Secret City: Sylvia Randazzo’s Paris

The Artistic Director of Hôtel Molitor shares her favourite places in Paris to eat, drink, and relax, as well as discover the city’s vibrant street art scene

Courtesy of Does

When “Piscine Molitor Grands Etablissements Balnéaires d’Auteuil” first opened its doors in 1929, it was a grand addition to the already impressive sporting credentials of Paris’ bourgeois 16th arrondissement. Neighbouring addresses such as the Parc des Princes, Jean Bouin Stadium and Roland Garros were a big draw for sports fans, and piscine Molitor was hoping to also establish itself as a serious sports destination. As if to prove its point, U.S. Olympic gold medalist and future Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller was invited to open the pool, and even worked there as a lifeguard during the Molitor’s inaugural summer. But Molitor quickly became a hotspot for socialising and poolside lounging, rather than Olympic training. From 1934 it hosted the annual “Fête de l’Eau” and its bathing beauty contest, and in 1946 its glamorous setting provided Louis Réard with the perfect location to unveil his daring new swimwear: the bikini. With just 30 inches of fabric made into three triangles, enough to cover all the essential areas, it was so small that Réard himself said if it couldn’t be pulled through a wedding ring, it wasn’t a bikini.

Sixty years later, after running into financial difficulties, partly due to the pool moonlighting as an ice rink during the winter months, Molitor closed its doors in 1989. Its large open space now attracted a very different crowd to posing poolside beauties; the abandoned pools were the perfect blank canvas for urban artwork, in particular the indoor Winter pool, which offered artists more privacy from prying eyes. Molitor became a new Mecca for street artists from around Paris, and indeed the world.

In 2014 the pool reopened as Hôtel Molitor Paris, part of the MGallery hotel collection. Despite now being part of a corporate conglomerate, the building had retained its unique looks, and its striking Art Deco design was not only left intact, but restored to its former glory. What’s more, the street artists who once snuck into hotel’s pools were invited back to officially leave their mark, stamping their identity onto the tiny 2m2 cabins which line the Winter pool. Originally, of course, these small cubicles gave swimmers the necessary privacy to undress, but today each of the 78 cabins serves a solely decorative purpose; artists from the legendary New Yorker Seen to the Parisian Psyckoze have painted the cabins from floor to ceiling in their individual style, bringing the small spaces together to create a huge gallery of contemporary urban art.

Overseeing this gallery is Sylvia Randazzo, Molitor’s Artistic Director. Sylvia has always been keen to show off the artistic space, firstly through tours with guests, just as you would find in any of the city’s major galleries, and now with the hotel’s coffee-table book, “Molitor: Vibrations Artistiques (Molitor: Artistic Vibrations).” The book’s release is not only to commemorate Molitor’s 90th anniversary and celebrate the hotel’s rich history, but it is also a celebration of art; the works found at the hotel are firmly at the forefront of the publication. 

“Molitor, and the art displays, will continue to evolve, just as street art and art trends continue to evolve,” says Sylvia. “This element of Molitor’s creative history is now preserved in the book, it serves as an inventory of this part of history, Molitor’s Art Deco style, and the street artists currently involved in the Art Cabins. We always want to encourage more visitors to Molitor to tour the Art Cabins. Something our guests often have in common is that they are looking to discover Paris from a different perspective.”

Here, Sylvia, a born and bred Parisian, takes Port through her own, artistic perspective of her city.

Le Saint-Sébastien 

It was love at first bite! The cooking is delicious; French cuisine with international influences. The manager, Daniela Lavadenz, is a passionate wine connoisseur who knows all the winemakers on her menu personally, so she can always recommend the perfect wine. Alongside the mouth-watering food and wine, the bread is like no other I’ve tasted. What else do you need? 

L’Ours Bar

If I want to enjoy great cocktails prepared by friendly people, I go to L’Ours. This bar is tiny and very busy, but the cocktails are worth it. 

Moncoeur Belleville

If I want to unwind and drink a glass of wine in the afternoon, Moncoeur Belleville is a great spot to enjoy stunning views of Paris, from the top of Belleville Park, and the columns painted by the famous street artist Seth. In the summer, it’s a great spot where you can join the salsa dancers in the park. 

Boutique Centre Pompidou

I am not a shopping addict, but I do love books. My favourite bookshop is at the Centre Pompidou. It is a little heaven to discover, chill and be surprised. In front of the bookshop, there is a more casual shop, where art can be enjoyed not only with eyes but also with hands thanks to its original and quirky objects.

Hôtel Molitor

I think this is the best place to stay in Paris, of course! Seriously, I really do think Molitor is the best place for having a peaceful night’s sleep in the buzzing city of Paris. When you fall asleep your room is flooded by the light colour of the pool, and when you wake up your first look is out onto the pool and swimmers, before you join them for a refreshing dip. It’s just magical! 

Projet Saato

In my opinion, there are two important spots in Paris for urban and street art. The first is Projet Saato, or the Saato Project, at La Défense – where important artists from all over the world are invited to paint on mobile walls. For instance, I had the chance to meet Does there, a great artist from Netherlands, who is also featured in “Molitor: Vibrations Artistiques”, on page 56. 

Urban Art Fair

The second most important spot for street art in the city is the Urban Art Fair, taking place annually in the spring and bringing together around 35 of the very best French and international galleries, showcasing the works of almost 200 artists. Every year, the fair gets better, and it is truly the best time of the year to observe the evolution of urban art as well as discover emerging and established artists. 

Chez Prune

But if you miss either of these, there are still so many opportunities to spot the local art. For example you can have a coffee outside at Chez Prune, next to the Canal Saint-Martin. This café is in front of a big wall, which is well known by street artists. Everyday a new painting arrives, you just have to wait and see… 

‘Molitor: Vibrations Artistiques’ is available now, published by specialist art publisher H’Artpon Editions. As Molitor is an active participant in the Parisian art scene, €5 will go to Le Musée en Herbe, a museum which aims to be an accessible showcase of art for families in need. Classic Rooms at Hôtel Molitor start from £198 per person, per night

Secret City: Accra

Port speaks to the executive chef at the Villa Monticello Hotel about her favourite places to eat and relax in Accra, Ghana. Nestled in the vibrant Airport region, it is an oasis of calm that hums with heat and excitement

You have to try some real Ghanaian food while in Accra. Fufu with soup and either fish or meat is a good place to start, and banku (a fermented cassava and corn dumpling) with pepper sauce and fried fish is as real as it gets. Other things to look out for at restaurants and chop-bars are Gari Foto; Kenkey with fried fish and pepper sauce; Tuo zaafi; Ampesi with either garden egg stew or palava sauce.

Accra is a real city on the sea and no trip is complete without a visit to one of our paradise beaches. Labadi, Laboma and Sakumono beaches are all within easy reach of the hotel. If you want a proper day out you can get boat trips around the beautiful Lake Volta.

There is so much great culture and things to visit in this busy city. Kwame Nkrumah Museum and Accra Art Gallery showcase new and old visual treat and if you want to buy some souvenirs and see the real way to shop in Accra then head to one of our markets. Mokola or Madina markets are a good starting point. You might want to relax with a cold Club or Star beer and a plate of food at one of these local bars: Asanka locals, Gold Coast Restaurant or Yenkodi.

Ghana has several colonial-era forts, left over from the transatlantic slave trade. You must make the time to visit at least one of these and learn about our history from one of the knowledgeable guides. James Fort in on coast in central Accra but there are more dotted all along our shoreline. Notable ones to see are at Cape Coast and Elmina.

Most importantly in your visit is to chill out and enjoy an evening of cocktails or ice-cold beers. We have a cool courtyard bar at Villa Monticello to shelter from the late afternoon sun or the hot nights. Bars open quickly In Accra but these three are always great for night out: +233, Blooms bar, Epo bar.

Port looks at What to Wear on Holiday, Summer 2019

Ace & Tate’s Amsterdam Guide

Mark de Lange, co-founder of eyewear brand Ace & Tate, gives Port the low down on the Dutch capital, picking his top five places to eat, drink, shop and dance

There is a quote in Bret Easton Ellis’ 1998 book ‘Glamorama’ that I love. The protagonist, model Victor Ward, might not be the best role model but he’s on to something when he says: “The better you look the more you see”. Why that is not the strap line for every single eyewear ad out there I do not know.

It’s true, isn’t it? The better you look, the more you will see. Good design gives you confidence – it enables you to face your daily challenges and get on with life. It’s the same with art, parka coats, music or glasses. 

Ace & Tate is an Amsterdam-based eyewear brand, founded in 2013 by Mark de Lange and two partners, which set out to design and sell affordable frames and lenses while maintaining high aesthetic standards. Easier said than done, but five years later business is booming with stores in several European capitals, London included. Though international, Ace & Tate has retained its Dutch DNA and to celebrate the brand’s five year anniversary we asked de Lange to give up his favourite eateries, galleries and shops in Amsterdam

Restaurant Entrepot 

Entrepot recently opened up in a beautiful old warehouse, which used to be a billiards hall before they moved in. As a tribute they still have a table set up so you can play a round. It’s probably my favourite new restaurant in the city. They change up the veggie-heavy menu regularly but if they happen to serve it when you’re there, definitely try the golden beets in beurre blanc sauce and the steak tartare. Let the knowledgeable staff advise you on the wines (they serve a couple of great Spatburgunders) and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 

Entrepotdok 8, 1018 AD Amsterdam

Tokyo Ramen Iki

Best ramen place in Amsterdam. They serve an amazing creamy broth – the best comfort food for a cold day. Fou Fow Ramen is a close second, they just opened a great new location on the Van Woustraat near one of the Ace & Tate stores.

Vijzelstraat 135, 1017 HJ Amsterdam


The Mendo guys describe their store as a “candy store for book aficionados” and although no one will accuse them of being overtly modest, there’s no denying that the description fits. This is not the place to go shopping for a novel but if you are looking for the best selection of photography, design, fashion, coffee table books, this is the place. Make sure to walk to the back of the store and check out the mammoth-sized special editions of classics, like Helmut Newton’s ‘Work’.

Berenstraat 11, 1016 GG Amsterdam

Hotel de Goudfazant

Don’t be fooled by the name, De Goudfazant is actually a restaurant. Located in an old car garage in Amsterdam-Noord (North) before everyone was converting these types of spaces and moving to the area, I guess they started the trend. They have essentially been booked solid since opening their doors in 2006 and rightly so. The no-frills food is good, the staff is super friendly and the creative-heavy crowd makes for a buzzing but relaxed vibe. Don’t forget to look above you and marvel at the huge milk bottle chandelier when having a drink at the bar.

Aambeeldstraat 10, 1021 KB Amsterdam

Photography Shawn Chin


Located in a former church, Paradiso is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. Everyone has played here: the Stones, Nirvana, Neil Young, Guns N’ Roses, Bowie… name a legendary artist and they will have played Paradiso. It’s small, intimate and the programming is always interesting. Definitely check out their website when coming to Amsterdam. 

Weteringschans 6-8, 1017 SG Amsterdam

Secret City: Manuel Scano Larrazàbal’s Milan

The Italian-Venezuelan artist shares his favourite places in the city that helped shape him as an artist

Naviglio della Martesana

Port has partnered with Fifty House Milan on a series of travel stories celebrating Milan as a cultural hub. Each of these will focus on a different aspect of Milan’s culture – art, fashion, food, design and architecture – by providing local knowledge of exciting places to visit from people tied to the city’s creative industries.

The work of Italian-Venezuelan artist Manuel Scano Larrazàbal is an exploration of form and natural process, interrogating, through works on paper, sculpture and mixed media, the role of chance and error in art making, and specifically in abstraction. It is also work that is intimately linked to Milan – Larrazàbal moved to the city in 2004 to attend the Brera Academy, one of the most prestigious art schools in the country, and there he began comparing his practice to his fellow students, and to the art he saw as part of the thriving gallery scene. It led, as Larrazàbal told Port frankly, to an artistic crisis, but one that caused him to grow into the artist he has become today. “It’s not easy to live in Milan. It’s not an accommodating city,” Larrazàbal says. “I love that”

Here, Larrazàbal shares his favourite places from the city to eat, shop, walk and work.

La Ravioleria
Via Sarpi, in the heart of Milan’s Chinatown, is my favorite place for great street food. The crepes at La Ravioleria are amazing.

Igloo Houses
The igloo-shaped houses of via Lepanto were designed by the architect Mario Cavvallé in the 1940s. Finding yourself walking among these houses is surreal.

Igloo Houses

Naviglio della Martesana
This was one of the first places I discovered when I moved to the city – it’s a seemingly endless street that takes you out of Milan.

This is a very playful shop in porta Genova and great for boxes, plates, glasses, straws, envelopes, bags, detergents, stationery, furniture and equipment for birthday parties, games for children, ribbons, bows – in short, whatever you want is there and in a wide range of type, shape and colour. It’s easy to lose yourself inside.

Journalists’ Village
Between Isola and Greco, behind the Central Station, there is the historical district of Milan – Maggiolina – which includes the residential area called the Journalists’ Village. A walk around here will plunge you into an atmosphere of the times gone by. I had a studio here for a year.

Illustrations Ashleigh Giesler

Secret City: Matteo Rancilio’s Milan

The owner of independent clothing store Dictionary shares his personal recommendations for getting the most out of Milan

Dictionary Milano, Corso di Porta Ticinese, 46

Port has partnered with Fifty House Milan on a series of travel stories celebrating Milan as a cultural hub. Each of these will focus on a different aspect of Milan’s culture – art, fashion, food, design and architecture – by providing local knowledge of exciting places to visit from people tied to the city’s creative industries.

Former skater Matteo Rancilio founded Dictionary, a clothing store with a focus on emerging, high-quality streetwear, in 2011. Since opening its doors, his store has established itself as a one-stop shop for a wide selection of clothing and accessories from Italy and beyond. As a result, Rancilio has a unique perspective on the city’s fashion world. Here, he shares his favourite places to spend time in Milan. 

Paolo Sarpi Street
Paolo Sarpi is one of my favourite streets in Milano. It’s our chinatown and a very nice example of integration and the future of the city. There are lots of nice small shops all, tiny restaurants and the new Fondazione Feltrinelli. Go there in late afternoon on a sunny day and buy a bubble tea.
Bastard Store
What if you take an old cinema from the ‘50s and you build a suspended skate bowl and shop inside of it? And what if after you do that, you win tons of architecture awards? This is the Bastard flagship store designed by Studio Metrico. Go check it out and if you are lucky, you can see exhibitions from international artists like Todd Bratrud or French Fred.
Paolo Sarpi Street
Isola Quartiere
Isola is the real Milano. Isola is where we Milanese all go late at night. You can wander the streets and drink a beer or good wine in one of the bars. One of the best is Frida Bar. Designers, musicians and architects are all there. 
Milano means fashion but if you want something different, go here. We stock mostly Italian, northern European and emerging Korean brands. The store has been reviewed among the best independents worldwide. 
The best bakery in the city (Gambero Rosso named Pavé one of the 20 best bakeries in Italy) but it’s not just a place for cake and coffee. It’s also hub were people meet to talk about the next big thing.
Illustrations Ashleigh Giesler

Secret City: Brooks on LA

Jason Norton, the only American employee of British cycling brand Brooks, reveals the best places to eat, drink, and “steal WiFi” in Los Angeles

Gijusta, Venice Beach. Illustration Laura Merizalde
Gijusta, Venice Beach. Illustration Laura Merizalde

Gjusta, Venice Beach

This is currently my favourite place to eat in LA. I might not have talked about it last year when it still seemed like a secret spot, but now I’d say that the cat is out of the bag. The sister restaurant to Gjelina, Gjusta is an unmarked building on a side street in the Venice area; it’s a mix of a bakery, cafeteria and a deli. I’ve been trying to work my way down the menu, but I keep coming back to the Porchetta sandwich.

Mandrake Bar, Culver City

Another low key spot with good drinks and better people (which is a hard combination to find in LA). This is a bar where people come to participate and not to be seen. If you can catch the, always-changing, once-a-month ‘Shit To Do’, you’ll be treated to local DJs spinning old school jams. Just be sure to ignore the No Dancing sign…

The Apple Pan, West Los Angeles. Illustration Laura Merizalde
The Apple Pan, West Los Angeles. Illustration Laura Merizalde

The Apple Pan, West Los Angeles

This is the best Hamburger west of the Mississippi river. Not the best gourmet hamburger, but rather what a hamburger should be in its most true form. When you see an emoticon of a burger, or you imagine what the people at all the fast food restaurants are trying to portray, it’s this. I’ve always like their slogan, “Quality Forever”, and they have been doing it since 1947. One side note: the banana cream pie is just as good as the burger.

Den Mobler, East Hollywood

This Mid Century Modern furniture store is owned and operated by my friend, Jason Potter. Aside from a well curated stock of rare Danish furniture, it serves as a great place for me to steal WiFi. It’s not unusual to find me here testing a chair and desk as I answer emails.

Jason Norton is the North American Sales and Marketing Manager for Brooks

Illustration Laura Merizalde

Secret City: Iquitos, Peru

Ed Stafford, the first human to walk the length of the Amazon, writes about his time in one of the most isolated metropolises on Earth

NASA Satellite Image
NASA Satellite Image of Iquitos

Iquitos is the largest city in the world that has no roads going in or out of it. Incredibly, even though it has a population of half a million jungle dwellers, you have to either fly or take a boat up the mighty Amazon River.

Alternatively you could walk.

I stumbled into Iquitos in 2008 during my twi-year trek down the Amazon. Approaching it on foot from the south, there is a 100km stretch of asphalt road – but it’s a phantom road, which isn’t connected to the rest of Peru’s network. My Peruvian walking partner, Cho, and I hit the southern end of this road (having been cutting through the jungle with machetes for the past eight months) in the days just before Christmas and were excited to find out whether the rumours about Iquitos were true. Could we get a hot shower? Might there be air conditioning? And, most importantly, was it really the home of the most beautiful women in the world?

A few kilometres short of the city limits, a big man on a motorbike stopped directly in front of us. “Ed Stafford? Is that you?,” asked the man in broad American English. Looking somewhat dazed, I mumbled that that was my name.

“I’ve heard about your trek and want to buy you dinner,” he said. “Jump on!” I explained politely that I couldn’t jump on his bike as the aim of my expedition was to walk but we exchanged details and Rudy ended up hosting us for one of the most enjoyable and crazy weeks of the expedition.

Iquitos is a blur of mototaxis (like an Asian tuc tuc, but less enclosed and much less safe) that cut around the vibrant colonial town like go-karts driven by kids high on speed. Much of the central town is old French and Portuguese architecture, although much of it is shabby or falling down. It feels like a different planet from the surrounding Shipebo villages with their simple thatched palm roofs and dirt floors.

My favourite haunt – as cringe worthy as it sounds – was an American bar called The Yellow Rose of Texas. After months of eating boney fish and boiled yucca, suddenly it seemed like the entire culinary world was on offer: American chicken and chips, deep-fried alligator, even a ‘Full Monty’ English breakfast. I was in heaven. The waitresses made me feel like I was their long lost friend and it was a pleasure to spend time sitting outside watching the crazy pace of Iquitos fly by.

And yes – some of the most beautiful women on the planet do indeed live there.


Interview by Cécile Fischer

MUMM Champagne and Land Rover Host #DareWinCelebrate
14 June 2016, at London’s Royal Geographical Society
Tickets £20/25:
An evening of adventure hosted by MUMM and Land Rover, featuring speeches from renowned Cordon Rouge Club members, a MUMM champagne reception and charity auction in aid of Just a Drop.

Secret City: Hotel Baron, Aleppo, Syria

Founder of the Hoxton Hotel, Kurt R Bredenbeck, reflects on a Syrian hotel lost in time, and now possibly lost forever

Hotel Baron finished

Among vintage hotel afficionados the Baron Hotel in Aleppo, Syria has developed a cult following that is something of a legend in itself. To stay at the Baron is to go back in time.

In the present-day midsummer heat, Aleppo is dead and the hotel is quiet. Today, Syria is a little visited land at war with its hereditary dictator. But a hundred years ago the area was a bustling region of international importance at the centre of the Turkish Empire. Aleppo was the key transport centre and the termination point of the Orient Express in the Middle East. These days, Syria is a weird place and the Baron is still a time warp of mystery where anything can happen. Soldiers, arms dealers, Armenian traders – the characters who pass through this aged hotel – would suit an Agatha Christie novel, or even an episode of Twilight Zone.

Of course, Christie stayed here along with a host of other celebrities, film stars, presidents and royalty of an earlier age. Sources confirm that she wrote much of her celebrated mystery Murder on Orient Express while staying at the Baron with her archeologist husband Max Mallowan. Upon request you can even see the invoices and registration documents for famous guests such as Lawrence of Arabia, who was a regular visitor to the hotel. It was common gossip that he was there conducting espionage for the British government.

Many hotels revel in their historic past and the glory of their guest list. But at the Baron, the past somehow remains more solid and ever present. It is everywhere, like the thin film of Syrian dust on the furniture. When you enter the hotel’s black and white tiled foyer with its WWI-era map of Syria or sip a cocktail in the panelled bar, it is 1917 once again and the spirits of Christie and Lawrence are with you – perhaps fresh from an archeological dig or a spying trip in the desert.

Kurt R. Bredenbeck is the founder, creator and co-owner of The Hoxton Hotel in London
Baron Hotel, Baron Street, Aleppo, Syria

This story was taken from issue 3 of PORT. To subscribe or buy a back issue, click here