colors of Andalucia

During our recent trip to Andalucia, I became enchanted with the tilework of the Alcázar of Seville. These press-moulded tiles inherited the Islamic love for geometry while taking on figurative compositions inspired by fabrics during the Gothic and Renaissance periods. I was inspired by the colors and shapes and sought to create a modern version in bag form.

IMG_3095IMG_3091IMG_3094The range of motifs produced in Seville was varied, and their use in architecture diverse.

IMG_3163 IMG_3200 IMG_3187 As soon as we returned to Paris I set to work on a new Andalucia handbag collection…

first class dining

I don’t often write about dining, but this meal was one to remember! Last week I had the pleasure of joining France Today website editor, a site and magazine for which I write, for a decadent lunch at Le Cinq. Five-courses. Two Michelin stars. New chef Christian Le Squer, (who himself holds three stars). Does it get much better than this? Actually, it does. We had the privilege of touring the famed wine cellar. Now, that is a something to write about.

IMG_6768I couldn’t wait to try Le Squer’s menu, this “creator of savors and composer of tastes.

IMG_6764 The amuse-bouches were incredible! Each a unique melange of flavors to fill the palate.

IMG_6775The meal started with a sweet onion filled with oysters and carmelized onions.

IMG_6776 Next, Mont Blanc as Egg Soufflé with black truffle. Heavenly!

IMG_6783My main dish was wild sea bass with caviar in ‘fermented milk from my childhood’.

IMG_6791A little cheese before dessert? My choices included soft truffled brie and Mont d’Or.

IMG_6799This sweet caramel concoction was simply divine!

IMG_6805My dessert was an original work of art, and truly had to be tasted to be understood.

IMG_6813Breton specialty Kouing-Amann to end the meal on a sweet note.

IMG_6850Having tasted a variety of wines with our meal, each carefully selected to complement the dishes, it was a privilege to tour the cave. Built during WWII, Four Seasons George V‘s wine cellar is hidden 14 metres (45 feet) below the ground. With nearly 50,000 bottles, it’s filled with vintage treasures, including over 2,800 French and international wines.

IMG_6843Here’s one I wouldn’t mind tasting! (The magnum Petrus 1964 is valued at 40,000 euros.)

IMG_6828The oldest bottle in the collection is a 1792 Madeira. Impressive!

IMG_6891Every time I pass by hotel George V, I will fondly recall this first class culinary experience.

Adventures in Andalucia : Tarifa + Cádiz

Our first stop was Setenil de las Bodegas, a small town once famous for it’s vineyards and unique in it’s position. While most of the pueblos blancos were built on protective bluffs, Setenil grew out of caves dwellings in the cliffs above the rio Trejo, north-west of Ronda.

IMG_4458 IMG_4461For lunch we drove up to Zahara de la Sierra, a charming village nestled in the mountains.

IMG_4544Once a moorish outpost, Zahara’s Arab and Christian history is evident in it’s architecture.

IMG_4535Our next destination was Tarifa on the southernmost coast of Spain, the Costa de la Luz. We were tempted to board the ferry to Morocco, but saved that for another adventure.

IMG_4626This became home for a few days, as we explored the coast by foot, and on horseback.

IMG_4748Not wanting the pueblos blancos tour to end, we discovered Vejer de la Frontera. This quickly became my favorite of the villages with it’s unassuming charm and maze of streets.

IMG_4773 IMG_4781Our last stop was one of the oldest cities in western Europe, Cádiz. We became happily lost in the myriad of historic sights, the uplifting sounds of flamenco, and the local tapas.

IMG_5028 IMG_5031

IMG_5118Beneath an Andalucian sunset, we ended one year and began another. In love & gratitude.

Adventures in Andalucia : Córdoba + Ronda

Knowing little about Córdoba other than it’s ancient charm, that’s where we decided to spend Christmas. Tucked away in a cozy and chic apartment in the historic center, we immediately felt at home. The city lay calm beneath the early winter sun.

IMG_4271We lost ourselves within the maze of streets, once the capital of the Arabic caliphate.

IMG_4040Christmas was spent at la Mezquita, a cathedral within a mosque, followed by a hammam.

IMG_4227This quiet city grew on us in it’s unimposing way, the perfect setting before heading south.

IMG_4280One last view of the Roman bridge and we bid farewell to Córdoba. Next stop Ronda.

IMG_4333I had no idea what to expect in Ronda, but knew it was the favorite stop of many.

IMG_4347Ronda’s New Bridge was impressive, towering 120 metres (390 ft) above the canyon floor.

IMG_4354So this is what makes Ronda so spectacular! Time now to head to the Pueblos Blancos…

Je Suis Charlie

The events of the past few days in Paris are unfathomable. Attacks on freedom of expression in a nation whose principles are Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Incomprehensible deaths of innocent people. It is difficult to accept and impossible to understand. Having experienced 9/11 in New York, and now this in Paris.

IMG_5618To support my adopted home, and the very notion of freedom, my Italian and I joined friends in today’s Unity March, with over 2.2 million people from around the world.

IMG_5638It was a day of unity, with over 40 world leaders heading the march, linked arm in arm. The energy felt in Paris was undeniable and contagious. United we marched. Je suis Charlie!

IMG_5669Following the march we walked by the location of the shootings for a moment of silence.

IMG_5687My heart goes out to all the victims. May we pray for peace.

Adventures in Andalucia : Seville

This year we decided to embark on an adventure in celebration of one year ending and another beginning. Where better than beneath the Spanish sun? Our journey began in Seville. Home became Hotel Casa 1800, a historic palace-house turned boutique hotel, located in the heart of the Santa Cruz barrio. The views of our new city were breathtaking!
IMG_3045Neighboring our hotel sat the Cathedral de Seville, the largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world. Within this noble space Christopher Columbus was laid to rest.IMG_3068The views from the Giralda, the bell tower originally built as a minaret, were incredible!

IMG_3732Our most memorable day was spent at the Alcázar of Seville. Once a Moorish fort, this palace, known to be the most beautiful in Spain, is the oldest still in use in Europe.
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IMG_3179 Walking through it’s many chambers and courtyards, we were well impressed. I became enamored with the Muslim architecture and colorful tile mosaics. (New bag collection?)IMG_3331 The Alcazar’s gardens were uniquely magical. We spent hours walking their paths beneath the Spanish sun, hidden within a palatial world, walled in the center of a charming city. IMG_3386Our wanderings took us to the Plaza de España, located in the Parque de María Luisa and built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, now mainly government buildings.

IMG_3583Much of the reason I love to travel, is to try the regional specialities. For dinner and lunch, we opted for tapas, and many conversations centered around food. Where were our favorite spots? Here is a list of our top three tapas restaurants in Seville. And we tried many! In no particular order, La Brunilda, El Pasaje & Vineria San Telmo. Buen provecho!IMG_3816Soon it was time to leave Seville for Córdoba. Adventures in Andalucia continue…

Christmas in Paris

Friend and fellow traveler Lynne Martin, author of Home Sweet Anywhere (a book I highly recommend) and blogger at Home Free Adventures, asked me to describe celebrating Christmas in Paris as an expat. I took a moment to think about what makes the city of lights even brighter during the holidays, and having spent many a holiday season in Paris, here is what I came up with. You an also find this article online at TravelSmith!

What is it about Christmas time in Paris that truly captivates the senses? Where to begin…

The intimacy of the sidewalk cafes with their heat lamps and blankets, beneath which you can indulge in a glass of seasonal mulled wine. The street vendors selling roasted chestnuts on many a corner. The annual holiday markets scattered around the city, revealing an array of artisanal gift ideas. But I suspect it’s the culinary specialties from various regions of France that draw the crowds. My favorites include raclette and the more decadent tartiflette, hailing from the Haute-Savoie.

Known for their pâtisseries, it’s no surprise that the French celebrate Christmas with cake. The bûche de Noël originally represented the yule log, a sponge cake with a bark-like texture made of buttercream. Many variations can be found around Paris, each more decadent than the last. Beginning in late December, pastry shops in Paris fill their windows with galettes des rois, or King Cake, to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th. A good luck charm called la fève is baked inside this puff pastry filled with frangipane, and whoever’s piece contains la fève is crowned king or queen for the day. The cobbled streets sparkle, each dressed in it’s own string of holiday lights. The Champs Elysées glows the brightest of all, each year in late November a lighting ceremony takes place, with thousands of fairy lights lit along this grand boulevard. Yet another reason why Paris is so often referred to as the City of Lights.

At the grands magasins including Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, and Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville, the window displays are reminiscent of theatre sets, revealing animated Christmas scenes that leave both young and old marveling. Often a family trip is taken to view these story-telling windows.

We cannot forget the celebrated churches. My first Christmas in Paris was spent at Notre Dame Cathedral. The choir alone was worth braving the crowds, as they filled the 800 year old space with song, a midnight mass never to be forgotten. Even passing by the Notre Dame by night, the majestic sparkling Christmas tree will take your breath away.

Christmas in Paris

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you happy holidays + a bright and happy new year!

Follow my holiday adventures in Andalucia, Spain, via instagram and facebook.

art into fashion

Artist Sonia Delaunay is one of the inspirations behind my handbags. Arriving to Paris in 1905, Sonia believed “modernity could be expressed through the primacy of color in art and the dynamic interplay of its dissonances and harmonies”. Due in large part to her beliefs and the quality of her work, Delaunay is responsible for bringing art into daily life.

IMG_2309I was overjoyed to spend an afternoon with my muse at her Musée d’Art Moderne retrospective in Paris, what was once her home. ( I often visit her paintings at Pompidou’s permanent collection.) Over 400 works were on display, including paintings, wall decorations, gouaches, prints, fashion items and textiles. A designer’s paradise!

IMG_2318Bringing together the fine and applied arts, Sonia Delaunay desired to liberate color, without restricting it to surface. Her art was brought into life, and into fashion.

IMG_2325Art and life became one. “It was my life and I worked the whole time, but I wasn’t working – I was living – and that is the difference.”

IMG_2336Delaunay’s textiles varied greatly from the naturalistic designs popular in the early 1920s. Her fabrics incorporated geometric shapes, often with strong, bold colors.

IMG_2347I often look at paintings and see them as fabric. That is after all, how I came up with my wearable art designs. For me, there is no better example of this than the work of Delaunay.

IMG_2348“For me there is no gap between my painting and my so-called ‘decorative’ work. I never considered the ‘minor arts’ to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art.”
IMG_2349            Sonia’s vision was uniquely vibrant. For her “color is the skin of the world”.

Sonia Delaunay retrospective ends February 22

 

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Paris is a city steeped in history, with rarely a modern structure in sight. This is why the Fondation Louis Vuitton is such an important and monumental museum and cultural center for Paris. It not only houses art, but in my opinion it personifies art. It opened in late October in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne, and soon after that I was lucky enough to experience it. My last trip into the mind and work of Frank Gehry was at Guggenheim Bilbao and more recently NYC’s Guggenheim. This one was perhaps the most impressive of them all!

IMG_0504Frank Gehry’s vision was realized thanks to the generous funding of LVMH, at a cost of no less than $135 million. Within this 43 meter high private foundation of glass, concrete, timber and steel, you can find the art collection of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s art-collecting owner and France’s wealthiest man. “You don’t put a price tag on a dream,” says Arnault. Eleven galleries provide 3,850 sq meters (41,441 square feet) of exhibition space. Pas mal!

IMG_0522From the top you can perfectly view Paris’ business district of La Défense in the distance.

IMG_0567I was enchanted by the mirrors and moat on the ground floor.

IMG_0581 IMG_0592Outside, the cascading waterfall creates a feeling of serenity amidst the concrete.

IMG_8670My Italian and I were so fascinated with the reflective structure and the way in which the light changed throughout the afternoon, that we stayed until nightfall.

IMG_8714THIS was a sight to behold!

The Dream Life of Diana Antholis

I liked Diana the moment I met her. She possesses strength in her manner, her eyes sparkle with optimism, and her deep voice exudes confidence. We first met at the women’s group we belong to, and soon after we shared thoughts about leaving New York and starting life in Paris, as well as the trials and thrills of running a business. I have yet to join Diana on a Paris workout (but I certainly will) and am a big fan of her book, filled with wise advice on how to live a more healthy, balanced, and yes, sexy life. Her story (and her book) is certain to inspire!

IMG_4750ppDecember 20, 2013 was a day of YES. I said yes to the marriage proposal and my new fiancé accepted the contract for a new job in Paris. Two months later, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle on a rainy morning, hardly believing what we had just done. 
 
Rewind a few months and if you told us we would be living in Paris now, we would have laughed (even though my now-husband is French.) We had a beautiful life in New Jersey and New York City. My husband had a solid job and absolutely adored the USA (and still does), but he was looking for a greater challenge. I had most of my business connections, my best friends, and family, but wasn’t ready to “settle” in the suburbs of New Jersey. Actually, our eyes were focused on California. My time living in San Diego was wonderful and we both knew the California lifestyle would fit us perfectly. But then, in what felt like a blink of an eye, my husband was recruited rapidly by a company he used to work for in Paris. Questions arose: Could we live in Paris? Is this good for my business? Is now the right time? Would we love our lives there?
 

I was scared. Even though I had dreams of living abroad during my lifetime and felt a strong pull towards Paris, I truly never planned any kind of move. I figured marrying a Frenchman would fulfill my French dream, as we would be traveling there at least once a year to visit his family in Normandy.

Diana Upward Dog la SeineWe ultimately decided that it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass on. My business is online, so I could easily continue my work as an Author and Healthy Lifestyle Coach. Helping women live the balanced, centered, and sexy lives they deserve worldwide didn’t limit me to a particular timezone. I had big plans for my business, and I could easily continue in Paris. 
 
I was actually reading my own book to get through my nerves about moving abroad. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly excited, but all of the what ifs creeped into my brain, especially knowing that I had to re-learn French. I had moved across the country before (NYC to San Diego, San Diego to Washington D.C., then back to NYC) but I never had to learn a new language to live in those cities. But, in true Diana fashion, I pushed forward because I knew I was going to make it. I had no other choice. This is what I help women deal with on a daily basis: following their intuitions, pushing through the what ifs, and creating lives they love.

Diana Luxembourg Stretch

I’ve been called the fastest expat transition in Paris. On my second day here, I went to a women’s networking group meeting, the Paris Women of Success. Freshly jet lagged, the group gave me a round of applause for putting myself out there when I hadn’t even been living in my new city for 24 hours.

Ten months have flown by already. I have expanded my online business to an in-person element in Paris doing workouts in the parks and have big plans for an Unleash Your Sexy Experience launch in 2015, online and in-person. Plus, many of the women of Paris (francaise et expatriee!) have been using my book “Unleashed” as their lifestyle bibles. I have made new friends from all over the world. I know my way around the city and actually can get certain places without the Maps app on my phone (big success for me). I have travelled so much of France and was able to take weekend trips to London and Rome. I have a wonderful life in Paris. 

Diana 1My husband works 12-hour days (sometimes more) so I’ve been on my own for most of this. We enjoy weekends together, though he jokes that he knows Paris through my Instagram feed. He’s been incredibly supportive and happy with my transition and luckily shares the same experiences from when he moved to the USA. I took French courses for the first nine weeks I was in Paris and practice with my local boulanger and new family when I see them. I’m proud of myself that I feel comfortable enough with the language to have conversations and get what I want! It’s not always easy living in Paris. I’ve had my fair share of rudeness and bureaucracy. Even being married didn’t make the visa and immigration process facile. But I made a very important decision when I arrived: I always have a choice, and I choose happiness.

Diana 2What have you overcome because you chose happiness? Or what can you overcome now to find happiness?  Leave a comment and like the Unleash Your Sexy Facebook Page to be entered to win a copy of Diana’s best-selling book “Unleashed: Live the Balanced, Centered, and Sexy Life You Deserve.” And follow Diana on Twitter & Instagram!