prominent displays of Art Deco style paintings, sculptures and decor, the hotel is a masterpiece of elegance at every turn. But the 19th floor holds the gem of this hotel.
When you step out of the elevators you’re immediately welcomed by photos of the past. Walk the halls and gaze at the black-and-white pictures that tell the story of ‘the good old days’ as you walk toward the grand Starlight Roof ballroom.
The Starlight Roof was the first supper club to have a retractable roof. It welcomed everyone from diplomats to presidents, sheiks to princes, and celebrities of all generations. From 1931, when the hotel opened, until well into the 1950s, the 6,000-square-foot Art Deco Starlight Roof had been the talk of the town.
In its prime, the Starlight Roof reigned as the nightclub where the see-and-be-seen spent their evenings, where high-society dined, drank and partied to the music of the era including Glenn Miller, Eddie Duchin, Guy Lombardo, Lester Lanin, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Xavier Cugat. The hotel’s policy of utter discretion and privacy was what made it so popular among the city’s elite. If you listen closely you can still see Gene Kelly dance across the ballroom floor or hear Lena Horne croon a sultry song for the guests who are mingling among the star-lit roof. It’s hard not to imagine Ginger Rogers in a ball gown walking the room or Lana Turner sipping martinis at the bar.
The Starlight Roof ballroom still speaks to the glamour and prestige that it’s always adorned, but today serves as a more modern venue for the masses who want to dine, dance and see the city in style. Somewhere inside the walls of this great room are love stories and romances that long to be remembered, and within one step into the room and one glance up at the roof, it’s hard to believe in the magic of the Starlight Roof.
[Photos courtesy of Waldorf Astoria archives]
Read more from my article in Destinations Travel Magazine, November 2011 issue
When you think of the Bahamas, you likely think of white-sand beaches, endless rum-filled cocktails and steamy Caribbean nights complete with island music and cool breezes. But you probably don’t think about the women slaves who first came to the island, or the group of women who helped free others from the confines of their constraints.
Welcome to the Bahamas, an island originally of pro-British loyalists and enslaved Africans who set up a plantation economy in the early 1800s. When the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807, many Africans liberated from slave ships and settled in The Bahamas during the 19th century. Today, the Bahamas’s population is largely made up of descendents of these slaves and while the times have certainly changed, the history is not forgotten.
On a recent trip to the Bahamas, I took some time off the beach and set off to explore the history, culture and art of the Bahamas, thanks to the Bahamas Department of Tourism. What I discovered was a monumental tribute to the women of the island that was inspiring and powerful.
The community art in the fields and in the New Providence Community Center was a declaration of the struggles the Bahamians faced during the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. The wood-carved statues of the women are reaching for the sky , while standing close together in circles – a poetic display of the maternal instincts of women and their outreach for salvation.
Next time you’re in the Bahamas, take some time off the beach and get to know the people who inspired the proud island lifestyle.
Side trip: While you’re here, stop by the National Art Gallery (www.nagb.org.bs). The gallery is housed in the restored 1860s Villa Doyle and focuses on local Bahamian artists, but there are other artworks, including Winslow Homer landscapes. The collection includes ceramics, paintings, photography, sculpture, and textiles, mainly from the late 20th century onwards.
I saw them walking slowly out of the corner of my eye. She moved at a crawling pace, carefully shuffling her feet one in front of the other while still holding on to him. Dressed in casual tan pants, a bright orange sweater and matching cardigan, she was perfectly put together from head to toe (even with the thick white orthopedic shoes that looked heavier than she did). Her hair was snow white and coiffed to her shoulders, her makeup fresh and her lipstick a darker shade of red to compliment her orange attire but not match it — this was a woman who, in her prime, made heads turn. Her bright blue eyes still sparkled when she looked at him, despite him not being able to see her anymore.
He wore a brown suit and matching fedora hat, and walked with help from her and a cane that was likely as old as he was. Never once letting go of each other, they slowly made their way into the elevator.
I held the elevator open until they were safely on board.
“Are we all in?” Rudy asked. “Yes, dear, we’re all safe and sound,” Eileen replied, patting him on the hand. “Our new friends here are going to make sure we make our weekly beautifying appointment.”
The elevator opened on the ground floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Eileen and Rudy checked in for their weekly Saturday appointments – two manicures and two pedicures. The staff greeted them as if they were family, and they probably are. Eileen and Rudy have been coming to Saks for their treatments for over a decade – partly to ensure he’s well manicured and groomed, since her frail hands can’t hold a nail clipper steady anymore; and partly to provide her with a few moments of solitude before guiding him back home through the busy streets of Manhattan.
She led Rudy through the rooms filled with ladies in curlers and fake coloring; some under heat lamps, some on their cell phones. Shopping bags were placed neatly next to the chairs where clients sat waiting for their beautician to finish primping. If Rudy could see, I have to assume he would be in awe at how things have changed over the years. But I believe the image of a woman he holds most sacred is Eileen. (more…)
“She dreams of mermaids and motorcycles and meeting a man who can dance.”
I met Jason by accident. While driving through Tralee, Ireland, I hit a curb, which resulted in a flat tire and left my friend and me stranded on the side of the road. We were two women in a strange country without a spare when a four-door sedan pulled up. If this were a John Grisham thriller, the story would take a turn for the worse and end with the neighbors testifying in front of a jury that they saw nothing but an abandoned car when they woke the next morning.
But this isn’t fiction — this is Ireland…
Read more from my column in The Boston Globe Magazine
“Love is a promise, love is a souvenir, once given never forgotten, never let it disappear.” -John Lennon
Alexander McQueen, Harpers Bazaar
It’s no secret I have a passion for scarves. Whether it’s from Canal Street in New York City or a boutique shop on the Via Condotti in Rome, my wallet knows no limits when it comes to the comfort of a scarf. From my cashmere pashminas to my Gap special, scarves hold a unique place in my life – they are the security blanket I reach for on a long flight, or the wrap I seek on a cold night. But, but it’s my Alexander McQueen scarf that is the most special.
The devastating loss of Alexander McQueen rattled the fashion world and rendered me speechless. I remember the day I bought my first McQueen…
I was in London on a business trip with my co-worker and fellow McQueen-fiend friend, The Missus. In fact, it was this friend who first introduced me to McQueen, and this friend who was with me when I made my first McQueen purchase. We arrived in London on a Saturday and after a quick nap and a cup of coffee, we went straight to Harrods. We made our way through the Jo Malone, Anya Hindmarch and Mulbury, passed the tea and chocolate shops and found our way to the McQueen accessories. We dug through the coveted skull scarfs until we found what we wanted. I held up the black and purple silk skull scarf and proudly declared it mine. Within minutes I was checking out, claiming my VAT tax and wrapping my McQueen around me. To this day, that scarf is in every suitcase on all my travels, because you just never know when you need to spice up an outfit with a few skulls.
At 40-years-old, Alexander McQueen was a designer who knew no limits. He was a stylist beyond our wildest dreams – he pushed the envelop and made people rethink they way they approached fashion. He was known for taking risks and creating controversy. He made skulls sexy.
His life was cut short but he’ll forever live on as one of the most influential designers of our time.
Hope for Haiti
The best part about being a travel writer is meeting inspiring people from around the world. The people of Haiti are no exception.
Those who know me well know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a child- I’ve written about the Nightwalker Children in Uganda and continue to pray for the orphans in Haiti – these kids need our help. While people around the world await word from loved ones after the 7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti and Port-au-Prince, the death toll continues to increase. Thanks to Haiti relief funds set up from airlines, hotels, non-profit organizations and government agencies, you can help in the Haiti relief efforts.
Every little bit helps. Thank you for all that you can give.