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A long weekend in Dublin, a rustic-chic ski chalet on the French-Italy border, the perfect aviators & puffer for travel, and why November is seriously one of our favorite months in Italy.
It’s been a while since we’ve answered one of your questions here in our “You Asked for It” column, but a good one came in that I had strong feelings about! If you have any pressing travel questions, please put them in the comments (I can’t answer in DM). A few of you have also asked us for a Japan Travel Planner, so we’re gearing up to do one later this fall. Ask us your questions and we’ll bring in the experts to answer!
YOU ASKED FOR IT
“Hi Yolanda, I subscribe to your Substack and journal and was just wondering where you would recommend going in Italy in mid-November? Starting in Rome. We’ve been to Italy many times (and used a lot of your recs!!) but it seems like a lot of areas/hotels are closed. Would you recommend Umbria, Piemonte, Portofino, Dolomites during that time, or anywhere else I'm missing?” —Courtney
November in Italy is heaven—the weather has turned, the crowds have shrunk, and it’s artichoke season. If you’re after a road trip, I might head east—starting in Abruzzo, overnighting at the Sextantio in Santo Stefano di Sessanio, and exploring the epic Campo Imperatore in the Gran Sasso National Park. If you want to stay somewhat in that vicinity, you could also head to Niko Romito’s restaurant and hotel. Or you could head to Ascoli Piceno, an incredible little city that I fell in love with last fall, and then head into Umbria and even Tuscany. Since you’re starting in Rome, there’s a lot you can do without driving too far—you could essentially do a circle…coming back through Orvieto, Tuscia (don’t miss the Bomarzo garden) and then back. If you’re more keen on a train situation, I’d take advantage of the lack of crowds and head to places like Bologna and Parma, then work my way over to Venice…or, if that’s too obvious, just stick to the less-traveled cities like Padova…and then end in Milan. We have so many suggestions within Abruzzo from Allegra Pomilio, and within our Italy Travel Planners (North, Central and South)…so once you identify which way you want to go, have a look through those.
I also put the question to my good friend, Emily FitzRoy of Bellini Travel, who is the maestra of bespoke travel in Italy. She says, “Mid-November is a wonderful time to be in Italy; in fact, for me it’s one of the best months of the year. Don’t despair! In general, it’s only the hotels on the coast (including Portofino, Puglia and the Amalfi Coast) that tend to shut down for the winter, but the cities are as alive as ever and much less busy, plus being in a city means it really doesn’t matter if the weather is unkind. Walking through Venice on a cold, misty morning as the fog rolls down the Grand Canal has to be one of the most romantic experiences of all time! I’d also suggest venturing into the countryside and exploring Umbria, Abruzzo, Tuscany or Piemonte; the wine and olive harvest has just finished and the local trattorias have the best of the new season's game and white truffles on their menus. That combined with a roaring log fire, a game of backgammon and a glass or three of Brunello, makes for a thoroughly civilized holiday.”
GUEST BOOK: Chalet Pelerin, Le Miroir, France
Best for… Mountain adventures based in a tiny Alpine village on the French-Italian border
The look and feel…Rustic luxury in a fairytale-like Alpine chalet that makes the most of its views over the Tarantaise Valley. Think cozy stone fireplaces, shearling-draped chairs and overstuffed sofas. Chalet Pelerin’s main living room has a wall of windows that give the space a light and airy feel and overlook a traditional farming village. French doors open out to multiple balconies with charming, intricately carved details and flower boxes. The tiered patio has a fire pit and banquette seating—perfect for watching the sunset while sipping pre-dinner drinks.
The rooms…There are four king-size bedrooms and a bunk room set over three floors, each named after nearby mountain peaks. Decorated with locally sourced decor, the rooms have traditional alpine furnishings like heavy wooden armoires and wall-mounted antlers—and also modern amenities like Apple TV, an integrated sound system and USB chargers on the nightstands (shout out for the amazingly plush robes and slippers provided in the bathrooms). I stayed in Sassière, a ground-floor room with casement windows overlooking the garden, but the largest bedroom is Mont Pourri, which has its own fireplace and balcony. All the rooms contain cozy touches like fur throws and thick plaid flannel curtains.
The wellness… Like most Eleven properties (including Deplar Farm in Iceland and Taylor River Lodge in Colorado), Chalet Pelerin is all about the activities, which are overseen by their expert guides. I was there in September and we went whitewater rafting on the River Isère, glacier hiking in neighboring Italy, and e-mountain biking (to Le Monal, a tiny village so picturesque it doesn’t seem real, and is only accessible by foot or bike). In winter, you can ski at any of the seven resorts close by, or opt for heli-skiing from three nearby bases in Italy (heli-skiing is not permitted in France). Even better, the Chalet provides all the gear you need in their perfectly appointed boot room (it even has dryers for ski boots). There is also more low-key wellness at the Chalet, with a fresh water indoor pool, steam room, Finnish sauna and outdoor hot tub on the bottom floor.
The food… There is no on-site restaurant, so meals are prepared by the Chalet’s chef—expect classic Savoyard cuisine, including fondue and tartiflette, as well as local cheeses (often from the neighboring goat farm) and wines. After dinner, try the local aperitif Génépi, made from flowers that grow only in the region.
Be sure to… Hike to Ruiter Alpage, a historic stone building in the hills of Le Plateau La Sassière, which has been restored with the same rustic-chic vibe as the chalet. Eat lunch al fresco and watch the sheep and goats graze by the glacial river running through the valley. Magical.
Date of stay… September, 2023
Linda Denahan is Yolo Journal’s photo director
We’ve been friends with Lauren Yates for a long time–we met her through the menswear world and have always picked her brain about Bangkok, her hometown, where she runs the visionary design studio W’menswear, which she founded in 2015. Her concept is re-adapting menswear into workwear for women, and we love it. This month she is launching a super cool collaboration with Randolph Engineering (who have been making aviator glasses by hand for 50 years). Her four-piece capsule collection includes these brilliant 23K military spec gold aviator sunglasses, inspired by the female pilots of the Mercury 13, and the lightest sunhat, fanny pack, and parka, made from upcycled end-of-use nylon C-9 parachute fabric by women-led teams of artisans in Thailand and Vietnam. I’m in love with the glasses, which are so well balanced and comfortable on my face. —Y.E.
DISPATCH FROM DUBLIN
Despite being from London, last weekend was my first trip to Dublin, and only my second to Ireland (after a walking holiday in County Kerry as a child). It had the potential to be an even more historic one, too—Ireland were in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup, a stage they haven’t passed in three decades, and expectation was in the air from my arrival on Thursday. While that particular story ended in heartbreak, my own four days were truly heart-lifting—combining art, nature, and plenty of Guinness in the cozy “snugs” (semi-private, walled-off drinking compartments) that line many of the city’s oldest pubs.
My base for the weekend was the Westbury Hotel just off Grafton Street. Owned by the Doyle Collection, who invited me for the weekend, the hotel is marking its 40th year, and its ownership by the same family. My room had a four-poster bed and a huge marble bathroom, one of 29 newly renovated suites—but most everything else at the hotel, including the family’s art collection, is exactly as it's always been. While the hotel is just off the city’s main shopping thoroughfare with its share of big chain stores, on the upside I found it to be convenient to almost everything.
After a short morning flight from London and a half-hour drive from the airport, I started with a quick lunch at Balfe’s, the more relaxed of the hotel’s two restaurants. The place was packed with Dublin locals catching up over salads and steak sandwiches—a promising sign—and remained that way during my stay. After unpacking, I began with the first of three ways (a walk, a workout, a drink) that always help me settle into a new place, and headed off towards St. Stephen’s Green, a 350-year-old park full of Henry Moore sculptures, fountains and statues of historic figures (James Joyce, Constance Markievicz) who enjoyed the gardens in their lifetimes.
As for my exercise, the ClassPass app helped me discover BikeRowSki in the Fairview suburb, which was an intense 45 minutes of exactly what it sounds like. I got there—and all over Dublin—using public transport. While Dublin doesn’t yet take contactless payments on buses, it’s easy to buy a €5 “Leap” card at any newsstand and then put a few more euros on it as you go. (Doing this saved me countless walking hours and Uber fees.) Then it was off for my first Guinness at The Long Hall, a pub that dates to the 1860s and claims Bruce Springsteen, when he’s in town, among its regulars. As with every Dublin pub I’d enter, I was charmed by how the barmen seemed to make it their mission to make me feel welcome, with both drink and conversation.
I started my first full day by nabbing the last ticket on a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, a prison that looms large in Ireland’s memory, not least because it housed many prisoners from the 1916 Easter Rising, many of whom are now remembered as heroes of Ireland’s struggle for independence. The tour guide was great—funny without being corny, serious when the moment called for it, and savvy enough to leave plenty of free time for us to roam the panopticon, a staggering structure that made it possible for guards to see all 96 cells from one central viewing area.
The prison is conveniently next to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, approached via its tree-lined promenade. Entrance is free (which I appreciated given that the permanent collection was nowhere to be seen, and the special exhibitions fairly modest), but I was grateful to experience the architecture of the space—a vast central courtyard with a cafe, and a beautiful sculpture garden full of comfortable benches for an afternoon of reading or walking.
Then it was back to the Westbury for afternoon tea. Initially, I was hesitant about this—nightmares of being trapped in a chair for three hours with finger food—but the hotel lets you order the specific sandwiches and cakes you want off the menu, and, even better, it’s bottomless. Admittedly that’s after you’ve forked over €68, but the whole thing is done with ceremony and so much more warmth than at London’s Claridge’s Hotel (my only other experience of the ritual).
On my way back from the museum, I’d noticed posters everywhere for another one—the Hugh Lane Gallery, which was having a massive Andy Warhol show with over 250 of his works. I can’t stress enough that this is the museum to go to over the IMMA. Even after this Warhol show closes (in late January 2024), the space is remarkable—it seemed to go on and on, including a full-scale recreation of Francis Bacon’s studio and another room full of large silver helium balloons that delighted a gaggle of schoolchildren.
After that, it was time to try my second pub of the trip, Neary’s, which also dates to the 1800s. I’d seen it on a few lists, but decided to stop in after walking past it and finding it relatively tourist-free. Inside, I again encountered cozy snugs, welcoming bartenders, patiently poured Guinness, and plenty of people-watching. Then it was dinner at Wilde at the Westbury, which was full of well-dressed families and couples, for sea scallops from west Ireland, another steak, and wines (a Fritz Haag Riesling and a Margaux) suggested by the restaurant’s thoughtful Brazilian sommelier. It was about 10 when I finished, and not feeling quite ready for bed yet, I made one choice that I won't blame Dublin for: going to see the Taylor Swift Era’s Concert Film at the Parnell Street Cineworld. The movie was great, but avoid that theatre at all costs—the volume was so deafening that many chose to leave after their complaints went nowhere.
My third and favorite day started with pancakes at the hotel to fuel my plan: hiking the cliffs of Howth, on Ireland’s East Coast. Flying over from London, I’d spotted the dramatic coastline and resolved to get out and see it for myself. It was a thirty minute train from Tara Street station to Howth, and from there, a twenty-minute walk through a charming fishing town before the cliff trails emerged. Here I encountered some of the most moving views, whether it was a cove with almost tropical blue water, horses grazing on the plateau, or a jagged peninsula with a lighthouse at the end. To navigate it, I chose the easier Green route, which was only about two hours and well paved. Afterwards, I took a €25 pontoon tour out to Ireland's Eye, a tiny uninhabited island off the coast, where gray seals loll on the rocks and, in season, puffins abound. Our tour guide, from Ireland’s Eye Ferries, played “Zombie” by the Cranberries — an Irish rugby anthem—ahead of the big game. Once we’d pulled back into Howth, I was ready to eat, and Beshoff’s Fish and Chips didn’t disappoint — the line outside reassured about its local popularity but moved quickly, and the cod was truly fresh.
I now faced a dilemma when it came to my evening plans: honor my tickets to a play that night at the Abbey Theatre, or watch the big game. Ultimately, I didn’t want to miss a play by Pulitzer-winning Polish playwright Martyna Majok, but I still won’t forget peering into pubs on my way home, seeing thousands of Dubliners crestfallen at the loss.
Before my afternoon flight home, I’d booked myself onto a morning tour of Trinity College, after years of hearing about the university’s literary history. The Georgian symmetry of the campus was impressive and our slightly overzealous guide shared interesting factoids—e.g., Trinity’s highest-performing scholars can technically still graze their sheep on the college lawns and carry swords on campus. Our tour closed at the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript dating back to the Middle Ages and one of Ireland’s proudest objects. It’s housed right outside of the entrance to the 18th-century Long Room, a library I’d seen in so many Instagram photos, though it was a shame that most of the usual 200,000 books had been taken off the shelves as part of a long-planned restoration project.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped into a running store, and walked out with one of my best souvenirs ever: several pairs of €20 O’Neills shorts. Seeing an entire wall of them in different colors on entering, I asked the shop assistants about them, and all said similar things: “I’ve had mine for fifteen years,” “You can’t be Irish and not have a pair of O’Neills.” I’ve since learned that they’re the same shorts Normal People’s Paul Mescal went viral for wearing in summer 2020, and I understand why—they’re a perfect throw-on short for sleep/movie night/running/going to the gym.
As the clock was ticking down, I kept telling people I didn't want to leave. More than any of the sights I’d seen, it was because there’s something so nice about walking around a city knowing that the average person would be up for some conversation. It was something I felt I’d miss—and have—after getting back to London.
Louis Cheslaw is a London-based writer and editorial strategist. He was previously an editor at New York magazine, and his features have also appeared in The Atlantic, GQ, and Condé Nast Traveler.
Because I spend a lot of time in the Napa Valley (I do some creative direction for a wine client there) and I don’t always rent a car, I’m aware of how hard it is to get an Uber to get there and back. Last week I met Jim Adamson, an excellent driver with a 6-seater car, who took me from St. Helena to the airport in Santa Rosa, the Charles Schulz Sonoma County Airport (side note: a great airport to fly into if you’re just going to Napa or the Sonoma Coast). Jim charges $200 for a pickup or dropoff at SFO or Oakland, which is pretty close to what Uber charges, but you can actually schedule him. He’s able to charge this rate (about $100 less than what an SF-based driver would charge) because he’s based in Napa. (707) 287-2306. —Y.E.
HOW I PACK
What’s your go-to luggage?
I have three children and luggage is a very important part of our travel life. For large luggage, I use the Eastpak 4 wheels. They are light and never incur extra baggage charges, don’t take too much space in a car, and are easy to store at home. They fit a lot and are discreet. The Hunting Season weekender is soft, light and easy to place on my rolling luggage.
How do you approach the basics?
Packing is always an exercise in restraint. I love that it forces me to ask myself what I actually “need” and even then I don’t use half of it.
My basics depend on the weather, of course. On a warm beachy trip, I reach for caftans and light dresses that don’t wrinkle much and make sense for the day and convert to a dinner dress by simply adding an earring and lipstick. For a city getaway, I always bring a great jacket and my Lucchese cowboy boots. They are American classics and give you some height, but are very comfortable and go easy from day to night. They also make me feel close to the ranch when I’m far away. For a trip to the mountains, hiking boots are a problem to bring, but they’re a must since we are avid hikers.
Are you a roller or a folder?
Any other packing tricks or hacks?
Yes, Issey Miyake Pleats Please is the ultimate travel brand. Nothing from them wrinkles or takes up any space in luggage and it always looks great!
What’s your shoe strategy?
My go-to shoes are a Manolo Blahnik short block heel in nude, a Loro Piana sandal (that they sadly don’t make anymore) that are definitely an investment piece, but you can walk miles in them and they are beautiful. For travel days, I wear a Venetian slipper.
How do you think about accessories?
For a handbag, our soft clutch is usually a go-to. It works to store things in my larger bag and then becomes an evening clutch for a night out. For jewelry I pack a necklace and two options for earrings to dress up any look.
Do you have a great travel hat?
Yes, from Sensi Studio. It folds and comes back to shape and is nice looking.
What’s always in your dopp kit/toiletry bag?
On a plane, what essentials does your carry-on always contain?
Hunting season travel cases! I like mixing and matching them. They are a practical way to store small items like snacks, books, my laptop, headphones.
What’s your pharmacy kit?
Depends on where I am. I am a vitamin and supplement junkie and just got back from Switzerland which has the best! I like the Vitamin C from Burgerstein, Fenistil gel for any skin irritations, bites or sunburns, Weleda for body washes, lotions and creams. Speaking of Switzerland I stop at Auer for Chocolate covered almonds in Geneva if I am there and bring them home as gifts. I have not figured out a good strategy for packing my supplements. I would love some tips.
Any wisdom on traveling with electronics?
I do have to pack my phone, laptop and headphones (I travel often and need access to my work life), but when I’m on family holidays I turn my phone off for days. It is the best gift you can give yourself. Sometimes I miss photo ops because of it, but it's so worth it.
Do you have a travel uniform?
Yes, a knit set by The Row I found on The RealReal (where I do most of my shopping). It’s comfortable and beautiful and feels almost like pajamas but looks put together. For a short summer flight, I wear a linen set from CP Shades. I’ve been wearing them for years and purchase a new color every year or two.
Our favorite instagram account of the week.
Nothing beats a home-cooked meal from someone’s Yiayia or Nonna - this Substack brings you those time-perfected recipes and stories from grandmothers of the world.
Delta is rolling back some of their unpopular changes to the SkyMiles program, making status slightly more achievable. (You can read our explainer of what some of those changes entail pre-rollback in broad strokes here.)
We love this writer’s three-word method for describing her travels.
No more getting tangled in cords on your way to the bathroom—United is upgrading hundreds of planes with Bluetooth so passengers can connect wireless headphones to their seat back screens.