Paris of the East

Hungary’s capital city Budapest is often called the Paris of the East. Eager to discover it for myself, I booked a ticket and got ready to explore this beautiful city so rich in history and culture. My travel savvy step-sister joined for the adventure and we planned our short visit strategically. After a festive evening of Christmas markets and mulled wine, our morning was spent crossing from Pest to Buda. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is the first permanent bridge to connect both sides of the city via the Danube river.

From the end of Chain Bridge we rode the Buda Hill Funicular, in service since 1870 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  All the way up to Buda Castle Hill we enjoyed stunning views of the city, with plenty of photo ops.

Views of Budapest are even better seen from 100 year old Fishermen’s Bastion. With a fish market nearby, this bastion was built to commemorate the fishermen who protected this part of the city. Each of the seven tent-like turrets symbolizes one of the seven Hungarian tribes that arrived to the Carpathian Basin in 896.

Nearby Neo-Gothic Matthias Church is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Budapest, as well as the most unique in Europe. Built in 1015 and inspired by orientalism, it’s colorful  interior is breathtaking!

Back on the Pest side of the city, we stopped by the memorial ‘Shoes on the Danube River’ to pay our respects to the 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II.

The Hungarian Parliament Building is without a doubt one of the most regal buildings in Budapest, also the third largest Parliament building in the world. We took a tour of the interior as well, worth the visit.

That night we booked a tour of Budapest by night and enjoyed a history lesson as the city lit up before our eyes.

Day two was dedicated to bath houses and spas, beginning with Budapest’s most famous Széchenyi thermal bath. The largest medicinal bath in Europe, its water is supplied by two thermal springs, with temperatures of 74 °C and 77 °C.  What an experience, bathing with tourists and locals alike.

Our next stop was to Gellért, an art noveau thermal bath opened in 1918. Another must do in “the city of spas”. Here we soaked in indoor hot springs and I braved a few dips in the cold pool and indulged in the steam room.

Our last visit was to the Harmony Spa at Aria Hotel located in the city center. Where music is the theme throughout the hotel, we relaxed at the hands of skilled masseuses, the perfect ending to a day of wellness.

I couldn’t very well leave Budapest without a visit to the elegant New York Café. Often considered the “most beautiful coffee house in the world”, this is where writers and editors would meet to drink and dine. In 2006 it was restored to its original splendor, offering some of Budapest’s best cakes. Another top address for homemade cakes and chocolate is Gerbeaud, opened in 1858. The perfect spot to pick up a few sweet souvenirs. As for dining, our favorite gourmet restaurant was 10 year old family run Mák Bistro. Michelin star level!

Thank you Budapest, for the many memories of this Paris of the East! Aside from some of the taxi drivers who try to take you for a ride (not just in the literal sense), best to order a taxi online, it was a trip to remember!

Perfume Inspired by Travel

I possess a strong sense of smell and simply adore perfume, but only very select scents. For the last few years I’ve been wearing Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel. I wasn’t planning on changing my fragrance until a trip to Courchevel last March. Testing a few samples of a perfume I hadn’t heard of or smelt before, I became completely smitten with the notes of a particular scent, which rarely happens. This is how I discovered Memo.

Little did I know, it was the perfect setting in which to become acquainted with a perfume company started by a couple that met on a ski lift. Clara and John Molloy are both avid travelers, he from Ireland and she from Andalucia, Spain. Together they set off on a journey to create Memo, a collection of scents inspired by their adventures around the world.

Why perfume? Fragrance has the same rite-of-passage dimension as travel, serving as a threshold between the known and the unknown. Smelling, breathing in a scent, is accepting to leave a safety zone in search of new sensations, and tying them to one’s personal experience. Fragrance kindles an excitement similar to that of a journey, a departure. It is about openness and abandonment. As a fellow traveler, I couldn’t agree more.

After writing a book on “noses” in 2006, Clara embarked on a voyage through the olfactory senses and Memo was born in 2007. For the last decade, Memo’s Les Echappées collection has been inspired by journeys from Asia to Africa including Manoa, Hawaii, Marfa, Texas and Granada, Spain. The scent that won me over was Lalibela, inspired by the mystical land of Ethiopia. This unique fragrance, with key notes of rose, patchouli and frankincence now joins me in Paris, Monterosso, The Hamptons, or wherever my adventures take me.

Visiting their flagship store off of rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, I discovered all eighteen luxurious scents, the most recent being Eau de Memo, a commemorative fragrance celebrating the 10th anniversary of Memo Paris. Just as their perfumes are inspired by travel, so too do they travel, now being available all over the world.

The expression that best captures the spirit of Memo is “The journey is the destination”. A perfume after my own heart.

Sardinia Part Three : Bosa

Our last stop on this whirlwind week exploring Sardinia was the medieval town of Bosa, set on the Temo river. Little did I know that we saved the most picturesque for last. The palette of colors stretching before us was reminiscent of a Paul Klee painting, incidentally one of my favorite artists. With this kaleidoscopic view from our hotel room terrace, I was already smitten before even setting foot in the old town.

Mornings and late afternoons were spent lost amidst the maze of colorful streets, each building laden with its own wall of flowers. Streets were lined with recycled tomato cans converted into hand-painted flower pots.  The entire town blossomed beneath the mid-summer sun.




I became completely smitten with the attention to color and detail in this vibrant town. Truly a living painting!

Our last morning we walked up to the castle in the heat, seeking shade while admiring the views from above.


My favorite architecture in Bosa was this strip of pastel colored houses lining the river, once tanneries dating back to the 19th century. Now it seems, perfect for loftlike residences.

The colors of Bosa and the feeling of Sardinia would stay with me for a long time. At least until the next visit.

Sardinia Part Two : The Dunes

Our next destination was Sardinia’s west coast, called Costa Verde for its lush greenery. After making a few stops to explore the mainland and take several dips in the sea during what was in effect a heatwave, we arrived to our home in the dunes.

Sometimes life is most beautiful at its simplest. While I do love five-star luxury, this was a different type of star setting. We slept in what resembled a cabin with a view of the sea, dining on local cheese, bread and wine beneath a sky filled with stars. And if you looked closely enough you may just find one falling. We did.


In the morning we ran down to the sea for a swim on a completely deserted beach. THIS was paradise defined.

We spent the day on the beach taking shade beneath an umbrella and cooling off in the refreshing sea.

Night fell and with the setting sun we continued on to our last destination, one of Sardinia’s most picturesque.

Sardinia Part One : Carloforte

This year for my birthday at the end of July, a certain Italian planned a week in Sardinia. It would be my first time on this island, and his second. We flew into Cagliari, picked up a rental car, stopped by one of the magical beaches Sardinia is known for, and headed to our first destination, the island of San Pietro.

The only town on this island of 6,500 inhabitants is Carloforte. We settled in at charming hotel Villa Pimpina in the town’s center. Our room boasted a grand terrace with views of the town and the sea.


We were completely charmed by Carloforte’s maze of colorful streets and the warmth of its locals. My Italian even spoke with them in dialect. As it turns out, the Carlofortini are of Genovese descent, having arrived to San Pietro via Tunisia in 1738. With them they brought customs and foods from Genoa including focaccia and pesto. Surrounded by tastes of Liguria, we both felt very much at home!

Our mornings were spent exploring the town and mingling with the locals. Afternoons were spent discovering one of San Pietro’s many beaches. Every evening we enjoyed live music and performances in the main square. So much culture for such a small island! For dinner we feasted on tuna dishes, the island’s specialty. Tuna in more ways than I’ve ever imagined, including tuna lasagna, a fast favorite. The best tuna meals were had at Ristorante Da Andrea Osteria della Tonnara, where we even dined two nights in a row. Another favorite restaurant was Al Tonno Di Corsa.

Three days and many birthday celebrations later, it was time to leave San Pietro and return to the mainland. Next stop adventures in Costa Verde…

Torre Aurora in Cinque Terre

Having just returned from holidays in Italy, starting with Sardinia and ending with beautiful moments spent with friends and family in Cinque Terre, I have much to share from the last three weeks. Let me begin with the newest addition to my Insider’s Guide to Monterosso. A must for anyone planning a visit. Torre Aurora has quickly become one of my favorite places for an aperitivo with a view. In all my travels I have yet to discover such stellar cocktails combined with such stunning views.

Opened just two months ago, this bar/restaurant is set in a historic 13th century tower, and run by a local.

From the many terraces you have stunning views of Monterosso, as well as all of Cinque Terre in the distance.



You also have a direct view of one of my favorite restaurants L’Ancora della Tortuga, as well as the beaches of Monterosso.

So what’s on the menu at Torre Aurora? Aside from custom cocktails including the famous Aperol Spritz, you can order small plates of local anchovies or octopus salad. Arrive for dinner and feast on Ligurian specialties including fresh pasta and fish. Just be sure to make a reservation!

In case you’re looking for me during the early evening hours next spring or summer, this is where I’ll be.

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