travel photos

I love looking at people’s travel photos. I don’t necessarily need the three-hour commentary that sometimes comes with seeing a friend’s recent vacay pics, but I do love the photos. Not only is it wonderful to see parts of the world I’ve never been to, but it can be so interesting to see those places through someone else’s lens.

This evening, I’ve spent quite a bit of time on NationalGeographic.com, checking out the photos in their International Photography Contest 2009. There are some beautiful pictures so check it out and vote, if you haven’t already.

Got me thinking of some of my best travel pics. Here are few of the ones I like most:

Golf course at Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pennsylvania

Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland

Sunset in Maui

Under the pier in Manhattan Beach, California

Just another day in Phuket, Thailand

It’s worth the climb to see the Big Buddha in Hong Kong

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louis vuitton luggage


I am so inspired by beautiful photography. I love how a picture speaks a thousand words, how a photo can evoke a range of emotions, spark dreams and touch your heart. Today, I’m quite captivated by the photo above. Straight from the Louis Vuitton website, this picture set my heart pounding and my mind racing. Where is she going? Who is she meeting? Is it true love or will she break his heart? I was instantly transported to an era decades-past and the sound of a steam train’s whistle is still ringing in my ears. All aboard!

For more information on the Louis Vuitton hat box and valise pictured here, visit louisvuitton.com.

cuffs by paulette rose


I just love finding beautiful new things to feature on my blog and today I discovered an accessory that I’m sure all of you (ladies!) are going to love!

Paulette Rose is a recently launched company that makes cuffs out of the most exquisite fabrics and that feature simply beautiful designs. The pictures really speak for themselves. Aren’t they beautiful? I love how these simple accessories can instantly transform an outfit. A plain white shirt and a pair of jeans is transformed into an elegant evening look with the addition of a pair of these cuffs. A standard black blazer instantly becomes a a signature piece when paired with the plaid silk cuffs pictured above. Simultaneously totally modern, yet subtly heralding an era gone by, there’s something truly timeless and romantic about them.

Months ago I blogged about how tricky it can be to pack smart when you’re traveling. What I also love about these cuffs is that they’re perfect for travel. Small and easy to pack, they’ll certainly provide options when you’re on the go and will take up next to no room at all in your suitcase. Offering style and versatility, they’re the perfect travel accessory.

For more information or to purchase online, visit pauletterose.com.

hawaii losing its beaches

I just read an article on USAToday.com about the fact that Hawaii is losing its beaches. According to the article: “Geologists say more than 70% of Kauai’s beaches are eroding while Oahu has lost a quarter of its sandy shoreline. They warn the problem is only likely to get significantly worse in coming decades as global warming causes sea levels to rise more rapidly.” I am saddened beyond words to learn of this. Not only is this disastrous for obvious environmental reasons but Hawaii, one of the most beautiful places on earth, stands to suffer in other ways, too. The article goes on to say that visitors to the state spend about $11.4 billion each year, making the economic repercussions of the loss of beaches, enormous as well. If the beaches disappear, it seems to follow that the tourists will, too. Read the full article here.

There was once a time when Hawaii was the ultimate dream destination for me. I thought there was a real possibility that I would never visit these idyllic islands and that they would forever remain just out of grasp. And then I had the good fortune to visit. Twice. First Maui. Then Oahu. I can say this: they lived up to expectation. Surpassed, perhaps. The beauty I found there was breathtaking and I’ll never forget the time I spent on either of those islands. Below are two of my favourite photos from my trip to Oahu.


Waikiki Beach
, with Diamond Head standing majestically in the background.


Oahu’s North Shore. Sunny one minute, stormy the next, the coastline was breathtaking either way. Forty-foot waves were the news of the day when this picture was taken.

retail therapy

retail-therapy2
This blog is all about travel and since I’ve been home lately, I haven’t had a lot to blog about. But sitting here on a chilly October evening, I’m thinking how nice it would be to pack a suitcase, take to the skies and leave all my cares behind.

In my mind, I’ve already packed a few essentials and window shopped for a few non-essentials. A little retail therapy never hurt, right? OK, wait: the sunglasses are definitely an essential.

So here’s what’s in my imaginary suitcase:

1 Black stud wristlet
An elegant evening out wouldn’t be complete without a small (read: easy to pack) handbag for essentials. This black studded wristlet features metal hoops so you can hang it from your wrist and not worry about losing it. Perfect for a night at the theatre … in London!
Available at:
cinzia.com
Price:
$300

2 Iona pump with stones
These Tory Burch shoes were definitely not made for walking. This strappy black satin number is the height of fashion. Perfect for dancing the night away under the stars … in Rome!
Available at: toryburch.com
Price: $450

3 Chiffon trim scarf

This cashmere/wool blend scarf, trimmed with chiffon makes me think of warm days and cool nights when you need a little something to keep your neck and shoulders warm. Perfect for an après-dinner stroll through the streets of … Paris in the fall!
Available at: Banana Republic
Price: $50

4 Alcee dress
The oversized bloom that adorns the waistband of this dress is just gorgeous. I love this kind of detail that sets a simple black dress apart from all the rest. The side pockets make it a little more casual but this dress is a definite classic. Perfect for a fancy dinner … in New York!
Available at: anthropologie.com
Price: $187.56

5 “Anonymous” sunglasses by Cinzia

I love these oversized shades. They’re chic and right on trend. Perfect for shading your eyes from the hot sun … in Rio!
Available at: cinzia.com
Price: $195

keep calm and carry on

Picture 10Before we get back to my European adventure (a Mediterranean cruise through the Turkish and Greek islands, followed by a stop in London), I wanted to share my latest love with you.

I always find it difficult to find great artwork for my home. It’s rare that I seem to find an affordable piece of art that really speaks to me. I don’t like adorning my walls with art that doesn’t have a special meaning to me, which is why I often opt for photography instead. I once bought three gorgeous photos from a woman selling her works at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto, of destinations I dream of visiting. Gazing at them on my living room wall reminds me of dreams I’ve yet to fulfill.

But I recently discovered keepcalmandcarryon.com and I just love this poster. Originally designed by the British government during the Second World War, this poster was meant to strengthen the resolve of the British people, should the Germans invade Great Britain. The poster was never used despite the fact that two and a half million copies were printed. The poster was rediscovered in 2000.

Why do I like it? The message is clear and simple: Keep Calm and Carry On. Whether facing small day-to-day trials or large, life-changing tragedies, for me the words evoke precisely the feeling they say. Keep calm. Carry on. Like it or not, we have no choice but to do just that. I love the simplicity of the words and the enormity of what they say. And of course, their historic significance certainly gives pause.

If you’re interested in the poster, visit keepcalmandcarryon.com for more information. The original poster was printed on a deep red background but I like the one pictured here, with a distressed Union Jack. I love the Union Jack as a design element (remember the umbrella designed by Sir Paul Smith?) and even spent hours on my last trip to London looking for a Union Jack umbrella, one not as expensive as Smith’s version and not as cheap as the thousands sold in the souvenir stalls on the streets. No luck. But I digress. I love the vintage style of the poster pictured here, though it’s available in 12 other colours on keepcalmandcarryon.com. The company is UK-based but they ship internationally and unframed, the posters are only 10 GBP.

athenaeum hotel, london

athenaeum-londonFrom the Athenaeum in Athens to the Athenaeum in London – what are the chances? But it just so happened that the next hotel we checked in to was called the Athenaeum as well, but this one was, well, in London and not an InterContinental property.

We flew British Airways from Athens to London in Club Europe (domestic business class) and the flight was just over three hours, a breeze! Club Europe is nothing like British Airways’ Club World (for international flights, which I had the pleasure of flying from Toronto to Istanbul). But Club Europe offers passengers extra legroom and attentive service, though no private pods; man, I love those! (See here for a picture and review of British Airways’ Club World.)

Leaving Athens was tough. Our stay was too short and I had a pretty good feeling we were leaving the glorious weather behind us as we made our way to London. I was right. I adore London and could see myself living there. But that darned weather is off-putting (says the girl who lives in Toronto!) As expected, the clouds hung thick and ominously in the sky as we made our descent into the city. But even still, nothing could really dampen my spirits. I was in London and I couldn’t have been more excited to be there!

Getting from Heathrow to Central London was so much easier than I’d expected. Instead of paying outrageous cab fares, we took the Heathrow Express.  Instead of battling London’s notoriously disastrous traffic, we relaxed on the quick 20-minute train ride to the city and were conveniently dropped off at Paddington Station. The trains depart every fifteen minutes and the spacious first-class seats are clean and comfortable. There’s lots of room to stow your luggage, so you needn’t worry about that either.

From Paddington station, we hopped on the tube and made our way to Piccadilly, where our hotel was located. We had a bit of a walk (if we’d known exactly where we were headed, we would have taken the tube to the Green Park station) but having successfully maneuvered ourselves and our luggage through the busy, pedestrian-filled streets, we finally arrived at our hotel.

The Athenaeum is a small but absolutely delightful hotel. Situated directly across the street from Green Park, it provides easy access to tube stations and buses, making getting around super-easy. Our room was small (though the hotel does offer more spacious suites) but beautiful and full of creature comforts. The bed was one of the most inviting I’d ever seen, all decked out in robin’s egg blue, the view overlooking the park was lovely and I am a big fan of the heated towel racks in the bathroom.

The small, intimate restaurant is a real treat. Not only is the food delish, but the decorative details are mesmerizing. There’s an entire shimmery wall covered in buttons (beautiful!) and the tables have dried leaves forming a collage beneath the glass surface. The result is a truly extraordinary space that feels welcoming and whimsical. The Athenaeum, 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ, Tel: 44 (0) 207 499 3464.

two days in athens

athens1
As I mentioned in my last blog post, the view from my room at the Athenaeum was of the Parthenon. Yes, the Parthenon. I can’t quite describe the feeling. The Parthenon is a fixture from textbooks, not something I’d ever really expect to see while lying in bed. But there you have it. If you want one of the world’s most glorious nighttime views, spend the night in one of the Athenaeum’s Parthenon-facing rooms. It is lit up at night, making it even more spectacular than it already is during the daytime.

I only spent two days in Athens and while my BF and I hustled to see the Parthenon on our first day, we simply couldn’t resist and paid another visit the following day. It was just that incredible. It was sweltering both days and it’s a bit of a climb to get to the top, so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat and bring water. (I feel like I’ve provided this advice for almost every destination on this trip but it’s just imperative, especially when walking great distances in the scorching summer heat in Europe.)

There’s plenty to do in Athens but when your time is limited like ours was, you must pick and choose, especially if you want to see the Parthenon twice! When Seabourn Odyssey deposited us in the port of Piraeus, we jumped in a cab (the port is crawling with them!) and struck a deal with our cab-driver. For a pre-determined amount, he would tour us around Athens in his car for one hour. This was a great way to get a sense of the city before we set out on our own on foot.

We visited the old Olympic stadium and Hadrian’s Gate. The history here is palpable, the air is thick with it. And just like my trip to Israel, you can’t help but be humbled by it, by the knowledge that these ancient lands were the birthplace of civilizations, that our world today stems from those worlds.

Old-world history aside, I loved The Plaka, the oldest neighbourhood in Athens. Sure, it’s a bit of a tourist trap but the old streets are lined with restaurants for al fresco dining and all manner of shops, from big clothing stores to the boutiques of veritable artists. There’s a buzz in the early evening as tourists and locals alike descend upon the area for dinner but it’s pleasant, especially on warm evenings, to embrace (metaphorically, of course) the crowds and stroll leisurely through the streets.

welcome to the athenaeum intercontinental, athens

athenaeum2
athenaeum1
Our Seabourn Odyssey cruise deposited us in Athens. While the ship was continuing on through the Mediterranean, Athens was our last stop. And although I was sad to disembark the luxury vessel, I was very, very excited to explore the ancient city of Athens. More on that later. First, the hotel.

We checked into the Athenaeum Intercontinental. The lobby is vast and situated front and centre is an interesting piece of art (pictured above, top). During my short stay, I wasn’t able to learn more about the piece but it’s certainly eye-catching and memorable. But the real highlight at this hotel was our room, which had a view of the Acropolis. I’ve had some pretty incredible views during my travels (the Opera House from Sydney’s Four Seasons, the Bosphorus from Istanbul’s Ciragan Palace Kempinski, the Bund from Shanghai’s Park Hyatt) and the view from the Athenaeum Intercontinental is another to add to the list. It was nothing short of surreal to look out the window and see the Parthenon.

The nine-story hotel was renovated in 2008 and has 543 guest rooms and 60 suites. There’s a spa with an extensive menu (though they don’t offer manicures and pedicures, which I was disappointed to learn since my nails needed refreshing!) and a business centre with all the services you’re likely to need, including small meeting rooms that are available for rent. The rooms feature all the standard hotel features you’d expect (cable / satellite TV, CD player, flatscreen television), a working desk and ours had a full-length mirror – a nice touch that not all hotels have. The bathroom wasn’t too exciting – it was rather basic with a tub that was very narrow. But the robes were plush and I loved the Korres amenities (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion). Korres is a Greek manufacturer of hair, body and face products with highly concentrated natural active ingredients. They smelled good enough to eat. Check out their products online at korres.com; you can also order online. Hotel contact information: Athenaeum Athens, 89-93 Syngrou Avenue, Athens, 11745, Greece, Tel: +30-210-920-6000

british airways’ terminal 5

british-airways-lounge
I’m back at Heathrow, chilling in one of British Airways’ lounges in Terminal 5. By writing about Terminal 5 right now, I’m not keeping with the chronology of my trip. There’s lots more that I did that I haven’t told you about but the thing is, I’m not blogging every day. To blog every day feels a bit too much like work and not vacation! So, I’ve still got lots to tell you about but if we’re to jump ahead to real time, here I am, at Heathrow, getting ready to go home. We’ll get back to my adventure shortly and I’ll tell you all about the other places I visited.

But for now, here I am in Heathrow and it’s a little overwhelming … in a good way! Once you get through check-in and security (both were pretty quick and easy), you’ll find yourself airside (post-security) in the terminal and that’s where the real fun begins. Landside (pre-security) has some shops and the trendy restaurant Carluccio’s where I ate the last time I was here. The pasta is fresh and delicious and though I passed on dessert (in a rare moment of willpower!) the menu was tempting.

If you’ve been following my adventure, you know that the last time I was here, I was too rushed to really check out the shops. This time, I’ve had plenty of time and the lure of Harrods was simply too strong to resist! Walking out with a fab new Marc Jacobs bag and some teas and biscuits for friends back home did the trick to sate the ravenous shopping bug.

The shops are plentiful – Gucci, Dior, Prada, Tiffany & Co, Coach, Bulgari. There’s a Harrods, of course, one on the upper level of the terminal, with clothing, bags, sunglasses, etc. The lower level location is small but has souvenirs and a mini food hall, perfect for picking up last minute gifts to take home.

British Airways’ lounges here are something to be seen. Unlike most airport lounges, these rooms are designed to the hilt. They’re spacious and the exclusively designed furniture is upholstered in Osborne & Little fabrics. Walls of floor-to-ceiling windows flood the lounges with natural light and are perfect for planespotting.

I’ve got to go check on my flight’s status so that’s all for now. Toodles.