Tag Archives: travel tips

Where to go next: Autumn Travel

Europe in the autumn is all about fashion and style -and food! Its when Northern cities shine.

 

Bologna and Turin Its all about wine, truffles and mushrooms and these 2 Northern Italian cities are all about the best gastronomy of the Dolce Vita. Explore medieval streets and markets in Bologna, enjoy the elegance of cafe culture and aperitivo in Turin. Not to mention its truffle season and the coveted white truffle can be found on the menu in many restaurants.  Just make sure you can still fit into that outfit you bought in Milan!

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Paris For all the poetic love for Paris in the Spring, for me nothing compares to the golden hues of Paris in November.  The coziness of the cafes, the start of the roasted chestnuts on the streets, and the celebration of the Beaujolais Nouveau. The fashion houses display their best fashion of the season, and the museums abound with important art exhibitions. Paris Photo is a major event. But perhaps my favourite pass time is walking through Saint Germain and sitting in Cafe Flore in the afternoons. To me Paris in the autumn is a Parisian’s Paris.

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London Come October London is the capital of art. Many of their major exhibitions open at this time and you will see world class art shows. Then there is one of the art world’s most epic annual shows, the Frieze and Frieze Masters art fair held on the manicured gardens of Regent’s Park. By November London is peppered with red ivy on many houses and pre -Christmas starts to peek in. That combined with the best city in the world for shopping and top restaurants makes London a great destination.

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Milan While always stylish, Milan is at its most fashionable in September through November. With the cooling of the weather and the latest fashions in the shops and of course the Milanese giving a constant runway show with their Bella Figura looks. Milan is going through its own rebirth, throwing off that severe business feel and bringing in exciting design and attitude.

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Summertime, Summertime Scents

Fresh and floral scents for when the heat gets turned up…

 

Wild Bluebell by Jo Malone

Sweet floral with soft powdery notes. The distinctive bluebell makes this unique from most floral scents on the market and completely captures the essence of England.

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Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford

Sophisticated and sexy, this fragrance is both floral and lightly spicy which is perfect for summer nights.

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Eau d’Italie by Emporio Sirenuse

Anyone who has stayed at Le Sirenuse has fallen in love with this fresh scent that captures the sea and citrus air of the Amalfi Coast.

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En Passant by Frederic Malle

Ultra feminine floral scent of lilacs, linen, and the countryside are elegantly captured by perfumer Frederic Malle.

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Blu Mediterraneo Mandorlo di Sicilia by Acqua di Parma

All of the scents in the Blue Mediterraneo collection are perfect for a summer holiday but the Mandorlo di Sicilia stands out with breezy citrus and and a touch of sweetness.

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Escaping crowds in Italy

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From up and coming destinations to alternatives of big tourist spots, here are three ideas on where to summer in Italy…

Camogli (instead of Portofino) – With the popularity of Portofino down the road, and the drowning crush of people visiting Cinque Terre, the fishing town of Camogli is not only where the Italians go, it is quiet literally a breath of fresh air. It also offers a taste of the real Italy which seems to fading more and more wherever you go. You will actually hear Italian being spoken. Quaint little restaurants offer the daily catch brought in that day and for those in search of luxury accommodation the old world style of the Cenobio dei Dogi will offer views of the sea and a stay very much like the grand hotels along the Amalfi Coast. Should you still want to explore the rest of the crowd filled Italian Riviera at Santa Margherita and Portofino they are only a half hour away. With the assurance you get to leave the madness behind and return to truly relax in Camogli.

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Palermo (instead of Rome) – Nothing is more on the cusp of the next big thing than Palermo. Its about time as this crossroad of many Mediterranean cultures is one of the most important historical cities yet has been ignored by modern travellers for too long. While it still needs to work on its luxury hotel game, the city is filled with landmark sights worthy of your bucket list. From Monreale to the Vucceria market the buzz is palpable. Plus there is a beach close by. All that along with great food and Sicilian tradition, Palermo is fantastico!

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Fasano in Puglia (instead of the Amalfi Coast) – While I agree nothing beats the Amalfi Coast Puglia is quite spectacular as well. Puglia also boasts views of a blue sea for as far as the eye can see, and here there are white washed houses proving this is the land where Italy and Greece meet. Unspoiled beaches, great food and wine, restaurants by the sea are all enjoyed with laid back living. One of the Italy’s most luxurious hotels Borgo Egnazia is truly a magical oasis while the very photogenic (and Instagramable) Masseria Cimino is wonderfully stylish. Not to mention there are lovely towns and villages in the area to visit and explore.

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I am by no means saying don’t go to the more popular places in Italy. But with mass tourism becoming more crushing, and the ‘tourist season’ having less defined dates so many people can get exhausting and change how you feel about your vacation. I just got back from Rome in Spring, a trip I was sure would be an easy bit of fun as I have been many times before so there was no pressure to see everything and I could just enjoy myself. However it seemed like all over town there was masses of kids on school trips, and still many tourists groups everywhere. Granted it was not as bad as in the Summer, but if it was that bad in the Spring how bad will it be by the Summer? I thought back to my Spring trip last year when I did a big journey around Sicily and how much I loved it. Crowds were less, the sights were places I hadn’t seen before, i felt like a traveller not a tourist. It was truly one of the best and most satisfying holidays I had ever taken. So definitely go to all our favourite places but when masses of people get too much, branch out and explore the other corners of Italy. Chances are that a few years down the line they will get popular too and you can say you went there before it got run over by tourists!

 

 

 

Beauty products that will get you ready for Spring and Summer travel

Great to use now or for your warm weather travel adventures…

 

Sisley White Ginger Leg OilA silky leg gel that invigorates the leg muscles while smoothing the skin. Smells divine of a light refreshing ginger that tingles a bit when first put on. Legs look radiant and even helps with soreness from walking all day long.

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Nars WANTED eye shadow palette – The beauty of this makeup selection is not only the range of colours but of the finishes as well. A combination of silky, matte, and iridescent eye shadows in warm pinks and browns can create both dramatic and subtle looks. Great for travel as it gives you many options.

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La Roche-Posay sunblock face mist I discovered this last summer and it was not only a life saver but game changer when it came to sunscreen for my face. While I am always diligent about putting on sun protection in the morning I don’t always reapply as often as I should especially on days I am not on the beach but rather just walking around in the sun. Another problem is that many sun products are greasy. But this small spray can of face mist is a sunblock with SPF 50, easy to apply regularly and leaves your face free of the shine that goes along with most sun protection face products.

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Tom Ford Neroli Portofino – In warm weather sometimes fragrance can come off too strong yet if you are like me you always want to smell nice. This is where a lighter version of a fragrance comes in handy as not only is it not as strong, it doesn’t contain alcohol that causes skin to burn. For a fresh yet sophisticates summer scent Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino body mist is perfect.

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Kiehl’s Butterstick tinted treatment – On the go beauty that adds a bit of colour to lips while providing SPF 25 protection and moisturizing treatment. One of Kiehl’s most popular products, if comes in 3 light shades and clear. My favourite is the Rose which is a juicy pink shade.

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Dolce & Gabbana Passionate Eyes waterproof mascara –  Even if you are not swimming or at the beach, warmer temperatures and humidity in the city causes eye make up to run, smudge and come off. Its a good idea to switch in a waterproof mascara on the hotter days and this one by Dolce & Gabbana is kind to lashes while making eyes stand out.

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Nars The Multiple – This multi purpose make up stick has been a summer and travel staple of mine for too many years to count. In a variety of colours, this easy to carry, easy to use, cream stick can be applied to eyes, face, and lips with shimmery effect. The silvery Copacabana is the one I use the most, but peachy Portofino is my go to for summer. If you can’t decide on which shade, he iconic Orgasm is a popular favourite.

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Where to go next in 2018

New Year and all the new travel possibilities…

Every year there is a buzz about new ‘in’ places to go. Unfortunately by the time they are on the radar they are already ‘discovered’ by hoards of tourists. So this year on my wish list of destinations I’ve picked places often passed over to go somewhere else more popular. Yet all these places are exciting in their own right and will definitely entice travelers in the near future for they are gorgeous destinations with loads to offer. Get there first…

 

BolognaMany times one goes through Bologna by train on the way to Venice or Rome, yet Bologna offers as much history, charm, and most importantly food! as its more famous neighbours. Medieval streets and historical sights in a town almost free of tourists and crushing crowds. Want to taste the real Italy, this is it, from its locals only atmosphere to some of the best food in the world. They don’t call this region of Italy the “Belly of Italy” for nothing, some of the best produce comes from this region along with a legacy of top notch producers keeping the Slow Food movement alive and well. A must see destination for foodies and historians alike.

AmsterdamIs having a moment, a very trendy moment. And wait too long to go and you will get there when it has already become the hipster destination in every Instagram post. It already has the coffee houses. But Amsterdam possesses romance and magic, canals and delightful architecture that win everyone over with its easy appeal. 

Boston – The first proper North American city, Boston is as American as it comes. From Paul Revere, the Freedom Trail, and the Boston Tea Party, the birth of a nation began here. And it is fun and easy to access in this handsome city.  Often passed over for the Big Apple, Boston while smaller, can boast of its own culinary place with choice restaurants and first class cuisine, much of it local seafood. Some great museums makes Boston a cultural city as well, and the continual variety of events means there is lots to do no matter what you fancy.

Antwerp – Yes Brugges is a gem, but Antwerp too is a jewel of its own. While Brugges has  charisma, Antwerp has elegance and sophistication. Astonishing architecture, the city shows off gilded details of its past while incorporating new and exciting design forward modernity. Definitely a destination for designers.

Milos – The allure of the beauty of Mykonos but on a smaller, less traveled, less partied island of Milos is near heaven on earth for those looking for a quieter Greek holiday. Breathtaking views, all turquoise and white, picturesque stone streets covered with cascading branches and vines is the place of dreams.

Puebla – Two hours outside of the massive Mexico City is a much smaller colonial city of Puebla. The historic center is the essence of Mexico and visions of what most people conjure up when they think of this country. Known for its majolica tiles Puebla is stunningly pretty and a region of over 365 churches, one for every day of the year, most covered in these decorated tiles. Streets are brilliantly colourful from the painted houses to the balloon sellers walking along bustling in clouds of shiny bubbles. It is Mexico like you want it to be.

Sorrento –  Most people forgo Sorrento for the more celebrated destinations such as Positano and Ravello. And you are missing out. Granted Sorrento is a bit more town than village, but it has real charm and character. Also this is where the Italians go when they want to spend time on the Amalfi Coast. So, if its good enough for them…

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Rooms with Views: Hotel de Russie

Not only is Rome’s Hotel de Russie fashionable, it is a tranquil oasis in the middle of all the action of La Dolce Vita…

Rome has many hotels to choose from depending on your design wants and luxury needs.  There are opulent styled rooms and hip boutiques and of course location is key. The Hotel de Russie just off the Piazza del Popolo not only has one of the best locations, it has effortless style and grace. Very polished and design forward yet without all the coldness that can bring with it. Instead the hotel is warm and welcoming, extremely comfortable not to mention remarkably quiet considering the usual noise of Rome’s trafficked streets. And of course the big draw is the enchanting garden space right in the center courtyard. All with the rest of Rome at your feet just out side the door.

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Artistic touches throughout…

From the minute you step inside  the glamorous Hotel de Russie it all feels quite zen covered in luxurious touches. The dramatic flower displays done by in house florist Sebastian Flowers are works of art themselves. Alongside the floral art are actual artistic pieces throughout the hotel. Contemporary sculpture mixed with classic roman styled pieces show what the hotel is about, the city of Rome, a city that is ancient, modern and transcending. At one point the famed painter Pable Picasso stayed here and they even have a suite to comemorate that fact. Perhaps it gives off creative vibes? But my eye moves past all of that to the light terracotta and green colours of the courtyard calling to me… “Come sit and have a prosecco…”

IMG_9935.JPGView of the center courtyard and garden

 

But first to the room which was upgrades to a Junior Suite which gave me a little added sitting area. Calming contemporary decor in warm neutral colouring that was immediately inviting and cozy. The bed was heavenly and so comfortable, I slept like a Roman goddess to be sure. And the bathrooms were spacious, with a luxurious size bathtub to soak in, and a well lit sink area. Housekeeping kept the place immaculate and managed to always clean and pick up before my return to the room. Always a BIG plus for me. The room came with a pretty good view of the Piazza del Popolo to my right, and sweeping views of Via del Babuino below.

 

What makes all good hotels exceptional is always the service. The Concierge desk was excellent, being able to arrange tables and transport for me. I did not require tickets to many of the sights but I am sure they could have done if I had asked. Importantly their restaurant suggestions did not go off a rehearsed list of recommendations for tourists but rather were well thought out depending on the criteria given. They were knowledgeable about what was worth going to and what was new. The public spaces were impressive and service, like all Rocco Forte hotels was flawless.

The hotel boasts a restaurant, bar, and spa. The breakfast buffet can be taken in the garden during warmer months. The fashionable bar is popular among Romans as well especially the garden terrace. But I did also enjoy the indoor bar which was very stylish and the bar is also known for its exciting cocktail menu.

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I was very impressed by the Hotel de Russie and count my stay there as one of my favourites. While Rome can be an assault on all the senses, this hotel gives you a place to relax while still having all that Rome has to offer outside your door. It is easy to walk to shopping down Via de Babuino and not far from the Spanish Steps, while the charming Via Margutta is less than a minute walk from the front door. For a bit of Dolce Vita the famed Bar Canova and Piazza del Popolo is just to the right as you go out. But lets face it, if you really want to live La Dolce Vita then you need to stay at the Hotel de Russie!

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Please note I paid for my own stay at the Hotel de Russie and my review is based on that stay.

Hotel de Russie Via del Babuino, 9, 00187 Roma, Italy

 

 

September getaway…

Once the tourist crowds have left September becomes Summer’s last hurrah!

If you’re like me, you are itching to go away again somewhere by mid August. But that is the busiest time of year for so many European destinations and the last thing you want is to be body checking your way through a sea of people. So if you can hold on just a while longer… long enough for families to return, kids go back to school and high season prices to go down, a September getaway might just be the prefect tonic to get you through the colder months ahead. Here are some suggestions to get you started…

Madrid – A sophisticated metropolitan city with sunshine and more importantly tapas bars! The appealing historic center and the open spaces makes it a great combination of culture both indoors and out. Whether it be taking in a museum or taking in the sun at the Plaza Mayor with a glass of sangria, Madrid makes for a warm cultivated break.

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Seville – A two hour train ride from Madrid takes you to the quintessential Spanish city of Sevilla. Decorative tiles, romantic architecture and colourful streets capture the true spirit of Spain alongside its breathtaking cathedral and Plaza de España. Have drinks and tapas at El Rinconcillo before taking in a flamenco show.

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Ostuni, Puglia – Sea breezes touch this white washed hill town. Puglia is where Italy meets Greece sharing that same blue Aegean sea. And not far from this sea, surrounded by olive trees is the White City of Ostuni, an almost fairy tale like town with charming small cafes and mystical winding streets. It is quiet, laid back yet stylish. The boutique hotel Relais La Sommitá offers a chic stay with a wonderful fine dining restaurant Cielo that makes it easy to sit back over a glass of wine and look out to the sea in the distance.

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Taormina – A perfect late summer escape with the temperatures still quite warm, the seacoast and a charming town to walk in. For cooling off, excellent granita can be found at Bam Bar or an aperitivo on the piazza. Enticing restaurants and choice local wines make it a substantial getaway for foodies, while a selection of refined hotels make it easy to keep everything within walking distance.

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Rome – is always a good idea but in late September when the Italians have resigned themselves that beach days are over and normal life continues there is a relaxed hum of people getting about their business just not too quickly yet. Yes there are still tourists but a few less so the line for gelato at Giolitti is not as long if you want an afternoon treat. The weather still allows for a lazy afternoon prosecco in the gardens of the Hotel de Russie while autumn fashion fills the shops in anticipation. A bit of both worlds and changing seasons.

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