Dennis & Nicole’s
10/05 – 10/21 2014
The following are diary excerpts from my 21 day European Vacation with Nicole Kelley, who is a reader and executive assistant to the chief editor at Simon & Schuster. --- Dennis
DATELINE MANHATTAN: 05 OCT. 2014. It’s Sunday night and Nicole Kelley and I are back in her fashionable Upper Westside townhouse after a delightful seafood dinner at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin restaurant located at 155 W. 51st Street.
You can tell that the economy is finally bouncing back when Manhattan’s most fashionable restaurants are once again open on Sundays.
Early this morning, I caught a first-class non-stop Jet Blue flight from Salt Lake City to JFK (on Long Island), where I was picked up by Miss. Kelley. This particular flight is always comfortable and the service attentive, espe3cially if flying first class.
Tomorrow at 5:10 pm we catch an American Airlines first class, direct – non stop flight from JFK to Rome. In Rome, where we will be staying for three days, we have a junior suite at the centrally located Gran Melia Hotel.
DATELINE ROME: 08 OCT. 2014. Had a terrific lunch at the Cinecitta (Cinema City) Studios with RAI – Radio Televisione Italiana – President Anna Marie Tarantola, here in Rome. After lunch Nicole and I had a VIP tour of the studios and back lot; which Anna Marie had arranged but due to her schedule did not attend.
During lunch Nicole pitched five books on behalf of Simon & Schuster and I pitched the “Cross-up” short form TV series; plus “Eagle in the Sky; the motion picture and ancillary rights of which are owned by my longtime friend, Jacob Shapiro – former VP 20th Century Fox International for the Far East and Australasia. Both the “Cross-up” series and “Eagle” went over very big with Ms. Tarantola. She actually told me that she was truly excited about both television projects.
She had previously read the feature film script “Eagle in the Sky,” from the novel by Wilbur Smith, and while I tried to convince her that it needed to be further updated; she thought it was just fine as is.
Although she agreed that “The Kubla Khan Cross-up” should be dropped from the series (too repetitive), and “The San Francisco Cross-up” still needed work, she was most excited about the potential for “The Great Diamond Heist Cross-up” parts one and two; which are inspired by true events.
We have a junior suite at a terrific, if rather expensive, hotel – the Gran Melia and are doing the tourist bit; the Arch of Titus, the Colosseum, Santa Maria del Popolo, Obelisk of Oiazza del Caracella, etc (hope my spelling is correct). It’s actually my third trip to Rome; the last one in 1992 when Duke Goldstone and I went there to film a series of TV commercials for the Accor Group.
Last night we dined at Restaurant Convivio where we ordered a series of half portions, creating our own tasting menu. We had a different glass of wine with each dish. Tonight we will be eating at a far less expensive place, Toscano – a Tuscan style restaurant known for its meat dishes and wine list covering vintages from all regions.
If you hadn’t noticed, people tend to dine much later in Italy and France than they do in America. Tonight our reservations are for 9:30 p.m.; a time when many Los Angeles restaurants are looking forward to closing.
Thursday night we’re pulling out all stops and eating at La Pergola – located on the rooftop of the swanky Rome Cavalieri Waldrof Astoria Hotel. It boasts the best view of the city thanks to its prime position perched atop the Monte Mario hill of Rome. With 3 Michelin stars, Chef Heinz Beck’s restaurant is ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. The wine list is said to contain over 1800 labels. Weather today was a comfortable 78 degrees; perfect for the many restaurants offering outdoor dining.
Friday morning we will catch the high-speed train to Florence; there we will check into the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze where we will spend two nights before re-boarding a train for Venice. In Venice we are staying at the Hotel Danieli. As Joe Pantoliano once famously said, “Time of your life, uh kid?”
DATELINE VENICE: 12 Oct. 2014. Friday morning we caught the high-speed train to Florence. There we checked into the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, spending two nights. We toured the city one day and the wine country the next. The tastings were great, particularly the barrel samples of the current and previous years vintages.
This morning (Sunday, 12 Oct.) we re-boarded the daily high-speed train from Rome to Venice where we currently have a lovely suite at the Hotel Danieli; prominently featured in the motion picture “The Tourist” with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. Tonight we’re eating here in the hotel’s fabulous Restaurant Terrazza Danieli.
Right now I’m in the hotel’s terrific business center, checking and responding to my on average 150 plus per day emails.
As an aside, the price for the 1,615 square foot Royal Suite, where Angelina Jolie stayed, in “The Tourist,” goes for Eur 12,000; or USD $15,549 PER NIGHT. If not occupied, we’re looking forward to getting a tour of the room tomorrow morning.
We’ve only been here a few hours and already we’ve met several high profile celebrities, industrial leaders and international politicians.
Tuesday we will take the train to Cortina d’Ampezzo where we will be spending two nights at the Cristallo Hotel. From Cortina, we will return by train to Venice and fly out of Marco Polo International Airport to Paris.
In Paris we will be spending three nights in a tower suite at the Four Seasons George V, just around the corner from Avenue Des Champs Elysees.
Sunday (19 Oct.), at 1:55 pm, we catch a non-stop, business class Delta flight from Paris arriving JFK at 4:20 pm. Tuesday (21 Oct. at 3:55 pm) I’m back on a Delta first class flight from JFK to Salt Lake City, sadly this time traveling alone.
DATELINE CORTINA: 15 Oct. 2014.
We had a busy but delightful two days in Venice. The morning of the 14th we caught the train north to the picturesque mountain area of Cortina d’ Ampezzo where we are currently spending two nights at the Cristallo Spa & Golf Resort, in Cortina.
Yesterday and today, here in Venice, Nicole and I managed to squeeze in the tourist bit. Although we weren’t staying there, we started out by taking a cooking class at the Gritti Palace Hotel. It was a wonderful experience. I just wish I had a kitchen with such equipment (gas not electricity, of course). We made an appetizer of dried COD (called Baccala) risotto with scampi poached sea bass, and a grand mariner soufflé. Forgive my spelling of Baccala, if incorrect – it’s an educated guess.
We also managed to take the Grand Canal boat tour; visit St. Mark’s Basilica; Bridge of Sighs, etc.; including the three major islands of Venice: the Venetian lagoon; Murano, famous of its glass-blowing; and Burano, known for its lace making and brightly-painted houses. We also visited the remote Torcello, where the city of Venice got its start.
But the highlight was a Venice cicchettl and wine tour of the City’s famous tapas-style dishes, with an expert guide full of personality. The 3-hour tour included visits to five atmospheric wine bars, a walk around Rialto Market and a short Traghetti (Traghetto) ride. With the wine parings, we sampled different plates of Venetian snacks – known as cicchetti – in each bar; including local specialties like marinated seafood with polenta, and sample regional wine and prosecco.
Our suite at the Hotel Danieli has been perfect, if rather expensive. And yes, we did get a tour of the Royal Suite, the room where Angelina Jolie’s character stayed – in “The Tourist,” co-starring Johnny Depp.
Last night we dined at Quadri, a world famous Michelin 3-star restaurant located at Piazza San Marco, a short walk from the Hotel Danieli.
The sad thing is realizing that we have passed the halfway mark of this fabulous adventure and that it will soon be over; with only the memories to sustain us in the days, months, and years to come.
DATELINE CORTINA: 16 Oct. 2014
As most of you know, Cortina is the site of many feature films including: “Cliffhanger” (1993); “For Your Eyes Only” (1981), and “The Pink Panther” (1963). As with Rome, Florence, Venice, it will be my second trip to this beautiful area. Having been to these sites before, of course, makes it easier to plan a day that takes advantage of the best of what these areas have to offer.
Weather is an unusually warm 70 degrees. Normally, in October, you are looking at 49 degrees.
We’ve had an active two days. The first day we toured the Museo all’Aperto delle 5 Torri. We took the chairlift and walked around the mountainside open air museum. It is now 100 years since the start of WWI, Few people know that some of the fiercest battles of the war took place on the peaks of the Dolomites where Italian and Austrian troops spent months lobbing shells at each other and suffering indescribable hardship.
Cortina began its growth in the second half of the 19th century, becoming a popular center of the Dolomites at the beginning of the 20th century. This tourist resort is worldwide known by princes and celebrity alike.
At night there is the Molo Cortina and Bar Sport, where most of the youngsters hang out, dancing and sipping adult beverages. More my speed is the piazza. This is a great place to people watch from a bench or a café, while enjoying pastries and sipping a cappuccino. The buzz of the people is quite amazing especially when the street performers start cranking out music or putting on a show.
Tonight we will dine at the Michelin 2-star restaurant, St. Hubertus. (No 3-star restaurants in Cortina, although by the steep prices you would never know it).
In the morning we will catch the train (not a high speed one) back to Venice and departing from the Marco Polo International Airport, enjoy a business class flight to Paris, where we will be staying at the Four Seasons George V Hotel.
DATELINE PARIS: 18 October, 2014. Although Nicole and I have made the train trip from Rome to Florence, to Venice before, albeit separately, neither of us traveled in the luxury that we did on this particular trek. We pulled out all the stops, staying at 5-star hotels and eating at Michelin rated star restaurants, many with two and a couple with three such stars.
Nicole had never been to Cortina d’ Ampezzo and it was my delight to show her around; even though the ski season had not yet begun. She confided that one day she would return, during the season.
Nicole reads and speaks five languages and it was a great asset that Italian and French were included in that number.
We are currently spending the last of our three days in Paris, a city that both of us had visited, separately, many times in the past. Headquartering at the Four Seasons George V hotel, the first day I took Nicole to the Palace of Versailles where we spent most of the day touring the grounds. We took the train from the Gare St. Lazare station and walked the short distance from the Versailles depot to the Palace. Instead of entering through the front gate, I took her around to the right, past the Trianon Palace Hotel and walked onto the grounds from there; avoiding whatever fee was charged at the entrance. We both delighted in saving the few francs.
We has lunch at the Trianon Palace Hotel, which has changed considerable since my last stays in 1976, ’78, and ’83. It is now a private resort and spa, catering to the super rich.
I was in the midst of attempting to talk my way into receiving guest status for lunch when Nicole simply pulled out her Simon & Schuster business card and handing it to the manager, stating in perfect French: “We’re publishing a table top book on Versailles and may want to include your hotel.”
Not only were we immediately escorted to the dining room, but the hotel picked up the tab; although we left a 20 percent gratuity, which the hotel accepted. Returning by train to Paris, that night we enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Michelin 3-star restaurant, L’Ambroisie.
The second day, we took the ubiquitous bus tour of the city and then had lunch at Maxim’s (3 Rue Royal).
Founded in 1893 by Maxime Gaillard, formally a waiter, Maxim’s became one of the most popular and fashionable restaurant in Paris under its next owner, Eugene Comuche, who made sure the restaurant was always filled with beautiful women, sitting by the window.
After a series of owners, Maxim’s is currently owned by the Pierre Cardin brand. It is filled with nouveau art, including a museum on three floors of the building formally housing the beautiful women – prostitutes. Today, it also has a popular cabaret.
Wolfgang Puck once was a chef at Maxim’s.
The evening of the second day, after a tour of the Louvre, we dined at the Michelin two-star restaurant, Le Grand Vefour (17 Rue Beaujolais 75001 Paris).
The last time I dined at Le Grand Vefour was on 21 June, 1978, as the guest of food and wine critic Robert Lawrence Balzer. Another guest of Robert’s that memorable evening was actress Olivia de Havilland. At the time the restaurant had a third Michelin star.
Today, 18 October, we skipped breakfast and did a tour of Paris’s most popular sidewalk cafes and the Eiffel Tower (on the Champ de Mars), where we had lunch at the Tower’s popular, high-up, restaurant overlooking the city. The tower is named for its engineer Gustave Eiffel. The food and wine were very good and the price reasonable, considering the atmosphere. We had a window seat.
Tonight we were torn as to where to dine. We had reservations at Relais Louis XIII, a Michelin 2-star restaurant and La Tour d’Argent, a 1-star restaurant. I’ve eaten at La Tour d’Argent on three occasions, in 1976, ’78, and ’83. In ’76 and ’78 it was a Michelin 3-star restaurant. By ’83 it had lost one of its coveted stars. Now, I see that it has lost yet another.
When I dined at Tour d’Argent (The Silver Tower), it was owned and operated by Claude Terrail (1918-2006). Claude’s brother, Patrick, owned Ma Maison (my house) on Melrose, in Hollywood, and later managed Ma Maison Sofitel in Beverly Hills (an Accor Group hotel). Since 2003, The Silver Tower has been owned and operated by Claude’s son, Andre Terrail
The view from the restaurants 6th floor is spectacular, overlooking the Seine and the back of Notre Dame. When I finished explaining the restaurant’s history to Nicole, there was no consideration given for Restaurant Pelais Louis XIII. It was definitely La Tour d’Argent. Nicole ordered the signature dish, Pressed Duck. Since I had eaten this specialty during a prior visit, I ordered the Breast of Duck, which was outstanding; as was the wine we ordered.
It is now past midnight and I’m in the Hotel George V business center checking and replying to my many emails.
Tomorrow (Sunday 19 Oct.), at 1:55 pm, we catch a non-stop, business class, Delta flight from Paris arriving JFK at 4:20 pm. Tuesday (21 Oct. at 3:55 pm) I’m back on a Delta first class flight from JFK to Salt Lake City; marking the end of a beautiful relationship.
DATELINE MANHATTAN: 20 OCT. 2014. Nicole and I had a couple seats upstairs in the Boeing 747-300; which compartment was designated business class although I couldn’t see any difference in the seats from those in first class, located downstairs and forward. Since adult beverages were free, we each ordered our own bottle of French champagne from the attentive flight attendant.
On Sunday evening, the 19th, we arrived back at Nicole’s fashionable upper Westside townhouse (adjacent Riverside Park) in time to shower, sip some chardonnay, and dress for dinner. Nicole had previously obtained a much sought after reservation at Thomas Keller’s Manhattan restaurant with its spectacular views of Central Park.
The reservation was for the pricey ($210 per person), French influenced meals composed of small portions of seven or nine courses (gratuity included). The meal can last up to four hours and, in our case what with the wine parings, it did.
Today (Monday 20 October), we chose to sleep in, recovering from the previous 14 days of travel. I did take some time to get on Nicole’s computer, going through and answering some of my hundreds of daily emails that were piling up.
Tonight we have dinner reservations at Daniel (60 East 65th Street) with chef Boulud, which will be our last evening as a couple; having decided to finally part company due to the 27 year age difference, which is finally catching up. Our Daniel reservation is for the $96 prix-fixe; wine extra.
In the morning we will likely have the Moroccan Delight (a spicy tomato sauce served over boiled eggs with pita bread) at nearby Café Lalo; where a scene from “you’ve Got Mail” was filmed.
Around 10:45 a.m., as she returns to work at Simon & Schuster (located across the street from The Fox News Channel), Nicole will drop me off at the Hilton Hotel where I will catch the shuttle for JFK.
At 3:55 I will board a Delta first class flight to Salt Lake City; catching a connecting flight to Idaho Falls, where my car is parked. I should be home in Rexburg by 11 pm Tuesday (Oct. 21). --- Dennis
ABOVE: Using her iPhone 5C, Dennis F, Stevens snapped the above photos of Nicole Kelley during their trip to Rome, Florence, Venice, Cortina, and Paris between 05 and 21 October 2014 celebrating Nicole’s 47th birthday.
BELOW: The first three Playboy published photos below were taken of Nicole by Stevens in 1995, when she was 28 years old. The first Playboy published photo in row two below, was taken by Stevens in 1999, when Nicole was 32 years of age. The last two photos were taken by Stevens in 1985, when Nicole had just met Playboy’s minimum age requirement for publication.
European Vacation Expenses
You ask, “Dennis – how much does a
first class European Vacation cost these days.”
The figures are now in for the 15 day trip Nicole Kelley and I took to
Rome, Florence, Venice, Cortina d’Ampezzo (where “The Pink Panther” was
filmed), and Paris. In addition I spent
four nights at Nicole’s fashionable Upper West Side townhouse (2-nights) prior
to departing and (2-nights) upon returning from Europe. Of course we ate at Manhattan’s finest
restaurants on these evenings.
that Nicole and I made was that she would pay the airfare and the rest of the
costs would be split equally. Let’s see
how I made out.
Hotel Expenses – Europe:
(junior suite) at Gran Melia Hotel – Rome
2-nights (suite) at the Four Seasons Hotel – Florence
2-nights (luxury suite) at Hotel Danieli –
2-nights (suite) at the
Cristallo Spa & Golf Resort – Cortina
3-nights at the Four Seasons George V Hotel – Paris.
the booking power of Salt Lake’s Columbus Travel and Nicole’s connection with
Simon & Schuster, our rooms were upgraded suites at all five of our
hotels. The Danieli was the most
expensive at $2,250 per night and the George V the second most expensive at
$1,975 per night.
Still, the cost ran $17,693.
Meal Expenses – Europe: $7,465.00
13 days of
meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner) at several Michelin 3-star restaurants
and other world famous venues (including wine & cocktails):
Gratuities – Europe (other than meals): $680.00
you cannot exit a hotel and get into a taxi without someone in a hotel uniform
holding out their hand. .
Transportation – Europe (other than airfare): $1,400.00
taxi, bus, subway/Metro, gondola, powerboat and chairlifts
museums and other sites; bus tours, toiletries, adult beverages (other than
with meals) etc.
Transportation – Manhattan/Long Island
(other than airfare): $180.00
taxi fare to and from Manhattan’s Upper Westside and JFK airport plus one-way
shuttle from Midtown Manhattan to JFK.
Meal Expenses – Manhattan
(including adult beverages & gratuities)
Oct. Dinner at Eric Ripert’s Le
Bernardin Restaurant, Manhattan.
Oct. Dinner at Thomas Keller’s Manhattan
Oct. Dinner at Daniel with Chef Boulund
Oct. Breakfast at Café Lalo (Upper West
Side & Riverside Park)
Oct. Starbucks coffee & street
vendor hotdogs – Manhattan
Parking – Manhattan: $55.00
parking garage expenses. .
Parking – Idaho Falls: $119.00
parking at the Idaho Falls airport @ $7.00 per day.
ticket Idaho Falls to Salt Lake City: )
class ticket SLC to NYC: )
class tickets NYC to Rome: )
class tickets Venice to Paris: ) $ 23,489.
class tickets Paris to NYC: )
class ticket NYC to Salt Lake City: )
ticket SLC to Idaho Falls: )
Hotel Expenses – Europe $
Meal Expenses – Europe 7,465
Gratuities – Europe (other than meals)
Transportation – Europe (other than
Miscellaneous – Europe 750
Transportation – Manhattan/Long Island
than airfare) 180
Meal Expenses – Manhattan (including
beverages & gratuities) 875
Parking – Manhattan 55
Parking – Idaho Falls 119
Airfare 23,489 $52,700.
(including all airfare
& ½ all other expenses): $38,094.50
Dennis F. Stevens expenses
Not included in expense recap:
several bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne, and other fine wines, from
Nicole’s cellar which were, like the airfare expenses, a gift.