A Return Visit to Bayreuth!

Gentle Readers:

Over the past 10 months, TheCulturedTraveler has presented fresh content for every blog entry. However – and for the 1st time ever – I’m reblogging and updating a post from last November in honor of the start of the Bayreuth Festival in the little town of Bayreuth, Germany. In less than 2 hours from the publication of this post, the 2016 season will be underway.

Of course, what would a Bayreuth Festival be without some gossip and lots of controversy and, of course, this season is no exception. Each year, the Festival presents one new production. This year, it’s the Master’s ultimate work, Parsifal, which is replacing a landmark production by Stefan Herheim, retired in 2012. This year’s production was to have been conducted by Andris Nelsons but, less than 4 weeks before the premiere performance, which starts this afternoon at 4:00 PM Bayreuth time, he abruptly walked out of the production and out of Bayreuth.

Read about it here:

New York Times
And something a little more dishy here:
Slipped Disc
So I hope you enjoy our little trip down Bayreuth’s memory lane. Here goes:
There is a opera house in Bayreuth (pronounced bye-roit) Germany, which was built between 1872 – 75 for the express purpose of presenting Richard Wagner’s magnum opus, Der Ring des Nibelungen. For those of you unfamiliar with the Ring, Wagner spent over 20 years composing these 4 operas or, more specifically, a Prologue (Das Rheingold) with 3 operas to follow (Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung). If nothing else, the audacity of an artist creating an entirely new style of music and operatic presentation spread over 4 evenings (and 15+ hours) has to be respected. This grand work would be presented as a Festival and, indeed his theatre is called the Festspielhaus (Festival House). The demands (and, hopefully, the rewards) of presenting the Ring placed upon the singers, orchestra, designers and, not least, the audience, would be unprecedented.

Bayreuth - R Wagner
Richard Wagner – The Meister

Why Bayreuth? Wagner wanted a location that was far away from virtually anything that would interfere with the audience’s complete concentration on and attention to his Ring. Additionally, he needed a huge stage on which to present the operas. There is another opera house in Bayreuth that Wagner thought might work, as the stage was unusually deep. However, when Wagner saw the opera house, he thought it was too rococo for him and the Ring. He wanted something much simpler that, again, would not distract his audience from what he had called his Gesamtkunstwerk, defined by Webster as “an art work produced by a synthesis of various art forms (such as music and drama)”.

Bayreuth - the Other Opera House
The other opera house – too rococo??

And another challenge that continues to this day: Bayreuth is not easy to get to (unless you live somewhere in Europe and like to drive). The first time I attended the Festival, I was able to fly from New York to Frankfurt and then fly on a “puddle-hopper” to Bayreuth. Nowadays, you’d need a private plane to fly into Bayreuth, which, in the alternative, leaves you with a 4+ hour train ride from Frankfurt (with a change of train in Nuremberg). Or you could fly from Frankfurt to Nuremberg and then train it to Bayreuth. Any way you slice it, it’s a LONG trip!

Bayreuth Map
Getting to Bayreuth

In order to get his theatre built, Wagner finagled the funds from mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was entirely under Wagner’s spell ever since he had seen a performance of Lohengrin as a child. (Wagner had that effect on many people. He was, by most accounts, a specious person but, also, he was extremely seductive when he wanted something from you, and Wagner was, arguably, the most important and influential artist of the 19th century.)

Bayreuth Ludwig
King Ludwig of Bavaria

The theatre was unique when it was built and still is. Inspired by the Greek amphitheaters, the main floor is fan-shaped and has 30 rows. Behind and above are several sections (loge and balcony) and, of course, a royal box for the Swan King (Ludwig). There are 1,900 seats altogether and no boxes for the “important people”. Seating was intended to be entirely democratic.

The Festspielehaus

Bayreuth - Interior
Inside the Festspielhaus

The most unusual feature of the theatre is that the orchestra pit is famously and entirely concealed from view of the audience. Wagner intentionally designed it this way so that there would be no distractions when watching his grand works. Additionally, Wagner’s theatre was the first ever to present the operas with the house lights entirely turned off, an innovation at the time. In this way, the audience, sitting entirely in the dark, couldn’t “yoo-hoo” at friends and frenemies during the performance and had to pay attention. The beginning of Das Rheingold with its ominous E-flat bass notes which morph into the music of the Rhine river is played in complete darkness, so dark that you can barely see your hand in front of your face. Imagine what that must have been like for audiences accustomed to a totally different experience when attending the opera. It was nothing less than revolutionary.

Bayreuth Orchestra Pit
The invisible orchestra pit

Wagner originally had the crazy idea that he would build this theatre, the Ring would be presented and, afterwards, the theatre would be torn down. Well, that didn’t happen, did it? Wiser heads (including his own) prevailed and after the world premiere of the completed Ring in 1876, plans were immediately made for another Festival at which all of the mistakes of the first year (and there were many, many mistakes) would be corrected.

But it was another 6 years before the next Festival and, as it happened, the Ring was not presented. Instead, it was the world premiere of Parsifal that the audience heard and which Wagner had composed with the Festspielhaus’ unique acoustic in mind. This time, Wagner had a complete triumph: the perfect opera, with the perfect cast and a perfect production (perfect, at least, for 1882). Buoyed by this success, plans were made to get the Ring back into the theatre pronto. And then, 6 months later, Wagner died in Venice.

It took several years, but the Festival was eventually resurrected by Wagner’s widow, Cosima (who, incidentally, was the daughter of Franz Liszt).

Bayreuth R Wagner Cosima Siegfried
Family Portrait: Cosima, Siegfried, Richard

Over time, certain traditions were created that continue to the present day. It was decided that, in addition to the Ring and Parsifal, only the Master’s mature works (Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger and Tristan und Isolde) would be presented. Without fail, the Festival would open each year on July 25th and close on August 28th. The Festival would be a workshop, at which each production would be presented for several years and, in each successive season, return to the rehearsal studio to refine, improve and rethink each opus.

After Cosima’s death, the Festival was handed over to her son, Siegfried (who, by the way, was GAY, but people didn’t talk about such things back then). Upon his premature death in 1930, the Festival was taken over (stolen??) by his widow (wait – he was MARRIED????), Winifred, who presided over the Festival for the next 14 tumultuous years.

You see, during the 1920s, she had become friends with this up and coming politician of whom she was much enamored. In fact, she was so bewitched by this charismatic young man that, or so the story goes, she provided him with the paper on which he wrote his most famous book: Mein Kampf. And that’s how Adolf Hitler – who was Richard Wagner’s #1 fan – came to be a fixture at Bayreuth through the 1930s and, finally, the 1944 Festival, after which the theatre shut down (almost for good).

Bayreuth - Hitler
Winifred, Adolf and Wagner Progeny

But wait: Siegfried and Winifred had 2 sons – Wieland and Wolfgang who, after the war (and after being denazified), were allowed to reopen the Festival in 1951. Because there was no money, and because there could be no compromises on the presentation of the music, Wieland caused another revolution by what he put on the stage which was, basically, nothing except the singers, some very simple set pieces (such as a circular platform for the presentation of the Ring) and the most effective lighting that had to that time been seen in a theatre. It caused a sensation: although the old guard was outraged at what they were (or more correctly, weren’t) seeing, there were others who were enchanted and, in fact, relieved not to be seeing all that Teutonic stuff strewn all over the stage.

I think it was a masterstroke of luck that the Festival was practically bankrupt after the war, which enabled Wieland and, to a much lesser extent, Wolfgang (who didn’t possess anywhere near the talent of his brother) to create a new style of presenting their grandfather’s work, which completely severed it from any connection to Hitler and the Nazis. In fact, Wieland was solely responsible for ushering in “Der Neue Bayreuther” or New Bayreuth.

Compare and contrast:

Bayreuth - Original Rheinmaidens
The original Rhinemaidens, 1876

Bayreuth - Chereau Rhinemaidens
Patrice Chereau’s Rhinemaidens, 1976

Since 1951 and the reopening of the postwar Festival, there have been more revolutions: the Centenary Ring in 1976, staged by the late, great Patrice Chereau and conducted by Pierre Boulez. It was Chereau’s concept to present the operas in Wagner’s own time (and during the Industrial Revolution) and to focus on the evils of capitalism and anti-Semitism. Chereau, who had directed only one opera before taking on the Ring, was a masterful director who had no preconceived notions about these operas and worked from the text. The singers in this production who most benefitted from working with Chereau – Gwyneth Jones as Brünnhilde, Donald McIntyre as Wotan, Peter Hofmann as Siegmund and Heinz Zednik as both Loge and Mime – gave the performances of their careers and presented acting that was so natural and believable that it created a very special experience for the audience.

Bayreuth - Chereau ca 1976
Patrice Chereau, ca. 1976

Bayreuth Chereau Rheingold

Bayreuth Chereau Walkure Jones Hofmann

Bayreuth Chereau Walkure

Bayreuth Chereau Gotterdammerung
Images from the Chereau Centenary Ring, 1976

Some interesting anecdotes about these premiere performances:

The initial performance of each opera was broadcast around the world and the audience got more and more testy as each production unfolded. Now it wasn’t necessarily unusual to hear booing at the Festspielhaus at the end of a performance, but how about at the beginning of Act III of Götterdämmerung DURING THE MUSIC?? You can actually hear the opening of the act, imagine the curtain rising and, then, there it is – LOTS of boos, along with some segments of the audience “shushing” the dissenters, or were THEY the dissenters?? The production was so controversial that it’s hard to tell.

My favorite report from that premiere Ring season – perhaps apocryphal – is the story of the two grande dames – middle or late age, impeccably dressed, of some importance – who got into a bit of an altercation at the conclusion of one of the performances. What began with some pushing and shoving and lots of verbal abuse, quickly escalated when one of them decided to pull off the other’s earring, not realizing that the other dame had pierced ears. Yes, you got it: she removed not only the other dame’s earring but the earlobe as well. Yes, Wagnerites are so passionate about the Master’s works that blood will be spilled.

Fast forward to the Festival of 1980 and the retirement of Chereau’s Ring. I happened to hear the very last performance of  Götterdämmerung on a radio broadcast and what a difference 4 years makes. At the conclusion ofGötterdämmerung, the curtain calls (and cheering, no boos this time) lasted for something like NINETY minutes! Whatever it was that repelled and outraged the audience in 1976, they were now completely under the spell of a masterful and game changing production.

So, after all that, you wanna go to Bayreuth? Any opera lover worth her salt should make that pilgrimage at least once. Hold on. It’s not that easy.

Remember when I said that the theatre had 1,900 seats? Generally speaking, there are 30 performances presented each year for a total of 57,000 available seats. However, attendees to Bayreuth are not going to travel all that way to see one show – they’ll probably want to see everything presented that season (usually the Ring and 3 other operas).

So, there are 57,000 available seats. But each year, the Festival gets something like 250,000 requests for seats. And each of those people wants to see everything, too. In the past, ticketing was managed by the “Wagner computer” and, if you applied every year without fail (you’d be punished if you missed even one year), the typical waiting period to actually get seats was about 10 years!!! Nowadays, some tickets for each season are available on the internet at the Festival’s website and, if you’re fast and lucky enough, you might even secure seats. These intrepid souls may actually hop to the front of the line and get in, and good luck to you!

2016 UPDATE:I just happened to go onto the Festival’s website this past weekend and – lo and behold!! – it was possible to snag a pair of excellent seats for the 2nd Ring, which starts in about 2 weeks. Over the past few years – due, in part to the German government’s intervention – tickets to the festival are becoming somewhat easier to obtain. If you are an intrepid (and somewhat obsessed) Wagnerite, you can now get to Bayreuth without waiting 10 years for the Wagner computer to admit you. Ho-jo-to-ho!!!

And even if you should be one of the chosen few, Wagner never factored comfort into the design of the theatre. What do I mean? Well, for instance, the seats are pretty uncomfortable (not much padding and no arm rests) and the theatre is not air conditioned. This may not seem like much, but I’ve been to Bayreuth during incredible heat waves and the temperature inside the auditorium rises to over 100 degrees. In the old days – I don’t know about now – formal attire was REQUIRED, so there you were in your tuxedo with the sweat running down your back.

And did I mention that Wagner’s operas are LONG?? Das Rheingold, the “prologue” to the Ring, runs anywhere from two hours, fifteen minutes to two hours, forty-five minutes (depending on the conductor) and is played in ONE ACT!!!!! No intermission!!!!!!! No bathroom breaks!! And no one would dare to leave their seats, which may be impossible anyway. It’s said that the ushers lock the doors to the theatre to discourage people from leaving their seats. And I can tell you that, having been to Bayreuth on four separate occasions over a 15-year period, I have never seen anyone walk out during a performance – it’s just not done!!

And Rheingold is the SHORT opera in the Ring. In Bayreuth, the Ring is presented over 6 evenings, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre on two consecutive evenings, then a night off before and after Siegfried and, finally, Götterdämmerung. The three latter operas start at 4:00 PM in the afternoon and intermissions last exactly one hour. As Götterdämmerung is the longest of the Ring operas (the running time for its prologue and first act alone is around 2 hours – about as long as the entirety of La Boheme or Tosca), you’re not likely to get out of the theatre until well past 10:00 PM. And when you depart the theatre and make your way down the Green Hill, your ears will be ringing with the glorious final notes of Brünnhilde’s great immolation scene. Believe me, it will be difficult to go to sleep after that experience.

So here we are: I’ve described for you the challenges of attending performances at Bayreuth. It’s not easy to get tickets and, once you do, it’s not easy to get to Bayreuth. And once you’ve done all that, you have to be in tip-top shape to survive the experience. One of the main themes of Parsifal is “redemption through suffering”, which is a good metaphor for the Bayreuth experience. 

But guess what? It’s totally worth it. On the right night, with the right singers and conductor, and with a director who knows what s/he’s doing, you will have the most magical, inspiring and moving experience you’re likely to have in an opera house. And believe me, at the conclusion of your visit to Bayreuth, you will feel redeemed.

CULTURE TIP: Bayreuth Festival Website

End of An Era: The Four Seasons Shutters

Yesterday afternoon, AAC CPA and I had what was the last lunch served at the fabled Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York City. (More about that later.) Tonight at around midnight, the restaurant will close forever. Since its historic opening in 1959, the Four Seasons has, arguably, been the most famous restaurant in the world.

Four Seasons - AAC arrives - 2016-07-15
AAC CPA arrives for the last lunch

My history with the establishment goes back over 40 years, when I first arrived in New York City, having just completed university in California. I was introduced to the Four Seasons in the fall of 1974, when I was taken by a mentor/friend of mine, Bill Konkoy, whose responsibility it was to show me the sights. We reserved a table in the Pool Room and it is impossible not to be impressed by the walk from the reception/bar area, down that long corridor, past the Picasso “Le Tricorne” tapestry (recently removed in an acrimonious dispute between the owner of the Seagram Building and Alex von Bidder and Julian Niccolini, the owners of the restaurant) and, finally, into the Pool Room. What a thrill!

Four Seasons Pool Room 1970s
The Pool Room ca, 1974

Four Seasons Le Tricorne
Picasso’s “Le Tricorne”

It had been Bill’s intention that we would order off the pre-theatre prix fixe menu but, after glancing at the a la carte menu for a moment, he took a “what-the-hell” attitude and we ordered as we liked. By today’s standards the meal was inexpensive but, back then, we spent beaucoup bucks – money very well spent.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the place, it was perhaps the first “total concept” restaurant. Designed by architects Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe at a cost of over a then unprecedented $4,000,000, the restaurant immediately became the anchor of the brand new Seagram Building, located at Park Avenue and 52nd Street. In the beginning, the space was intended to be a bank or, perhaps, a car dealership. Fortunately, those plans never materialized and, instead, a great restaurant was born.

Aside from the up-to-the-minute architecture, which has never lost its luster and has, in fact, been landmarked, every piece of furniture, chairs, tables, banquettes and more, every piece of crystal and flatware, the chargers at each seat, was designed for that space. It was all perfectly integrated. And more: owing to its name, there were subtle changes of décor for each season, and certain menu items would be swapped out as well.

Four Seasons Bar
The bar with the fabulous bronze sculpture by Richard Lippold

Now here’s the thing: the food at the Four Seasons was good, sometimes great, but I don’t think that’s why you went there. You went to the Four Seasons for the total experience. Somehow, you were always made to feel special at the Four Seasons.

I’ve accumulated a lifetime of memories at the place:

To celebrate our 1st anniversary, AAC CPA and I dined there together for the first time. It was a magical night.

When, 9 years later, we were deciding what to do for our 10th anniversary, there was no better place to celebrate than at the Four Seasons. We worked with then manager, the indispensable Julian, who effortlessly stewarded us through the planning stages. For those of you familiar with the restaurant, we took the adjoining private rooms on the mezzanine level behind the Grill Room – the smaller room for cocktails and the larger room for a sit-down dinner for 20. The night arrived and AAC CPA and I were greetings our guests when the late Mike Wallace (of 60 Minutes fame) arrived, strode right over to the bar and ordered a dry martini. AAC CPA and I exchanged a nonplussed glance and I decided to go over to introduce myself. Mr. Wallace looked a bit startled and quickly realized that he had crashed our party. He was there that evening because Eric Sevareid (the famed CBS journalist and elite war correspondent) had retired that day and was guest of honor at a party in another part of the restaurant. Mike looked around with a kind of “oops” expression on his slightly bemused/embarrassed face, murmured “I guess I’m at the wrong party”, and made a hasty exit. Our party, by the way, was a complete success, our famous uninvited guest notwithstanding.

Four Seasons 10th Anniversary Party
Our 10th anniversary party at the Four Seasons

The number of family celebrations are too numerous to count: family and friend’s birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or just stepping out for a night on the town.

AAC CPA and I hosted his late brother, Paul, and his wife, Ann, on the occasion of their 40th anniversary. The Four Seasons always sent over made-to-order cotton candy whenever a special occasion was being celebrated. Ann wasn’t crazy for it, but appreciated the gesture.

Speaking of which: We took AAC CPA’s great niece and nephew, Sloane and Tyler, to a cooking class a few years ago, after which we all sat together at a very long table in the Grill Room and ate what had been prepared during the class. Sloane and Tyler had made quite an impression on the kitchen staff and they were taken back after lunch to play with the cotton candy machine.

Four Seasons Tyler Sloane
Tyler and Sloane display their cotton candy creations

And then there were the New Year’s Eve lunches. Quite frankly, AAC CPA and I have always felt that New Year’s Eve is highly overrated, especially in New York where the price of everything seems to triple on that night and don’t get me started on trying to find a cab. So a long time ago, AAC and I decided that the civilized thing to do was to have a wonderful lunch at the Four Seasons, come home, and let the amateurs take over.

Four Sesaons - AAC 2015-12-31
AAC with a proper Negroni, New Year’s Eve 2015

We were there this past December for our last Four Seasons’ New Year’s Eve lunch. Our favorite waiter, Giuseppe, took such good care of us. In fact, he spoiled us rotten that day. Mille grazie, Giuseppe.

All of which brings us to our last lunch yesterday afternoon. We had decided on a whim that we needed to eat there one last time. I was able to secure a table in the Grill Room (which was where the “Power Lunch” came into existence), and so we climbed the steps to the 2nd floor one last time. Julian was there to greet us – “Welcome back” – and we were escorted to a lovely table.

The atmosphere was slightly surreal and somewhat frenzied. There were several paparazzi moving around the room taking lots of pictures. At one point, a table had to be brought out and set up for a last minute arrival: Charlotte Hunt, travel manager at Blackstone, accompanied by Jay Cheshes, who posted a column of this last lunch for The Daily Beast.

There was a bit of levity when we asked for a couple of Negronis (our favorite and the best cocktail ever) straight up and very well chilled. Our server said that she hoped there was still some gin left in the restaurant. (WHAT?) When the drinks arrived a few minutes later, they looked positively warm, were served in a white wine glass and there was a marsichino cherry in the bottom of the glass. That was one of the oddest things ever. Our server was mortified and had to explain that: 1) she couldn’t find any martini glasses; 2) she couldn’t believe that she had put a cherry in the glass; 3) she had, on many occasions, served that very cocktail to Philip Johnson (sans cherry, of course). Apparently the closing of the Four Seasons was affecting the staff in strange ways.

We asked her to replace the Negronis with a couple of Campari and sodas, which turned out to be fine.

About those missing martini glasses: our waiter explained that, over the past few weeks, diners had been leaving the restaurant with mementos of the place; in other words, they were stealing the restaurant blind. It was obvious to us, as their signature bread baskets, salt and pepper shakers, and more, were nowhere to be found. Seriously, people!!

Julian was working the room, as always, and at one point, was wearing a Four Seasons construction hat (a new location for the Four Seasons has been chosen, just a few blocks away, and will open in late 2017 or early 2018). We enjoyed observing all the antics in the room, the table-hopping, the paparazzi. It was simultaneously fun and a not a little bit wistful.

Four Seasons Hardhat
Julian models his Four Seasons hardhat

After enjoying our replacement cocktails, we ordered a lovely lunch: Crisp Shrimp with a stone-fruit mustard and an Ahi Burger with Mango Salsa and fries for me; Artichoke Salad with Burrata and Maryland Crab Cakes (a signature dish) for AAC CPA, all of which we enjoyed very much. 

Four Seasons Crisp Shrimp - 2016-07-15
My Crisp Shrimp with mostarda di frutta

Four Seasons - Artichoke - 2016-07-15
AAC CPA’s Artichoke Salad

Here’s the final Grill Room lunch menu:

Four Seasons Grill MenuAll good things come to an end and we settled our bill, thanked our waiters, and said “au revoir” to Julian. But we had one last thing to do.

We took a final stroll from the Grill Room, down that corridor (now naked and a bit forlorn without “Le Tricorne” on display) and went into the Pool Room. Of course, the first person we ran into was Giuseppe. We thanked him for taking such good care of us over the years, took a last look around and that, as they say, was that.

Four Seasons Pool Room - 2016-07-15
The Pool Room – July 15, 2016

And, so, a great institution is shutting its doors for good. I could bitch about the circumstances that forced the restaurant to close (a multiyear dispute initiated by the owner of the Seagram Building), but that won’t change anything.

If all goes according to plan, a new Four Seasons will open in about 18 months. I have mixed emotions. Nothing can compare with dining in this iconic space. On the other hand, Julian, Alex and their staff have forged many wonderful relationships with their diners over the decades and that’s what will remain.

In the meantime, I’ll just say thanks for the memories.

Four Seasons Alex & Julian
Alex von Bidder and Julian Niccolini, immortalized by The New Yorker.

PS. For better or worse (there are arguments to be made on both sides), all of the non-architectural elements will be sold at a private auction on Tuesday, July 26th at the restaurant. The highest bidders will come away with furniture designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, serving dishes (and more) designed by Ada Louise Huxtable, even the Four Seasons illuminated signs from the entrance will be on the block. A set of four Four Seasons ashtrays (one for each season) is estimated go for between $500-700 or a dozen custom water glasses from $300-500! I’ve already registered (and have an assigned paddle number, if you please) and hope to come away with some memento of our many years at the Four Seasons. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens.

AUCTION TIP: The Four Seasons Auction


Memo from Glenmere Mansion

” . . . . a weekend in the country,
How amusing,
How delightfully droll.
A weekend in the country,
While we’re losing
Our control.”
Stephen Sondheim

Good evening and greetings from Glenmere Mansion in Chester, New York – a mere 75 minutes from Manhattan. This is our 3rd visit to this enchanted hostelry and we couldn’t be happier to be here. The occasion is the 10th anniversary of our very dear friends, A and K, who we met aboard Crystal Serenity on an Atlantic crossing back in 2013.

About Glenmere Mansion: Designed by famed architects, Carrère and Hastings, Glenmere was built in 1911 for multimillionaire Robert Wilson Goelet (1881-1966). Goelet’s charge to his architects was to think “Tuscan villa”. The mansion was built on a hilltop overlooking a lake amid hundreds of acres purchased by Goelet. The stunning gardens surrounding the estate were originally designed by Beatrix Jones Farrand, America’s first major female landscape architect.

Glenmere Goelet

Glenmere was sold during World War II and became a resort hotel; over the years, the hotel sadly fell into disrepair and, eventually, was seized by the local authorities and a tax lien was placed upon it. 

In 2007, the mansion and estate was acquired by Alan Stenberg and his partner, Daniel DeSimone, whose inspiration it was to restore Glenmere Mansion to its former glory. It took several years to complete the multimillion dollar project and you can see all that was spent from the moment you arrive. 

In fact, Glenmere Mansion is held in such high esteem that it is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux which, at present, has only 530 properties worldwide.

Glenmere Entrance
Arriving at Glenmere Mansion

Glenmere - AAC Arrives
AAC CPA has arrived

As soon as we drove up, the mansion’s butler, Charles, came right out to meet us. If we didn’t know already know Alan, we’d swear that Charles ran the place – he’s extremely knowledgeable about everything Glenmere, and has the knack of anticipating what you want and/or need, sometimes before you do. He’s that good.

Glenmere - Charles
AAC CPA and the indispensable Charles

While Charles took care of our luggage, we went to check-in. Michelle at reception told us that, thanks to Alan, we’d be upgraded from our usual #16 (there are only about 19 or so rooms in the place) into the Master Suite. (How lucky are we?) Charles got us into the private elevator and we ascended to the top floor and entered our digs for the weekend.

Glenmere Elevator
Private elevator to the Master Suite

We knew, from past visits, that every inch of this place has been thoroughly and lovingly thought out and impeccably designed, but we were still unprepared for the sumptuousness of the Master Suite. We later realized that the “formal” entrance to the suite is on the floor below, after which you ascend a gorgeous staircase. The suite has a master bedroom with en suite bathroom which features a free-standing bathtub (rubber duckies included), a steam-shower and (even in July) heated floors. Down the hallway is the beautiful living and dining room. Outside the living room is a private terrace, which runs the entire length of the suite. Thank you, Alan, for your generosity!

Manor Suite Entrance
Lower entrance to the Master Suite
Manor Suite Hallway
Master Suite Hallway
Manor Suite Bedroom
Master Suite Bedroom
Glenmere Tub
Bathtub with rubber duckies
Manor Suite Living Room
Master Suite Living/Dining Room
Manor Suite Terrace
Master Suite terrace overlooking the Cortile

After settling in, we met the boys for lunch in the mansion’s Cortile (or inner courtyard). We started with a perfectly chilled bottle of an Italian Rosé, followed by salads and – for one of us with a real appetite – a chicken and waffle sandwich with lots of French fries. Everything was delectable.

Glenmere Cortile
The cortile (or inner courtyard)
Glenmere - waffle
The chicken and waffle sandwich
Glenmere Nicoise
Salade Nicoise

After lunch, it was time for a walk around the grounds. In addition to the gorgeous pool area, there’s a loggia (which was set out with jigsaw puzzles and games), the bocce ball courts, the tennis courts, the croquet lawn (all very Gatsby, don’t you think?) and, finally, the fabulous spa, the main feature of which is one of only four authentic hammam spas in the entire United States. If spas are your thing, Glenmere is where you want to be.

Glenmere Formal Gardens
The formal gardens

Glenmere Pool
The pool
Glenmere Hammam
The fabulous hammam

Then we came back inside to snoop around the common areas of the mansion: Frog’s End (the more casual restaurant where we’ll be dining tonight), the library, which has a wonderful collection of books and more games, the “living room”, where cocktails are served each evening, the Supper Room (the more formal restaurant, where we’ll be dining on Saturday night) and, finally, the China Room, which is available for private dinners. The thought and care that has gone into every detail of every room is absolute and complete.

Glenmere Supper Room
The Supper Room

Glenmere Terrace
AAC CPA on the terrace

Before I forget, I want to put in a word for the Glenmere staff. Alan and his partner, Dan, have assembled an outstanding group of local professionals who are here for one reason only: to insure that you have a memorable visit. We remember many of them from past visits and some of them have been here since the mansion opened in 2010.

So now the rain has stopped and we’re going to have another walk around before inviting the boys up for cocktails in a few minutes.

Stay tuned for more details of our Glenmere adventure.

To be continued . . . . . . . 

Glenmere Sunset
Another perfect Glenmere sunset