You don’t have to be George Clooney to marry in Venice

It doesn’t hurt, though, especially since it looks pretty steep, even if you’re not going for the movie-star treatment.

Wikimedia Commons/Chensiyuan

Wikimedia Commons/Chensiyuan

Funny, when I think of dreamy places to tie the knot, Venice, Italy, doesn’t spring to mind.

I guess I’m way in the minority on this, but it just seems so crowded; so problematic; so ordinary for the likes of jet-setters Clooney and his international attorney wife, who could go anywhere.

(Apparently it’s one of Clooney’s favorite hangouts; he has an understandable thing for the Venice Film Festival.)

I confess my my reaction also stems from the vicious case of food poisoning I got there during my junior year abroad in college. Minutes after downing a burger at a bar, it refused to stay put.

So I got hitched in Venice, too — to a toilet. Actually a hole in a tiled floor closeted off from the rest of the bar. With indentations in the tile for better foot placement. No matter. I sank to my knees (mostly because I couldn’t get up), grateful to have it all to myself.

Anyway, the Clooney nuptials apparently are clocking in at around $1.6 million. I have to admit it all looked divine; and at that price, why not?

If you have your heart set on the place for your big day, it’s doable. But, again, not cheap by any means.

You don’t need a three-day Clooney wedding extravaganza, but of course it would be nice to have a few days to sightsee.

No matter when you go, expect to pay over $1,000 round-trip a person from say, New York to Venice. You might be able to shave a bit off by flying to London and then taking a budget flight on Ryanair or easyJet to Italy.

The Hotel Cipriani, where some of the Clooney party stayed, will run you at least $2,500 a night. Thankfully, I’m told you don’t need to stay there to have a meal or a drink.

The Aman Candal Grande Hotel, where the symbolic wedding was held, is $1,000 a night in the off-season.

That was followed by an official ceremony at Venice’s city hall, apparently a popular option with regular folks. Here’s what caught my eye — looks pretty expensive. There are services that apparently can help. But they look pricey, too.

For more on where to stay and what to do, click here.

More reasonable lodging ideas are here and here.


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On this day of the big vote, how Scottish are you?

As the Scots cast the deciding vote on whether to kiss the U.K. goodbye, I couldn’t resist. Another quiz.

Does an ancient Woolrich plaid shirt count? Didn't think so.

Does an old Woolrich plaid shirt count? Didn’t think so.

How Scottish are you?

According to this pretty simplistic game, I’m “kind of Scottish,” and I’ve “considered eating haggis at least once.” No, no, no; I never indicated that.

Here’s a more elaborate one from BuzzFeed if you like. I started in with it, but it was so crammed with inside stuff, I couldn’t keep up. Which clearly means I’m not very Scottish. As if I didn’t already know.


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Road trip ends up on one of my favorite sites

bark magHappy that my visit to the symphony made it onto one of my favorite sites, The Bark.

A while back, I took a four-hour ride (each way) to see the Pittsburgh Symphony because there were dogs involved. They were an important part of the performance.

It was worth the schlep.


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What country best fits your personality?

world's fairTake this quiz. It’s fun, and just might prod you into exploring some new horizons on that next trip.

I’m India. Not surprising, since I’m a fool for yoga and curry. Mitch joked that the only reason I included it on a round-the-world trip a while back was because I was going for the grub.

True, but the visit turned out to be a lot more delicious than that.



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Let’s Paws: Away, and missing that special pet?

pittsburgh edie 1Meet Edie, the mascot at the Fairmont hotel in Pittsburgh. Or, to use her formal title, “Canine Ambassador.”

pittsburgh edie tail

Look closely at this boxer/lab mix and you’ll see her tail is bent. Apparently this rescue pooch was hit by a car as a pup and that’s the way it healed. Fortunately, so did she.

Edie — named for Edie Sedgwick, close gal pal of one of Pittsburgh’s most famous natives, Andy Warhol  — began her schooling as a service dog. She was a little too gregarious and not serious enough for the gig, so she flunked her way into the hospitality industry.


pittsburgh edie better

A much better fit for this laid-back, human-loving canine. She’ll take you for a stroll around downtown Pittsburgh, or is happy to hang out when you feel like taking a meeting break.

Edie is a reminder that the Fairmont is a pet-friendly hotel.

pittsburg edie better card

 She also has her own email and Facebook page.

Of course the Fairmont’s not the only hotel chain to do this. (Here’s another I found in Florida.) Lots of places have mascots. And here’s even more info.

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If you’ve ever dreamed of sleeping over in your favorite store

And here I thought my stay in an art gallery was exotic.

The folks at Airbnb are going one better. Publicity stunt, and apparently only one night, but still IKEA. (This is a good or bad thing, depending on whether you love or loathe the place.)

It would be nice if the restaurant were open all night.

Mitch and Ginger in chair and light display inspired by IKEA catalogue.

Mitch and Ginger in chair and light display inspired by IKEA catalogue.

Not only do I shop IKEA for their furniture that sometimes looks better than it holds up (maybe the assembler’s to blame — it wasn’t me; I’m not good with anything involving more than one part, like drawers.)

But I confess, I actually like their Swedish meatballs and chocolate.

Where’s the craziest place you’ve ever stayed? I’d like to know.


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Cool place to stay: Where B&B means bed and beer

If you know anything about me, it’s that chocolate is my vice.

Everything I learned about beer was gleaned while living in Australia, where they take their brew very seriously. I could never keep up. It’s a safe bet even infants there can drink me under the table. And that’s perfectly fine. To be honest, I don’t like the taste, and would rather save the calories for hot fudge.

But I’d been hearing a lot about a relatively new cool place to stay. Cool because it’s the brainchild of the folks that brought the nation DogfishHead craft beer.

Craft is buzz for specially concocted. Experimental. In other words, not your father’s — or even necessarily your neighbor’s — beer.

Dogfish’s motto is “off-centered ales for off-centered people.” Anything with natural origins is fair game, including, raisins, maple syrup, and according to this surprisingly riveting interview with the founder, human saliva.

Here’s more gag-inducing detail.

Their Namaste brew caught the attention of this yogi. Hints of lemongrass and coriander. Hmmmm. A little natural high along with the alcoholic one?

Lest you think this is all impossibly pretentious hipster schtick, the founder insists the gimmicks actually taste swell. And that’s why enthusiasts like the stuff.

What’s it up against? The beer industry in general. Microbreweries, the little guys, are said to be a small part of the overall market. And there are hundreds of them vying for tastebuds. Sobering stats.

Dogfish is apparently spreading like the contents of an overturned beer bottle. Thirty states, says the founder. And raking in the millions.

Not exactly Anheuser-Busch. But not bad for a company that started less than a decade ago by a young guy studying creative writing at Columbia University who liked tinkering with a home brewing kit.

Which brings us to Delaware, where Dogfish is made. The southern part of the state that hugs a bay and the Atlantic Ocean is home to the brewery; a brew pub where you can eat and drink; and now, an inn close to all that action.

The Dogfish Inn is in Lewes. Clever choice. Place has been popular for a long time. There’s a lot of history, along with proximity to a state park along the water that’s been in vogue since the days of William Penn. You know you’re in Delaware because the park sports a meeting center named for VP and favorite son Biden.

inn -- exterior

Back to the inn. At first glance,  I thought: Since when does a place that looks like a gussied-up budget motel have the audacity to call itself an inn? With a hoity-toity price tag to match?


I soon ate, or should I say, drank my words, when I took a closer look. Pretty classy.

The happening design is straight outta Brooklyn. With name-brand mattresses and blankets.

inn--boat art

 Local art.


inn--beach chair

A nifty place for all your gear.

inn--soap sink

Soap made with beer.


And coffee blended with malted barley, served in the adjoining cottage. But be advised you can’t get an actual beer here — though you’re more than welcome to bring some back from the brewery or a retail shop.

inn--city lights books

You can also curl up with a good book from the cottage library, curated by famed indie bookstore City Lights of San Francisco.

inn--dog bark

 The Dogfish Inn is also dog-friendly.


Innkeeper Andrew Greeley, who hails from Golden, Colorado — Coors Country — says the founder often stops by, and hangs around the fire pit with guests.

Worth the price of admission right there, I’d think, if you happen to be a Dogfish enthusiast.

Here are some other beer-themed places to vacation in the U.S. And abroad.

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Ultimate cool place to stay: an art gallery

It’s not quite a night at the museum, but it may be the closest thing: spending the night in an art gallery.

You don’t need to be a celebrity or performance artist. There are a couple venues out there (and many more that I may not know about) for us ordinary folk.

gallery exterior

gallery walken

Was in St. Petersburg, Florida, this past week and decided to give this photography studio a shot. I was told I was only the second person to try it out and lodging was still in the “experimental” stage.

gallery konica and me

One look at the official greeter, a rescue dog named — what else — Konica — and I was in. I would have gladly cuddled with her in her beanbag chair the entire stay.

gallery deflated mattress

Waiting with big smile and air mattress at the ready was the photog-in-residence, Clinton Lee.

I started to get deflated when I saw said air mattress without any air. I’ve only camped once in my life, in the Australian outback, and I expected that to be rough. Besides, that outdoors was free. This experience was costing me 65 bucks a night.


gallery bed and living space

It turned out to be one of the most-comfy mattresses ever. No kidding.

gallery rest of living space

And here’s the rest of the living space. Not your typical hotel room, for sure.

Clinton is an area native. He does a lot of weddings, but here’s the neat part — they’re all over the world. I never thought wedding pictures were high art, but he has a way of making them so — and I’m not just saying that because he’s a really nice guy.

That pays the bills and gives him tons of contacts. The rest of the photos are random shots from here and there: his true passion.

gallery trashed house

gallery times square

gallery nude other

There was also a big workspace. And a little fridge, stocked with juices. A thoughtful touch was a bottle of water on my pillow every night. A must after a day in the sauna that is St. Pete in summer.

Nighty night. Curtains drawn across entrance for privacy.

Nighty night. Curtains drawn across entrance for privacy.

 All the eye candy made up for one big shortfall: a place to bathe.

gallery bathroom

There was a half bath in the back. But no shower. I had to coordinate with Clinton to use the shower in the apartment he shares with his roommate. Fortunately, it was just above the studio. (There are also pay washing machines in the building.)

It was a tad inconvenient, but the shower was clean, with plenty of hot water.

Clinton realizes that’s a big drawback, and is thinking about getting a portable shower for the gallery. Until he does, that’s the setup.

Being that I was camping out at a business establishment, I couldn’t lounge around in my jammies for too long, like I could in a strictly private room. Texting helped keep me and my host on schedule.

gallery computer workspace

But I had the workspace to myself all day long. Breaks were a blast.

gallery tricycle

gallery me and konica hugging

I spent three great nights there. A much longer stay might have been trying, given some of the limitations. It was one of the more memorable places I’ve ever stayed. Your tolerance may vary.

Here’s a few others. And according to this article, a Parisian bookstore has apparently allowed sleepovers in the past, but check to make sure. And if you know of any more places, let me know.


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Who I’m sleeping with tonight

gallery dog sprinklesMeet Konica, proprietress of an art gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s my digs for the next couple days while I continue The Great Condo Search. One of the neatest lodging experiences I’ve ever had.

Back with the scoop (as opposed to the pooper scooper) a little later.


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Planet Lippstone winds up in another galaxy

OK, I’m a slacker, but I have a couple reasons. They may not be good ones, but …

For the last few weeks, Planet Lippstone’s been sidelined by some technical and personal difficulties. Lost a bit of content, and have learned the hard lesson about backing up.

Plus The Great Condo Search  hijacked me once again. What can I say? Any homebuyer knows it’s tough trying to find the perfect little place in an imperfect world.

But that search has taken me to more interesting places, which I can’t wait to write about.

Back soon.



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