Tag Archives: travel tips

Travel Tips: My packing basics

Here are a sample of my stylish ‘must-haves’ when I travel…

I wish I could count myself as one of those uber fashionable travelers that look ever so chic catwalking down airport lounges in well put together outfits while traveling. I really try, but given the amount of walking I do when on trips, and limited packing space there is only so much a girl can do when on the road. Yet I am not one of those back-packing, wear only two outfits girl either. I like to look put together, especially for city travel. This means I pack some modern basic pieces that are classic in style but at the same time dashing and comfortable. I want to look good when I am on tour.

Pick your base colour – I tend to stick to black as it doesn’t show dirt, but if you prefer navy blue, beige, or white, by all means use that as your ‘base’ and work around that. So I have basic pieces in black and work a travel wardrobe with those basics.

Stylish Coat or Jacket – If there is one piece of clothing that should make a statement it should be your outerwear.  A leather jacket, a wool coat in winter or a lightweight jacket in Spring is a must. A knee length wool coat can go day to night, and a classic Mac jacket works perfectly in any situation.

Cashmere –  A classic crew neck with jeans or trousers is one of the most timeless looks around. It can take you day to night, casual to elegant. And a cardigan, even in summer makes a lightweight item to pack and wear on the overly air conditioned plane flights.

Scarf – Takes up no room and can transform your look and change your base outfit with a dash of colour. I like to take at least two of different sizes and wear one on the plane so to have added warmth but also it makes you look a bit more put together at airport check in.

Wrap – On a recent trip to Capri where the locals are very chic islanders I noticed every woman wore a stunning wrap in the evening. It gave the ladies a very dressy edge to even the simplest of outfits. I went straight to Missoni and picked up one of their bright, multi-coloured wraps to enhance my travel wardrobe.

10348945_841393399237242_2926470454392575426_o

Missoni knits

Say ‘no’ to shorts in the city – Unless you are on the beach, on a boat, or by the pool, wearing shorts even when it is hot makes you stand out like a tourist. Not only that, going into some places such as churches is not allowed in shorts (and skimpy tops). Even if you are young and having fun, you do better wearing skirts of all lengths to keep cool. City shorts are fine if they are dapper, but skirts are still better.

Long skirt – Especially in the warmer months, I find this a more elegant and fresher look then trousers or jeans. It is nice to have a feminine touch and very easy to pair with a t-shirt for a comfortable day look. Can double for an evening look when paired with a silk top.

Shoes – Thankfully in the autumn and winter months I can get by with some flat, simple leather ankle boots that go with just about everything. In the warmer months this can prove more challenging if you are trying to find something with support to walk endlessly, yet look fashion forward. I cannot pull off the chunky sneakers, so I resort to a pair of athletic ballerina slippers or espadrilles and a pair of low heeled sandals. I’ll also take a pair of Capri sandals but those are for destinations by the sea. For evening I do love Aquazzura shoes as they have some embellished styles on lower heels. I do love their low block heel sandals in a variety of fun finished like coloured pom-poms or fringed suede. I can easily walk around in the evenings while still being au courant fashion wise. For colder destinations, again it is much easier with a pair of lower heeled boots. A pair of classic pumps always work well no matter where or what season.

15741043_1209219402494966_7591364200863473177_nAquazurra Wild Things sandals

Accessories – Always pack an umbrella! As a matter of fact I have a small, collapsible umbrella I just leave in my suitcase ready to go when I travel. Purses take up a lot of space so while I like to have choices I might prefer to leave room for some shopping in my suitcase. I take a tote or larger bag for day, that way I can throw my camera, and any small items I might buy along the way. For evening a simple embellished envelope clutch packs well and looks elegant for evening, or a small evening bag that you can throw a credit card, lipstick, and go.

Evening – While I tend to do ‘smart-casual’ for most of my restaurant choices, meaning a lively but popular brasserie, or a trendy trattoria, I still take one piece for that possible nicer night out. My rule of thumb is to take a couple pair of black trousers, and around 4-5 silk tops that I can rotate with the trousers, one of those tops a bit more embellished for the possible fine dining evening. All easy to put on if you are rushing to dinner after a day of sight seeing, and easy to pack. I also tend to have a polished black on black ensemble, of a classic top such as a sleeveless simple silk tunic, button down shirt, or vest, with slim black jeans or trousers. Can be worn more than once, changed up with a scarf and will always look chic.

That perfect travel handbag – After years of searching I have found the perfect bag to suit my needs when I travel. It is a black leather Hogan bag big enough to throw my ipad and book in, and four large zipper pockets on the outside for my passport and ticket, iphone, and compact. It is city chic cool, has a strap to wear cross body, and handles if you want to carry it. Had it for years and is my biggest go-to item when I travel.

screenshot_4638

Hogan bag

No matter the destination do check the weather the day before you leave. Even the warmest of destinations can suffer from cold fronts and you don’t want to spend your travel time shopping around for warmer clothing. Also, I always pack an extra top or one outfit and an extra pair of knickers in my carry on just in case my suitcases are delayed somewhere. That way I have a change of clothes. And don’t forget to pack knickers and pajamas!

Where to eat and drink on Corfu

Corfu’s charming Old Town offers a very European feel…

When on Corfu it is worth taking time away from the beach and the imperial blue sea to head to the Old Town and enjoy some Greek cuisine. The town square has an elegant vaulted arcade with wonderful cafes and the historical center is filled with delightful places to eat and drink.

Drinking

Cafe Bristol – Stylishly cool this small but hip locale in the centre of Old Town has a great DJ and flowing cocktails. Evgeniou Voulgareos 49, Kerkira 491 00, Greece

Azur – Right on the water, and just a short walk from the town square, Azur is a trendy outdoor lounge bar with a terrace, great atmosphere and sea breezes. Leof. Dimokratias 1, Kerkira 49100, Greece

picframe2

Eating

Rex – Popular lively and centrally located just behind the main square, this typical taverna serves all the favourite Greek dishes. Corfu 491 00, Greece

Marina’s Taverna –  On a discrete side street in Corfu Old Town on the way to the Fortress is this picturesque traditional taverna serving simple but absolutely delicious Greek fare. The baked aubergines with tomatoes and feta was outstanding! Vellisariou 35, 49100

picframe

Save

Stylish Hotels in London

London is the capital of style and luxury accommodations. Whether its a big hotel or something more boutique, London offers grand choices.

The Berkeley  The freshly refurbished Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge feels brand new with its new glass front and art deco inspired pale marble floors with touches of silver. Incredibly fashionable, it boasts the ideal location for shoppers being close to both Harvey Nichols, Sloane Street and Harrods. In house the Pret-a-Portea afternoon tea should not be missed, and cocktails at the trendy Blue Bar offers a modern and exciting cocktail menu by some very innovative mixologists. Wilton Pl, Knightsbridge, London

IMG_6202

The Connaught A baby grand dame in the heart of Mayfair is the epitome of old world mode. Dark wood and gilded interiors are more subtle than overpowering.  A very fashionable address, one does feel very special inside this London establishment. Enjoy a martini made right at your table at the world famous martini bar, and follow up with dinner at one of the best restaurants in the world at their Michelin starred restaurant by Helene Darozze. The best of the best. Carlos Pl, Mayfair London 

IMG_6205

11 Cadogan Gardens It doesn’t get more boutique then this bijoux hotel in the heart of Chelsea. This discreet hotel is in a period brick house right behind Sloane Square has opulent interiors like those in a country estate, indeed you do feel as if you are in a private home. A plush sitting room bar and an in house restaurant dedicated to Truffles does make this hotel quite posh. 11 Cadogan Gardens, Chelsea, London

IMG_6203

Brown’s Hotel One of London’s original hotels, Brown’s is quintessentially British in the best possible way. While the Rocco Forte group have given it a freshening up with some modern flair, Brown’s remains classical and traditional. Steps from Bond Street in Mayfair, its location is prime for shops, restaurants, sights, and nightlife. The hotel serves the best traditional afternoon tea in their English Tea Room, not to mention their chic Donovan Bar serves up some sexy cocktails. The famous Hix is the resident restaurant so even with the great location there is much to entertain at the hotel. It really doesn’t get more English than Brown’s. 33 Albemarle St, Mayfair, London

IMG_6207

Save

Rooms with Views: Il Salviatino

Overlooking Florence in the Fiesole hills, villa Il Salviatino is an oasis of tranquility…

IMG_5459

A mere 15 minutes from the center of Florence, the villa hotel of Il Salviatino is close enough to enjoy all that Florence has to offer while feeling a world away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist crowds. The villa itself offers old world elegance with modern touches and very fashionable details.

From the moment you wind your way up the gated road towards the villa you realise this is not going to be a typical hotel stay. You are greeted not at a desk, but in the foyer of the grand house and offered a restorative glass of prosecco. A quick tour of the villa leads you through sweeping doors to a grand terrace overlooking renaissance gardens, cypress trees, and an impressive view of the Duomo of Florence in the distance. Indeed everything about Il Salviatino’s property is is styled straight out of a photo shoot. On the terrace is the restaurant area, though calling it a restaurant might be a bit provincial as it is more an open outdoor living space with comfortable table and chairs where you can sit and take in the view over a glass of rose, or have a bite to eat. There is a casual ease to life here at Il Salviatino, without forgoing the mannered expectations. Should you want to spend time indoors a huge grand library is filled with wonderful books, including art books on Italy and Tuscany that one could happily spend an afternoon getting lost in pages. Further afield there is a pool area opened in the summer months and a spa area as well where one can relax with a massage using local Tuscan products. The vibe is chic indeed.

 

Every effort has been taken to preserve the original structure of the villa, wooden floors and ceiling beams, and a marble staircase have been restored. Yet modern creature comforts are combined into the room’s living space such as glass tvs that double as mirrors. Rain shower showers make for heavenly bathing, and the most plush bathrobes imaginable. The waffle imprinted linen towels feel luxurious and the white leather on dark brown wood decor feels very opulent without being too over the top. All rooms offer Tuscan views, a few offer views over Florence, either way every room gets a spectacular view.

IMG_5464

Life at the villa is lighthearted. At night the whole property becomes aglow with candle lights streaming up staircases inside and out, through the gardens and into the view. Twilight feels magical. In the garden aperitivo arrives with the sunset while dinner can be taken al fresco on the terrace. Dinner has an a la carte menu and they do have a very impressive wine list. Breakfast is a little more unique experience than your normal continental. The waiter brings you a large prepared tray of the days breakfast offerings. You choose what you want from the tray and if there is something else you might want they are happy to make it for you. All the food no matter what the meal was delicious.

IMG_5480

Should you even want to leave the property a shuttle service into central Florence leaves you near the Duomo. So you can take in all the best of Florence yet escape the crowds when they get oppressive. You can be both in Florence and in the Tuscan hills in one stay.

You are staying at a grand house at Il Salviatino, but like all exceptional hosts, you are made to feel at home. It was very hard to leave!

Rooms: Stylish, elegant with a bit of restraint opulence. Quiet and very comfortable. Rooms even come with their own lending library bookshelf, along with in room Nespresso coffee machines. TVs were modern doubling as mirrors and were personalized with a greeting. And all rooms offered views over the Tuscan hills or Florence.

Bathrooms: Love when a bathroom has a privacy room for the toilet, as was the case here. Sink space did have limited storage areas for toiletries but some rooms come with small vanity spaces to put items on. The only disappointment in the whole property was that my room did not come with a bathtub and I had a suite. Some rooms do come with a tub, just make sure and request it before check in. There are heavenly sit down rain showers in all rooms.

What’s on the property: A secluded pool with poolside service of drinks and snacks, lounge chairs and towels. A spa offering a variety of treatments. Ample manicured gardens and a terrace to dine outdoors. A small bar area along with a walk in wine cellar, and should you wish to relax indoors, there is the formal library for conversation and after dinner drinks.

Extras: Complimentary shuttle service to and from the villa to central Florence.

Something Special: Should you have a bathtub in your room, the villa offers a champagne “bubble” bath service in the grand suites. Chose from prosecco to champagne, prices vary, but around $10,000 for this real bubbles bath!

IMG_5465

Please note, I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while staying at Il Salviatino

Il Salivatino Via del Salviatino, 21, 50137 Fiesole FI, Italy tel. +39 055 904 1111

Shared Link: Why Noto, Sicily is our Italy destination of the summer

Conde Nast Traveler (US) highlights the glories of little Noto. A jewel box town in the heart of Southeast Sicily. One of my favourite places, read my reviews on the region for more travel ideas.

Why Noto Sicily is out Italy destination of the summer

screenshot_4089

24 Hours in Napoli

Sultry Naples is too many times overlooked by travelers anxious to make their way to the Amalfi Coast. Here are some reasons why Naples is worth a stay…

Naples dusty grandeur can be overwhelming and at times intimidating. A city that hits you full on in the face and attacking all the senses is really more exhilarating than scary and it’s excitement should be embraced not passed over.

IMG_6993

You will notice about Naples as you land at the airport is the massive volcano of Vesuvius in the distance. A city built so close to an ominous mountain reflects the very passionate nature of the people of Naples. Next your eyes will wander to the crescent moon shaped bay separating the crowded city landscape from the serenity of the sea and suddenly you understand why people say “See Naples and die’. For such a busy city the fact that the natural beauty of the surroundings are so prominent reflects part of the city’s romantic soul.

IMG_6996

The first thing you should do is head straight for the world famous Caffe Gambrinus next to the Piazza Plebiscito for a thimble sized, power packed serving of espresso. Have it at the bar with the locals before heading over to the heart of the city, the Spacanapoli. Walking up and down this popular area reveals many delights and captures the real sights and sounds of Napoli. Begin just up the street at the Cappella Sansevero, a small, intimate church with one of the most moving sculptures of Christ. The figure of a dead Christ under a sculpted cloak is astonishing. Upon exiting the chapel, time for a bit of lunch and when in Naples, pizza is a must. Two of the best, and world famous places, are nearby so take your pick: di Matteo is closest and offers a variety of excellent pizzas. Just a few more streets away and you are near di Michele made even more famous for being in the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Not that it needed any further endorsements, it’s reputation is extensive and it is much beloved so expect a queue to get in and a bit of a wait. Hence why di Matteo is sometimes an easier bet and still has authentic and delicious Neapolitan pizza. Work off lunch by wandering the side streets and check out the stalls selling nativity characters, a real art form in Naples. Eventually make your way to the tranquility of the cloisters at Santa Chiara. A peaceful garden decorated entirely of local decorative tiles is a pleasing sight and a great pause to sit for a minute or two far removed from the city chaos.

IMG_6999

For aperitivo and dinner The Caruso at the Grand Hotel Vesuvio offers not only contemporary Mediterranean dishes but breathtaking views over the bay of Naples. Capri can be seen in the distance as you sip a cocktail before enjoying an stylish meal. Should you decide to stay at the hotel, pick a room with views over the bay and the Castel dell’Ovo and enjoy breakfast in bed with one of the best views over the sea.

IMG_6995

Personally I love Naples, and a trip to the Amalfi Coast for me is not complete without a bit of time in what is considered by many as the true Italian city. While they are very much city people with a bit of abruptness, give it a minute and you will find charming and very open people. They are far less jaded by tourism as in other Italian cities, and many times a hello and an interest in their city brings much enthusiasm. And besides, who doesn’t love a great pizza!

IMG_6994

Yes, just one. Solo travel.

The joys of traveling solo…

I will be making what has now become an annual visit to the beautiful, and yes, very romantic destination of the Amalfi Coast -alone. And alone, by choice. I had thought of possibly doing it with a companion this time, I have wonderful friends and family I could travel with, but I have always come here on my own and I realised that I was fiercely protective of this, I wanted to go on my own. I love the tranquility of being by the sea and in my own company.

Make no mistake, nobody understands this. Especially staying at gorgeous hotels, and once again that word, romantic, romantic hotels. Breathtaking views on my own might seem a bit silly, but why not enjoy it to the fullest. Who doesn’t like a plush room with sunset views, a huge bed with crisp sheets and scented body products? But it does indeed seem to make everyone else around me uncomfortable, maybe because people worry you are lonely and alone in the world. Even if it isn’t true. At first it made me upset as well, to be seen as perhaps sad, but I really was only uncomfortable because they were. The only way to deal with this is to ignore it and move on. I have grown used to this and have weighed it out in my mind that a few awkward moments are less of a problem then not going at all. At the end of the day it is endearing that people are concerned and one should look upon it as being cared for and looked after. So if you can get past that momentary embarrassing feeling of pity, you can pretty much move on to the fun and immerse yourself completely in the travel experience.

Probably the hardest hurdle to overcome is dining alone, especially in the evenings and at proper restaurants. I worked up to this by starting in cafes and trattorias, more informal dining spots first. This seemed satisfying at first as I was dining with the locals and tasting regional cuisine, however after a while I felt I was missing out on a huge portion of the travel experience by not going beyond the basics. After all one on the reasons we travel is to eat and what better way to savor a location than through food. So at some point I just bit the bullet and booked a table at a proper restaurant at night. Yes, there was fear and I felt very conspicuous, and even to this day there are situations where I feel that again, but for the most part I find it relaxing to sit and enjoy a really great meal after a full day of sightseeing and walking. I don’t have to worry about chit chat or trying to be conversational with the person with me when I feel a bit tired, I can just enjoy and decompress over a hearty plate of pasta and a really good glass of wine. At times I read a bit, perhaps plan what I might do tomorrow, or do a bit of Instagraming, but for the most part I just sit and enjoy being where I am.  I enjoy the buzz and people watching, its a moment that you are sharing with the locals and it is important to take it all in.

If you think that all sounds overwhelming, let me point out a much sadder scenario, which is going on a trip with someone and having it be difficult and emotionally challenging. Not seeing what you want, getting into fights that will be how you remember the trip, and just generally feeling unsatisfied by not doing what you want. The couples trip to the romantic destination that does not look or feel romantic, family trips where everyone is trying to be happy, the friend who wants to be on a schedule… Eventually everyone begins to get annoyed. This will become glaringly apparent as you sit relaxed, sipping a glass of prosecco in the sun and observing those around you. Most couples on ‘romantic getaways’ for the experience of moonlight and roses many times walk around all day bickering on where to go and what to do, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” and by day two they are on each others nerves, sitting at the dinner table saying absolutely nothing or complaining. No romance there. Trying to capture that romance is exhausting and will always fall short of the expectations even in the most beautiful locations. Why not have the romance be about the journey? Alone you do actually interact more with the local community and its surroundings. There is more personal involvement which will remain tangible souvenirs. As I sit solo by myself and quietly observe, it is clear that the people to pity here are the people traveling with others, all with long, bored faces and wasting a wonderful experience. They have spent the day annoyed, while I have spent the day taking in the destination, and living in the moment.

For that is the beauty you see… of traveling on your own. You go at your own pace, do what you want when you want and that in turn allows you to really see and and experience the place you are visiting. You are more likely to get into conversations with the locals when you are alone, wander and find, take more photos, stop and smell the roses. You’ll have more personal and meaningful stories to tell. It really is the only way to go…

IMG_6030Table for one by the sea

Tips on traveling for one

Stay central- It is easier, closer to what you want to see and do and means that in the evenings you are not too far from your hotel when you want to get back.

Indulge-  If you can afford it, stay at a fabulous hotel, book the room with a view, drink champagne for lunch… Hey why not, you are on vacation!

Book a table at a fabulous restaurant -for lunch! – If you really feel insecure about dining alone at bigger restaurants, try going for lunch. Not only will you be more likely to find a table but you can rest tired feet over a nice long meal.

Be vigilant- Realistically speaking you could come off as an easy target for pick pocketing, and for being approached. Don’t let this put you off, but do be aware of the possibility and your surroundings. Walking around at night in certain areas should be avoided.

Be polite- Knowing a few key words and phrases such as “please” and “thank you”  goes a long way in making friends and locals will be more open to helping you.

Talk to the locals- They will give you the best tips, insider knowledge of where to go.