Monday, February 24, 2014

Starting your London onefinestay

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In London we are partnering with OneFineStay to provide with excellent accommodations for our clients. Here are quick OneFineStay FAQs

Everything you need to know about arriving and checking-in (and checking-out) for your stay with us.
We know that you might have a lot of questions about your booking with onefinestay: how to check-in, how you get the keys to the home, what will be provided for you. Don’t worry, you’re not the first people to ask. That’s why we’ve prepared this information for you.



We might not have a lobby, but it’s still just as easy to check-in

1. Does someone from onefinestay meet us at the home?

Yes, one of our Meeters & Greeters will be waiting there for you when you arrive. As they get there a bit before you, they’ll be inside the home. So do please ring the doorbell, buzz the buzzer or knock on the door. Because we send one of our friendly faces from our office, it’s really important we know your arrival time. If you are going to be running late, or indeed early, please let us know as soon as soon you can so that we can we can reschedule your check-in appointment.

2. Who is the ‘lead guest’ you refer to?

The lead guest is the person who actually checks in. This person can be different from the one who booked the home, but you must let us know if that’s going to be the case when you book. One other thing – the lead guest must be over the age of 25.

3. Do we need to bring any form of identification?

Yes, the lead guest will have to, so we can check their details against the booking record, and make sure it is their credit or debit card they are using to pay the security deposit (see ‘Do you need to take a security deposit for our stay?’ below). So do please make sure the lead guest has some photo ID with them, specifically a driving licence or passport. If we don’t have this, we won’t be able to check you into the home.

4. Do you need to take a security deposit for our stay?

Yes. When you arrive we’ll ask the lead guest for a standard security deposit, taken in the form of a hold, not a charge, from either a credit or debit card (we don’t accept cash, credit notes or vouchers for this). Providing no damage occurs, this hold will be released after your stay.

5. Can we organise for the deposit to be paid before we arrive?

In certain circumstances we can allow the booker to provide the security deposit before the stay, so that the lead guest can check-in without having to go through the process. For that to happen, the booker will need to complete a third-party billing authorisation form (not as scary as it sounds, honest), as well as provide copies of both sides of the credit card to be authorised, and their photo ID (passport or driving licence). Don’t worry, our team can help you out with all of this.

6. Keys – how many sets will we get?

You’ll normally receive two sets of keys per home, although for some of our properties this may vary. The Meeter & Greeter will give them to you once the lead guest’s ID has been checked, and the security deposit taken.

7. Are there rules we have to follow when we’re in the home?

Yes, absolutely. Each home has some House Rules, unique to it, set by the host. These will be presented to you, and explained, by the Meeter & Greeter at check-in, along with details of the wifi network and password in the home. Please make sure you do stick to the rules.


Leaving the home you're staying in is easy

8. Will someone from onefinestay be there when we check out?

We don’t meet you when you check-out however we will pop round to the home after you’re gone (see ‘Returning your security deposit’ below). If you have any questions about checking out, you can always call one of our team.

9. What do we have to do when we lock up the home?

Not much at all, however it varies from home to home and therefore your Meeter & Greeter will explain exactly what you’ll need to do when you leave the home. In addition, it will be explained on the House Rules, a copy of which will be given to you upon your arrival.

10. What about our deposit… how do we get that back?

Once you’ve departed, our team come round to check the home for any damage and to prepare it for the next booking or the host’s return. Providing they don’t report any damage, we’ll then release your security deposit.

Check-in & check-out times

Whether you need to arrive early, or late, we can handle it

11. What time is check-in? And, for that matter, check-out?

Standard check-in is between 16:00–22:00. Standard check-out is any time before 11:00.

12. Can we leave our bags with you if we arrive a bit early?

Yes. If you know that you’re arriving between 12:30-16:00, tell us and you can choose to use our free bag drop service, rather than checking-in after 16:00. The process is the same: we meet you at the home, take the security deposit and check ID, so you can then get the keys, drop your bags and then leave the home whilst we continue to prepare it. You can then return any time after 16:00. It’s a great chance to start exploring the local neighbourhood where you’ll be staying.

13. Do you offer an early check-in?

Of course. We know that not all flights land at sociable hours. If you’re arriving between 07:00–16:00, we can offer you an early check-in. In these cases we block the home off to all other bookings the day before your arrival, so we have enough time to clean and prepare it the night before your check-in. This is subject to home availability and charged at 75% of the cost of the nightly rate of your booking.

14. What about a late check-in?

If you’re arriving between 22:00-00:00, you can check-in for an additional £50. Please let us know before your stay. If you think you’re going to be arriving between 00:00-07:00, please call the team for further help.

15. And if we need to, can we check-out late?

Yes, although you will have to have left by 20:00. This is subject to the home’s availability and will cost 75% of the nightly rate of your booking.

16. Do you have places where we can store our luggage?

If you are arriving between 12:30–16:00, you can opt for the bag drop option (see ‘Can we leave our bags with you if we arrive a bit early?’ above), which will enable you to leave your bags at the home. For any other times, we recommend using a luggage storing facility at one of London’s main railway stations. You can find more information and see which stations at

The home

No, we hadn't forgotten about it

17. What’s the address of the home that we’ve booked?

You’ll find it on your booking record; please check via the link in your confirmation email. There you’ll also find directions to reach the home, and which door to knock on.

18. What do onefinestay provide for us to use in the home?

Many of the things you’d expect from a hotel, and some you wouldn’t:
  • One iPhone for the duration of your stay, with free UK calls, UK and international text messages, and a data allowance (it’s also what you use to get in touch with us, should you need to). You can rent up to three more (see ‘More iPhones’, below)
  • Fluffy towels, and two starter packs of toiletries per person from The White Company
  • A hairdryer
  • A starter pack of washing up equipment, and dishwasher and washing machine tablets
  • Various kitchen utensils, plus an iron, ironing board and vacuum cleaner
  • Wifi in the home
  • A welcome pack, with some nibbles to keep you going after your journey.
If you’re staying with us for seven nights or more, you’ll also receive a free maid service, where we’ll change your bed linens and towels, give you fresh toiletries and generally make things sparkle. We can arrange additional maid services for you – please get in touch with us to find out more. One thing we don’t provide is electrical adaptors, but these can be easily bought at airports or train stations.

19. How do you deal with breakages?

Because we want our guests and members to trust each other, we want you to ’fess up to any damage, inadvertent or otherwise, at the end of your stay.
Obviously, some wear and tear is natural, so if you do point out anything that’s amiss, we’ll waive the first £5 per night of any damage done.
If you don’t come forward, and we find damage, you’ll be charged the full cost of putting it right.

20. Is it safe?

All the homes shown on our site are private. Since the member will normally be out of town, you (and who you’re travelling with) will be the only people staying in there during your booking. Which means it's safer than a hotel, because housekeeping won't be entering without knocking every two hours.
It’s better maintained, too, because someone lives there the rest of the time. And did we mention cheaper? And about three times the size?

The extras

Need something else? We can help

21. Maid services

You can book more maid services if you wish. The cost depends on the number of bedrooms the home you’re staying in has, and whether you want a standard or deluxe service. Get in touch with the team to find out more and book.

22. More iPhones

You can hire up to three extra iPhones, for the duration of your stay. You can request these up to three weeks before you arrive, by calling or emailing us. You can’t, at the moment, hire them out on a daily basis.

23. Coming with children?

We can provide cots for babies or young children for a one off-charge. If you arranged for this at the point of booking, this will have already been added to your total costs. We can also provide you with highchairs, should you need them, for a one-off charge.

24. Airbeds

If the home you are booking sleeps your extra guests by way of an airbed, we will make them up with our 5* linens and place them in the home ready for your stay. Airbeds come at an additional one off-charge. If you arranged for this at the point of booking, this will have already been added to your total costs.

Travelling into London

Helping you get out of the airport and into the home

25. Customs and immigration

If you’re a guest flying from outside the UK, and arriving at one of London’s three main airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted), please be aware that if your flight is long haul, it can take between 1-2 hours to clear customs and immigration. If you’re flying short haul, that wait can be up to 60 minutes, depending on the time of day you’re travelling. You can find out more information

26. Trains

All three major airports have express train services into the centre of London:
  • Heathrow Express: This goes direct from the airport into London Paddington Station in 15 minutes. Tickets cost about £20-£25
  • Gatwick Express: This goes direct from the airport into London Victoria Station in 30 minutes. Tickets cost about £20.
  • Stansted Express: This goes direct from the airport into London Liverpool Street Station in 47 minutes. Tickets cost just over £20.

27. The Tube

Heathrow is the only major London airport on the Underground network. All five terminals are on the Piccadilly Line (the dark blue one), and the journey to Piccadilly Circus takes around 40 – 50 minutes. It’s a cost-effective choice, but not a good option if you have lots of luggage. For more information and the tube map see:

28. Car parking

Some of our homes do have parking facilities: ask, and we’ll let you know about those. For those that don’t the following parking website should help you out:

You should now be all set for your stay with us. If you haven’t found the answer you were looking for, give us a call on 0800 612 4377 or email our front desk on
Safe travels, and see you soon.

FAQ About Louvre

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Some of you are planning to visit Louvre this year. Here are basic FAQ we would like to share.
A: The absolute best time to visit the Louvre is on Wednesday and Friday evenings when the museum is open until 9:45 pm, there are many fewer visitors. We usually schedule our Louvre Italian Masters on Wednesday late afternoon to enjoy the art in this less busy environment.

A: The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, January 1, May 1, and December 25.

A: It depends of the time of day. The line outside the pyramid entrance varies from 5 to 20 minutes. This is a security purposes. Participants on certain private tour walks will not wait in line as we pre-purchase tickets and thus have access to a special line. Museum Pass holders or advance ticket holders can also enter this way.

A: The Louvre has one of the largest art collections in the world and it would take weeks to see it all. To make the most of your visit, it’s a good idea to read up on the different sections (perhaps in your guide book) so you can have a better idea of what you would be interested in seeing. We recommend the French Masters walk, which introduces you to French art and compliments your Parisian experience. If you are visiting the museum on your own, try not to see everything, you will appreciate the works more by focusing on a few sections, pick up a map at the info desk which will help you navigate its vast wings.

A: While eating inside the collections is not advisable, bags are not searched for food, so you could bring along a snack, sandwich or bottle of water in your bag and have a break in the main foyer. There are numerous cafes throughout the museum and in the Carrousel du Louvre, the shopping centre attached to the museum, you can find a fairly good food court with world cuisine. For a more leisurely lunch or break, try the Café Marly which is on the North Side of the Cour Napoleon (part of the Richelieu wing), great for people watching.

A: The Louvre is wheelchair accessible and you can request a temporary wheelchair loan from the information desk. There are elevators throughout the museum as well and you can print a wheelchair accessibility guide from the site. We are happy to custom design visits to the Louvre for visitors with mobility issues.

Precautions for Cruise Ship Travelers

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  • Evaluate the type and length of the planned cruise in the context of personal health requirements.
  • Consult medical and dental care providers before cruise travel.
  • Consider additional insurance for overseas health care and medical evacuation.
  • Carry prescription medications in their original containers, with a copy of the prescription and accompanying physician’s letter.
  • Defer travel while acutely ill.

During Travel

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer containing ≥60% alcohol.
  • Follow safe food and water precautions when eating off the ship at ports of call.
  • Use measures to prevent insect bites during port visits, especially in malaria- or dengue-endemic areas.
  • Use sun protection.
  • Maintain good fluid intake, but avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid contact with ill people.
  • Chew ginger candies. Or eat green apples, wear acupressure wristbands, head outside for fresh air, look at the horizon, or book a low-deck, mid-ship cabin. Why? All of these tricks are ways to beat seasickness. You can also take over-the-counter meds like Dramamine, or ask your doctor about the Transderm patch. 
  • Go easy on the alcohol. Yes, You've drunk my fill of mango mojitos and sung Billy Joel songs at piano bars until the wee hours of the morning -- and You've loved every minute of it. But, if you're looking to stay healthy onboard, excessive drinking is not the way to do it.

Forbidden City in numbers

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While in Beijing join us on the tour around Forbidden City.
Forbidden City
Numbers play an important role in Chinese culture. Many buildings have no fourth floor because the word for four (si) is a homonym for death; it’ll cost you extra to get a phone number with multiple eights, considered to be a lucky number; and weddings on auspicious dates (those with a six, eight, or nine) are enormously popular. It’s no surprise, then, that the Forbidden City can have its secrets unlocked through numbers. Using different number patterns found in China’s former imperial palace also pays dividends when visiting other sites, including the Summer Palace, as these same rhythms can be seen in historic Chinese architecture.
What are the key numbers to think about when visiting the Forbidden City? Much can be made out of the number of rooms or length of the courtyards, but with help from our Beijing tour guides, we’re focusing in the number nine. Understanding the significance of nine will help you decipher the gargantuan space’s subtleties.
The Chinese for nine (jiu) is a homonym of long or lengthy (alcohol, too, but that’s a different story). The concept of yin-yang is central to Chinese philosophy;  the two are complementary rather than opposing forces, and neither can exist without the other.
Under the yin-yang theory, odd numbers are yang and even numbers yin; five is in the middle of the yin numbers. Nine is the highest single odd (or yang) digit, so it’s representative of the emperor. The Forbidden City’s Hall of Supreme Harmony is nine bays long and five bays wide; a bay is a room divided up by four poles.
Because 10 is reserved for the celestial emperor, the Forbidden City is alleged to have 9,999.5 rooms, compared to the 10,000 belonging to the palace believed to be in heaven. The Forbidden City is enormous and the devil is in the details. Many gates inside the imperial city, especially the huge red gates of the major structures, are decorated with gilded doornails. If you study them carefully, you’ll find that most of the gates have nine rows of nine doornails. The doornail number associated with number nine because, in ancient China, nine was regarded as the highest number and was used to imply the emperor; it represented in a symbolic sense the then all-important imperial power.
If you’re keen learn more about the details hidden within the massive Forbidden City, join us on our Forbidden City walk. Together with our docents, dig deeper into the rich history of China’s most majestic place.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Top Sights to See in New York City: Part 1

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Do you have a free weekend and want to get away to the city, but you don't know where to go? Here's a list of the top 6 places to visit in New York City.

1. Empire State Building-
The 4th tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building reaches a height of 1250 feet. Once you climb to the top, you have the chance to see the full 360 degrees of New York. Not only that, on clear days visitors, can see the surrounding countryside for distances up to 80 miles, looking into the neighboring states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The view from the top is definitely worth the climb up!

2. Broadway-
I doubt that you don't know what Broadway is! Broadway is the biggest, most famous collection of musical performances! With many different wonderful musicals for all ages, Broadway is a big hit! Some popular musicals include Wicked, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and many more! If you want a discounted ticket, some musicals offer a lottery. This offers discounted tickets down as low as 30$!

3.  Central Park-
Home to 843 acres of verdant views, this is a definite place to visit. Central Park is the largest area of grass and trees in all of New York City, and contains vibrant flora and many secrets of hidden history. Visit the park after a long day just to relax, or rent a bike and take a tour around the park. You have a choice to stop and play a game of Frisbee, or visit the statue of Balto, and learn about its extraordinary history. With glorious views, be sure to stop by here!

4.Grand Central Terminal-
Many people know Grand Central as a hub for transportation, but renovations to it since its opening in 1913 have turned it into so much more. Consisting of small shops and dining, Grand Central is a place to stop by and relax. Not only that, but the architecture in it is an essential must-see! Grand Central is a great example of Beaux-Arts architecture. If you are interested, tours are available.

5. Little Italy-
Located in Manhattan itself, Little Italy is like a town inside of the city. Here in Little Italy, you can explore and see the wonders of Italy, by not even being in the country itself. Filled with many small shops and Italian restaurants, be sure to explore the warm area and the Italian culture.

6. Central Park Zoo-
This zoo is a small, 6.5 acre zoo park located in Central Park in New York City. The zoo was first opened in the 1860s, and it became the first official zoo to open in New York. Great for both adults and children, the zoo is a lot of fun! The zoo is an open area, and is located both indoors, and outdoors. There are many interesting animals, such as, sea lions, tropical birds, penguins, and more! There is also a smaller petting zoo available for the younger kids. Here, you can buy food pellets for 25 cents and feed it to the alpacas, sheep, and goats. Be sure to visit the animals!

Top Sights to See in New York City: Part 2

Do you have a free weekend and want to get away to the city, but you don't know where to go? Here's a list of the top 6 places to visit in New York City.

7. Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum-
This museum is not like any other museum you have ever visited. Typical museums showcase art, sculptures, photography, etc. Ripley's museum showcased unbelievable artifacts, such as, shrunken heads and the tallest man ever to live. Ripley's is famous for its odd exhibits and kooky displays! If you like exploring ideas from the past, or want to know how many matches it took to make the world's largest matchstick model, visit Ripley's for some mind-boggling fun!

8. Dave and Busters-
Located right next to Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, Dave and Busters is another great spot to go to with kids. D&B is an entertainment site mainly for kids and teens. Consisting of hundreds of different arcade games, kids will burst with joy! Each child gets a card with a certain number on it ( however much you pay). Using the card, they can play as many games as they want until the card limit is reached. Then, with the tickets they've earned, they hand in the card, and get to pick a prize or two in return. Not only are the kids busy playing, but there is also a bar and restaurant for the adults. D&B is a great place to visit for some fun, or even on a rainy day!

9. Madison Avenue-
For all the shopping ladies out there, this is the place for you! Madison Avenue is known as the "Shoppers World" for many women who love to shop! Consisting of many small shops, and many big shops, this is practically heaven for many women. Don't get too hooked too quickly though, its very expensive!

10. Rockefeller Center-
Many of you have heard of Rockefeller Center and its annual Christmas tree lighting, right? Not only is the center famous for that, but it also has a large ice skating rink open for the public. Its free to skate there, but you have to pay to rent some skates if you need them. The top of Rockefeller Center is also known as "Top of the Rock". Once you climb to the top of the building, you reach the "Top of the Rock". The view from there is absolutely incredible! There are in total three observations decks open to the public, including the roof terrace. 2 of the 3 levels are completely covered, while the 70th floor observation deck offers visitors a fabulous 360 degree view of the city!

11.Times Square-
The largest and most popular spot in all of Manhattan, Times Square has it all! From smalls shops, to delicious diners, to marvelous museums, its all in Times Square! Times Square has basically everything you wanted to see! You can catch a movie or see a play, its all there. Times Square is home to New York's known pedestrians. People are always walking around, looking at the bright colors and big billboards. Be sure to take a walk in Times Square!

12. 9/11 Memorial-
Soon after the 9/11 attacks occurred, plans were made to construct a memorial for the fallen victims. After some time, this 9/11 memorial was made. Consisting of a 6 acre memorial plaza with a grove of 124 white oaks and two large illuminated reflecting pools, the memorial remembers those victims who died in the tragedy. All 2977 names are inscribed around the edges of the waterfalls, which are created by the two pools which mark the exact sites of where the Twin Towers used to stand.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Requirements to travel abroad

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Traveling abroad doesn’t have to be confusing if you know the right things before you go. This section provides information and a link to background and requirements for Americans traveling abroad. Click on the link below to access our alphabetical listing of countries to view specific entry requirements.
Never assume that having a valid American passport allows you to enter any countries without visa.
For many countries it is true, you just need to have a valid passport and air ticket and you are all set to go. However countries such as India, Russia, China and  some others require you to apply for visa whether you go for business or pleasure.
The link below also includes information on passports, visas, immunizations, medical information, additional fees, and conditions abroad that may affect your safety and security.
It is very easy to navigate, just enter or select the country you are planning to visit and you will see very important information that you MUST know.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Practical facts: Iconic monuments in and around London

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Very often people ask us about the iconic monuments in and around London. With so much to see and do, it is easy to get overwhelmed when trying to put together an itinerary. We know you want to make the most of your time in this historic city. So to help, we’ve put together a list of a handful of frequently asked questions and answered them ourselves.

Q: Can I visit Buckingham Palace?
A: Yes, you can visit Buckingham Palace, but parts of the Palace are only opened to the public during certain times of year. Because Buckingham Palace is the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen, the Palace’s nineteen State Rooms are only opened to the public for eight weeks per year, when the Queen makes her annual visit to Scotland. This year, the State Rooms will be open to visitors from 27 July to 29 September, with tickets available for purchase hereThe Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery are open daily throughout the year, and tickets can be purchased through their respective ticket offices.

Q: Can I visit Big Ben?
A: Only permanent UK residents may tour the Elizabethan Tower (popularly known as Big Ben) at this time. For UK residents, tours are free of charge and may be booked by contacting your local MP or Member of the House of Lords, though it is recommended they be booked well in advance as tours are now fully booked until the end of September 2013.

Q: Can I see the inside of Stonehenge?
A: Although not possible during normal opening hours, you may visit the inside of Stonehenge by pre-booking with Stonehenge Circle Access. Visits take place in the early morning or late evening only and last for one hour, with a maximum of 26 participants on each visit. Stonehenge Circle Access is not available on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings, as the site is closed for maintenance, and should be booked well in advance of when you plan to visit. Those interested in booking must complete an Application Form. All enquiries concerning availability may be made at +44 (0)870 333 0605 Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm.

Q: What is the Changing of the Guard and do I need tickets for it?
A: The Changing of the Guard, also known as the Guard Mounting, is the process of the old guard exchanging duty with the new guard: the St. James Place detachment of the Old Guard marches along the Mall to meet with the remainder of the Old Guard at Buckingham Palace. The New Guard then marches into the Palace Forecourt and is symbolically handed the Palace keys before the Old Guard retires to the barracks. Tickets are not required for viewing the ceremony. For most of the year Guard Mounting takes place on alternate dates, but it is held daily (except Sundays) from April to July. Guard Mounting takes places at 11.30am at Buckingham Palace and at 11.00am at Windsor Castle. For those wanting to enhance the experience of watching the ceremony, the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace App is available for purchase from the App Store here and offers behind-the-scenes videos, an interactive map, a timetable of events, and even a guide to spotting the different regiments.

Q: Can I do a cruise along the Thames?
A: Yes. London’s foremost River Bus, a fleet of high-speed catamarans owned by KPMG Thames Clippers, offers you the opportunity to traverse the city while gaining spectacular views of several of London’s most prominent landmarks. With a variety of suggested itineraries and information about attractions situated minutes from the river, the Thames Clippers provides a unique, competitively-priced experience for everyone from the commuter to the corporate jetsetter. Corporate and private hire is available. Route maps, timetables, and ticketing information can be found here.

Top 5 Things I Ate in Las Vegas (by Ziggy)

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This blog post is presented by Ziggy, very amazing food blogger. For various food experiences visit Ziggy's blog

OK, this wasn’t exactly an eating Tour de Force New Orleans style but some fairly delicious bites nonetheless…
Oxtail Benedict at Comme Ça  – Oxtail meet Gut.  Tender, delicious slow braised Oxtail, poached eggs, spinach, pepper gougère topped with a nice truffle Hollandaise oooozing with flavor.  Very original and very delicious!
Comme Ca - Oxtail Benedict
Bread at Bouchon - If only I had a Bouchon Bakery near where I lived.  Did not love the meal but greatly enjoyed this bread with butter
Octopus at Milos – If you don’t add the $10 soup to the $20 lunch here you should be sentenced to a lunch buffet.   Some of the best Octopus I’ve had in the USA.  Meaty, tender, perfectly grilled, perfectly seasoned with a hint of oregano, absolutely delicious Octopus
Milos - Octopus
Huevos Estrellados at Julian Serrano - The most memorable tapa was probably the Stuffed Dates, but when I look back and think about which dish gave me the most pleasure, it is the Huevos Estrellados.  Egg, Chorizo, fries! whats not to like
Julain Serrano - Huevos Estrellados
Pastrami at Todd English P.U.B.  What a surprise off the bat.  Nicely carved, delicious homemade Pastrami served with your choice of bread and sauces (try the mustard trio and truffle mayo
Todd English P.U.B

Beyond Fellini: 4 Italian Directors to know

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The image of Anita Eckberg wading through the Trevi Fountain to the delight and astonishment of her onlooker Marcello Mastroianni is an iconic moment in Italian cinematic history. Federico Fellini’s lavish film La Dolce Vita (1960) has captured the imagination of viewers for decades and is still seen, not only as a masterpiece in cinema but as a symbol of Italy’s lively and sumptuous past. The success of the movie has made Fellini one of the most celebrated and revered directors in the world. But what about Italy’s other filmmakers? We asked our docent, filmmaker and film historian Elisabetta Lodoli, who leads our new walk Director’s Cut: A Journey through Italian Cinema, to shed light on some of the Italian directors that are less well-known abroad, and why it’s important they don’t go unnoticed.
Vittorio De Sica (b.1901 – d.1974)
De Sica was one of the founders of Italian Neorealism, the cinematographic movement that brought Italian Cinema to worldwide attention after WWII. As Elisabetta told us, he “permanently changed the face of moviemaking” and rightly deserves his numerous accolades.
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
De Sica’s most famous film Bicycle Thieves (1948) presents the dramatic odyssey of Antonio and Bruno, father and son, searching for a stolen bicycle, vital to the father’s job. Bicycle Thieves won De Sica an Honorary Academy Award for “most outstanding foreign film” in 1950, just one of the four Oscars he received for his work between 1946 to 1972.
He often used non-professional actors in this film, which he considered more suitable for stories with a focus on the lives of ordinary people – a key tenet of Neorealism. And, as Elisabetta let us know, “…was very much in tune with kids who quite often were the protagonists of his films.”
Ettore Scola (b.1931)
Scola is a “Maestro” of Italian Cinema and considered to be one the greatest screenwriters and directors from the 1970s onwards. During the course of his career, he received four Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Picture.
His films are social commentaries on the history and culture of Italy, from Fascism to the present day, portraying his country and his citizens in a bittersweet way and creating an unique style of Italian Comedy. One of the films for which he is best known is a prime example of this: We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974), which tells a story of a friendship between three men in Rome than spans 30 years of Italian history.
We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974)
Scola feels very much in debt to both Vittorio De Sica and Federico Fellini who feature as themselves in We All Loved Each Other So Much. His debt to Fellini was made even more explicit in this film when he staged the shooting of the famous Trevi’s Fountain scene from La Dolce Vita (1960).
Nanni Moretti (b.1953)
Often described as the Woody Allen of Italian cinema, Nanni Moretti is unique in the European cinematic scene. He started his career as a self-taught filmmaker and protagonist of his clever comedies, swiftly bringing himself to the attention of both film critics and the wider viewing public. Nanni Moretti’s comedies include The Mass Is Ended (1985), in which he plays a former radical turned priest who returns to his village; for this he won the Silver Bear at the Venice Film Festival.
In his latest film, We Have a Pope (2008), he brings together comedy and religion to investigate a man – the Pope – who feels inadequate in the face of heavy expectation.
We Have a Pope (2008)
“His comedies are satirical, ironic”, Elisabetta explained, “and are sometimes a grotesque critique of the cultural leftist milieu to which Moretti himself belongs”. He is well-known for his leftist political views and a decade ago was involved in protests against Silvio Berlusconi’s government.
Paolo Sorrentino (b.1970)
The youngest of this group of directors, Paolo Sorrentino profile has risen on the international stage thanks to his film La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) for which he received a Golden Globe earlier this year, and a nomination for Best Foreign Picture at the 2014 Oscars. La Grande Bellezza  is seen as La Dolce Vita 2.0., a self-conscious version of the Fellini classic. While La Dolce Vita depicts a frivolous but vital country entering modernity, La Grande Bellezza shows a decadent Italy that has lost its direction. Elisabetta described the film as “a visual feast taking full advantage of the extraordinary beauty of Rome”.
The central character in La Grande Bellezza is played by Neapolitan actor Toni Servillo who has had roles in almost all of Sorrentino’s films, playing cynical, melancholic, detached and grotesque characters; the perfect mask for “the Italian unrealized man” of nowadays.
Federico Fellini may be one of cinema’s greats but these other Italian directors have made a substantial contribution to cinematic history too and we should all take a moment to enjoy their work.