oh, the places you should go...
Hiding behind my oversized Warby Parker frames, I desperately attempt to conceal my tired eyes as we arrive in Milan. I don’t like to fly with my make-up on, but then again, I don’t like to leave home without composure. Once through customs, I pay a brief visit to the airport’s café. The cappuccino is obscenely good. It casts shame upon whatever flavored coffee pod I’ve been consuming this month. In my peripheral vision, I can see that my fellow café patrons are enjoying their hot beverages in an oversized ceramic mug, as any barista worth their beans would advise. I, however, stick out like a sore thumb with my paper take-out cup, served to me upon request. “Look at that American! Always on the go,” they’re probably thinking. Or maybe it’s just in my head, and no one has noticed, instead minding his and her own aromatic experience.
It is a touch over an hour in the hotel’s swanky SUV, but I barely take notice to the length of the ride, instead admiring the glistening winding roads of northern Italy and its chic, opulent homes. As I spot the posts that read “Lago di Como,” like most Americans that have visited before me, I attempt to guess which villa belongs to the region’s most famous resident, George Clooney. Once I have surveyed no less than a dozen homes that I have declared fit to be my own, the driver declares that we have arrived.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is nothing short of palatial. I had spent several weeks obsessing over its imagery- teasing myself- wondering if such a place could be on the level. Standing before me, it becomes clear that this was not the Photoshop job of the century. This was it. The real thing. How I wish my husband and daughters were here with me to see this with their own eyes.
Surely it is unfair of me to have landed myself before such beauty looking as slovenly as I do. Upon my arrival, I am greeted by genuine hospitality, as though each person I’d encountered, welcomed me into his or her home personally. I make my way to the T Bar terrace, whose work of art is the paralleled views of Bellagio across the lake. It is a mesmerizing sight for these tired eyes of mine. I sink into my seat and take it all in, embracing the scenery which surrounds me. I may even indulge myself in a delightful pastry or three, as I make the warm acquaintance of similar minded travelers as myself.
The queen of the castle herself, Valentina Di Santis, emerges, and she is a vision. Six months pregnant, she has a warm glow about her that radiates joy. As the owner of this not-so-humble abode, it is immediately apparent where the personal touch emanates from. We must have spent hours just lounging at T Bar, overlooking the lake. The atmosphere here is relaxed in a way I’d never seen before. I don’t know if it’s the intricate details or exceptional hospitality surrounding me, but luxury has never looked so uncommonly reposed. Before we part ways, I find myself wishing to take an extra moment to spend in the adjacent Sala Musica, a room adorned with period décor dressed in vibrant colors. Upholstered chairs and sofas crowd the space in a seemingly random context, yet as a whole, look to contain paramount purpose. The room reads like a jazz song written by Louis Armstrong himself; you don’t have to be a virtuoso to appreciate its context.
Alas, I eventually make my way to my rooftop suite. The furnishings are a harmonious blend of antique meets contemporary. From the cedarstone tiling of the powder room to the Jacuzzi on my private terrace, everything is state of the art. Awaiting me is a handwritten note with sweet sentiments; something I will come to anticipate each night of my stay. Between the oversized whirlpool bath and plush dressing gowns, I resign myself to the promise to indulge in a leisurely bath at least once each day. The all-consuming king size bed meets the standards of a mattress snob such as myself, and the pillows nearly swallow me whole as I declare: I’m never going home.
Soon enough, I am refreshed, reborn, and ready to regroup with my new friends and fellow travelers, hailing from various parts of the globe, from Alabama to Germany. Together we discover the shopping haven in the city of Como, the delectable nearby Swiss influence of Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s own L’Escale Fondue & Wine Bar, and the spectacular sites of Villa de Balbianello (a location that may look strikingly familiar if you have ever seen Casino Royale or Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones). We even make our way across the lake via a five-minute ferry ride, and acquire fine Italian silks and cashmere capes in the charming and authentic craftsmanship village of Bellagio. It is not long before we don ourselves the Cowgirls of Como, as we have the time of our lives, draped in splendor.
But this visit isn’t about my Italian getaway with the Como Cowgirls. It is but a piece of the puzzle where the mission is to discover the most beautiful locations around the world to celebrate love. This journey is about falling in love with your forever mate, and together, falling in love with Tremezzo. As grand as the palace may be, it doesn’t utter a hint of pretension. It is simply celestial. Lovers have come here to amorefor over 105 years. Limitless in its potential, the crowned jewel of Lake Como is the flawless choice for weddings both intimate and grand in size. The regal atmosphere overlooking the lake is more romantic than any great imagination could ponder. The luxury of this magnanimous retreat knows no bounds, from its floating pool resting on the lake’s surface, to the unforgettable cuisine of La Terrazza Restaurant and the hotel’s many other on-site eateries. And if all of this hasn’t yet sent you soaring for the Italian Alps, then I urge you to investigate the infinity pool at T-Spa. Spoiler alert: It’s both indoors and outdoors, and is paired with a view.
My tired eyes are rested, with no thanks owed to my friends at Laura Mercier. I have found heaven, and it requires no concealer, and no frames to hide behind. I am in my element here, and I can’t help but notice that everyone else is too.
As for the coffee, well, it is just divine. I think I’ll just order myself a cappuccino from now on. To stay.
"Lake Luxury" is a firsthand account story written by Samantha Sendor, originally appearing in the 2016 Edition of Sophisticated Weddings.
The Globetrotter’s Guide To Honeymooning In Belgium
Belgium.You have tasted its beer, and you think you’ve had its waffles. You crave its chocolate and truffles, while you link it to the most underrated vegetable in the world. But you don’t know Belgium. The most beautiful place you have never been, Belgium hasn’t exactly been known for being one of the sexier countries in Europe- until now.
It’s not so much that Belgium deserves your adoration (this is inevitable), but rather you are due an experience so divinely departed from anywhere else. To know Belgium is to uncover the finest cultivations Europe has to offer. It is the journey that will tingle your senses. The taste, the sight, the scent, sound, and feel; more than any other destination, you will find yourself taken aback by its enchantment.
For a country the size of Maryland, Belgium is more than just its capital city of Brussels. Cities like Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent are must-sees, and given their close proximity to Europe’s central hub, they’re only a hop, skip, and a jump away.
Where gastronomy, culture, and art is met with unparalleled romanticism, the northern region of Belgium known as Flanders rivals its European neighbors in France and the Netherlands- and wins. Encompassing all of the architectural beauty one might see from Amsterdam to Rome, the Belgian scenery is eclectic and rich in history. The cuisine, although similar to French fare, exceeds all others in its vast selection of beer, chocolate artistry, and sizable portions. Think France on steroids, without the attitude (or the roid rage). A nation known for shuffling the world’s diamonds, love begins and ends in Belgium, making it an ideal location for a magical honeymoon. And if you can’t forget Paris, it’s only a 90-minute train ride away from Brussels.
Brussels :: Bruxelles
Language Spoken: French, but everyone speaks English.
Photo Opp: Manneken Pis, the famous Belgian bronze sculpture of what appears to be a cupid-like boy urinating into a fountain’s basin, has become a highly popular and photographed figure in Brussels. Standing only about 2 feet high, the unusually hydrated little guy is typically found stark naked. For a bare statue, the not-so-modest figure has quite the wardrobe. Hundreds of outfits he has worn are on display at Maison du Roi, but if you’re really lucky, you may catch him clothed in something special. Either way, he’s totally Snapchat worthy.
Claim To Fame: The origin of the finest chocolates and beer in the world, and home to the European Union.
Bet You Didn’t Know: The Adventures of Tintin and The Smurfs hail from Brussels, and the city is widely regarded as the comic strip capital.
Best Bang For Your Buck: Starting at just €1at street food kiosks, a Liege waffle is an absolute must. Smother it with strawberries, chocolate, and whipped cream if you must, but be sure to try it with just a dusting of sugar as well. You won’t regret it.
Go here: Grand-Place, also known as Grote Markt to the Dutch, is the main square and center of beauty in Brussels. This wide-open cobble locale is surrounded by opulent architecture, and is home to the city’s town hall. Perhaps the most remarkable landmark in all of Brussels, it is also among the greatest spots to hang out and kick back with a waffle.
Romantic Night Out: Be sure to pop by Bonsoir Clara in downtown Brussels. This ultra-chic, non-touristy restaurant is relaxed, romantic, and seriously delicious. The sashimi of salmon is marinated to perfection, and their rack of lamb is quite possibly the best you will find in Europe.
Do this: Every Saturday, chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud personally hosts a chocolate tasting and workshop in the kitchen adjacent to his renowned storefront. This crash course in chocolate will not only deliver everything you’ve ever wanted to know about chocolate (and the trade secrets that make it so great), you will walk away with a heaping stash of fine chocolates that you will have had the opportunity to prepare personally.
Antwerp :: Antwerpen
Distance from Airport: 45 minutes by taxi
Language Spoken: Flemish, but most speak English
Claim To Fame: Forget 47thStreet. As the largest diamond district in the world, Antwerp’s Diamond Quarter knows its stones. Where about 84% of world’s rough diamonds have passed through the district, it is more than likely that the ring on your finger has made it to Antwerp before you have.
Shop: Antwerp’s fashionable epicenter consists of a grand eclectic mix of chain retail stores and trendy boutiques. The source of a visionary revolution for fashion in the 1980s, the Antwerp Six put the city on the map as the notably gifted designer collective hit the scene. This internationally recognized breakthrough in haute couture only enhanced the notoriety of the region’s distinguished art culture.
Don’t miss: Antwerp’s Centraal Station is one of the most marvelous railway stations in the world. Conveniently located beside several city attractions including the Antwerp Zoo, a great ferris wheel, and a plethora of shops, it is not to be missed. The exquisite architecture of Antwerp’s Centraal Station is not easily defined by any particular categorical concept or era, which lends well to Belgium’s eclectic structural habitat.
Taste: Every shade of ale at Antwerp city brewery, De Koninck. A far cry from most tours and museums, the brewery has emerged a state of the art interactive experience. As you delve into all the juicy details behind this beloved Belgian beer, encounters with smart technology will take you by surprise at every turn. At the finish line awaits a sampling of beers to taste, where selfies coined as “brewfies” are encouraged.
Check out: The Museum of Modern Art in Antwerp better known as M HKA is a contemporary art museum containing some of the most important exhibits in all of Belgium. Its recent Energy Flash exhibit explored rave culture among European youth in the ‘80s and ‘90s, certain to evoke a reaction from its spectators. Although modest in its size, the museum stands out among the bigwig galleries in the contemporary art world.
Explore: A city easily explored on foot, Antwerp is possibly best experienced by bicycle to gain the full effect. City bike rental kiosks are widely available, and make for a great mode of transportation and sightseeing.
A version of this story written by Samantha Sendor originally appeared in the 2017 Sophisticated Weddings.