Omnom Chocolate: Reykjavik’s hidden secret. Shhh.

Reykjavik, despite being frozen most of the year, is a city that is constantly blooming. One area in full bloom is the reclaimed Docks just north of the Old West Side. Old rusted warehouses are now giant canvases housing pop up bespoke shops & savory nibble spots that definitely emit Brooklyn vibes.

This area is just lousy with Pinterest perfect shops selling couture cod liver oil, bespoke boutiques with enough black to satisfy an upper east sider, quiet coffee clutches where you can finally find an outlet, sick street art that will challenge your perspective, and a bunch of bad-ass breweries where bros get their barley on.

While this treasure trove of hipster delights will surely intoxicate you, there is one place that will have you blackout drunk. May I introduce you to Omnom, Iceland’s only chocolate factory.

So, Omnom was founded by childhood friends Kjartan Gíslason and Óskar Þórðarson in 2013.  Omnom sources their beans from three farms just straddling the equator, chosen not only for the unique quality of their fruit, but also for being all fair trade, organic, and independently owned. Bertil Akesson’s Madagascar beans are fruit forward with a punch of bright acidity. Simran and Brian’s beans from KoKoa Kamili, Tanzania are smooth and fragrant and Ingemann’s in Nicaraguaare earthy and robust, and all of them are fair trade, independently owned, and environmentally conscious. When you consider 2 million children are used as labor to supply the world’s chocolate demand, finding ethically sourced cocoa beans is a really really big deal.

And while their cocoa is definitely special, the real magic to Omnom’s chocolate comes from their Icelandic milk.  This protected breed of cattle brought from norway over a thousand years ago have a unique grazing habit and diet that give their milk a beautiful rich quality that simply is unlike any other cow juice on the planet. This is Viking milk after all.

Omnoms attention to detail doesn’t end in their unique recipe, but continues even in their artful packaging. Designed within an inch of its life they are hand wrapped with care, and sheathed in beautifully illustrated envelopes, some with hidden easter eggs.

All organic, all giving back to the communities, all sourced by local farmers,  these bars of true Icelandic joy are handmade, heart forward and happy, making them not just tastes good but feel good chocolate. and quite certainly the best thing to come out of a gas station.

Get your sweet on here and visit Omnom Chocolate: http://www.omnomchocolate.com

I hope you enjoyed this documentary. Just so everyone knows I wasn’t paid in any way to make this; it comes purely from the respect I have for what this company does and the joy their product brings (like all our films;). It was written, shot and edited by me, Roberto Serrini, with some supplemental footage that I linked to down below (thank you!) to help tell the story of cocoa and it’s delicate trade process. Please be conscious of your consumer choices, it does make a difference. Click here If you would like to know more of how child labor/slavery affects the cocoa trade and how to help.

Thanks!

Rs

-Roberto Serrini is a filmmaker with a true passion for travel and storytelling. His work can be seen at http://www.robertoserrini.com or http://www.getlostmagazine.com where he is a staff travel journalist. Roberto is the co-creator of TravelClast Channel on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/c/TravelClast with his travel partner Brad Stuart https://www.youtube.com/c/truetravelswithbrad

Credits:

Written, Directed, Shot, Edited, and Eaten by Roberto Serrini
http://www.robertoserrini.com

Special Thanks To:

Omnom Chocolate
Michael Ryan
Brad Stuart
Jackie Farris
The City of Reykjavik

Additional footage and research from:

Cacao Farming: Engr. Ernesto B. Pantua, Jr. Success Story
Does your class know what cacao is?
Fair trade in cocoa from the Ivory Coast
The history of chocolate – Deanna Pucciarelli

Stock footage and SFX:

http://www.Envato.com

Happy Travels!

JOIN THE CLAST!

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/travelclast

Instagram: @TravelClast

Twitter: @ClastTravel

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TravelClast

Blog: http://www.cineclast.com

#reykjavik #omnomchocolate #chocolate

Rok Restaurant Reykjavik. So Hot.

Rok restaurant is HOT. Not just because the restaurant is a design dream, not because the staff is lovely, and not just because the food is heavenly. ROK takes dining to a whole new level, bringing you on a epic journey through nibbles and nectar like no other. Cured reindeer with browned butter, ceviche with passion fruit, smoked lamb rib-eye and deserts to die for are just a few flavors that are gonna knock your pants off. Other things that might take your pants off is their daily champagne happy hour.

No matter why you come, for the gorgeous gastronomy, the liberal libations, or the sublime scene, Rok is great at rocking all 5 senses.

Address: Frakkastígur 26a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
https://www.rokrestaurant.is/
JOIN THE CLAST!
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/travelclast
Instagram: @TravelClast
Twitter: @ClastTravel
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TravelClast
Blog: http://www.cineclast.com

GEAR:
Drone: DJI Mavic https://goo.gl/jLa257
Camera: Sony A7rIII https://goo.gl/ijE1vZ
B Cam: Sony a6300 https://goo.gl/cs7AJm
Art Lens: 25mm CCTV f1.4 https://goo.gl/EgZShq
360 Camera: Samsung Gear 360 https://goo.gl/1jsfn8
Mic: Zoom H6 https://goo.gl/Gani8E
Lavs: Sony UWPD16 https://goo.gl/LXpHyg
Tripod: Manfrotto 390 https://goo.gl/6PzxBv

#rokrestaurant #reykjavik #travelclast

How WOW Air did it different.

Last summer, a friend of mine and I won a contest from WOW air to travel the world and make films for them. Half a year later they abruptly cancelled all service. Coincidence?

Dear God I hope so. One thing I can say having worked closely with them is that WOW certainly did things differently, for better or worse. There were aspects of their corporate culture that were mind-blowing in how relaxed, open-minded, and forward thinking they were. They had all the flexibility and energy of a kid right out of college, and were a company that acted on passion and creativity, which is exactly what this contest embodied to me.

brad_rob_wow_air_-68
I’m not sure if this was meant to be ironic…

The question I get the most from colleagues is “why the hell would I want to win such a contest? You’re an established commercial director, and you are basically making content for a brand for free”. They have a point; this type of contest was perhaps geared toward a much younger, novice filmmaker/traveler, but fortunately for me I have a standing mentality of a 25-year-old, which comes from a serious amount of meditation and training (e.g. I still drink Car Bombs on dates). I have always been electrified by travel, with the same level of excitement as a 16-year-old Robby going to backpack through Europe for the first time, however, what I had now is the experience and skill of  professional working in advertising, which was really driving my curiosity to see how this project would work.

Brands going directly to content creators is a trend that is seriously disrupting the advertising industry, and this contest was. This type of “direct to source” work is as interesting to me as it is frightening. As a content creator it’s liberating; to be able to take a vision without compromise to completion, without the sometimes sluggish weight of an agency weighing you down. At the same time the structure and machine that is an agency or creative production company is an extremely important resource in creating top quality content, as is the support you get in bringing an idea to life. Either way this trend wasn’t diminishing any time soon, so I was eager to see exactly what it could produce.

It was clear to me from the beginning that the real prize of this contest was being able to create a large body of work for a global brand without compromise. WOW gave us full autonomy, to a concerning point even. They gave us the login information to their Instagram, YouTube, and Website, and told us to post images and videos when we wanted, without review. No review? It’s like I had died and went to editor heaven, which scared the bejeezus out of me a bit. Regardless it was clear that we could make this project anything we wanted it to be, so we decided to push it right to the limit.

As a travel writer I am acutely aware of how the internet has created this echo chamber for travel experiences. As soon as something “hot” hits the scene, there are thousands of articles and videos about it, creating an unnatural surge to that destination, be it a city, restaurant or even dish on a menu (I’m looking at you Burger at the Brindle Room). This is the dark side of travel journalism, a power so great that it can destroy the very thing you wish to share with the world. So, in a conscious effort to bring something novel but equally amazing to our audience, we wanted to focus on experiences that were more enigmatic and authentic. To do so, we reached out to locals through WOW’s extensive social media network which proved to be our golden ticket.

Being able to be in direct communication with our actual audience is a dream any marketer or creative wishes to never wake from. We were able to ask actual locals where they go, eat, and see, places and experiences that you won’t find (yet) written up about on giant opinion generators like Yelp or TripAdvisor. This was the real deal, and would allow us to create a library of unique quality content so prolific that it could be the answer to any travelers query, covering must sees, must eats, must drinks, oddities and tips and not be just an echo of what was already out there.

HOW WE WON A “DREAM JOB”.

Last June, while doing research for a travel show that partner Brad Stuart and I were producing in NYC, we came across this contest from WOW Air. The prize was an apartment in Reykjavik for the summer, 140 USD per diem, and hotel accommodations in the 8 cities they would fly us to making travel films for them. I had just bought the new Sony A7rIII and wanted to field test it for the show we were working on, so we entered. 30k other people did as well. We ended up winning with this film:

 

To say we were surprised is an under-statement. There were so many fantastic entries, from so many fantastic hosts, many of which with Instagram and YouTube followings well beyond ours. We were so shocked that when we got the call from WOW the first question we asked was why they chose us. They said they were not looking for a large social media following, but rather for a team that had a real passion for travel with the ability to produce high quality content. Flattery will get you everywhere WOW.

While we were extremely grateful, we still had to give it a good think if we should accept; it would mean leaving our lives for three months, not being able to work on paid projects, and would leave our NYC apartments vacant while still having to pay rent. Boo hoo I know, but realistically the per diem they offered would only cover basic costs on the road, not living expenses or rent back home, so. if we were going to commit, we really had to do something special with the opportunity that would be valuable to us

We decided we would need to produce a large catalogue of quality content that would explore places and experiences that were different from all the other travel films out there. The style and personality of this films would be unique as well; a mixture of comedy and reverence, grit and polish to keep viewers surprised and tapped in. These films would be intimate, authentic, and most importantly fun, and collectively would become a well branded showcase to model future work from.

We accepted the prize knowing that this was going to push the limits of what we had produced before, but with the electric excitement of being fueled by doing something you truly love.

SO … NOW WE LIVE IN REYKJAVIK I GUESS?

Just a week later Brad and I were living in Reykjavik, which was incredibly exciting. Packing was an interesting endeavor; squeezing items to live somewhere for 3 months and produce an entire summer campaign into two bags and a personal item really pushed my limits of economy packing. It was such a learning lesson I ended up making a short film for the travel mag I write for that goes over my absolute basics needed to get the job done:

The apartment we were given was a modern, minimalist AirBnB in the “God’s Quarter” right down the street from the outstanding Hallgrimskirkja Church. They furnished the fridge with WOW beer (do I trust an airline that makes beer? Yes, I guess I do) and something called “Hardfisker” which is fish jerky and is as disgusting as it sounds (but somehow better with butter, obviously).

Reykjavik is a fantastic city. Great food, beautiful bay, dynamic culture. Iceland as a whole is a marvelous gem, unique in the world. The locals are a bit over the tourist invasion with good reason, and can be a bit cold at first, but like any culture, with enough smiles (and buying of libations) they would shed their protective husk to reveal their true, friendly character. While we loved going to the public pools, and eating a Hlöllabátar after a night dancing at Pablo Discobar (great name), we really didn’t have much time to explore our new home as the travel itinerary was aggressive to say the least.

THERE IS NO SET IN JET-SETTING

Boston, Los Angeles, Berlin, St. Louis, Barcelona, Stockholm, Reykjavik, Edinburgh, Brussels, and Amsterdam … we would be in each city for 2-3 days, then fly back to Iceland for 3-4 to edit and plan the next one. This on repeat for nearly 3 months. We wanted to maximize the amount of content we could produce, and really cover as much as possible within that time, so this is what we did:

1. Research

Our main objective was to not be an echo of what was already out there; we wanted to highlight lesser known experiences that defined a city, that actual locals enjoyed. The travel writer in me has a love-hate relationship with the craft; I want to inspire people to travel, but I don’t want to kill the very thing that does the inspiring, which a flood of tourist can easily do.

So we would research the usual suspects like Thrillist, Time Out, Conde Nast, Trip Advisor, even Atlas Obscura for the must-see attractions, but most of our focus came through WOW’s far-reaching social media platform, asking locals what their favorite places were. This got us directly in touch with our audience, giving us unique and really fresh results that hopefully separated our content from the cacophony of ordinary that was already out there.

2. Contact

One asset working with WOW was having a global brand to produce from. There is something very empowering to travel with purpose, meaning, experiencing a foreign culture because it is your job. Being able to call a restaurant, museum or night club and tell them that you’d like to do a travel segment on them for WOW airlines gives you greater access, allowing you to go much deeper into the experience than if we were just a tourists. Experiences like getting the VP of Media Relations to give you a private tour of the Getty Center, learning pole dancing from a world champion, or filming a Michelin Star restaurant that has a staunch no media policy, was much easier with WOW opening the door, and Brad’s confident producing skills. We would end up making hundreds of fantastic connections, and be able to talk with the minds behind the life-changing experiences that make travel magic.

3. Strategize

Once we had our list of targets, ranging from food, to nightlife, to cultural experiences, we would plug them into a Google map like this, labelling each one in their respective category. Terribly boring I know, but this way we could see where in the city everything was, and logistically figure out how to do as much as possible in one day. I really have become my father.

RUN AND GUN WITH PURPOSE

A.B.C. Always Be Capturing

Coming from a documentary and editorial background, I relied on his type of high energy shooting and logging to guarantee we could produce all the films we set out to. The more cities we accomplished the more streamlined our process and gear became, and ultimately the less footage we would need to capture. To give you an idea, for Boston, our first city, we captured around 350 GB of material. Our last city, Stockholm, we topped out at 160 GB. It was like being on that show “The Biggest Loser” but instead of lbs it was kbs (I really have become my father even in humor, it’s official).

The gear we relied on was a Sony A7rIII with the 24-105 lens, an a6300 with a CCTV lens, two Sony lavs, a Rode mic, Mavic drone, and Samsung 360 camera just for fun. In the end we didn’t even bring a tripod because the stabilization on the camera and in post is so friggin’ good. With this boiled down amount of gear we could still keep it fluid and fast, but be able to produce the high quality content that we were after.

Each night we would dump and back up the media, and bring it into Premiere. The camera created proxies on the fly so we could easily deliver in glorious 4k while editing on a Macbook Pro. We would then write scripts for each episode, and record them into a pillow fort/sound booth on our Reykjavik kitchen table. I would mainly be cutting any waking hour we weren’t traveling, and Brad was in charge of producing, and distributing content on-line. We had fever dreams, never knew if it was day or night (mainly because the sun doesn’t set in Iceland in the summer), and forgot where we lived many times, but really could not have been happier.

THE END RESULT

10 cities, 3,149 photos, 2.5 TB of data, 1 tattoo, and 38,675 miles later we really couldn’t be prouder of the work we completed over the summer. We successfully produced over 100 full films for WOW Air in just over 3 months. If you’re doing the math that’s around 3 films a day. Some will say #shopped but the proof lives on the website travelguide.wowair.com – and we will be launching our own YouTube channel TravelClast this year with these films and many more.

For two people who love to suck the marrow out of the world of travel, I don’t think we left a morsel on the bone to pick. It saddens up deeply to see WOW air be gone in a flash, and really cannot believe that the “happy Icelandic low-fare airline” is no longer around to shuttle bargain savvy travelers to destinations usually unobtainable at such low costs. To us they were a visionary company that for better or worse moved boldly toward novel innovation without hesitation or remorse. They were spirited, and every employee we had the opportunity to work with lived with this passionate credo, which was truly refreshing to be part of. We’re just so thankful to have had the opportunity, and hope the work lives on like personal memories that can be enjoyed by anyone with a desire and passion for travel.

-Rs

About:

Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and motion. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, and a licensed drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well. 

Follow him @serrini

Secret Sushi by Bou EXPOSED!

Ok it’s not that exciting, but it is a hellovalotta fun.

sushi by bou serrini david bouhadana

So my friend about two months ago said “clear the night of the 25th. We’re going for secret sushi.” I did, I forgot about, a chime dinged on my phone about two months later and it said “secret sushi” and I had no idea what to expect.

Rolling down on a frost filled evening, cold like the city smoked a menthol, we all congregated in the exquisitely pedestrian lobby of the Hotel 32/32, which if you’ve never heard of, don’t worry, no one else has either. I’m convinced it was named for professional alcoholics as the name is also its address, very convinient.

At some point a woman came up to our party of 4 and said we could go up now to the hotel room. Somewhere, seemingly randomly on the 10th floor we ponied up to a hotel room door. We turned the knob. We entered. We were greeted to this:

sushi by bou-3

My first impression was “Oh, this is something Stephan from SNL would mention. But you know, real.” because here I was, in a sushi restaurant, in a small NYC hotel room. I’m sure you have already read the stories, but honey, trust, you honestly don’t get the full effect till you see it for yourself.

We were seated on a small chaise and given the option between two drinks. They were beautifully crafted and delicious, and the wait staff (of one) was extremely attentive (we were the only customers). When the Itame (sushi chef, I’ll stop now) was ready for us, we saddled up (lots of cowboy references in this post, sorry, last one) to the makeshift sushi bar up against the corner of the room.

It was a very, very, intimate setting.

sushi by bou-11

“Hey folks my name David, I’m a Jewish kid from Long Island, and also your sushi chef!” Perhaps it didn’t come out that succinctly, but that was the quick gist we got within minutes, which I mention because Chef David is really the main course of this dining experience.

It is not strange to me to have a non-Japanese Itame; anyone can learn any trade regardless of race or religion or taste in sports teams, and that is what makes the world great. What I’ve never experienced was such a boisterous, talkative, interactive, salty, wise-cracking, are-you-cooking-for-us-or-eating-with-us, dining experience ever in my life, and this includes eating at home with my Italian mother who talks like a shark swims (i.e. constantly, I give up.) Chef David is an entertainer as much as he is a master sushi chef, and make no mistake, his sushi is spot on. I’ve had the stuff all over the world, from the very finest to the side-liners, and it’s up there at the top. It’s David that adds a special flavor to the meal, one that is very distinct, and perhaps not for everyone, but certainly unique.

The 17 pieces of sushi are prepared in front of you with a constant stream of conversation over the next half hour. David explains not only what your eating, the type of cut, why he likes it, but also where he’s from, how his father used to walk funny, how expensive his knifes are, and what he thinks about Long Island. I should point out that he also mentioned that he’s good at reading the room, “I know when people want to sit in silence and just want to eat, but if I feel like you want convo, I’m more than happy to open up to you.” which I do believe. Chef David is creating an experience that is beyond any other dining experience out there. You simply can’t replicate this, not only just the weirdness of eating in a random hotel room, but also him. He is the main course.

After our carousel of tastes from the sea were concluded, I was able to jump behind the bar with him for a few pics together, which he was more than happy to take. I’ve read a lot about him, his personality, and the trouble he’s gotten in to, but, to me, he just seemed like a guy who is really passionate about creating an experience, and sharing his knowledge in a specific food culture that is very strict and reserved. To that I say good luck my new friend, and if you do get an invite to join him for secret sushi, it’s definitely not to be passed up. How do you go? Good question … but I hear he’s opening one in Miami in Versace’s Mansion, so Floridians prepare.

Rs

 

About:

Roberto Serrini is a professional filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

Tokyo you’re too much.

Tokyo. Hold on, it gets nuts.

Tokyo is huge first of all. As far as cities go it is spread out like Los Angeles with way more people walking around. It’s busy, full of life, and amazing. Finding a place to stay can be a little daunting, but getting around on the subway is easy enough. We landed at the hotel Claska  in the Meguro section.

So yeah. It has a maritime theme to it. I suppose. If ships were made of stucco. It was a cool, hip place, kind of an bargain Ace Hotel, with a cute little coffee place in the lobby, where all the food came with something the shape of a penis. Not sure if that was by design.

First thing was first and that was breakfast… a quick Google search came up with the “best” breakfast in Tokyo, a little place called Kaila, which, as far as I could tell, had a Hawaiian theme to it. The specialty here was the waffles and pancakes, although the Benedict was off the charts. Also I got to see more people take pictures of their plates then most do of their babies.

Belly full, I immediately felt the urge to experience all the weirdness that I heard Tokyo was famous for, so I made a B line for Akihabara, which if nothing else, is super fun to say. Arriving there I was not disappointed, visually smacked with bright signs, throngs of kids, and tons of manga. It was an overload of nerdiness.

They even had a functional Tower Records there… I guess no one told the manager they went out of business like 8 years ago.

Next I wandered back through the city into Shibuya, which I ended up finding an AirBnB at as the neighborhood was way cooler then where Claska was. Shabuya is hard to describe, it’s kind of the West Village meets 5th Avenue of New York, a place where a funky junk shop could be next door to a couture designer. The streets twist and turn here in gentle, winding arcs, and there are a ton of great places to shop, and more importantly for this Italian, eat. I found two places that were amazing, one was a food truck that had a line of people outside.

First I saw the line, that led me into an alley, and there, I saw the omelette food truck called OmtRak. Basically its rice, a fresh scrambled egg on top, and then your choice of sauce. I chose curry, mainly because it was the only thing I could point to. It was amazing. The other was the Dominque Ansei bakery which is like a Willie Wonka factory. Inside they take oversized homemade marshmallows, dip them in chocolate, and give them to you on a stick. I mean a curry omelette and chocolate marshmallow is kinda the best meal ever.

It was a pleasure to walk off that meal through the dope streets of Shabuya (also fun to say, especially if you do a fist to pelvis hip thrust while saying it.)

Here I found a little traditional kimono shop  and grabbed my kimono cause I stand behind a culture where a robe is considered formal wear. I also encountered the strange ritual of having receipts stapled into your passport. Apparently they keep a record of this and at the airport you are suppose to show them the receipts and they are going to check to make sure you have all the stuff you bough, but between you and me, this never happened.

They also like to make models of their food. All their food. In every restaurant they have these fake plates, with food on them. It’s kinda amazing. So is this reindeer having his way with Santa. Who’s laughing and calling the names now fat man?

Hungry, I found a BBQ joint called Smokehouse. Yeah. Like American BBQ. Usually I think it’s a sin not to eat local food, but I thought it would be interesting to see what Japanese American BBQ looked like, in my mouth. Spoiler alert: they do it better.

Walking off the meat coma I had put myself into I found myself in Harajuka, which is the funkier, “east village” part of Tokyo that I really dug. Weird little streets, lots of street art, and funky shops keep you company here. There are the traditional conveyor belt style sushi joints to chow down at, or, if you’re in the mood for a cuddle, you can actually rent a puppy for an hour to hold. More traditionally you can get your nails done in these little back alley style shops, or dig into some amazing coffee like at Deus Ex Machina which I know from LA.

 

The night was upon me so it was time to take in some serious Tokyo culture. Yes, I am talking about a robot restaurant. What do I say about this… other then just go. You might think it’s a tourist trap, you might think it’s garbage, but I’m telling you it’s one of the most fun evenings you can have, and I once hung out with Mel Brooks and Kevin Heart on a booze cruise.

Pro Tip: Tell them it’s your friends birthday and embarrass the shit out of him.

So yes, there are some amazing restaurants in Tokyo, beautiful gardens, plenty of culture to behold, but in all honestly Tokyo felt the least Japanese to me of any other city, even Osaka. The identity here is mixed, influence from all over the world has muddied the culture here, and while it is super interesting, it is not nearly as profound as in other cities or towns. That said, it’s a helluva place to go shopping, eat, and walk around, and should definitely not be missed. I would just say start your trip there, not end it. Also definitely do not miss that omelette truck.

That concludes my journeys through Japan. From Kyoto to Nara to Osaka I have to say, out of any country I’ve visited I am surprised to say that it was Japan I found the most foreign. From the language, to the people, to the food, it really seemed like a culture onto itself, unsullied from a mix of foreign influence. It is a country I hope to return again and again to, perhaps with more then a handful of words next time. Until then…

 

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

 

 

 

 

Escape From New York

Escaping from the cement clutches of New York City is sometimes a futile Endeavour. There are so many mitigating factors that can hold you prisoner; no time, no money, nowhere to escape to. That is why when rumor spread of a secret hide-a-way that was guaranteed to melt the city from my memory with it’s lush nature and opulent comfort, well, I was all ears despite my suspicion.

Let me tell you friends, the tales are true, and while it hurts me to share this secret, its name be Emerson.

EMMERSON (70 of 70)

Like in most mythology, there is a journey to take, a mountain to climb, and a treasure to claim if you make it. In this case it is a two hour trip to Mt. Tremper, New York, and your reward is a modern, green, holistic refuge from the city. The Emerson Spa and Resort sits beside the Esopus Creek and is surrounded by vast nature in all directions. You are at the same time removed from everything, and comforted, having any amenity you could think of available to you: flatscreens and iPods, in room fireplaces, oversized Jacuzzi baths and Swedish showers, a modern 1,500 sq. foot gym and fast WiFi. That’s just in the main building. The Emerson is like a small town on its own, having a full spa, with 10 treatment rooms, pools, lodges for a more rustic experience, a dog park, shopping, dining, and even the world’s larges kaleidoscope. More on that in a sec, but first, the rooms.

The rooms make it very hard to experience anything else Emerson offers. They are large, warmly decorated, and supremely comfortable. Most of my time was spent traveling the 12 feet from the small pool sized Jacuzzi tub in my huge bathroom back to the cloud-like king bed. Vaulted ceilings and fireplace roaring, it was the perfect decompression chamber from the pressure cooker that is NYC.

Building up the volition to venture outside did yield positive results. Attached to the main hotel is a rather large shopping area residing in the original barn that was built in 1860. Just wandering through the wood beamed structure is a pleasure on its own beyond the wonderful collection of eclectic shops inside. There is a rather large children’s toy store, with gifts and playthings of all types. An appeal shop with unique pieces for men and women, a country store that has local wares and gifts, and some of the most delicious jam I’ve ever had. There’s a cute houseware and gift shop with all sorts of fantastic items to discover, and a small café that has local iced cream, fresh sandwiches stacked high, and delicious coffee and sweets.

While each one of these shops is more characteristic then the next, the most unique and brilliant has to be the Kaleidoscope shop. Inside you will find dozens of handmade, beautiful and mystical kaleidoscopes that transcend toy to art. I have never really appreciated a kaleidoscope the same way since I’ve visited the shop, and speaking with the supremely knowledgeable and interesting Linda she opened my mind to a world I didn’t even know existed. “You’re surrounded by some of the finest works of art in the kaleidoscope world. These are masterpieces.” She was right, I was in the Louvre of Light, the Caracalla of kaleidoscopes. My mind however was about to be blown a bit more as I stepped into the worlds largest Kaleidoscope. “You want a secret? Lay on the floor…” Linda said to my girlfriend and me, us two being the only people there to receive this earthly wonder.

We laid on the floor not sure what to expect, trying to hold back our laughter thinking about how absolutely ridiculous we must have looked. Before our self-awareness got the better of us we were bathed in light; above us in the darkness images swirled and collided, colors fused, and music boomed. We weren’t just looking at the world’s largest kaleidoscope, we were inside of it. Literally.

At this point I would normally be in need for a massage, to relax me back down from the plateau of excitement I had just been on. However, the spa was closed as it was being expanded to a new beautiful facility. It would seem that I would have to return when it was completed, gosh darn.

Instead we decided to try out the Woodnotes Grill, which we were told was the newest addition to the Emerson family. Chef Brian Wren offers a menu that is perfectly upscale country, with a bevy of delicious farm-to-table delights that make it very difficult to choose from. Bright chic pea and farro salad, golden seared scallops, and earthy roasted artichokes dressed the table to start, but did not last long at all. Following was a perfectly grilled pork chop and pan seared local duck breast, both so robust in flavor that we were lucky to have a nice bottle of wine to neutralize the palette. Where the dishes are elegantly rugged and classic, the drinks are innovative and sophisticated; hand crafted and perfectly balanced, this was yet another highlight in a brilliant trip.

After two days of relaxing, bathing, eating and walking the backcountry, it was time to say goodbye to my secret hide-a-way and return to the reality of the city. What perhaps amazed me more then anything was how quiet it was at the Emerson; such a large resort seemingly wasn’t overrun with guests. “It’s a great place to come off season, and even during our busy times it’s never overly crowded,” the attendant on duty told me with a smile, “there’s just so much space up here everyone gets a piece of nature.” The service here was a perfect balance between family and guest, where no request went unanswered without a genuine concern to make my trip as pleasant as possible.

Pulling away from the stoic structure and heading south I thought of Ralph Waldo who the Emerson is named after, as he wrote about the beauty of this region when the original farm stood tall. One quote resonated in particular, “Nature always wears the color of spirit” which somehow seemed fitting when speaking of the Emerson resort, as it’s colors were nothing less then vibrant.

Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.