Exploring possibilities for curated experiences around the corner, around the country and around the world.
By Barbara Ramsay Orr
Sleeping With Memories: The Henry Hotel, And Buffalo’s Architectural Riches
We used to schlep over to Buffalo to hit the outlet malls and indulge in their famous chicken wings. But there’s a hidden Buffalo, one few of us saw, that is now the defining reason for visiting — the city’s rich architecture! Some of America’s best-known architects built homes and gardens for the wealthy industrialists who called Buffalo home at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. That architectural grandeur is attracting cultural tourism internationally. Lovers of fine design are coming to tour architectural jewels like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, where renovations have just been completed, the Olmsted gardens and Louis Sullivan’s city hall. And while there, they’re staying in a restored mental asylum that was lovingly designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. The Henry is an experience in itself — classy, sophisticated, contemporary, but still encased in the Gothic stone exterior of Richardson’s original plan, and still betraying its origins in the extremely wide hallways (designed to have plenty of room to roll inmates’ beds out to enjoy the sunlight from the large windows). The building began as the State Institute for the Insane and sprawled over 10 acres, with farmland and greenhouses. Left in ruins for decades, the property was resurrected by one of the largest financial investments ever undertaken in the United States, restoring the interiors and adapting them to the needs of an upscale hotel. It’s a wonderful place to stay, full of art and light and style, albeit with a unique vibe. Within short walking distance are the prestigious Albright Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Centre and Delaware Park. If you’re in the mood for wings, try out Gene McCarthy’s Old First Ward Brewing Co. The McCarthy Style wings are the best I’ve ever had. (Gene beat Bobby Flay in a barbecue throw down!) For more elegant dining, the Seabar on Ellicott Street is presided over by Chef Michael Andrzejewski (who also defeated Bobby Flay) and offers innovative sushi and seafood.
Ministers Island, The Algonquin and Canada’s Most Beautiful Golf Fairways
As we stood on the 14th hole of the Algonquin Golf Course, the pro explained the particular charms of this seaside playground. “You can see the turrets of the Algonquin Hotel over there above the trees, and just across the water are the wharfs of St. Andrews and Passamaquoddy Bay. On a very good day, you might see a whale, but if you hook your shot, you are never going to see that ball again.”
The newly revitalized back nine holes, as well as the rejuvenation of the front nine, was officially opened for play in July and golfers can now enjoy what may well be the most beautiful fairways in Canada, curving along the Atlantic Coast.
While golf is one reason to visit this bucolic pocket of New Brunswick, there are many more compelling pleasures to be found here.
The Algonquin Resort Hotel — dignified lady that she is — has had a $50 million facelift and looks spectacular. Chef Ron Kneabone produces innovative and locally sourced dishes. Hop on one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes and meander past the blue, yellow, white and pink clapboard houses with picture perfect gardens, or visit the splendid Kingsbrae Gardens, a 27-acre green masterpiece voted one of the tops gardens in Canada, for tea or an art class with the resident artist. The nearby Van Horne estate on Ministers Island, only accessible at low tide, is now open and conducting tours for visitors. Tour the quirky Oppenheimer-Prager Museum, experience a whale watching expedition, dine on the freshest seafood or chat up the locals who are always ready for a chinwag — just some of the reasons to visit St. Andrews.
It’s lovely to look at, calming for the soul and it’s Canadian; just what’s needed today for a restorative getaway. New fares from Swoop make this an even more attractive deal.
Ireland: Rock Stars, Castles and High Tea at the Merrion
Barberstown Castle is an elegant 59-room hotel that was the former private home of Eric Clapton. Located a short drive from Dublin centre, the hotel has the distinct advantage of being outside the noise and bustle of the big city, but close enough for easy access. The hotel is built on the ruins of a castle that dates from the 1200s, but has all the modern amenities. A classic Irish breakfast, served in one of the small dining rooms with a view of the gardens, is a perfect start to a day of exploring. Castletown House, a lovingly restored Palladian estate built in 1722, is a short distance away and well worth visiting. Dublin centre is easy to get to. Most visitors do the tour of the Guinness factory, which ends fittingly with a generous tasting of the brew. One exceptional experience is the Art Tea at the Merrion Hotel — the chef creates intricate pastries inspired by the hotel’s famous art collection. There’s music, flowers, several kinds of tea and a garden view. In addition to the artsy pastries, there are little sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, iced cakes. It’s magical. For an added cultural experience, book a guided tour of the hotel’s exceptional art collection, led by a member from the National Gallery. And then there’s the pubs, like Doheney & Nesbit on Baggot Street, where there’s the best fish and chips in town, a freshly pulled pint and local live music.