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VERSAILLES: A PRIVATE INVITATION

VersaillesPrivateInvitation_newedition_cover

Being forever fascinated by Versailles, I’m beyond thrilled to bring you Flammarion’s fabulous new book, Versailles: A Private Invitation by Guillaume Picon with photographs by Francis Hammond.

Of course there have been quite a few books on the subject, but I can say that this latest endeavor truly stands out with its many new and rarely seen before vantages – and it is a fascinating read as well. Photographer Hammond has been given unrestricted access to every possible point on the property (this is indeed a private invitation) and brings to bear all of his own creative sensibilities to capture the power, splendor, and grace that so pervades all of Versailles. And with complementary aplomb, writer Picon provides deep scholarly insight into the Kings and court life of France and presents fresh and illuminating source material that captures the very essence of Versailles.

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

As you may know, one of my favorite maxims is “imagination becomes reality,” but when I say this, I don’t mean to imply that things manifest without proper causes and conditions. Any great unfolding requires some fundamental (read: elemental) ingredients like singularity of vision, sustained effort, and of course material resources. The meeting of Louis XIV with the genius of André Le Nôtre, and the subsequent forty year undertaking to transform nine hundred and seventy-seven acres of marshes, grasslands, and forests into the crystalline grounds we experience now in the gardens of Versailles is one of those superlative examples of total alignment. And if we are considering my aforementioned maxim, then I have to say my experience at Versailles via “Versailles: A Private Invitation” has me thinking BIG! How about you?

Versailles: A Private Invitation is incredibly inspiring and a delicious read. Do snap up a copy! You won’t be disappointed.

SUMMERING IN ST BARTH

Ensemble for dinner at On the Rocks, Eden Roc St Barth – Tom Ford mango silk "Spencer" jacket, white cotton shirt with French cuffs, Seaman Schepps shell and pink tourmaline cufflinks, Cartier Tank Divan, Drakes white and navy dot print linen pocket square, vintage floral pant, Max Verre denim tasseled loafers, my fragrance Tom Ford Costa Azzura

Ensemble for dinner at On the Rocks, Eden Roc St Barth – Tom Ford mango silk “Spencer” jacket, white cotton shirt with French cuffs, Seaman Schepps shell and pink tourmaline cufflinks, Cartier Tank Divan, Drakes white and navy dot print linen pocket square, vintage floral pants, Max Verre denim tasseled
loafers, and my fragrance Tom Ford Costa Azzura

Scott McBee is rather keen on St Barth, so often we make a quick trip there every August – it’s actually a good time to go as well, since there are great deals and no crowds. We mostly schedule our trips just off-season to avoid the herds!

Casual chic is the order of the day: I only wore two jackets and was able to pack for eight days in one Vuitton duffle – substantially less than my usual! With such a minimal wardrobe, great care and consideration should be given to one’s selections: a mix of pattern and color so as not to be a total bore, and lots of linen. St Barth is an opulent boheme, so ikat, and batik work rather well. As you can see from our photos, I was not afraid to sport some rather vibrant colors, and mixing them with navy and white works well.

There are so many beautiful beaches to explore in St Barth, and some great culinary offerings as well. St Barth really is the most perfect escape from NYC – and this was a true holiday, with lots of rest and relaxation, lounging beachside and enjoying divine lunches and dinners – all accompanied by a great torrent of Rosé followed by the traditional vanilla infused rum as an after dinner treat. For dinner I highly suggest: Bonito, L’Isola, Eddy’s, Langouste, and On the Rocks at Eden Rock. While shopping in Gustavia be sure and snap up a piece of tahitian pearl jewelry strung on leather at Bijoux de la Mer.

Some more of my St Barth ensembles:

Dressed for dinner – I’m sporting Gucci navy cotton safari jacket, Indian white cotton voile embroidered kurta, vintage orange silk pants, orange suede espadrilles, Hermes Deux Zones Cape Cod watch, and my fragrance Creed Windsor

Dressed for dinner –
I’m sporting Gucci navy cotton safari jacket, Indian white cotton voile embroidered kurta, vintage orange silk pants, orange suede espadrilles, Hermes Deux Zones Cape Cod watch, and my fragrance Creed Windsor

Pre-dinner stroll around Gustavia – Here I’m wearing a vintage  shocking pink linen shirt, Burberry indigo ikat pants, Tom Ford Sandals, Hermes Deux Zones Cape Cod watch, and my fragrance is Tom Ford Costa Azzura

Pre-dinner stroll around Gustavia – Here I’m wearing a vintage shocking pink linen shirt, Burberry indigo ikat pants, Tom Ford Sandals, Hermes Deux Zones Cape Cod watch, and my fragrance is Tom Ford Costa Azzura

Pre dinner beach stroll – I’m wearing a vintage navy linen safari shirt and white and navy pin stripe linen pants, orange suede espadrilles, KJP woven white cotton belt, Cartier Tank Divasn, and my fragrance is Tom Ford Costa Azzura

Pre-dinner beach stroll –
I’m wearing a vintage navy linen safari shirt and white and navy pin stripe linen pants, orange suede espadrilles, KJP woven white cotton belt, Cartier Tank Divasn, and my fragrance is Tom Ford Costa Azzura

FAREWELL SICILY: TAORMINA, AND HOME VIA ROME

Dressed for dinner at Taormina

Dressed for dinner at Taormina

Our sublime Sicilian adventure ended all too soon….

After Noto we stopped in Catania for a private tour of Palazzo Biscari and some general sightseeing. Then on to our final destination, Taormina, where the legendary Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo welcomed us.

Perched atop the hills of Taormina, the hotel offers stunning views of Mount Etna and the Sicilian coast. With only one day to bask in the beauty and luxury of the Hotel Timeo we actually barely left the property (apart from a 2 minute walk to a lovely ancient Greek theater).

Greek theater near Taormina

Greek theater near Taormina

We enjoyed cocktails at the hotel while being blessed with the most sensational sunset. The cuisine was beyond divine – and our wine sommelier shared with us wonderful and unusual Sicilian wines paired with each course. All the meals were served al fresco on a beautiful terrace, and the memory of the glimmering lights dotting the Sicilian coast at dinner, remains emblazoned in my mind.

Mount Etna and the Sicilian coast from Taormina

Mount Etna and the Sicilian coast from Taormina

It goes without saying that there is still so much of Sicily for us to discover, and we will simply have to return.

En route back to New York we were hosted by Palazzo Dama in Rome, which provided a brilliant base of operation for two days in Rome. After a superb luncheon poolside we went for a bit of a stroll. Rome is perfect for strolls, with stunning sights and a deep sense of its history at every turn.

James Andrew - Dressed for dinner at Piazza del Popolo.

James Andrew – Piazza del Popolo.

We had dinner at the renowned Dal Bolognese. It’s really a Roman institution, serving an elegant take on classic Italian cuisine.

On our last day we went to check out the flea market which was quite disappointing, but a wonderful luncheon offered a perfect way to forget the experience. Then a bit further afield, we visited the iconic Hadrien’s Villa (Hadrien’s tribute to his young lost lover Antinous who died in Egypt) which McBee and I were eager to see – needless to say, there’s a reason that it’s featured in so many design and architecture books!

James Andrew at Hadrian's VIlla

James Andrew at Hadrian’s VIlla

We treated ourselves to a farewell dinner at Pier Luigi, another favorite of ours. In operation since 1938 it has been a classic old-school haunt for the chic set. Located at the edge of a handsome piazza in the heart of Rome, dining al fresco there is indeed a treat.

For our farewell dinner in Taormina (top) I am sporting a Tom Ford linen and silk floral dinner jacket, pink and white cotton check shirt, Cartier Tank Divan watch, KJP woven white cotton belt, Tom Ford fuscia and ivory silk pocket square, ikat velvet slippers, Uniqlo white jeans, and my fragrance Tom Ford Neroli Portofino.

And for our farewell dinner in Rome, I’m photographed in the Piazza del Popolo, wearing a Tom Ford linen and silk floral dinner jacket, white cotton shirt with French cuffs, shocking pink silk pocket square, velvet ikat slippers, Seaman Schepps shell and pink tourmaline cufflinks, Cartier Tank Divan, Dior shocking pink jeans, and my fragrance is Mandarino di Amalfi

Note how I wore only one dinner jacket throughout the trip. It’s always good idea to pack things that are versatile: I paired it with black linen pants, white jeans, and shocking pink jeans as well – a trifecta of different looks!