Welcome to: Where I Spent My Week Off —by a NYC Restaurant "Insider"
[Continued from "My Week Off: Monte Carlo"]
So, what do you do in the industry?
I used to do lots of things. Now I do other things.
And you have how many weeks off a year, generally?
About four or five.
What made you choose Portofino for this vacation?
As I explained before, I didn’t exactly choose it; I was just lucky. A couple of years ago, I was invited to sail the Turkish Riviera to Greece aboard the Black Sea, a 110′ sailing yacht owned by an incredibly lovely family I was fortunate enough to have been able to do some very miniscule favors for, once or twice. Evidently, I was such “a good guest,” they invited me back this year to cruise the Cote d’Azur with them all the way to the Ligurian Coast. Obviously, I would have been a total idiot to refuse. It was one of the most amazing trips of my lifetime (and despite the danger of sounding crass, I must say I’ve been blessed to have experienced some pretty fantastic journeys all right).
My journey with them started in St Tropez, continued on to Cap d’Antibes, Cap Ferrat, Monte Carlo, and then Portofino and Camogli…
And where did you stay?
Aboard the Black Sea. It has four separate guest chambers (all with full bathrooms), as well as a Master Chamber and sleeping quarters for a crew of five.
How was the ambience/service/amenities etc?
Magnificent, impeccable, luxurious. The Black Sea was entirely custom-built according to the stringent specifications of its owner. It looks and feels "like an Ian Schrager hotel," which is precisely the way I’ve heard at least several visitors aboard describing it. From what I’ve witnessed and gathered, the Black Sea is famous along the coasts of Turkey, Greece, and apparently, Croatia. It would be far from a stretch of the imagination to assert that surely it has now made its mark on the French Riviera, Ligurian, and Amalfi Coasts as well. It turns heads (and camera lenses) absolutely everywhere it goes.
Any major glitches and/or disappointments?
Sigh. From here Black Sea travels onward to Corsica and Sardinia. Sadly, without me. Sob!
Any great standout experiences?
Uh, dude, I’m in Portofino! How much greater can it get?
But, okay— I must say the shopping is pretty terrific. Portofino has all the usual inveiglements (Dior, Vuitton, and Missoni… oh my!) but for some reason, everything is only about 2/3 the price of everywhere else in the world. And yah, that’s with taking the euro/dollar exchange rate into account, too. I’m not sure why exactly, but I surmise it may have something to do with a distinct dearth of wealthy shoppers frequenting Portofino (it’s not exactly 5th Ave or Place Vendôme, you see).
The other wonderful fortuitous thing was there just happened to be a live public concert taking place right on the port this evening. Pagliacci, no less! Yes, imagine sitting outdoors having dinner on the banks of Portofino being serenaded by the beautiful strains of the opera on this lovely balmy evening as the stars twinkle in the sky and the coastal breeze caresses your face. Waiter, un altro strega, per favore.
Speaking of dinner, it was at The Chuflay at Splendido Mare (but only because La Terrazza was already fully booked). And I must say it was fantastic. Undoubtedly the best meal all week, and on par with some of the most outstanding in my lifetime. The pasta service was especially impressive— Italian fine dining with a flair of French exhibition. Even the wine, Vie de Romans (Chardonnay from Friuli), turned out to be a great discovery for me at a very reasonable asking price. All in all, a truly flawless evening.
[For all the yachters out there however— be forewarned. The Marina di Portofino, as amiable and welcoming to the vessels as they are, leave much to be desired in terms of basic services (particularly for the docking costs). Like water and electricity for example. I’m just saying.]
The following day was a short cruise to Camogli La Spiaggia, which had some of the most gorgeous swimming waters I’ve ever encountered.
How much did you blow all week?
Pssh. At this point, who cares?