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Earlier this year, Liz had the chance to travel with our friends Boat Magazine to Miami to help launch the AC Hotel on Miami Beach. Joined by some really amazing creatives: Erin Spens (Editor of Boat Magazine), Grant Legan (Professional Jetsetter + Photographer), Sara Lindsey (Magical Human and Photographer) and Andrea Sisson (Filmmaker and Photographer), we set out to document a weekend of explorations of food, art, and culture.
It was amazing and magical and you can read the Boat Magazine blog post about it here.
Last week, the AC Hotels blog shared their #unpacked feature that was created in tandem with an amazing creative team in Amsterdam. After several hours of great interview and conversation, this is what emerged. It was such an awesome project to be a part of and we couldn't be happier with the outcome.
We got a late start after spending our Saturday morning with Chef Harcey on the radio talking about his new restaurant Upton 43 and saying goodbye to our intern Aggie who spent the weekend at what we call “dog camp”. The drive was beautiful up through Duluth, the leaves of the trees along the highways were beginning to change to fall colors and we finished on the winding road along the Gunflint Trail as we slowly disconnected from the world with every 35 MPH blind turn and scenic overlook.
When we arrived at the cabin, it immediately stood out from the rest, but blended in and looked unassuming in it’s natural habitat. It was modern, clean and thoughtful. The structural and design elements destroyed all of our preconceived notions of what a “cabin” is (no log-like structures here), but embraced what it meant to have a reclusive getaway. No cell service, no internet, no TV. Only yourself, your natural movements, community radio and the scenery around you.
Words from the architects, VJAA:
Sited directly on Gunflint Lake and adjacent to an existing resort, the property was a barely accessible area of fallen pines and rock escarpments. The clients requested a simple retreat; enough sleeping area to accommodate fluctuations in guests; storage for canoes and outdoor gear; and a screen porch and sauna. Responding to the extreme site, the cabin pragmatically responds to the orientation, views, and access. Metal clad ICF walls and details were developed around energy efficiency, fire resistance, and the ability for two people to perform the work. The interior was finished with standard tongue and groove knotty pine.
Our first few hours at the cabin were spent adjusting to our situation. It involved a lot of pacing, snacking, as we were constantly wondering what was going on in the digital world that we were detached from. After some whiskey and wine, we acclimated and submitted to the experience.
On our first morning, we work up late (8:30am is like sleeping in for us). Large windows next to our bed looked into the dense forest surrounding the cabin and let in just enough light to act as a gentle nudge to get our day going. We were slow to make coffee, but quick to make a big breakfast of a frittata with eggs, purple potatoes, sage and goat cheese. Oh, and don’t forget the rosé champagne.
We spent the rest of the day in our corners reading books (Liz was reading My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard and Josef the Faviken cookbook by Magnus Nielson), sketching and working out ideas and plans for Bodega LTD without any distractions except the ones we created ourselves.
Throughout the day, we drank less and less as we became more comfortable in our solitude. We hopped in the sauna for 30 minutes (we have to train our bodies for our next visit) and began to actually enjoy the ramblings of the local community radio station hosts going chatting about local food shelf fundraisers, wild rice recipes and visibility readings for avid birdwatchers. This experience helped us realize the value in disconnecting from the world and all the great things that can come from it. We love where technology has taken us and connectivity it has fostered, but as human beings, we need time to connect with our true self and set aside the facades and perceptions we work so hard to support during the work week.
The big questions that came to our heads during this trip:
- What is actually real?
- If Instagram didn’t exist tomorrow, what would you have left to show to the world and who would you actually be?
- Are incredible, expansive experiences and true friendships the only things that are "real" in our new world?
- How can we afford a getaway like this for ourselves?
Overall, we had an amazing stay and we would highly recommend PlansMatter’s services to anyone who appreciates a unique, elevated experience that is unlike any other. The space and experience helped us recharge and find ourselves from the depth of our crazy day-to-day lives of running our business.
Our trip to Montréal was inspired by a new year's day Anthony Bourdain TV binge. While sitting in bed, eating amazing Thai food, we watched Joe Beef chef/owners David McMillan and Frédéric Morin eat foie gras off a stove in an ice shanty and decided we needed to visit this city ASAP. We booked our tickets for February and reservations to Joe Beef immediately.
Josef has a knack for finding the most interesting airbnb's. Perhaps not the most traditional place to stay, our loft was in Plateau Mont-Royal, a centrally located arts district. Inside of an artists studio building, our neighbors included a man who played recorder (professionally?) or at least enough to require late night rehearsals, a dance studio comprising of ladies hoping to get their groove back, and a few cats munching on takeout boxes. The décor was quirky, to say the least, with gas masks, machetes, hammocks and wheelchair seating. Aside from the chain smoking tennsnt below us, it was a fun and adventurous place to stay.
Joe Beef was a main attraction. To use Josef's words, we "submitted to the experience". We've found that for restaurants like this to be memorable, give your waitress your budget on the front end and just let her have her way with you. We ate foie gras of epic proportions, lobster pasta, a slab of dry aged beef that I still dream about, salads and sides with sauterne, fernet, a bottle or two of (amazing) wine.
This was an absolute formative food moment, but it was more than that. We were drawn to Joe Beef because of it's food, but also because of it's soul. The cookbook the Joe Beef team published called "The Art of Living According to Joe Beef" begins to hit at what we're after. What are these moments in life that you will remember, even tell your kids about? What kind of table will you sit around and have magical and meaningful conversations? Who are the innovators who are willing to cast off fame and renown to create something that is significant to them? What is real creativity and how can we be truer versions of ourselves by living out those visions in our minds?
Other food highlights included Au Pied du Cochon and their towering Foie Gras burger (recommended by our Cochon-winning friends at Corner Table in Minneapolis), brunch at Leonard Cohen's favorite hangout Bagels, Etc., sandwiches from Schwartz's Deli, and tartare and vermouth at Marche 27, just around the corner from our loft. A Japanese whiskey bar called Big in Japan Bar and cheap ramen served in styrofoam cups and plastic takeout bags also hit the spot.
One thing we learned was the only place colder than Minneapolis in February, is Montréal. It's surrounded by water and it's bone chillingly cold. This slows down zero people. They throw on their Moncler jackets and walk. Usually to the nearest coffee shop, of which there are many. We love coffee so we were happy to stop frequently and linger. Kitsuné, one of our favorites, was just down the street from our airbnb. Other highlights were Café Myriade II , which is attached to one of Liz's favorite boutiques Savoie Fils. There was also Code Black Coffee and Le Falco, which was recommended by our lovely friend Talin Spring.
Old Montréal is just that, beautifully old. Built in the 1600's, it has the feeling of Paris, of which it is no doubt inspired by. It still remains charming with horse drawn buggies, cobblestone streets and a cathedral, the Notre-Dame Basilique, which is stunning. One of the most erie things we have experienced was visiting Vieux-Port de Montréal. Ships, heaps of metal creaking in the cold and taller than the surrounding buildings, lined the shore. Also, the temperature was something we could barely comprehend. As native Minnesotans, we thought we understood sub-zero. This was beyond.
This district has become a tourist destination, which may not be ideal for locals, but it has brought a lot of innovation in terms of retail. One of these shops is Liz's favorite, called SSENSE, an early adopter of high end street wear and forward-thinking brands like MSGM, Jacquemus, and Hood By Air, to name a few of her favorites.
STREET ART & SHOPPING
An amazing contrast to the heritage and the cold, is the abundance of modern street art. The juxtaposition of this against the beautiful, european historic vibe is electric. In the Le Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood where we stayed it was particularly vibrant. Art is a huge part of the culture and you can see that when we visited The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, which had a lovely film exhibit by Sophie Calle.