Monday, May 20, 2013

The Other Side of London... a Very Green One

A friend visited London last week on the occasion of his book publication, and he commented that the city seemed very expensive.  Indeed.

Yes, well, my friend was staying at the Savoy Hotel... and then he moved to Brown's Hotel (which is celebrating its 175th anniversary and looks fab).  He was dining at restaurants and private clubs in Mayfair (Mark Birley's new establishment he liked).  Against my advice to him, someone else was choosing the wine at meals.  High tea alone was eighty dollars.  Black cabs he found were astronomical, especially when compared to New York's yellow taxis.  Wifi in the hotels were a good thirty dollars a day.  And the phone bill there!

All true.  But London is a vast city, as spread out as Los Angeles, and there are other neighborhoods than gold-plated Mayfair.  All of London's museums are free.  The underground is not particularly enjoyable but it is moderately efficient, and almost affordable.  Simcards for mobile phones with data are much cheaper than in America, and would have solved his expensive hotel comms problem.  Tea?  Consider PG Tips, with a biscuit.

More importantly you will not get to know London, or Britain, from Mayfair, which is essentially one vast concierge service for the international wealthy.  My NY friend's trip was too short, so understandably he ignored my advice, but after saying goodbye to him I went walking with a London friend.  She has lived in North London near Hampstead Heath, an enormous wild park, for years and knows the trails, and the trees... and the birds.  Since I'm better on the poems than the birds I pointed out that Keats composed "Ode to a Nightingale" nearby in the garden of a pub on the fringe of the Heath. 

Here, below, the view from the start of our walk, at the entrance to an adjacent park.  Andrew Marvell, the poet and one-time secretary to John Milton and Oliver Cromwell, lived in a house fifty yards to the right.

But this walk was not about houses, or even poets.

Below is a broad meadow on Hampstead Heath.

continued after the jump...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hotel Review - Four Seasons Punta Mita

The juice was green. And because this was Mexico I suspected, correctly, that this might be cactus.

The light, coming off the wide expanse of Pacific, was dazzling. “Glare,” I thought. I adjusted my sunglasses.

Was that a breeze wafting up from the jungly vegetation below and through the expansive lobby? I wrote in my notebook: “Draughty?”

The reception lounge was calm, quiet, with just one couple checking out, far off, at the front desk. I knit my brow, and wondered: “Undue space?”

I saw a splash on the horizon. A dolphin possibly. Exotic birds darted here and there through the palm trees, heading for the Sierra Madre mountains, the haunt of sea eagles, behind. On a rooftop down the hill a lizard sunned himself. I remembered that John Huston’s film The Night of the Iguana was filmed nearby. I sniffed. “All this wild life... ever have any problems?”

The check-in manager sat across smiling, nonplussed by my act. The fact was we were in one of the most beautiful spots on earth, once called by native Americans “the place where heaven and earth meet,” and everything was perfect.

As mentioned in an earlier post (link below), I’d first heard of Punta Mita, a broad green peninsula on the central Pacific coast of Mexico, from a well known “Rockosaurus.” At the top of the enormous Bahia de Bandares, thirty miles from Puerto Vallarta, on a privately-owned six-km square peninsula limned by white beaches, sit two of the world’s most exclusive international resorts, the Four Seasons and the St. Regis. In the middle of a world tour last year, the rocker in question had a short break between legs, and had rented a villa there, inviting a score of family members to join. “Sounds terrific,” I said.

He paused, some dissatisfaction hovering. “I suppose,” he said. “But, well... they wouldn’t let us land our helicopter on the grounds.”

“Oh,” I said. “How inconvenient.” (But how considerate for the other guests!)

continued after the break...