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…

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.

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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…

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…

scenes from Sicily

Last weekend my Italian and I ventured to Italy’s most southern region, Sicily. This was my first trip and his second. I had no idea what to expect in this island rich in culture and cuisine. After taking a swim in the still warm waters of the Mediterranean, we headed to our first destination, the island of Ortygia in Syracuse. This charming city reveals baroque facades with Greek,  Roman and Arab influences in it’s centuries old architecture. With Sicilian hospitality, we immediately felt at home.

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One morning we spent at the archeological park where a massive Greek theater from 5th-century BC awaits it’s visitors. During the summer season it’s brought to life with classical concerts.

IMG_9897Being adventure seekers, we decided to drive to Noto. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, it was rebuilt to become the grandest baroque town in Sicily. Noto was recently added to Unesco’s list of world heritage sites, certainly worth a visit! And did I  mention that Noto is known for it’s gelato? More on that later…

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IMG_9790The next stop on our Sicilian adventures was Modica. This multi-layered medieval town is uniquely atmospheric with it’s high and low levels, allowing for an incredible view. Here too, you find the most delicious chocolate and confections. How could I resist?

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Our last stop was Taormina, the chic, sophisticated town that seduced many an artist and writer in it’s day. Here was the capitol of  Byzantine Sicily in the 9th century, and today it remains an international hotspot boasting views of a still active Mount Etna.

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Four days spent beneath the Sicilian sun, learning about ancient history, discovering hidden beaches… dining on fresh pasta, fish and local sweets (the latter of which I’m devoting the next blog post to). A perfect holiday.

the end {of summer}

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When I was a kid, Montauk was home to fisherman, a place where surfers would congregate to ride the waves and locals would take day trips. It was a tourist destination with it’s mysterious lighthouse, even for those of us who grew up on the east end. When I brought my Italian there five years ago, this was the place he found most charming and authentic. A sleepy village just steps away from gorgeous sandy beaches, considered to many ‘The End’. There was nothing chic about it, until now. But it’s not simply Brooklyn’s hipsters who discovered this surfer haven, it’s Manhattan’s social elite too, who have made this their summer home, thus creating Montauk into a surfer chic enclave. (Cap Ferret, where we recently spent a summer holiday, is often called the ‘Montauk of France’.)

IMG_7496 Just after Labor Day we drove the length of the island, eager to see the village’s evolution.

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What we found were designer boutiques and chic hotels, seemingly abandoned after a full season.

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Montauk was left to the locals once more, just as I had remembered it.

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The once trendy but now tranquil Surf Lodge was an ideal spot to enjoy an end of summer sunset.

New York from above

As much as I love New York from afar, there’s something uniquely magical about the city from above, as it appears to rise forever into the sky, and you rise with it. During these days of meetings and mingling with friends, I tried to catch a glimpse of day turning into night from as many roof decks as possible. As I discover others, I have a few that shall always remain my favorites.

The Peninsula Hotel sun terrace sits on the 21st and 22nd floors with a view of the regal St Regis.

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Here I spent a humid New York day high above the bustle of the city, swimming and lounging in the sun, following a dynamic yoga class. Paradise found in midtown!

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Soho House New York is not only a chic members only address, but the place to be seen. A haven for creatives, the perfect spot to meet a work friend and catch up on the goings on of the NYC ad scene.

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A60 bar located on the 13th floor of 60 Thompson has stunning sunset views to compliment your cocktail. Where better to meet with a girlfriend who just flew in from LA?

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I may never have my fill of looking at New York’s skyline from afar or from above. Until next time…

 

 

New York from afar

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love New York. It’s the city I called home for many years, and still do. And it’s where I became who I am. When I return now, after living in Paris for 5 years (hard to believe!), I often find the city chaotic and cold, from the inside. It lacks the charm and class of Paris, in which you can walk the streets and lose yourself in it’s beauty. Certainly the energy and dynamism of New York makes up for anything it lacks. The skyline of NYC is unlike any in the world. And now, with the Freedom Tower standing tall, the city truly stands alone.

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When I arrived to NYC I was invited on a Circle Line tour with fellow travel bloggers.

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I very happily felt like a tourist and enjoyed the views as night fell upon the city that never sleeps.

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It was upon this vessel that I met Kirsten, a travel photographer & Stephen, who runs walking tours.

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And is was here, with lady liberty aglow, that my love for this urban jungle was felt most deeply.

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Once a New Yorker, always, whether near or far.

adventures down south

In mid-August my Italian and I decided to do like the Parisians, leave Paris to the tourists, and venture south. I had heard a lot about the unpretentious charm of France’s Cap Ferret, and was eager to discover it for myself. It has been likened to Montauk, the most unspoilt part of the Hamptons, where I grew up. Our first stop was lunch in a rainy but elegant Bordeaux. I know little of this city, this being my second visit, but look forward to becoming better acquainted in the future.

IMG_5619Rather than head directly to this trendy enclave, we stopped in Arcachon for a few days. Just enough time to meet with friends and climb the highest sand dunes in all of Europe.

IMG_5737The Dune du Pilat measures 107 meters high and I felt rather accomplished reaching the top!

IMG_5697We spent the afternoon climbing, jumping, running… and sitting beneath the late summer sun.

IMG_5968Our next stop was Cap Ferret. We settled in with a plate of oysters, local wine, and a view.

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The dominant mode of transport is by bike. And that is how we explored this little French paradise.

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I could immediately understand why it was compared to Montauk with it’s chic yet relaxed vibe.

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After many great meals including at the highly revered Chez Hortense, it was time to bid adieu.

IMG_6006Via boat and train we made our way back to Paris filled with sounds and tastes of the sea.

Auvers-sur-Oise

This past spring when my mom came to visit, I thought about where to bring her. Last year we had explored Chantilly, and while it would have been a lovely time of year to visit Giverny, I opted to be more creative and we ventured to Auvers-sur-Oise. This commune, only about 27 kilometers northwest of Paris, was once home to the Impressionists. More specifically, Paul Cézanne, Charles-François Daubigny, Camille Pissarro, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and, Vincent van Gogh.

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IMG_1742This was a trip into Van Gogh’s life. It was incredible to be amidst the church that he once painted.

IMG_1744It is here that he rests alongside his brother Theo, who passed away only 6 months after Vincent.

IMG_1750The next stop was Château d’Auvers where we discovered a most insightful interactive journey into the lives of the Impressionists. A unique experience! Not to mention the breathtaking gardens…

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As the sun was setting we walked the length of the estate, reflecting on years long gone.

IMG_1820It was time to bid farewell to Auvers-sur-Oise. Like the artists before us, we headed back to Paris.

lost at sea

For the last 10 days I’ve been hiding out in Cinque Terre with friends and family. Did I realize that when I met my Italian, this enchanting land would become my home? No, but I am lucky that it is. Though I am most familiar with Monterosso, I love to explore the other villages whenever possible. On an overcast day, we decided to venture by train to Vernazza, considered by many the most spectacular. It will soon be 3 years since the flood, and the village looked more colorful than ever.

IMG_4394This time we walked the many steps up to Castello Doria and the views were breathtaking!

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IMG_4312After happily discovering a local shop to sell my bags, and an aperitif with a view at Gianni Franzi’s new terrace, we headed home to Monterosso. For more photos of our days in Italy, click here.

eating adventures

During my around the world travels I’ve experienced many eating adventures, from street food in Vietnam to yak in Tibet. And let’s not forget bone marrow in China and lardo in Italy. (Delicious!) But I have to admit, the most fun I’ve ever had eating was in San Sebastián. This foodie mecca is home to two of the best restaurants in the world, but what we were after were the pinxtos, the Basque version of tapas. The old quarter is filled with pinxtos bars, dozens lining every street, all attempting to entice you with an array of these taste bites lining the counters.

IMG_0474On our first night we followed our feelings as my Italian would say, or was it our eyes and mouths. And with each bar a glass of rioja or local cider. In less than 24 hours I was hooked!

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Day two we did a little research and discovered that our feelings, and palates, had led us well. The eating adventures continued as we were determined to try as many pinxtos bars as possible.

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By day three, we had eaten at nearly a dozen pinxtos bars, drank many a glass of local wine, over-indulged in calamari and octopus and I even convinced my Italian to try pigs ears. It being our last day, we decided to return to our favorite bars. For those planning a trip to San Sebastián (which I highly recommend for anyone who loves to eat) here is the list of pinxtos bars that will keep us coming back. I’m already looking forward to the next trip!

Bar Zeruko : most innovative and experimental of the pinxtos bars

Atari Gastroteka : the gastronomic version of pinxtos

Borda Berri + La Cuchara de San Telmo : pinxtos made fresh to order (both run by same owner)

Bar Sport : don’t let the name of lack of ambiance fool you!

La Viña : home to the best cheesecake in the world!

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The only rule to remember when pinxtos bar-hopping, the more napkins on the floor, the better!

a work of art

My ideal holiday includes good art and gourmet food. Simple, no? When we decided to embark on adventures in the Basque Country, I knew there would be plenty of both. Our first stop on this whirlwind weekend away was Bilbao, which means the Guggenheim. I had dreamed of visiting this Frank Gehry masterpiece since it’s inauguration in 1997. Finally, it was time.

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I was in awe as we reached the museum, it’s scale-like facade illuminated beneath a cloudy sky.

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Every angle of the grand edifice uniquely reflecting the light.

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Anish Kapoor’s impressive Tall Tree & The Eye standing tall, and observing keenly.

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Jeff Koons’ Tulips filled the outdoor space with color.

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Throughout the day, as the light changed, so too did the reflections.

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One of the most interesting pieces was Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, a larger than life spider.

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What made me the happiest was Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time, a permanent installation of eight sculptures by this artist whose work I have admired for years. What luck to find him in Bilbao!

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Ernesto Neto, a Brazilian artist, was new to me. I enjoyed experiencing his work, quite literally.

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Yoko Ono too, was a featured artist, along with her wishing tree. Yes, we made a few wishes!

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We spent most of the day within and around this museum, itself a work of art. Unforgettable.

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But it was now time for San Sebastián, or Donostia to the locals. The beach and pinxtos awaited…

Naples top 5

Everyone loves Italy, the food, the people, the easy going feeling… But when it comes to Naples, what I consider ‘real Italy‘, those who haven’t yet ventured to this city in the south are often fearful of it. It is really so dangerous I wondered? Will I get mugged upon landing and should I even bring a camera? Shortly after moving to Paris my Italian and I took a trip to Naples and Capri, a perfect contrast of dark and light. At once, I became enamored with the chaos and vitality of Naples, or was it the food? My Italian promised that we would return. Finally, almost 4 years later, we did.

IMG_8409This time we were joined by our friends Suzanne and Jeremy, armed with a list of Napolitan specialties both sweet and savory. We headed directly to our hotel in the Spanish Quarter, an area braved by few, hidden within narrow streets. And there began our adventure, and my Naples top 5.

IMG_8741#1: GET LOST. The city is composed of a maze of streets, and getting lost is par for the course.

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#2: WALK TO THE TOP. Along the coast we passed the Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle) and headed up to the Certosa di San Martino (Carthusian Monastery), perched atop the Vomero hill. There we discovered a museum with a vast collection opf Spanish and Bourbon era artifacts, as well as some of the finest Nativity scenes in the world.

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The views from there was breathtaking, highlighted by majestic Mount Vesuvius.

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#3: LEARN HISTORY. On our first trip to Naples we spent an afternoon at Pompeii. On this trip, we decided to explore the lesser known and smaller, but equally important, Ercolano (Herculaneum).

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Part two of our history lesson was spent at the National Archaeological Museum, the most important in all of Italy.

IMG_8699#4: EAT! This perhaps being the most important of the 5, being in the city where pizza originated. And where to find the pizza to top them all? At Da Michele. Trust me.

10003942_10154027585470254_1636954526295859952_nSome of my favorite local spots in the Spanish Quarter being Antica Capri and Hosteria Toledo.

IMG_8417And then there is the coffee and sweets… La Sfogliatella Mary being the best for local specialties.

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#5: SHOP. Naples is famous for it’s tailors, thus making it an ideal shopping destination for the stylish man, more so than for women. My Italian bought a new wardrobe, I bought lingerie.

IMG_8764It was a memorable three days in a city that leaves an impression, and keeps you coming back.

art{ist} collecting

These days, while I visit Paris museums and galleries, admiring the masters, I’m also on the hunt for art and artists with which to decorate my home. During my around the world travels, it was often undiscovered artists that caught my eye, a lacquer painting by a local artist from the village of Hoi An in Vietnam (see below), or a Chilean artist whose work I became enamored with in Santiago. And then there was the Brazilian sculptor  in Olinda… and thus began my art collection.

art from Hoi AnSince I don’t currently travel to these remote lands, I search online. Most recently I discovered incredible abstract drawings by artists from around the world, from a favorite London based gallery, Saatchi! Not to mention paintings by talented emerging artists. A few of my favorites…

nr 185:2 by Hennie Van De Landenr 185/2 by Henni Van de Lande of Breda, Netherlands

Lovers by Jarek Puczel Lovers by Jarek Puczel of Olsztyn, Poland

abstract N 632 [emerald green] by Koen Lybaertabstract N° 632 [emerald green] by Koen Lybaert of Geel, Antwerp, Belgium

Through the international site Etsy, I’ve also discovered two artists whose work I admire, one of them a Danish girl living in Paris, and the other a Dutch artist based in Rotterdam.

ArtyGryParisSpringtime by Rikke Clausen of Copenhagen, Denmark

Ronald HunterBlue and White Buildings by Ronald Hunter of Rotterdam, Netherlands

The only problem now remains, which artist to add to my collection?

adventures in the keys

Admittedly, I’ve seen much more of the world than of my own homeland. My dream of driving cross-country to experience what is truly America remains to be realized. One day. For the time being my American adventures remain in New York and Florida with family and friends. During our recent trip to the Sunshine State, we did have the good fortune to take a mini road trip to the Florida Keys, along with my mom and her husband, final destination Key West.

IMG_5166Our first stop after nearly 3 hours of driving was just past Key Largo, which left much to be desired with it’s multitudinous strip malls and pharmacy’s, a kitschy fish restaurant in Islamorada. Savouring the catch of the day (and not thinking too much about which day it was actually caught), we continued on our way until we reached our destination for the night in nearby Marathon.

IMG_5224 Our secluded refuge was Tranquility Bay Resort, also home to the iguanas.

IMG_5232And tranquil it was, surrounded by clear blue stillness.

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That evening we experienced a magical sunset along the 7-mile bridge… that alone worth the drive.

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And still in time to sit beneath the glowing sky with a bottle of French wine.

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The following morning we got back on the road, crossed the infamous bridge and made our way to Key West. First stop, Hemingway’s House. Not to mention his cats, all 45 of them.

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Here is one of the 6-toed wonders, drinking from a urinal Hemingway ‘installed’ in his garden.

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We also explored the infamous brothel Blue Heaven, where Hemingway spent many an evening.

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After carousing the scenic town and indulging in key lime pie like proper tourists, we headed south.

IMG_5614To the southernmost tip of the USA. Last stop before the long drive home.

IMG_5697Guided by the setting sun alongside the historic Bahia Honda Rail Bridge… filled with memories.

escape to Japan

Who says Florida only offers palm trees, sandy beaches and shopping malls? On our recent trip to visit my mom, we discovered a little piece of paradise, Japanese style. And we LOVE Japan!

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George S. Morikami arrived to the United States from Japan in 1906, to work as a pineapple farmer. He was one of the last surviving members of the Yamato Colony that settled west of Delray Beach at the turn of the century. It is thanks to Mr. Morikami, for his donation of 140 acres of land to the state of Florida, that the memory of him and his people lives on. Visiting the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens gracefully transports you to another world.

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Upon these grounds you feel free.

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With rock gardens in which to ponder life’s mysteries.

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And a museum in which to transport yourself to Japan.

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Or perhaps best to sit and contemplate.

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Surrounded by bonsai trees.

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expressive art

What is a trip to New York City without a visit to one of the many impressive museums or galleries? Since my Italian had never been to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, and one of my favorite spaces, the Guggenheim Museum, there we spent a chilly but inspired afternoon.

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Just in time to catch the last days of the Christopher Wool exhibition.

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Wool, an artist from Chicago who began his career in NYC in the 1980’s, developed an art style that used language as his subject matter. A fan of his work, I found these pieces most thought provoking.

IMG_4917Rendering a word or phrase in bold, blocky stencils arrayed across a geometric grid, he preserved the specific form and order of the language, but freely stripped out punctuation, disrupted conventional spacing, and removed letters.

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The resulting compositions oscillate between verbal communication & pure formalism, with their structural dissonance reflecting the state of anxiety & agitation conjured by the texts themselves.

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IMG_4844Next stop for Wool, the Pompidou? I can think of a few French words and expressions…

New York minutes

This year we decided to brave the cold and ring in the early days of 2014 at home in New York City.

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What good it does me to walk these streets, feel the energy, catch up with the lives of dear friends…

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As cold as it was, with a blizzard on the way, we loved sharing these minutes with New York.

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The Freedom Tower standing tall.

Pop Art bag goes to NYC

And art around every corner. Next stop the Guggenheim…

Discover another Paris

Little did I know how much I would grow to love my neighborhood of the North Marais. I’ve witnessed it’s evolution over the last four years, from low-key neighborhood bordering the historic Marais, to trendy hotspot frequented by Parisians and expats alike. When KLM and iFly Magazine approached me to host their segment on Paris, naturally I was honored, and it was the Haute Marais that I was eager to share with their millions of viewers. After all, they were looking for little secrets of Paris, as can only be shared by a local, and the North Marais holds many!

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The crew and I spent two days shooting beneath a mix of clouds and sunshine, and what fun it was!

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By the end of the filming, I felt even more like a Paris local, and proudly so. I introduced viewers to some of my favorite spots in the North Marais, we explored the largest antique market in the world, Marché aux Puces StOuen, stopped to admire the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson at his Fondation… and of course enjoyed a rendezvous with my Italian. It wouldn’t be Paris without a little romance, would it?

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I’m very excited to share this video with you, dear readers. Et voilà, Discover another Paris! You may also find my Paris tour on your next cross-continental flight with KLM… Or perhaps a travel show?

 

supporting the small

Today is Small Business Saturday, the day following the largest shopping day in America. Even prior to starting my own handbag business I always tried to support small enterprises, those with the courage, passion and drive to start a venture of their own. One such Paris-based, chic, eco-conscious scarf company I recently learned about is Krama Heritage. Here’s a little background.

The Krama, which has been traditionally worn in Cambodia for centuries, is the Khmers’ belonging sign and a very useful scarf in their everyday life. For us, it’s the best way to develop a social project in Cambodia: all our Kramas are woven by a cooperative of weavers in fair trade conditions and, for each Krama purchased, we hand out €3 to the Non Governmental Organization Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (For a Child’s Smile).

Krama Heritage

Launched 11 months ago, these unisex scarves are making a statement around the world. I share one with my Italian, and each time he or I wear it I think of Cambodia and it’s people. Having been to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh during my travels, and meeting the locals, I know how greatly such a business can benefit it’s people. Bravo to Krama Heritage for thinking globally and acting locally!

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On our recent trip to Bruges, a little piece of Cambodia proudly accompanied us.

Find out more about Krama Heritage on their website and Facebook page.

And thank you for supporting small business!

Venice of the North

Bruges, or Brugge as the locals call it, is considered Venice of the North. Where better to sneak away for a surprise romantic weekend with my Italian? I secretly made all the arrangements months in advance, and with only a few minor obstacles, just as the leaves were changing into spectacular shades of browns and reds, and the chill of winter lingered in the air, we boarded the train. A short 2-hour ride to discover this UNESCO World Heritage city in Belgium’s Flemish Northwest.

IMG_6174Home was a welcoming regal 15th Century Palace, once the residence of the Burgundian aristocracy.

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Bruges greeted us with a cloudy sky and the promise of rain, setting the mood as explorations began.

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We were both struck with the city’s architecture. Elegant brick buildings set upon tranquil canals.

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We did our best to avoid the crowds and chose any side streets we could find, following the sun.

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To get a better look at the city from above, we climbed the 366 steps of the historic Belfry Tower.

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A view to savour as the ancient clock tower chimed all around us.

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We also enjoyed an impressive view from the rooftop of the last remaining brewery, De Halve Maan.

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What’s a trip to Belgium without a chocolate tasting? After trying quite a few, I favored Dumon.

IMG_3848Having taken quite a few weekend escapes since living in Paris, Bruges was one of my favorites. It’s inhabitants friendly, it’s range of dining options impressive (In’t Nieuw Museum is a must for a real local experience) and the scenery spectacular. There are quite a few museums and galleries too, satisfying all the senses. Weekend in Bruges, a success!

come to the edge

Some of the most interesting and inspiring people, I’ve met along the path of travel. Through our shared affinity for culture and adventure, our lives converge, in a place often unexpected. This was the case with Christina Haag during our recent journey to Serifos, Greece. Via my latest fascination with instagram (obsession is a strong word) I discovered another New Yorker on the island and we met for a local rakomelo. I immediately took a liking to this warm and engaging woman who had in the weeks preceding our visit, made this island her temporary home. Most of the tourists had left for Athens or their respective cities, leaving us time to enjoy what often felt like a private island.

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One of the most memorable days in Serifos was spent with Christina and my Italian, light and happy, dining in a taverna overlooking a serene beach. It was there, along the banks of Platys Gialos that Christina shared her stories with me, and I with her. We spoke freely about life and love, our shared passion for Greece, New York, the Hamptons, travel. We spent the early evening driving along the scenic roads, often stopping to admire a view, with Christina as our guide. A few dinners and many conversations followed, we even joined her for a Panagyria festival with the locals.

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Christina’s life read much like a book, and I was pleased to learn that she had recently written a memoir. Come to the Edge reminisces on a life of privilege in old New York City, her successes and trials as an actress, and a five year long love affair with John F. Kennedy Jr. A life lived with passion.

Christina's book

From Serifos to Paris, Christina’s stories continued as I lost myself in the soulful words of her memoir. I felt as though I were living these experiences myself, and could not stop reading. I was reminded of our conversations, of how she felt compelled to tell her story, rightfully so, spending months writing in the Hamptons, long after her dear friend and great love’s life had tragically ended.

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Christina lives by her heart. For this, I admire her, and feel grateful to have shared our own chapter.

Christina Haag-profileChristina is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky reader. To enter, follow Christina Haag on Facebook and tell us your favorite quote on love or life, below. (Random winner will be announced on November 15th, good luck!) You can also follow Christina on Twitter and Instagram. Incidentally, for those in Paris, there’s an exhibition about the Kennedy family going on until November 30th.

Within you, your years are growing. – Pablo Neruda

 

art in the park

Traveling from Paris to London via Eurostar takes just as much time as traveling from New York City to my home in Westhampton Beach via LIRR. With a commute of just over 2 hours, whenever London calls, I answer. My latest chunnel journey was in search of fabrics. While in Londontown there was much going on in the art world (good timing!). In addition to a Paul Klee exhibition at the Tate Modern, followed by a chance Paul McCartney concert in Covent Garden (have I mentioned that timing is everything?), one of my highlights was an afternoon spent at the Frieze Masters.

IMG_2509Many great works to be found within the tents of Regent’s Park.

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Some of the most interesting artworks I discovered in the park itself. Looks like fabric!

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This piece reminded me of Richard Serra, whom I adore.

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Was most impressed by this larger than life face, changing as you moved around it.

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Reflecting on the artful day.

IMG_2559To accompany the art tour, the sun shone brightly. A perfect day in the park.

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fit for a king

A few weeks ago a dear family friend was in town. Since she’s already seen much of Paris, I planned a day of historic elegance in a landscape not too far away. We boarded a bus on an overcast morning, and soon arrived to the legendary, and now private estate, Château de Vaux le Vicomte.

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Here began our adventure into the life of Nicolas Fouquet, who created this 17th century castle.

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This majestic masterpiece was a collaboration between architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun and the landscape gardener André Le Nôtre. A ‘home and garden’ to be admired by all.

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Yet the story behind Monsieur Fouquet and his château is a unique and tragic one.

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In brief, after throwing a lavish party in his new home, Fouquet was arrested by Louis XIV (who had plotted against him out of jealousy), and spent his remaining days behind bars, unlawfully so.

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In the famous words of Voltaire, “On 17 August at 6 in the evening, Fouquet was King of France; at 2 in the morning, he was nobody”.

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As we wandered the château and landscape, the gray sky set a sobering mood. At once in awe and aghast at the history lesson upon us. Certainly a castle fit for a king, perhaps even too much so.

lost in translation

London is a city close to my heart. The first European city I fell in love with, which became my home as a student, and the stage where my parents so serendipitously met. When I discovered a company providing bus service from Paris to London, (and giving away tickets) I had to investigate further, and share with my readers living in Paris. Who wouldn’t love to spend a little time with the Brits?

Cleverly, iDBUS came up with a list of English sayings that become lost in translation when converted to French. (I know this all too well living in Paris with an Italian and being a fan of British humour.) To enter the contest and win 2 round trip tickets from Paris to London (or vice versa), leave your funniest ‘lost in translation’ story on the iDBUS Facebook Page and feel free to share them with me too! Here, some examples to inspire you…

Winner will be chosen end of day October 1st. Good luck!

Lost in Translation by iDBUS

island hopping in Greece: Milos

Our last stop on this grand island hopping adventure, was Milos. I knew little about this island other than it possessed gorgeous beaches and dramatic landscapes, soon to be discovered. We decided to settle in the small yet lively village of Polonia, not only charming but quite the foodie haven!

IMG_0656 Our first stop, a place my Italian knew from a previous visit and was eager to show me, was a lunar landscape called Sarakiniko. Here began my love affair with Milos.

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One of the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen, volcanic rocks shaped by wind and waves.

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The next day we decided to be proper tourists and see it all by taking a catamaran around the island.

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The journey began with the vibrantly colored village of Klima, only reachable by boat.

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At many a hidden beach we would stop and swim, snorkel, take in the island’s unique beauty.

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Never before had I swam in such crystal clear waters! This was the uninhabited island of Poliegos.

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The ever changing colors were reminiscent of paintings by artists like Cy Twombly.

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We left one paradise and discovered another. Each more spectacular than the last.

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And to swim within these landscapes, in and out of the caves… a surreal experience!

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We both agreed this was one of the most memorable day we spent in Greece. And there were many.

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Our last sunset, from a scenic spot appropriately named Utopia, with a promise to return.

island hopping in Greece: Serifos

As anyone who has traveled around the Greek islands knows, you must plan your island hopping well, as boats tend to be infrequent. Years ago in Fourni, no boat arrived or left for three days due to rough seas. All part of the adventure! In order to make our way to Serifos in the western Cyclades, we had to stop at Paros, but decided to explore the smaller island of Antiparos instead.

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After discovering what proved to be a charming village with chic boutiques, (ideal for my bags), we boarded an early morning boat for Serifos, less touristic and more off the beaten path. Perfect.

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 What’s most unique and spectacular about Serifos (though each island possesses it’s own unique charm) it that the Hora (main village) sits high above the island, at once dramatic and regal.

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With a car in tow, we began to explore the island, enjoying the views from the Hora to the port.

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And what did we find when we drove down the long windy roads with barely a sign or soul around?

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Remote beaches boasting crystal clear waters, surrounded by natural cliffs. Truly a paradise found!

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It was at this church at Agios Sostis, that we joined the locals for a religious festival, a Panageria.

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What greatly adds to the feeling of Greece are the tavernas serving fresh seafood. Simple pleasures.

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We happily spent one week in Serifos and were sorry when it came time to part. But Milos awaited…

island hopping in Greece: Koufonisia

It’s not easy to capture the feeling of Greece, but I will try my best to share these two magical weeks. Hence my absence, I was happily lost in the Greek Isles. As those who read my blog know, Greece is close to our hearts. It’s one of my Italian’s preferred destinations, (he has been to over 15 islands in the Cyclades, and I to 10.) This is also where he proposed, and where we spent our honeymoon.

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Our third island-hopping adventure landed us in Mykonos. We boarded the first boat to Koufonisia, part of the smaller Cyclades and what is becoming a hotspot among Greeks and foreigners alike.

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It is here we discovered gorgeous beaches, each with it’s own taverna, all within walking distance.

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And the views? This was our morning breakfast spot. Heaven!

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The island is small and we got to know it (and love it) in only three days. Unlike most of the islands, no car or motorbike is needed, and boats or buses transport you from port to beach, or to an uninhabited island which we also visited. The people of Koufonisia are known to be some of the most hospitable in Greece, and the food was a perfect mix of freshly caught seafood and fine dining.

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It was not easy to say goodbye, but the paradise called Serifos awaited…

wine country

Having just returned to an empty Paris, I am filled with visions and tastes of Italy. Surprise adventures began as we boarded the plane, enroute to Turin but unaware of the final destination. What was my Italian up to I wondered? With map in hand I tried to search for the secret spot in which we would celebrate. Several hours of suspense along the open road, with nothing but vineyards in sight… And then it dawned on me.

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We were entering the Piedmonte region, land of some of the best wines in Italy.

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Our home was a charming agriturismo near Barbaresco, with views, vines and of course, local wines.

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We explored the region, stopping to admire the views, and taste the local delicacies. Spectacular!

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The following day our adventure began in the village of Grinzane Cavour.

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Shouldn’t everyone spend their birthday at a castle?

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In Barolo, we indulged in a wine tasting and met with one of my oldest friends from the Hamptons. What a perfect setting in which to meet! But it wasn’t until dinner that the real wining began.

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We entered a michelin starred restaurant boasting a breathtaking view, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Was this all an illusion? By far one of the most memorable meals, and days, of my life. From the first glass of prosecco to the trumpet serenade. I will forever look back, and smile.

viva Italia!

Anyone who knows my Italian (or reads this blog) know’s he’s a romantic, and like me, loves to travel. He also loves to plan surprise romantic escapes. Yes, I chose well! For the last few years my birthday was spent in Italy, destination unknown, until we arrived. A few years ago it was a charming agriturismo in Tuscany… and last year hiking in the Dolomites. Both adventures I smile upon. Once again this year, we are enroute to Italy to celebrate. I’ve never before so much looked forward to my birthday! I suspect we are heading south, but haven’t a clue where. Any ideas? Wherever it is, July 29th will certainly be a day to remember!

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After our journey to places yet unknown, we are heading to Monterosso, home on the riviera. You can follow my adventures via instagram and I promise to post photos as soon as I can. Until then, wishing you all a wonderful summer wherever you are in the world!

time travel

As many times as I’ve stepped onto an airplane, crossing a continent, it never ceases to amaze me how in mere hours you can be transported through time, or so it feels. Most recently I flew from Pisa, near Monterosso where my Italian and I spent the weekend with his family and friends…

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…to New York City, to visit my family and friends. From what felt like the past, to the future.

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Could there be any two places on the earth more different yet equally loved? Yes, certainly there are. But these are mine. Two very distinct and disparate parts of the world I call home. One for it’s calm and beauty, and one for it’s energy and innovation. And both for their culture. Not to mention all the other parts of the world that became home even for a brief moment. Ah yes, and then there’s Paris…

flying carpet

One of my creative passions (other than designing bags) is decorating. Finding just the right furniture and accessories to fill the space and create a home. Since moving to our new apartment, this is exactly what I have been doing. With the approval of my Italian, of course. (Thankfully, he usually agrees with my taste.) In need of a carpet for the living room I thought why not find one in Istanbul? And with the help of our local friends during our recent visit, that is exactly what we did.

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Rather than brave the Grand Bazaar with the tourists, Emre took us to the street of rugs. And there began our hunt for the perfect piece to complete our Parisian mid-century modern salon.

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The friendly sales people, who were busy mending a carpet when we entered, were more than pleased to help us, having many options of traditional woven kilims as well as patchwork rugs.

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We were shown dozens of rugs, mostly the patchwork style which I had quickly fallen in love with for it’s ancient yet modern allure. And then the bargaining began… Which was the chosen rug?

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An elegant black and white patchwork, that fits perfectly with our decor, and is the best souvenir we could have brought home. I knew this was our rug as soon as I saw it, but what fun to experience running around the carpet stores! Now perhaps a trip to Morocco for a lamp?

love in the city of spices

If I moved to Istanbul, this is what I would call my blog, love in the city of spices. Or perhaps love of the city of spices, as this is a city that I have a great fondness for,  and cannot even begin to describe exactly why. Istanbul is a place that must be experienced from the inside, with it’s rich history and rapid modernization. Certainly a cultural mecca. But alas, my story is being written in Paris, and it is my dear friend Karen (with whom I have shared many an adventure in our 20 years of friendship) that is living beneath the minarets.

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My first visit to Istanbul had been during my year of travel, I ran around the city in a daze, completely taken with the sights, sounds and tastes. On that trip I woke up in Asia and spent my days in Europe. This transcontinental life can only be possible in Istanbul.

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On this trip, my Italian’s first to Istanbul, we were lucky to be in the company of Karen and her husband (and two darling Turkish-American daughters). Emre, being a part-time professional tour guide, gave us a tour to remember. From the Blue Mosque to the Hagia Sophia, to the Grand Bazaar to the Spice Market, with many secret stops along the way.  What better introduction?

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The interior of the Hagia Sophia is a sight to behold, with a ceiling of gold.

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On my last visit, I barely stepped foot in the Topkapi Palace. On this trip we spent hours exploring this, the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for around 400 years. Enchanting!

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But it was the time with friends that provided the most memories. Many a night was spent over dinner with a view, catching up on our lives in two very unique and contrasting cities.

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And it was with Karen and Emre that we traveled from Europe to Asia.

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Dinner with a view.

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So much more to see, feel and taste! Already we are looking forward to the next visit…

alpine adventures

Growing up, I used to dance ballet, play tennis, go horseback riding and play the piano, all privileged and pleasurable activities. But never did I learn to ski. My family was not the type to take winter holidays to the mountains, rather we would go to Europe to visit with family in the summer months. I never thought I was missing much until as an adult I began to hear stories about the high of the mountains, feeling the crisp air while admiring the panoramic views. What was this feeling exactly? While still living in NYC I ventured up to Hunter mountain to find out. Though it wasn’t until this past week that I experienced the true bliss that can only be felt soaring down the slopes on a pair of skis, slowly and cautiously in my case. And needless to say, terrified. But determined.

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We arrived to Alpe di Siusi, high up in the Dolomites, on a chilly evening, and woke up to the same view from our hiking adventure in August. Only this time the mountain hues were whites and blues, seeming to change by the hour.

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On overcast afternoons, the snow, mountains and sky would melt together into a blanket of white.

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It was upon these slopes, the less intimidating ones, that I put on my skis, as awkward as it felt, ignored the knots in my stomach, listened attentively to my ski instructor and became a skier.

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The first two days I did my best, counting the hours until it was time for our evening sauna.

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On the third day, having fallen a few times and mastering the smallest slopes, with the support of a friend I made my way down from our hotel at the very top of the hill. I was still in snow plow position but able to turn, rather gracefully I might add. I smiled as my body began to feel in control.

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Finally, I understood. I felt that high that is unique to gliding down a snow covered mountain.

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On our last day the sun shone brightly and it was hard to say goodbye. Until next time…

Marais à la mode

On my many past visits to Paris, it wasn’t the scholarly air of the Latin Quarter or the history of Montparnasse that captured my heart, or even the chic appeal of Saint-Germain, though I appreciated and admired these districts to no end. It was undoubtedly the cobbled streets and charm of the Marais, untouched by Baron Haussmann, that always felt like home. And so it became.

Kasia Dietz-Lonely PlanetNow, over three years since I call the Marais my home, or NoMa (North Marais) as I refer to it, I have officially become a local. How do I know this? It’s as clear as the words on a page. I’m honored to be featured in the latest Lonely Planet Paris, my most revered and respected of guide books. Traveling all over the world with these books tucked safely in my bag, little did I ever think I’d be included within their pages. As a local handbag designer no doubt. (Also mentioned on pg 315) This is so terribly exciting!

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In more good news, the Marais will continue to be called home for much time to come. My Italian and I have recently embarked on a new project, (also called searching for real estate in Paris), and after viewing over 50 apartments within 6 months and beginning to lose faith, we finally found our nest! And in NoMa of all places, exactly where we wanted to remain. More news on project nest in the weeks ahead… These days there is much to celebrate!

36 hours in Lille

I decided to visit Lille on a whim, to meet a dear friend and her 5 month old baby who were traveling via Eurostar from London. What better place for a rendezvous, a city I knew little about, and a place often referred to for it’s history and art. Only one hour by train yet worlds away.

Upon arrival, I forgot that I was in France. The locals of Lille are a friendly people, and the architecture of the old city reminded me much of Brussels, regal and replete with color. I was free of the gray hues of Paris and reveled in this change of scene. Much time was spent exploring these charming cobbled streets, which even a stroller could manage.

Though Lille is the only city in France where beer versus wine is the drink of choice, we skipped both and headed for tea and waffles at Charles de Gaulle’s favorite spot, Meert. This tearoom-sweets-shop which served kings and generals since 1761 is a must! I even took a few gaufres to go…

Somehow lunch followed dessert. It is next door to Lille, in the town of Croix, where the famous boulangerie and patisserie Paul first opened it’s doors, just over 120 years ago. Still a hotspot!

The rain prolonged our explorations of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, housing impressive collections of 19th century art. Well worth a rainy afternoon, this being the largest museum outside of Paris.

The following day the sun joined us, leading the way to the charming Rue de Gand where many an estaminet, a traditional Flemish eatery, was found. It was here where we enjoyed our best meal, in the company of the friendly French. 36 hours very well spent, in a city that pleasantly surprised.

sweet harvest

This time of year I look forward to the grape harvest in Italy. My first real experience paying homage to the grape was two years ago, and still I drink the wine in memory of those days. This year the harvest was not as plentiful, but my Italian and I set to work and picked every grape we could find.

We decided we would make the local sweet wine, Sciacchetrà, made of select, dried grapes. A real delicacy, and my favorite domestic wine from the Cinque Terre region.

The views alone were reason alone to tangle my way through the vines.

We set the 50 kilos of grapes to dry on a metal net and covered them. In six weeks time the dried grapes would be pressed, natural fermentation would take place, the wine would be filtered, and voilà! Ready to be savoured during the Christmas holidays, to compliment a good dessert.

Cheers to the best Sciacchetrà of Cinque Terre!

city of history

Some of my fondest memories as a child are feeding the pigeons on the main square in Krakow. I always felt well amidst the charm of this city, even during those many years of Communism, when my young mind struggled to make sense of all the disparities. Each trip to visit my family in Sanok included a stop at this city, the place of my mom’s Alma Mater. On my last visit to Poland I returned, though now I do my best to avoid the pigeons. I still love to wander the winding streets and visit my old haunts. Or simply sit at one of the many terraced cafes and watch the world go by.

This former capital of Poland was miraculously saved during World War II, and here now lies much of Poland’s rich historical, cultural and intellectual splendor. As is evident around every corner.

I caroused the thriving, creatively inspired and very much bohemian neighborhood of Kazimierz, which remains one of the most culturally significant Jewish areas in the world.

Hidden courtyards off the main square were explored, revealing charming bed and breakfasts, this one run by a family friend, aptly named Antique Apartments. (My next home away from home!)

I took a long walk across a newly built pedestrian bridge, decorated with love locks just like in Paris!

As much of the world as I have seen, and have yet to see, I will always welcome a return to this vista.

open air history

During my recent trip to Sanok, the town where my mother grew up and where I spent many childhood summers, we took a trip to one of the largest open air museums. Skansen museum, established in 1958, recreates 19th and early 20th century life in this region of Poland. You begin to understand the simplicity and often the hardship of life so many years ago. Along with our tour guide, and my mom who herself studied ethnography, we explored this long forgotten world.

The tour begins with a replica of a Galician town square from the second half of the 19th century.

A historic tailor shop and pharmacy…

Even a horologist, with quite a sense of humor.

Each section features an ethnic group who lived in the region prior to the post-WWII resettlements.

As I walked in and around these dwellings, I imagined the lives that once inhabited them.

Amidst the homes and churches we discovered elaborately sculpted bee urns.

There too was an exhibition of long lost Jewish treasures, some of the few that remain.

Within the stillness of Skansen, I better understood the history of this part of the world.

mountain escape

This year my Italian planned an unimaginable birthday getaway. Nothing like the surprise trip of two years ago in Tuscany. From Paris we flew to Verona, and drove North, the air more fresh and the scenery more spectacular as the elevation rose. Still, I hadn’t a clue as to our final destination.

The drive was long and winding, until finally the mountains settled upon us.

We drove on until we reached what was to become our home… and our view.

Alpe di Suisi. High up in the Dolomites, elevation of over 2,000 meters. Breathtaking!

Time now to relax and enjoy the views? Not exactly. My Italian had other plans. Ready, set… hike!

And hike we did. My birthday was spent at a height of over 2,500 meters, feeling very accomplished!

The day concluded with a lengthy sauna and gourmet dinner. On all accounts, the perfect birthday.

The next day, feeling rather ambitious, we decided to hike an even greater mountain, Monte Pez.

After nearly 3 hours, we reached Rifugio Bolzano, 2457 meters high, and a well deserved lunch.

I will fondly recall these days spent in the mountains, for many years to come. Forever grateful.

summer celebrations

These days I have much to celebrate. Even simply the path that led me to the city of lights. It’s now nearing 3 years since my move to Paris and the start of my blog, which came to life shortly before that. And inevitably I’m soon to be another year older, on July 29th to be exact. Since Leos love to celebrate, and my Italian knows this well, he has planned a surprise birthday adventure. Four days exploring an unknown landscape. Where, I haven’t a clue, and I am happy not to know. Soon the adventure begins…

For the rest of our time away, I will be sitting beneath the shade of these umbrellas, on the beaches of Monterosso, staring at the sea. Celebrating all that I am grateful for.

lardo di Colonnata

A trip to the marble mountains wouldn’t be complete without a stop to Colonnata, the ancient village which lies in the midst of marble at the feet of the Apuan Alps.

It is not simply this white stone that the village is know for, but another white delicacy called Lardo di Colonnata, pork fat. Having no intention of tasting this particularity, I went in search of gelato.

Needless to say, in this part of Italy, I was limited to savory, not sweet.

As we explored the village beneath the summer sun, we sought shelter at an enoteca. Very innocently the owner asked us if we’d like a little tasting. Of lardo, of course. Well, just once…

Not only was this buttery delicacy mouth-watering, but we were given a lesson in it’s making. Lardo is created by curing strips of fatback with rosemary and other herbs and spices, where it lies beneath marble for many months. Did we order more, with 2 glasses of wine to compliment? But of course!

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this local specialty. Not something to eat often, but if you’re a meat eater, certainly something to try at least once. It’s worth a trip up to the mountains!

marble mountains

Do mountains made of marble really exist? But of course. Naturally, in Italy, where most surreal beauty seems to originate. I have observed these white tipped mountain peaks many a time enroute to Monterosso. But it was just recently that I had a chance to explore them up close. The same marble that so many years earlier Michelangelo hand selected for his sculptures.

It was a spontaneous trip. We drove and drove… into the white of Cararra.

Alone on the road. The majesty of the mountains became ours to savour.

Even a few chipped pieces of marble became ours to save. Next stop, Colonnata….

lost in Normandy

Several weeks ago my Italian and I decided to explore the coast of Normandy, beginning (with umbrellas) in Cherbourg. At the exact spot where the Titanic left port exactly 100 years prior.

Guided by a rainbow beneath a gray sky, our adventure began.

Our last trip to Normandy was to the D Day beaches and Honfleur. This was quite a different experience, as we were soon to discover.

Alone on the open road, with only the cows to provide direction.

Until we reached a view that left us speechless.

Still without food and shelter we drove along many an empty street until we reached our gastronomic haven. Along with which came a place to call home, just for the night.

The charm of Auderville was undeniable as we drove all along the coast to Barneville.

We even stopped to visit the home of poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert in Omonville-la-Petite.

What impressed me most of all were the landscapes.

One of the highest cliffs in Europe with views to eternity.

A terrain wild and uniquely beautiful. Reason enough to become lost in Normandy.

time away

Sometimes it’s important to disconnect and to live in the actual world. Versus the virtual. Those who are social media savvy know exactly what I mean! Feeling the need to connect myself with the living, in the form of my friends and family, I took off a few weeks and flew to New York.

First stop, my favorite place of carousing and chaos… Soho! Freedom tower in the distance.

Many of our days in New York City, with my Italian in tow, were spent in central park, beneath the sun, picnicing with friends or lost within a heavenly gray mist.

I could not wait to explore my old neighborhood, the Lower East Side, bustling with creative energy on every corner. Once a downtown girl… always.

These last few weeks were filled with memories. Precious time spent with my mom, both in the countryside where I was raised and in the city. Copious amounts of culture in the form of ballet, theatre, art, food… THIS is the New York I miss. But in the end, when I ran from one rendezvous to the next, catching up on lives from across the sea, wondering how I had managed to live for so long is this frenetic city, it dawned on me. A city is indeed a composition of it’s offerings but, most importantly, it’s people. And many of these people remain very dear to me.

Already, I look forward to the next visit. While happy to call Paris home.

weekend away

I’m a great fan of surprises. Particularly when they have to do with travel. For a recent birthday my Italian surprised me with a trip to Tuscany. Now it was my turn. Where did I choose? The Loire of course, one of our favorite getaway destinations. Beneath a moody sky and through fields reminiscent of Rothko paintings, our journey began.

Until we reached our destination, Saumur. May the wine tasting begin!

A regal afternoon spent at the castle…

…overlooking the village.

With a trip to Cadre Noir to visit the horses.

Another memorable weekend amidst the vines. Until the next time…

following the sun

Adventures on the Italian Riviera continue. This time upwards. The sun was shining and we decided to follow it, all the way from Monterosso to Levanto, the neighboring village. A two-hour hike high above the calm of the sea and into the wild of the woods. Ready. Set. Go! A long way up…

Finally we arrived to the top. A moment of awe.

A slight detour into the remains of a historic church.

The journey continued into the woods…

Until we reached the other side, met by the setting sun.

Over two hours and many awes later, Levanto at dusk.

Now it was time to follow the moon.

village in color

My last visit to Vernazza was on a hike just a month prior to the flooding. I was afraid of what I would find on my recent return. This village, the favorite of Rick Steves, was devastated, it’s famously picturesque port completely buried. Just recently life has returned to Vernazza, still not nearly back to it’s glory. Much rebuilding remains in the months ahead.

What I was most pleasantly surprised to find were the painted doors. On January 6th, 50 artists were invited to paint one of the many boarded up doors, a mission called “Un Arcobaleno di Solidarietà per Vernazza” — A Rainbow of Solidarity for Vernazza. To bring hope back to this shattered village. In the spirit of community, and art.

A last look from above as the sun set through the clouds, Monterosso far off in the distance. A view that could leave you breathless. And certain that this village will rise again.

For more on aid and progress of Vernazza click here.

village reborn

On October 25th, 2011 Montorosso, one of the most charming and picturesque villages in Italy (yes, I’m slightly biased) experienced devastating flash floods. Over 20 inches of water poured from the sky in a matter of three hours, leaving the ground floor buried beneath mud and debris. Neighboring Vernazza suffered even more severely. The days following would never be forgotten.

My first trip back to Monterosso was during Christmas. My heart sank at the state of this once picture-perfect village. Already the hard work was well under way and sounds of opera filled the air as the local wine bar made a toast to the village. Resilience redefined. I returned again for Easter, my second Pasqua in Italy. What I discovered was a village reborn. Much like I remembered it.

The beach cleaned up, with several remaining boats resting upon it’s shores.

A street once ravished by the flood, bustling back to life.

The much frequented wine bar resting pre-aperitif hour.

A village in bloom, ready for the spring.

The famous pasticerria newly renovated and re-opened.

An acclaimed restaurant, ready again to serve it’s regional specialities. (Mmmm, pesto!)

The main road no longer concrete, but a mix of wooden planks and grates.

There remain parts of the village that have yet to come back to life. In time.

Crossing from the new part called Fegina, into the historic village, it’s difficult to imagine the scenes that took place just months earlier. The waters now calm and clear, the sun smiling down upon the growing numbers of tourists… a village filled with vitality. What the last 6 months have proven is the incredible strength and unity of a village and it’s people. Next stop… Vernazza.

Click here to find out more about Monterosso’s continued progress. Better yet, come to visit!