Jean Nouvel. Christian Lacroix. Kenzo Takada. And now, Karl Lagerfeld. Over the last half-decade, a star-studded cast of designers and architects has helped transform the half-century-old French Sofitel brand from a random collection of dusty hotels—some elegant, some forgettable—into a serious player among international luxury hotels.
This is all thanks to a new direction from CEO Robert Gaymer-Jones, who over the last six years whittled down 81 sub-par properties from a group of more than 200 into a collection of 120 hotels that have been upgraded and reflagged into distinct brands. They include the Sofitel flagship (the Nouvel-designed Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, for one), Sofitel Legend for historic properties (the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi and the soon-to-open Sofitel Montevideo among others), and So, a line of new style-conscious boutiques. (Recent openings include So Bangkok, where Lacroix did the lobby and staff uniforms, and So Mauritius, where Takada designed eight light-filled villas.)
For his Academy Award-nominated film No, the Mexican star traveled to Santiago, Chile, to portray the young ad exec who helped oust General Augusto Pinochet in 1988. T+L caught up with the peripatetic actor.
Q: What stood out most about Chile? A: It’s the only country where a dictator has been toppled democratically. A fantastic place to visit is the General Cemetery; the whole history is buried there and you can see how the classes are divided. And Chile faces the sea, so there’s a strong coastal culture.
Throughout the hour-long conversation, the panel shared a lot of great information. Here are some highlights:
Talk about a food experience you had while traveling that really inspired you. Adam Sachs: Foraging for wild wasabi in Japan was up there with top food nerd fantasies. Mario Batali: I’m a huge fan of the Borough Market in London. It’s like a movie set from the Dickens era, with spectacular food. Mitchell Davis: I recently made my way to Willows Inn for a dinner of fresh, foraged, and local food in a gorgeous setting. Marcus Samuellson: Tasting fugu (pufferfish) for the first time in Tokyo. Blew my mind.
The latest endeavor for the actress and producer—besides three-month-old daughter Olive? Launching her own wine label, Barrymore Wines, produced in Cremona, Italy. T+L asked Barrymore to uncork a few beloved travel memories.
Most Romantic Getaway: “My Portland, Oregon, trip with my husband, Will Kopelman. We stayed at the Ace Hotel($) and had this super-groovy room. I was in love with Naomi Pomeroy, the chef at Beast($$$$). Will booked the chef’s table, and I almost fell through the floor.”
Best Outdoors Experience: “On a trip with my business partner, Nancy Juvonen, we spent a night in Joshua Tree National Park during a full-tilt, A-plus meteor shower.”
Greatest Italian Tour: “Last fall, we did a five-day supermarket sweep of Rome, Cremona, Verona, Venice, and Lake Garda. We were like the Griswolds. I bought a cup that said I ♥ Roma—Will made fun of me, but now he uses it every morning. We had amazing tonnarelli cacio e pepe at Felice a Testaccio($$$), in Rome. Well worth the 45-minute wait.”
For most, a cross-country road trip with Mother would end in tears or bloodshed (or both). But for screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love; Cars), one he took inspired this month’s The Guilt Trip, starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. Here, Fogelman reveals a few parent-approved pit stops.
Q: What were some highlights from the road? A: We drove to Memphis to see Graceland—you have to do that. I tried to stay on Route 66 to go through small towns; it’s like stepping into the 1950’s.
Its name is as evocative as the place itself: Lotusland, the eccentric botanical garden in Santa Barbara, California, designed and developed by Ganna Walska, a glamorous, Polish-born opera singer, celebrity, and socialite. Walska, who acquired the 37-acre estate as a private retreat in 1941, was ahead of her time in her use of mass plantings. The result: hundreds of weeping euphorbias and golden barrel cacti that leave an impression of untamed primordial beauty. In the 1970’s, she auctioned off her million-dollar jewelry collection to finance the cycad garden, consisting of unusual cone-bearing plants. Lotusland is full of novelties: otherworldly cacti, whimsical topiary, and brightly flowering aloes and other succulents, not to mention a fern garden, a theater garden, a Japanese garden, and an all-silver-and-blue-gray garden. Per her wishes, Walska’s extravagant creation was opened to the public only after her death—and remains a California legend.
Looking back at the James Bond film franchise—it turns 50 this year—we realized 007 has a thing for revisiting places where he’s nearly died. Case in point: Istanbul. The setting of this month’s Skyfall (opening nationwide this week), it’s where he once dodged villains at Hagia Sophia and almost drowned in the Bosporus. Oh, James, will you ever learn?
The Brazilian director is best known for his visually arresting films, such as 2002’s City of God, set in a Rio de Janeiro favela. His newest, 360, with Jude Law and Rachel Weisz, goes global. Shot in five different countries, it touches on the Arab Spring, euro crisis, and prostitution.
Q: You were filming on the road for almost 20 weeks. Any favorite hotels? A: We were in London for three months, so I rented an apartment. But I like Hazlitt’s Hotel($$$). You get a key to the front door, and it’s like your own home. In Vienna, we stayed at the 25hours Hotel Wien(1-3 Lerchenfelder Str.; $). There are bicycles for guests, and the staff doesn’t wear uniforms. After a week or two, we were hanging out with the hotel crew.
When Diana Vreeland was making her first forays into her career as a fashion editor, she wrote her dear readers the now oft-quoted suggestion, “Why don't you paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys' nursery so they won't grow up with a provincial point of view?” All things considered, this was one of her more realistic tips, as compared to her enquiring why we don’t wear violet velvet mittens with everything or rinse our children’s hair in dead champagne.
In “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” a fashion documentary in theaters today, Sept. 21, Ms. Vreeland’s ascendance from middle-school dropout to the most iconic fashion editor to date is largely attributed to her extravagant global vision. Never one to be confined, Ms. Vreeland saw no reason not to use the world as a catwalk and spearheaded legendary shoots, such as the 26-page spread of a fur-swaddled Veruschka scaling the mountains of Japan with a seven foot tall sumo wrestler. No one reads magazines just to see their own backyard, so why not blast them with images of France? Egypt? Or—her personal favorite—Russia?
The former queen of mumblecore movies, Greta Gerwig, is now starring in such high-profile projects as Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love (out now). Here, her thoughts on truffles, art, and other Italian greats.
Q: Where did you stay while filming? A: The cast stayed at the Parco dei Principi($$$),near the far side of Villa Borghese. It was very fancy, but old-school, like seventies-style, which makes sense given Woody Allen. It was definitely built when you wanted to use as much chrome as you could get.