Vacationing is hard work, but fortunately, I’m good at my job.

Top Chef in the Land of Gin and Triscuits

Memorial Day weekend on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. High Wasp country. The Land of Gin and Triscuits.

This particular island, which is roughly 7.5 square miles, has belonged to the same Boston Brahmin clan for nine generations. A governor of Massachusetts died in the bedroom where Sam and I slept, and signing the guest book alongside just about every American luminary of the past 150 years is intimidating, to say the least.

I have nothing against Wasps, but they’re not exactly known for their culinary skill or ingenuity. Our hostess, a dear friend, is unfortunately stereotypical in this regard. A wonderful mother, a brilliant wit, an accomplished equestrienne, a crack shot and a deft hand with many a farm implement, she’s admittedly a lousy cook.
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How To Gain 50 Pounds in 48 Hours: A Guide to Some of Rome’s Tastiest Places

The sun going down as the lights come up on St. Peter's Basilica, from the roof terrace of Patrick and Kristina's penthouse

At a cocktail party on Martha’s Vineyard last summer, nightlife mogul Patrick Lyons announced to me, with his trademark Cheshire Cat grin, that he and his wife Kristina were moving to Rome for the year with their kids. It was a sabbatical, of sorts. An adventure. 21st century American ex-pats in the Eternal City, following in the footsteps of Shelley and whatnot.

Recognizing a sybaritic opportunity when I see one, I said I’d be coming to visit, especially when I learned they’d be ensconced in a penthouse within spitting distance of the Piazza Navona.
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Aaaaahhhh, Kiawah.

Kiawah Sunset

Kiawah Moonrise

A snotty Polish aristocrat I know texted me, “Where are you?” I wrote back, “Kiawah Island, SC.” He said, “My family used to have a house there. J’adore.”

I texted back, “This isn’t A house on Kiawah. It’s THE house on Kiawah.”

And it is. 16,000 square feet on 11 acres, without another house in sight. The museum-quality antiques and furnishings are worthy of a grand mansion anywhere, which seemed foolhardy in a beach house on a barrier island until I learned that this place was so climate-controlled and hurricane-proof that you couldn’t drive a tank through the windows. Outside, spectacular wetlands were punctuated by a putting green and paths. The infinity pool, hot tub and decks had postcard views, and a 600-foot-long dock extended out to where the porpoises and pelicans frolic.

A corner of the house, poolside

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