Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feature 1: Marta Szczesniak - Photographer

The French Riviera belongs to a part of the world where artists are appreciated for their skills and abilities.  They are free in a supportive and encouraging environment to produce very unique types of work in a variety of fields and disciplines, be it visual art, dance, music, literature or any other form of art.

Traveling through the cities and villages of the Cote d’Azur, you will come across all forms of visual art displayed openly in places like public parks, as part of the architecture in buildings and of course within the numerous galleries and museums in the area.  You’ll even find visually striking art inside various banks.

There seems to be ample community support for these endeavors, to the point that everyday places are infused with a degree of art.  Here, one can have their work showcased in a nurturing environment, whether they are painters, sculptures or photographers.

In keeping with this spirit, I thought, since I seem to have a very large, worldwide readership, why not start introducing these artists from time to time to the rest of the world?

The first person I would like to introduce is my friend Marta Szczesniak.  Marta’s photographic work is widely recognized not only in the Cote d’Azur, but also throughout France, including Paris.

Whenever I might happen to be on Facebook and see that my friend Marta has posted a new set of photographs, I instantly get excited to look through them all to see what kind of project she has been working on next.

I am always left inspired.

If this is your first visit to France and perhaps the French Riviera, have you ever thought of doing something different, like say spending a fun day in a photo shoot at one of the many luxury locations in the region?

You could update your modeling portfolio to reflect a different part of the world, or maybe you just got married and would like some honeymoon vacation photos.  Perhaps you have a corporate project or function that requires a photographer.
Just to throw a few ideas out there.

Marta has been a good friend of mine for quite some time now.  I find myself thinking back to our first meeting as she had left quite an impression.

We had arranged to meet outside the train station in Beaulieu-sur-Mer one sunny afternoon to go for a walk in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. We wanted to get to know one another better as we had previously been communicating mainly through Facebook, which is how we initially met online, as I had “liked” one of her photographs I came across.

As I walked out of the train station, I knew who she was immediately by her bright smile, her long flowing hair, and the bounce in her step as she crossed the street and we excitedly approached each other.  I was struck by how naturally beautiful she was.  You know how you sometimes get a good feeling inside when you first meet someone?  This was my first feeling when I met Marta.  It just felt right and it was an instant friendship. You’ll find she also brings this sense of brightness to her work.

I have never known someone to take their passion for their work so seriously, yet also combine that passion in getting the perfect job done with an element of fun.

Marta has been living in the South of France since 2006 and has been working as a professional photographer since 2005 but her love of photography started long before that as she remembers the hours spent watching her father develop his prints in a makeshift darkroom when she was a child.  From there, the rest just came to her by second nature.

I’ve never known Marta to walk away from a challenge.  In fact I see her constantly evolving.  Every time I look through yet another new set of her stunning photographs, I’m learning more about Marta and which direction she is taking.  Marta is certainly not afraid to try new photographic techniques, projects and is always upgrading her skills as she moves forward.

When Marta looks at a potentially photographic venue or area, she takes into account the light, character and full surroundings before confirming a location.  Having worked in many parts of France, she knows instinctively many areas that would best suit a photography session.

As you can see from this small selection of Marta’s work, she has done everything from modeling shoots to architecture and interior shots, and has an extensive and impressive list of press credentials.  I don’t even have enough room here to include her already-extensive work for weddings and corporate events!

Each shoot is meticulously planned and organized no matter how big or small, yet there is still flexibility in her work that helps keep a shoot fresh and exciting.
Marta has a vast contact list of stylists and makeup artists, etc., to help bring a shoot together.

As for photography equipment, you’ll find Marta comes well prepared because of her project ranges. The list of equipment she has is quite extensive.  In our conversations it’s not unusual to hear about a new lens she is working with or how she has mastered yet another computer program.


Marta is currently based out of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, but it’s not unusual for her to work on projects in Cannes, Nice, Monaco and all parts in between, with many jobs taking her to Paris.


Marta is not only a dear friend of mine, but she has a great heart and she puts that along with her other skills and efforts into her passion for photography.

Feel free to contact Marta for any work or ideas you might have in mind by the links I have attached here:
Whether you are an individual, couple or even a corporation, Marta will put your mind at ease and do the best work possible for you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3.14 Hotel - Cannes

I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of guy who appreciates solitude and calm surroundings, yet when I want to have some fun and adventure, I like to go all out.

When I first approached the 3.14 Hotel in Cannes, there was something magnetic about it, it had a different vibe, and as soon as I walked into the hotel, something made me want to explore every inch of this intriguing place.

I was immediately taken in by the dramatic and yet seductive interiors.  I just knew this was the place for me!  It’s like having the best of both worlds: calming, yet adventurous. 

You will find that 3.14 Hotel is certainly not your usual hotel.
It is nothing less than an experience. 

Somehow it feels very connected and as one with Cannes, yet it somehow feels like you have also entered a whole new world.

This socially and centrally located 4-star hotel provides every amenity imaginable and is serviced by top notch, gorgeous staff.  It is also very creative, inspirational and yet relaxing in its design and color palette.

If you are an art lover, this is also the place to be.  You will find various exhibits are put on throughout the hotel and the tastes in art are wide and varied.

During my visit, I was given an information package and in it states, “The 3.14 offers you the opportunity to live something really different.  Built around the principles of Feng Shui, 3.14 Hotel invites you to discover these 5 floors, each representing one of the 5 continents: America, as a creative continent, Africa, at the desert gates, Oceania, distant islands, Europe, Paris la Belle Époque, Asia, impressions of the rising sun.

Designed accordingly to Feng Shui rules of harmony which encourages energy to circulate more freely the five elements of: water, wood, fire, earth and metal.”

All this is certainly true.  You can choose the floor and type of room (95 rooms varying in size and style) that suits your needs and current mood.

It’s easy enough to read this but until you experience it personally, it is really something else.

When I was being shown the different floors, as soon as I stepped off the elevator I felt as though I was in a totally new environment each time.  The lighting and fixtures would be different, as were the colors of the walls, furnishings and design. 

Each floor brought on its own mood and this would match that feeling in the hotel room, (which are comparable to North America in size) and just wait until you discover what is inside the “Love Box” left on your bed for your arrival.

Although some floors may initially feel more dramatic than the others, overall there was still a Zen-like feeling to it all, so even if your room is perhaps more vibrant in color, you will not have trouble sleeping in it.  Could this be Feng Shui at work?

I also found the rooms to be immaculately clean and organized as is the rest of the hotel, there are staff at every point in the hotel making sure that everything is well taken care of and guests are happy.

What I also enjoyed was the library/meeting space on the main level in the center of the hotel.

Here you can take a look through any of the art books on hand, hang out with friends or do some work on your laptop while being surrounded by more fabulous artwork and beautiful people.

Right next to the library area, also on the main level, is the 3.14 restaurant/bar/club lounge.  This large part of the hotel too feels vivacious and alive, especially with the jet set crowd in attendance.

DJ’s regularly spin their sets here for the hotel guests and the locals in Cannes, the lighting is always perfect and the room can easily be transformed to suit any event. 

For an added change, be seated outside on the outdoor lounge off the restaurant to enjoy the ambiance with a drink or two.

Not only is this whole section of the hotel a great place to hang out and meet new people, you’ll notice the restaurant menu is extensive and organic in tastes: all very satisfying. 

The 3.14 Hotel also takes your business needs seriously, so if you wanted to book one of their meeting rooms for a conference or what have you, just let them know.

While you are at 3.14 Hotel, a must see is the spectacular rooftop area where you can take advantage of the many different spa treatments available such as getting a massage or you can even do yoga. 

But what made my jaw drop open the most was the ultra-inviting pool, lounge and Jacuzzi area.  Absolutely perfect!

The stunning views of the majestic Carlton Hotel with the sea in the background alone are worth the visit, you have to see how the Jacuzzi feels perched on the top corner end of the building.  Edgy. 
This is a totally genius set up.

Something else you have to indulge in here is an event called a, “Silence Party”.

For those that don’t know, a Silence Party is an event where one or more DJ’s spin but instead of a speaker system in place, you will receive a set of wireless headphones to wear.

Once you have on the headphones, just look towards the DJ for a sign to see which channel they are playing on and then dance the night away.  These parties are held so that there is less of a worry about noise curfews then everyone can continue on.

Silence Parties are tons of fun and very interesting to be a part of if you have never been to one before, I highly recommend them.

It also seems normal that this would be a part of the 3.14 Hotel experience.  If you wish to go, it’s wise to get there early as they are very popular and you will otherwise have to queue to get in.  This is only one of the many types of events 3.14 holds.

Want to go to the beach?  It’s literally at the end of the street.  As if the 3.14 Hotel wasn’t already enough of a package, walk to the end of the street towards the sea and you will come upon 3.14 Le Plage (Beach).  I instantly fell in love with this place.  

The hot, friendly waiters provide the best service, the food and drinks are delicious and the colors here are once again very dynamic and yet work easily with the natural surroundings of the sand and sea.

This is the perfect place to come for a bite to eat, a soothing drink, relax and tan on one of the lounge chairs along their manicured beach (yes, a manicured, pristine beach) and cool off in the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.

3.14 Hotel is in the heart of it all in Cannes, just head to Boulevard de la Croisette along the sea and when you are near the corner of the Carlton Hotel, you will want to turn left on to rue Francois Einesy and straight ahead, on the left hand side is 3.14 Hotel at: 5 rue Francois Einesy.

Believe me, your first experience here will be the start of your best experiences.  If you want to have one of those glamorous moments in the South of France and especially in Cannes, this is one of the places to be.

What I personally love about the hotel, besides the fact that the name 3.14 is also the month and date of my birthday, is how alive and radiant it feels.

The hotel is so naturally welcoming to any and all nationalities and sexualities.  3.14 Hotel is a very gay-friendly hotel.  There is a feeling of acceptance and vitality for life here.

I highly suggest if you are in Cannes and want to change things up from your usual hotel stay, whether it be for just a short weekend getaway or for an extended stay, check in to the 3.14 Hotel in Cannes. 

Photos  © 3.14 Hotel

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Les Bains Douches

Before I begin, I would just like to say I wish I had more pictures for this post, and I wish there was a website link I could add for you. 

Believe me, I’ve spoken to the manager of Les Bains Douches a couple of times about this, trying to encourage him to put up a website, because as someone coming from North America, this is almost unheard of nowadays.  A gay bathhouse/sauna not having a website?!

But alas, no such luck.
  I guess you are just going to have to believe me when I tell you that if you were curious about where you should be going in Nice for some hot bathhouse action, Les Bains Douches is your “go to” location.  Even my friends that live in the Cote d’Azur all seem to agree.

You see, Les Bains Douches has been a fixture in Nice for many years now and without question it is the most popular gay bathhouse in the city, if not this region of France.

For myself, having had 13 plus years experience managing bathhouses, I know how important it is to make sure customers always come in feeling comfortable immediately in this type of environment, especially if this is their first visit.  And that attention is given to details in the space.
  Well you will certainly find this and more the minute you walk through the door of this sauna.

At Les Bains Douches, the manager and staff are always very hospitable, if this is your first time there, they have no problem showing you where everything can be located, in fact, I have found they will jump at the chance to guide you around.

Les Bains Douches is located on a very safe, business/residential type of street in central Nice.  Inside, the bathhouse is laid out over three levels.  As soon as you walk in, to your right is the check-in counter where you pay a small, flat fee, then you will be buzzed into the bar/lobby area, through there is the rest of the bathhouse.

I hesitate in giving you the exact details of what is on each floor because I have found the owner likes to change and
improve the space.  Les Bains Douches is continually kept fresh, upgraded and interesting.  You will find your usual labyrinth of hallways, areas for play, glory holes, dry and wet saunas, porn and other wet areas, just with some extra touches.

I will tell you this though, I love how grand the curved marble stairwell feels.
  I love how the huge porn room on the top floor is set up with vinyl foam mattresses on different levels.  I love how relaxing the large, rectangular Jacuzzi area can be with the stained glass ceiling.

You will find the whole club is spotlessly clean, and very well maintained.  The friendly staff will help you with any questions you might have, not only about Les Bains Douches but with anything to do with the gay scene in Nice.

Here is what I also like, when you arrive and before you check in, without asking, they will tell you how busy it is with customers inside.  So that you do not pay to come in only to find there are maybe 5-10 people in the bathhouse.  Then the choice to proceed to come in or not is entirely up to you.  Being honest, you cannot get better service than that.

Les Bains Douches is very easy to find.  If you are coming from Place Massena, go to the side of Galeries Lafayette that is on rue Gioffredo and walk about three blocks east until you are at the cross street of rue Gubernatis, turn left and you will find the sauna at: 7 rue Gubernatis.  It’s a decent, very discreet looking building with a discreet off the street entrance.  No big flashing signs.

Les Bains Douches is open every day from 1pm until 10pm, although I have sometimes seen them stay open until midnight.

So although there is no website link, if gay bathhouses are your thing, you really must check out Les Bains Douches.

I guess when your business naturally attracts the locals and visiting international clientele.  That just means you have a very diverse crowd and something for everyone, so maybe one doesn’t need to go through all the fuss of having a website?  Whatever they are doing, it’s working!

As always, play safe and have fun.