Comfort Zones

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If You Love… The North End

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Go To Rome For… A lifetime supply of romance, pampering, and pasta

By Janice O’Leary

If the North End’s narrow streets, wafting scent of garlic, and stylish café crowd make you long for la dolce vita, there’s no better place to visit than Rome. Set against a backdrop of storied architecture, Italy’s capital has plenty of culture and artsy flash, a hint of urban grit, and one of the world’s greatest food scenes.

Ancient Rome, or the centro storico part of town, is home to the Pantheon and the Colosseum. Stroll through the neighborhood at night, when all the historical sites are closed but lit up. In the twilight, the fountains seem more romantic, the piazzas even more intimate. Stop in at Al Bric, a wine bar near the Campo de’ Fiori, for homemade pasta dishes, artisanal cheeses, and one (or two) of the thousand vino selections (39-06-6879533, albric.it). Farther afield but worth the walk is the Glass Hostaria in the medieval neighborhood of Trastevere. Ultracontemporary and hip, the restaurant serves innovative fare like monkfish in hazelnut powder (39-06-58335903, glass-hostaria.com).

When you’re ready to retire, hole up in the St. George Roma near the Vatican. Sleek and sparse, it’s a nice counterpoint to the over-the-top historical opulence for which Rome is famous. Its small but lovely day spa can help you unwind from the wedding (39-06-686611, stgeorgehotel.it). Or take sanctuary in the pool within the Rome Cavalieri across the Tiber (39-06-35091, romecavalieri.com). The hotel’s rooftop terrace, with its three-Michelin-starred restaurant, La Pergola-and its wide view of St. Peter’s Basilica-is divine.

When you’re ready to take on the throngs of tourists once more, stop at the rustic L’Enoteca Antica di Via della Croce for some excellent people-watching, as well as a glass of grappa and great advice on where to dine next (39-06-6790896). And don’t miss Villa Borghese Park, not far from the St. George Roma hotel. Like a Roman version of Central Park, it’s an anti-sightseeing haven, and the perfect place to while away an afternoon. Pack a picnic of panini and a bottle or two of Italian wine. Now that’s amore.

 

If You Love… Nantucket

 

Go To Bermuda For… Sunning on sandy beaches, a preppy vibe, and cocktails with the yacht crowd

By Donna Garlough

Thanks to its high-end hotels and world-class golf courses, Bermuda exudes a distinctly upper-crust aura. But while it’s just a two-hour flight from Boston-about the same travel time as the ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket-the English island has a tropical side. Green palms and hibiscus fill the landscape, and Caribbean Sea currents keep the water and temperatures mild year-round. (It only dips to about 60 degrees in winter.)

Bermuda is highly developed, so honeymooners have their pick of accommodations. A few resorts are slated to pop up in the next few years, but the 36-year-old, 593-room Fairmont Southampton is, for now, the island’s youngest resort and has the most amenities: its own pink-sand beach, a pool, and 10 restaurants (866-540-4497, fairmont.com/southampton). (Hint: For upgraded service and unbeatable views, request a Fairmont Gold room on the top floor.) Like most Bermuda hotels, it swells with families in the summer, but honeymooners can take refuge in its 31,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa, which has a couples’ lounge and an adults-only sun deck. For more privacy, book a suite at the kid-free Cambridge Beaches hotel or a cottage resort at 9 Beaches, where cloth-sided cabanas sit on stilts above the water (800-468-7300, cambridgebeaches.com; 866-841-9009, 9beaches.com).

The isle’s cuisine isn’t exactly four-star, but the best options offer ambiance as well as tasty eats. Head to the Elbow Beach Hotel for tapas on the terrace at Sea Breeze (441-236-3535, mandarinoriental.com/bermuda). Pub dining is another reliable route; Bermuda is British, after all. And the happy hour and afternoon tea at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess are great places to rub elbows with the island’s scenesters (866-540-4447, fairmont.com/hamilton).

But Bermuda’s greatest pleasures are undoubtedly by the sea. For beach time, Horseshoe Bay is exquisite, so long as there are no cruise ship passengers crowding the sand on the day you visit. Bermudians love Warrick Long Bay, which is less accessible and more pristine. Pass the days snorkeling in Church Bay, exploring the coves and inlets by sailboat, or just bobbing in the Tiffany-blue water. In your preppiest beachwear, of course.

 

If You Love… Back Bay And The South End

 

Go To Paris For… A posh European scene and first-rate gastronomic pursuit

By Sascha de Gersdorff

Paris has always been split into ideological camps neatly divided by the Seine. The Left Bank airs a bohemian vibe, its narrow side streets peppered with bookstores and boulangeries. By contrast, the Right Bank is all bourgeois, with pricey cafés, grand townhouses, and fashion nucleus Avenue Montaigne. Bostonians are intimately familiar with such division-they spend time shopping on the Back Bay’s elite Newbury Street before wandering "left" (or, in our case, south) for a dose of artsy bonhomie in the South End. As Paris’s new class of "bobos," short for bourgeois-bohemians, is discovering, merging worlds only yields more enjoyment.

Long favored by artists and politicians (and politicians’ wives-Carla Bruni is a regular), the Art Deco-style bar at the Hotel Lutetia, with its red banquettes and modern sculpture, is the place for cocktails on the Left Bank (33-1-49-54-46-46, lutetia-paris.com). The 1,500-square-foot Arman Suite, named for the famed French artist, has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an entryway lit by in-carpet twinkle lights. Run by the roguish Philippe Renard, the Lutetia’s Michelin-starred Le Restaurant Paris was decorated by über-designer Sonia Rykiel. Outside are the bistros of St. Germain-des-Prés and the much- lauded Restaurant Hélène Darroze, where a foie gras crème brûlée with cappuccino foam is a typical dish (33-1-42-22-00-11, helenedarroze.com).

Across the river, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée boasts a bar of a different kind, with gas fireplaces and a section called the "bathtub" for its giant tub-shaped sculpture suspended from the ceiling (33-1-53-67-66-65, plaza-athenee-paris.com). Many of the five-star hotel’s suites come with Eiffel Tower views and bathrooms bigger than most Boston apartments; the Terrace Eiffel Suite has a roof deck.

If Chanel started selling groceries, its stores would look like Fauchon, a luxury food purveyor that has made an art out of wine, cheese, and swank provisions (33-1-70-39-38-00, fauchon.com). Also on the Right is the hip Café de l’Homme, where bright young things sip Bordeaux on a terrace directly above the Eiffel Tower (33-1-44-05-30-15, restaurant-cafedelhomme.com).

 

If You Love… Cape Ann

Go To The Bahamas For… Low-key beach towns with lots of hidden pockets

By Donna Garlough

The 700 islands of the Bahamas have long suffered a lowbrow reputation among travelers, who cringe at Paradise Island’s casinos and the rundown capital, Nassau. But here’s a little secret: the multitude of less-traveled Out Islands are a laid-back Eden. Dotted with small fishing villages and relatively few resorts and hotels, places like Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Andros, Bimini, the Abacos, and the Exumas boast a vibe not unlike the former fishing towns of Cape Ann-unfussy and authentic, with some of the best coastal stretches in the world.

Like the locals of Ipswich, Essex, and Gloucester, Bahamians know their way around shellfish. Only instead of clams and oysters, it’s conch: cracked conch, conch fritters, conch chowder, conch salad, and more. While seemingly remote, certain Out Islands are exceedingly accessible to New Englanders. After hopping a flight from Boston to Nassau, a daily ferry quickly delivers travelers to the pencil-thin island of Eleuthera, where the ultrasecluded The Cove resort awaits (800-552-5960, thecoveeleuthera.com). The 26 bungalows, rooms, and suites feel both airy and intimate; the splurge-worthy two-bedroom Point House has panoramic ocean views. When it’s time to dine, don’t be surprised if fresh local crab shows up on the restaurant’s menu-the owners’ sons often catch them in a nearby lagoon.

When you’re ready for a little more glitz, head to the even smaller, skinnier Harbour Island, a.k.a. Briland, a five-minute water taxi ride away. It’s a retreat where rock stars (Lenny Kravitz, Mick Jagger) come to relax. Try the sprawling Pink Sands Resort, with its gorgeous pool and acclaimed restaurant (242-333-2030, pinksandsresort.com). (Think fried plantains, jerk-spiced pork chop, and grouper steamed in banana leaf.) Or hole up at the nearby Coral Sands, which offers similar amenities at less exclusive rates (242-333-2350, coralsands.com). For grilled steaks and local lobster in an upscale setting, hit the restaurant at The Landing (242-333-2707, harbourislandlanding.com). And martinis at the Rock House Restaurant are a must (242-333-2053, rockhousebahamas.com). Combined with the outrageously pretty views on this island, they’re more than sublime.

 

If You Love… South Boston

 

Go To Dublin For… Friendly locals and a crash course in (upscale) beer appreciation

By Sascha de Gersdorff

Anchored by a river, Dublin’s layout is a dead ringer for Boston’s. And as any good Irish-Bostonian can tell you, the resemblances don’t end there. Dublin’s brick townhouses evoke Beacon Hill’s Louisburg Square, and the city’s gated parks are European mirrors of the Public Garden. But perhaps the biggest parallels are in the culture-Dubliners are warm, loquacious, and always up for a pint. (And just a wee bit romantic-St. Valentine is supposedly buried here.)

Twenty minutes from the city center, the 197-room Four Seasons Dublin has all the standard high-end amenities, the edgy Ice Bar, a heavenly daily breakfast (hint: skip the soupy scrambled eggs and go straight for the Irish soda bread), and the best spa in town (353-1-665-4000, fourseasons.com/dublin). The new synchronized massage treatment involves a lengthy couples’ massage in a fourth-floor suite. Closer to the action is the Merrion (353-1-603-0600, merrionhotel.com). Intimate and absolutely proper, the 142-room hotel feels like a royal B&B, with a string of cozy tea salons and a private garden.

The latter hotel is home to two of the city’s best eateries, the Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and the less formal Cellar. Of course, not every meal calls for a gastronomic odyssey, which is why no one should miss a stop at fish ‘n’ chips great Leo Burdocks, rumored to be the first fast-food place in Europe (353-1-454-0306, leoburdocks.com).

Choosing a watering hole in Dublin is like sorting through a dress rack at Topshop-everything looks inviting. One of the city’s oldest "boozers," the International Bar (353-1-677-9250 , international-bar.com) hosts comedy nights and a raucous crowd of regulars; less wild but no less charismatic is Doheny and Nesbitt (353-1-676-2945). The hip crowd hangs out at the modern South William, while old-school movers and shakers hit the Horseshoe Bar at the Shelbourne Hotel (353-1-672-5946, southwilliam.ie; 353-1-663-4500, marriott.com/hotels/travel/dubbr-the-shelbourne).

And one of the best places to sample a true Irish pint is the Gravity Bar atop the Guinness Storehouse (353-1-408-4800, guinness-storehouse.com). Its cheery bartenders and 360-degree views of Dublin are unparalleled. If only Southie had a spot like that.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2008/11/comfort-zones/