Beyond the Travel Guide

Beyond The Travel Guide

Greetings!

My wife, Gaby, and I love to travel. And we love to eat. Friends often ask us for restaurant or hotel recommendations when they are going to a new city. So we decided to put some of our favorites on the ILS web page in hopes that you can benefit from some of the places we love.

Enjoy,
Michael

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Lucca, Italy

Not far from Florence (near Pisa), is Lucca, a beautiful walled city. Puccini was born there; and Caesar, Crassus and Pompey carved up the Roman Empire from Lucca. The best food in the world is to be had, and while it is a good tourist town, there are surprisingly few Americans. Next to Paris, it is our favorite spot on the globe.

Getting There: Fly into Pisa and take the commuter train to Lucca

Hotels: 

    • We love Il Seminario, via del Seminario 5, a small, clean B&B with a very good breakfast and air conditioning. Within the walled city. Moderately priced.
    • Stay a week or two. Rent an apartment. It is cheaper and more relaxing than a hotel. We have used Destination Lucca and have been very pleased.
    • Use Lucca as your base and take day-trips to Florence (We go by train), Pisa, and all the many villages in the surrounding area.

 To Do: 

    • Walk or bicycle on the wall surrounding Lucca
    • Shopping is very good
    • Strolling the city is a pleasure
    • Day-trips
    • Opera in the churches
    • Puccini
    • great ceramics
    • food and wine

Dinner: Do not eat at the large central plaza. Go there after dinner for drinks.

    • Cantine Bernardini | Via del Saffragio 7
    • Vissidarte | Via Calderia 20
    • Osteria via S. Gregorio | Via S. Gregorio 26

London

London… ‘nuff said. One of the world’s five greatest cities, London remains a welcoming, engaging, fascinating tourist destination. While in London, by all means do all the required tourist activities (although I’d pass on riding the London Eye – the view is underwhelming and the best views of London are to be had merely by strolling on the South Bank).

Places you might consider once you’re past the tourist spots:

    • Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, The Strand (not far from Covent Garden) Outstanding collection of Impressionist paintings, including my favorite painting of all-time, Edouard Manet’s, “A Bar of the Follies—Bergere” (1882) Do not miss this!
    • Hampton Court
    • Brick Lane
    • Hyde Park
    • Kew Gardens
    • Design Museum
    • Ronnie Scott’s 47 Frith St., great jazz club
    • Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
    • Portobello Market
    • Covent Garden
    • British Library
    • Tate Museum (and Tate Modern)

Food

Twenty years ago London was not a great food city. Today, it is one of the top ten food cities in the world. But a word of warning: London restaurants are very expensive, more expensive than most are worth. So dine ethnic - it is more affordable and more fun as well.

    • Restaurants:
      • The Green Room
      • Chef Nuno Mendes
      • Bethnal Green
      • Zucca
      • Bermondsey
      • The Delaunay
      • Covent Garden, 55 Aldwych 
      • Brawn | 49 Columbia Road, Excellent charcuterie platter
      • Four Seasons (our favorite Chinatown restaurant)
      • 12 Gerrard (set menu with Peking Duck is tops)
      • Princi; Italian | 135 Wardour in SoHo (South of Oxford Street, West of Charing Cross Road)
      • Bibendum
      • Michilin House | 81 Fulham Road | Seafood
      • Noor Jahan | Indian
      • The Atlas
      • Gastropub
      • Wagamama (various locations); Asian fusion
      • Shanghi Knights Bridge; Chinese
    • Pubs:
      • Fire Station 150 Waterloo Road

Hotels:

    • 20 Nevern Square, Earl’s Court (ask for the Paska Suite)
    • The Cranley
    • Eggerton 

Philadelphia

The birthplace of America and the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia has quite a few places to enjoy a fine meal aside from  the classic Philly Cheesesteak.

Dining:

    • Alma de Cuba |1623 Walnut (Rittenhouse)
    • Matyson (BYOB) | 37 S. 19th Street
    • Tashan (Indian/fusion) | Get the $25 tasting menu with wine pairings | 777 S. Broad

Washington, D.C.

A monumental city with monuments. D.C. is a great city for tourists. The Metro is excellent, safe, and clean. The food is fantastic. The museums outstanding. And the city oozes power.

Drinks:

    • Roof of the “W”, rear left, great rooftop bar with spectacular view

Dining:

    • Equinox | 818 Connecticut @ WH |Expensive and excellent; continental fare 
    • Kinkead’s | 200 Pennsylvania, near WH | Seafood; a hangout for movers and shakers
    • Oceanaire | 1201 F St. NW | Expensive but excellent seafood
    • Obelisk | 2029 P St. (DuPont Circle) | Simply put, one of the finest restaurants in DC; expensive
    • Johnny's Half Shell and Pesca | 2001 and 2011 P St. | Two fine and moderately priced seafood stops
    • Etete | 1942 9th, NW | Ethiopian, affordable; great stews and sambucas (lenti-filled pastry)
    • Tortilla Cafe | Eastern Market, Capitol Hill | Papusas and chicken tamales are great | affordable
    • Ben's Chili Bowl | 1213 U St. | Chili, cheese fries, inexpensive 
    • Filomena| Georgetown @ C&O Canal | Pasta
    • Bread Line| Pennsylvania @ WH | Great lunches, salads, soups, and sandwiches
    • Jaleo | 480 7th NW | 
    • Jose Andres tapas restaurant 
    • Legal Sea Foods or McCormick's and Schmick's | 704 7th NW | Chain restaurant but quite good; moderately priced
    • Rasika | 633 D St. NW (near Archives) | Excellent Indian Food
    • Vidalia | 1990 M Street
    • Old Ebbit Grill | 675 15th Street (near White House) 
    • Firefly | 1310 New Hampshire Ave | Truffle fries are a must
    • 1789e | 1226 36th (Georgetown)
    • Bistro Lepic | 1736 Wisconsin Ave (Georgetown)
    • Shake Shack | 1216 18th Street NW
    • Hotel Tabard | 1739 N Street NW

Off the Beaten Path:

    • Politics and Prose | Bookstore/Cafe | 5015 Connecticut Avenue
    • Political Americana | For political junkies and souvenir hunters (kiosks at airport) | 1331 Pennsylvania @ WH
    • Secret Service Museum | 9th and H near WH | A little gem with few visitors 
    • The Phillips Collection | 1600 21st St. NW | A must; great art gallery - I go almost every time I am in DC
    • Friendship Heights | DC’s best for shopaholics
    • Woodrow Wilson House | 2340 S. St. NW| DC’s only presidential museum

Oxford

Oxford, the greatest university city in Europe, is an hour and a bit outside London. Its colleges are magnificent, its culture is high end collegiate, its restaurants good but not great, its pubs- fantastic and welcoming.

For twenty years, LMU’s Institute for Leadership Studies and Study Abroad Office have had a summer study program at The Queen’s College, Oxford University. Oxford makes a great day-trip from London, or even better, spend a night and really enjoy the beauty of Oxford.

Dining:

    • Chiang Mai | 130A High Street | Very good Thai; moderately priced
    • Wagamama | Behind covered Market | Fun fusion; a bit pricey
    • Aziz | 230 Cowley Road | Good Indian food
    • Brasserie Blanc | 71-72 Walton St. | French | Chef Raymond Blanc’s most accessible restaurant
    • Le Manoir Aux Quatre Saisons | Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford | Blanc’s high end restaurant and Manor House (hotel) | Very expensive; very good | Beautiful grounds; 2 Michelin Stars
    • Covered Market
    • High Street
    • Shops and small restaurants
    • Be sure to have Ben’s Cookies!

To See and Do:

    • Punting | Rent a punt (a boat) and punt your love on the Char. (Friends don’t let friends drink and punt)
    • Blackwell’s
    • A Bookstore on Broad Street
    • A gem
    • Blenheim Palace
    • Woodstock, just outside Oxford | Winston Churchill’s birthplace | Beautiful ground and Manor House
    • Warwick Castle | Outside Oxford | Worth the trip, especially if you have children
    • Stratford-Upon-Avon | Shakespeare | Very touristy
    • Ashmolean Museum | Beaumont St. | Excellent museum and nice rooftop cafe
    • Bodleian Library | Impressive!
    • The Colleges | Try to get a tour of one more of the Colleges, especially Christ’s Church
    • Pitt Rivers Museum | S. Parks Road | Excellent natural history museum | Great for kids
    • Iffley Walk | Walk along canal to Iffley

Pubs:

    • Turf | 4-5 Bath Place | A must!
    • Head of the River | St. Aldate’s | On a warm night sip a pint of Guinness while watching the boats sail by
    • The Eagle and Child | 49 St. Giles | Literary hangout, where Tolkien and Carrol met to drink and critique each other’s work
    • The Trout | 195 Godstow Rd. | A short drive out of central oxford | Beautiful pub; along canal

New York City

Dining:

    • The Breslin at Ace Hotel | 20 W 29th St. at Broadway | Lamb Burger
    • Grand Central Oyster | 42nd at Park | Deep within the bowels of Grand Central Station | Great fresh oysters
    • Angelo’s | 146 Mulberry St., Little Italy | (Your father’s Italian restaurant)
    • Keens Steakhouse | 72 West 36th Street | Classic. Start with a dozen oysters, then a Caesar Salad, the Mutton Chop or NY Sirloin
    • Melvin’s Juice Bar | 130 West Houston Street | Best fresh juice in NYC
    • Red Forum | 529 Hudson Street | Best roast chicken in NYC
    • Blue Smoke BBQ | 116 East 27th Street | Go for the BBQ; stay for the jazz
    • Pulino’s | 282 Bowery | Pizza (and yes, breakfast pizza)
    • PO | 31 Cornelia Street | Outstanding Italian restaurant
    • Szechaun Gourmet | 21 West 39th Street, Mid-Manhattan | Crispy lamb fillet is a must
    • Gray Papaya | 402 6th Street | 2090 Broadway and 72nd | Hot dogs!
    • The Dutch | 131 Sullivan Street | Pie! Pie! Pie!
    • Don Antonio by Starita | 309 W. 50th Street and 8th Avenue | Pizza
    • Salinas | 136 North Avenue at 18th Street | Suckley pig is fantastic
    • Balthazar’s | 80 Spring Street | Wonderful French Bistro, Great fries to die for
    • Millesime | 92 Madison Avenue | Caesar Salad – best in NYC
    • Di Fari | 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn | Great Pizza
    • Patsy’s | 2287 First Avenue | Pasta, Pizza, old school
    • J.G. Melon | 1291 3rd Avenue | Wow, what a hamburger!
    • Lombardi’s | 32 Spring Street | Pizza at its best!
    • Lupa | 107 Thompson | Mario Batali’s relaxed neighborhood osteria
    • Fraunces Tavern (and Museum) | 54 Pearl Street, Battery and Broad | Early NY/Colonial history and good beer

To Do:

    • Yankee Stadium (tour and game) | The Bronx
    • Century 21 | 22 Cortland Street and 1972 Broadway | Discount clothes store
    • Central Park | Picnic; 200; stroll
    • Museums – too many to list
    • Blue Note | 131 W. 3rd Street | Classic Jazz club
    • Cha Cha’s House of Ill Repute | 212 West 35th Street | Hats – really
    • C’H’C’M | 2 Bond Street at Lafayette Street | Men’s Clothing
    • The Cloisters | Fort Tryon Park, Washington Heights | Medieval Abbey and Museum

Drinks:

    • Le Bain, The Standard | 444 West 13th Street at Washington Street | Great rooftop bar
    • Silver Lining | 75 Murray Street at 20 Broadway | Wonderful cocktail bar 
    • Noorman’s Kil | 609 Grand Street near Leonard Street, Williamsburg | Classic whiskey bar

Boston

To Do:

    • The Gardner Museum | 280 The Fenway, not far from Fenway Park (where some minor league baseball team plays – Go Yankees!) | This is the quirkiest museum you’ve ever seen. Isabella Stewart Gardner was, to be polite, eccentric. This home and collection reflects her personality – quirks and all!
    • Copley Plaza for shopping
    • Harvard/Cambridge – a nice way to spend an afternoon
    • JFK Library – worth a visit
    • Boston Common – stroll leisurely then shop at Newburg Street

Lunch:

    • Neptune Oyster | 63 Salem Street (North End) | Sit at the bar, slurp a dozen oysters, and then have a lobster roll. It is a pile of lobster on a toasted bun – not to be missed.

Dinner:

    • Rino’s | Putnam and Saratoga | Perhaps the best Italian food in Boston | Scampi and lobster ravioli are fantastic
    • Legend Sea Food | A large chain (several locations, including Copley Center) | Good seafood, moderately priced
    • Bricco | Hanover (North End) | Excellent Pasta
    • Teatro | 177 Tremont at Boston Commons | Very good Italian food

Paris

Hotels:

    • Jardin D’Odeon (left bank, near Odeon) | Moderate prices
    • La Sorbonne (left bank, off St. Michelle, near Sorbonne) | Fairly inexpensive
    • 4 Colleges (left bank, near Sorbonne) | Fairly inexpensive
    • Hotel De La Paix (First Arr.) | 225 Blvd. Rospail
    • Relais St. Sulpice (Sixth Arr.) | 3 Rue Garanciere 
    • La Maison Montpornosse (First Arr.) | 21 Rue Moliere
    • Le Crayon (Firs Arr.) | 25 Rue du Boudoi
    • Hotel D’Albion (Eighth Arr.) | 15 Rue de Penthieve
    • Hotel Des Arts Bastille (11th Arr.) | 2 Rue Godefroy Cavaignac

Lunch:

    • At the top of the Museé D’Orsay is a very nice rooftop restaurant           
    • Hedier
    • Le Bon Marché the great left bank department store has a great food court. Buy lunch and eat in one of the parks.
    • Fauchion

Dinner:

    • Brasserie Lipp | 151 Bld. Saint-Germain, Left Bank | I have the duck comfit, Gaby has the Steak Tartare
    • Marco Polo | 8 Rue de Conde, Left Bank | An Italian restaurant in Paris? Yes, and it is excellent!
    • Da Rosa | 62 Rue de Seine, Left Bank | Spanish topas. Do have the Jabugo (ham)
    • Le Boulanger de Monge (5th Arr.) | 123 Rue Monge
    • Pierre Hermé | 72 Rue Bonaparte (6th Arr.)
    • La Fourmi Ailee (5th Arr.) near Sorbonne | 8 Rue Thenard | Great food and good value
    • Café Constant (7th Arr.) | 139 Rue St. Dominique           
    • Café de Flore (6th Arr.) | 172 Blvd St. Germain
    • Les Deux Magots (6th Arr.) | 6 Place St. Germaine-des-Pres       
    • Café Marly (1st Arr.) near Louvre | 93 Rue de Rivoli (great view)
    • Café de L’Homme (16th Arr.) | Palais de Chaillot, 17 Place du Trocadero| Pricy cocktails, great view

To Do:

    • “Tea Time”: around 4 o’clock, stroll the left bank of the Seine, towards Notre Dame at Port de Montebello. Find an outdoor café, sit down, order a litre of vin blanc, hold your lover’s hand, and watch Paris roll by. 
    • Shop at MonoPrix, a supermarket where you can buy cans of duck confit for pennies…
    • Bato Bus
    • Museé D’orsay
    • Louvre
    • L’Orangerie
    • Rodin Museum
    • Picasso Museum
    • Walk
      • (1) from Sacre Coeur (downhill) to left bank.
      • (2) at New Opera walk the elevated walk
      • (3) Stroll La Marie District
    • Sainte Chapelle
    • Do not miss this gem
    • Notre Dame
    • Luxembourg Gardens
    • Les Halles Market

Day Trips:

    • Versailles 

Shopping:

    • Le Bon Marche (7th Arr.) | 24 Rue de Sevres | Great left bank department store        
    • Galeries Lafayette (9th Arr.) | 40 Blvd. Haussman           
    • Printemps | 64 Blvd. Haussman (near Galleries Lafayette)            
    • Monoprix, various locations | Paris’ version of Target