Actress, Model & Lifestyle Expert Alessandra Ford Balazs gives an inside scoop on her favourite summer holiday destinations & secret spots in her home city.
Summer Break Destinations
Shelter Island in New York is a small island about 2 and a 1/2 hours drive from the city. I spend as much time on the water as I can during the summer and this relaxed island town provides a much-needed reprieve. Only a 10-minute ferry ride to the Hamptons, it’s only a stone’s throw away, but still feels like a spoiling escape. My insider tips:
⇒ Stay and invite your friends for a long, late lunch at Sunset Beach – a small motel converted into a charming hotel hideaway right on the beach. The name is truly fitting, as you can watch some of the most breathtaking sunsets with a glass of rosé.
⇒ Stop by Marie Eiffel’s Market for breakfast and coffee, or some delicious desserts.
⇒ If you’re a water fanatic like me, rent a boat and spend the day going around the island. You can also pack a picnic to enjoy when you drop anchor in the bay to enjoy the picturesque views.
Last summer I spent a week in Florence, it was the perfect combination of historical art and culture, mixed with ocean waves and seaside fun. As there are so many things to see, I recommend spreading your sightseeing over a course of a few days. There are a few lesser-known gems to enjoy between visits to historical monuments.
⇒ Piero Puliti – a charming bespoke men’s clothing store that has maintained its authenticity and old-school Italian flare.
⇒ Scuola del Cuoio – hidden within the winding cobblestone roads of Florence is a beautiful old leather school that still uses and teaches Renaissance techniques to make the finest leather goods. You can watch the artisans as they work and purchase a one of a kind piece to take home. One of my favourite purses is from Scuola del Cuoio.
⇒ For lunch on the river with a beautiful view, go to Golden View Firenze and ask for a table by the open windows so you can enjoy the scenery as you eat. The Shrimp Crudo and the Oysters are unforgettable!
I love exploring Europe in the summer—especially the coastal cities. We drove from Florence to Portovenere, where we rented a boat and set off to visit five old seaside villages. While you can take a train or walk through the towns, there is something special about travelling on the water and seeing them from an entirely different perspective.
⇒ Unlike many coastlines, this area has not yet been overdeveloped and its beauty is captivating–with extreme landscapes and buildings teetering on hills that dramatically drop into the crystal clear ocean.
⇒ Nestled at the top of a narrow stone staircase, you will find Belforte in Porto di Vernazza–a romantic restaurant overlooking the harbour and the perfect place to enjoy Italian wine and cuisine as you watch the sunset.
⇒ If you decide to eat in Portovenere, go to Palmaria for sweeping views on the terrace and local cuisine.
⇒ I highly recommend visiting Castello Doria in Portovenere. The old castle towers on the cliffs at the edge of the port and is wrought with history.
Explore the shockingly pink sand and stone that form the coastline coves in Monterosso. The water in this cove is particularly clear and you can find a few caves to snorkel through.
My love for New York…
The proximity to everything is very appealing to me. You can get so much accomplished in one day. I love the intrinsically ambitious and artistic nature of people who live in New York. New York is full of creators and I can’t help but feel inspired every time I walk out my front door. From pop-up restaurants to art installations on the streets, there are always new adventures begging to be had.
New York’s Best kept Secrets
⇒ Marie’s Crisis is probably New York City’s best-kept secret. It is a historic piano bar in the West Village, where you can sing show tunes until the wee hours of the morning amongst your favourite Broadway performers.
⇒ Best slice of pizza? Joe’s Pizza. If you google it, you will find 1000 places, but there is only one real Joe’s Pizza and that’s at 7 Carmine Street, Greenwich Village!
⇒ Omen – A small Japanese Restaurant in Soho that is well known amongst the fashion industry, and still remains a secret to tourists.
⇒ Free kayaking on the West Side Highway. And if you want to add more adventure, go up the highway and jump on the trapeze for some truly beautiful views.
⇒ If you come to NYC in the summer you must go to Grand Banks and have a glass of Rosé and platter of Oysters. Enjoy the water’s breeze as you sit on the sailboat and watch the sunset.
⇒ One of the best pop-up restaurants I have tried recently is Bohemian, a tiny Japanese restaurant hidden behind a butcher’s store in the East Village.
My must-have items when travelling…
Pawpaw ointment – You can use it everywhere and really helps with dehydrated skin on the plane.
Eve Lom – Face cleansing balm. It smells delicious, is delicate on sensitive skin, wipes away all traces of dirt or sunscreen, and most importantly, isn’t a liquid.
Shu Uemura – Tinted sunscreen that provides a subtle tint and is great with sensitive skin. ◼
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© This article was first published in June-July 2018 edition of World Travel Magazine.