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Sophia’s Luxury Travel Guide


[ California - Hawaii - Italy - Japan ]

California

Beverly Hills

Hotel Bel-Air - romantic but pricey. Never has deals. free fruit and juice next to pool. A very nice elegant brunch on sunday. 24 hour swimming pool.

The Beverly Hills Hotel - well appointed rooms with poster beds. fax in room. Hallway is retro with green palm trees.

L' Hermitage - the business traveller's dream. Great value for price. They provide a well stocked desk with post-its, paper clips, they provide you business cards to hand out while you are in LA with you in room fax and cell phone. They have a cell phone for each room that you can carry around for emergency or business use. Small spa (just 2 treatment rooms).

The Peninsula - hotel - very modern, the villas are very romantic with fireplaces. occasionally the hotel has a package with 2 free monogrammed robes and two1/2 hr spa treatments. wonderful! Spa has minimal treatment rooms. the changing room/locker room is well stocked though. Free bottled water in the workout room. Pool is slightly intimidating with cabanas reserved by intimidatiing people who are not there for the pool but more for the sun.

[ California - Hawaii - Italy - Japan ]

Hawaii

Big Island (Hawaii)

Things To See Aor an event (e.g. wedding). More info at http://www.hotelderussie.it. (July 2002)

Other Hotels

Hotel Eden: Used to be the top place in 1997. Still nice but not as modern as Hotel de Russie. Your room looks as if it were from Architectural Digest. Bathroom is a little on the small side but well decorated and good soaps. No internet access in rooms. Per minute charge for local calls. Business center consists of a very old, slow PC running Windows 95. 500 euros/night. (July 2002)

Hotel Palace: Not so good. Part of the Sheraton ITT collection which has this horrible soap/shampoo collection. Big bathroom w/ nice dressing area but the colors are a little drab and the room a little old. Cute cherubs on the ceiling. Poor reception. Also, i guess Italy doesn't know what King bed means because we kept getting two twins pushed together. Yuck! A/C old and therefore slow to cool the room.

Best Restaurant

El Toula: Via Della Lupa 29B, tel: 6873750, closed Sundays, Saturdays at lunch, and all of August. A very romantic but expensive restaurant. Cozy, upscale, great attention to detail and service.

2002 Update: Not as good as we remembered it, but still wonderful. No free cookie at end of meal (see below), but lots of other extra dishes. Filled with English speaking tourists.

In 1995, they gave us a wedding cookie at the end of the meal for free. It is a large hard cookie that you break with a hammer (which they provide). Might be a house specialty or a romantic thing. We saw other couples with same.

An Italian find (I know this because the concierge was impressed that I knew to ask for the restaurant.)

La Terrazza (restaurant at the top of the Hotel Eden): Great views. Pricey breakfast. 36 euros. 48 for buffet but great selection of food/juices for buffet.

Milan

Best Hotel

Four Seasons Milano - converted monastery w/ domed 10ft ceilings. Wonderful restaurant for lunch. Great shopping location.

Florence

Best Restaurant (possibly in the world)

Enoteca Pinchiorri: Impeccable service without being stuffy. Practically one server per guest. New, different, freshly baked bread every hour. They were able to accommodate our last-minute request for a vegetarian "fantasy tasting menu" for my mom. Although my mom usually doesn't like vegetarian fare, she loved it. The cheese course consisted of three huge platters of cheese, one for each category of cheese (goat's, cow's, sheep's), accompanied with a variety of ingredients to complement the various types of cheeses (honey, almonds, etc.).

Cheap glasses

For those of us who are legally blind (prescription > -6.00), bring your prescription when you go to Italy. In Italy they have super-high index glasses for much cheaper and thinner than in the states. The U.S. requires they be a minimum thickness for safety during sports. But for those of us who do not play sports, these glasses are safe for non-sport wear e.g. at home. I got a pair of super-high index glasses in a nice frame for 210 euros. (July 2002)

There is probably an eyeglass place in Rome too, but this is the one that I tried. Guidoreni Ottica located at Via Calzaiuloli 14/16r. Phone: 055-268175. They said my glasses would be ready by 11:05 the next morning. They were not ready by 11:20 AM, and I had a train to catch. But they sent it by DHL to my home in S.F. and I got it in about 1 week. (I was worried I would never get them, so was thankful there were no problems).

[ California - Hawaii - Italy - Japan ]

Japan

Kyoto

Best Ryokan

Tawaraya: definitely try their in-room kaiseki dinner. But do NOT go for the "tempura kaiseki" which they offer at their Ten-you restaurant (which is located about 3.5 blocks from the Tawaraya). (December 2002)

Tokyo

Shabu-shabu is a dish in which you boil thinly sliced beef (and vegetables) in a boiling pot at your table. The best place for shabu-shabu in Tokyo is Shabusen in Ginza. It is located on the 2nd floor of the Core Building, 5-8-20 Ginza. The best part is at the end, when the servers bring in fresh udon noodles which you enjoy with the broth generated from boiling all the beef and vegetables. This place is popular. We had to wait 30 minutes before we were seated. There is no non-smoking section. (December 2002)

[ California - Hawaii - Italy - Japan ]


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h4>Best Restaurant

El Toula: Via Della Lupa 29B, tel: 6873750, closed Sundays, Saturdays at lunch, and all of August. A very romantic but expensive restaurant. Cozy, upscale, great attention to detail and service.

2002 Update: Not as good as we remembered it, but still wonderful. No free cookie at end of meal (see below), but lots of other extra dishes. Filled with English speaking tourists.

In 1995, they gave us a wedding cookie at the end of the meal for free. It is a large hard cookie that you break with a hammer (which they provide). Might be a house specialty or a romantic thing. We saw other couples with same.

An Italian find (I know this because the concierge was impressed that I knew to ask for the restaurant.)

La Terrazza (restaurant at the top of the Hotel Eden): Great views. Pricey breakfast. 36 euros. 48 for buffet but great selection of food/juices for buffet.

Milan

Best Hotel

Four Seasons Milano - converted monastery w/ domed 10ft ceilings. Wonderful restaurant for lunch. Great shopping location.

Florence

Best Restaurant (possibly in the world)

Enoteca Pinchiorri: Impeccable service without being stuffy. Practically one server per guest. New, different, freshly baked bread every hour. They were able to accommodate our last-minute request for a vegetarian "fantasy tasting menu" for my mom. Although my mom usually doesn't like vegetarian fare, she loved it. The cheese course consisted of three huge platters of cheese, one for each category of cheese (goat's, cow's, sheep's), accompanied with a variety of ingredients to complement the various types of cheeses (honey, almonds, etc.).

Cheap glasses

For those of us who are legally blind (prescription > -6.00), bring your prescription when you go to Italy. In Italy they have super-high index glasses for much cheaper and thinner than in the states. The U.S. requires they be a minimum thickness for safety during sports. But for those of us who do not play sports, these glasses are safe for non-sport wear e.g. at home. I got a pair of super-high index glasses in a nice frame for 210 euros. (July 2002)

There is probably an eyeglass place in Rome too, but this is the one that I tried. Guidoreni Ottica located at Via Calzaiuloli 14/16r. Phone: 055-268175. They said my glasses would be ready by 11:05 the next morning. They were not ready by 11:20 AM, and I had a train to catch. But they sent it by DHL to my home in S.F. and I got it in about 1 week. (I was worried I would never get them, so was thankful there were no problems).

[ California - Hawaii - Italy - Japan ]

Japan

Kyoto

Best Ryokan

Tawaraya: definitely try their in-room kaiseki dinner. But do NOT go for the "tempura kaiseki" which they offer at their Ten-you restaurant (which is located about 3.5 blocks from the Tawaraya). (December 2002)

Tokyo

Shabu-shabu is a dish in which you boil thinly sliced beef (and vegetables) in a boiling pot at your table. The best place for shabu-shabu in Tokyo is Shabusen in Ginza. It is located on the 2nd floor of the Core Building, 5-8-20 Ginza. The best part is at the end, when the servers bring in fresh udon noodles which you enjoy with the broth generated from boiling all the beef and vegetables. This place is popular. We had to wait 30 minutes before we were seated. There is no non-smoking section. (December 2002)

[ California - Hawaii - Italy - Japan ]


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