trendy beach totes

I have no travel plans at the moment and when that happens, I resort to daydreaming about where I’d like to go, what I’d like to be doing and what I’d take with me. Right now, I could sure use a beach. It’s hot, hot, hot where I live right now so I’m not in need of heat to escape cool temperatures. But I sure could use the rest and relaxation that goes hand in hand with a beach vacation. So I found myself checking out beach totes for my imaginary getaway. Here’s what I narrowed my selection down to.

1 Tory Beach Tote
Available at: toryburch.com
Price: $325

2 Chambray Tote
Available at: gap.com
Price: $34.50

3 Large Madaket Tote
Available at: jcrew.com
Price: $68

4 Diane von Furstenberg Rhea Woven Jelly Tote
Available at: bergdorfgoodman.com
Price: $425

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seabourn odyssey takes us to navplion

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Sometimes the places you have the lowest expectations of turn out to be the most wonderful. When Seabourn Odyssey deposited us off in Navplion, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Surprisingly, Navplion, the port I knew nothing about and, quite frankly, had never heard of, was perhaps the highlight of the entire cruise. From the moment I arrived, I was seduced by its European charm. It oozed romance. Now this was a place I knew I’d like. Clean and pretty, Navplion is not actually one of the Greek islands; it’s on Greece’s mainland. Buildings with old facades and Juliet balconies line the streets and it’s easy to forget just where you are. Someone said it looked like the French quarter in New Orleans while others compared it to Paris. It’s old. It’s historic. It’s beautiful. And it’s romantic. Like Santorini, there are lots of shops and tavernas to while away an afternoon in but the real treat is exploring the town on foot. You’ll come across the small but beautiful homes of the locals and lots of churches.

If you’re up for it, set out on foot to climb the 852 steps that lead up to the Palamidi Castle, which towers high above the town. Be sure to take water and sunscreen with you and wear a wide-brim hat. The views from the top are worth the huffing and puffing it’ll take you to get there and it’s because of this walk that we discovered a beautiful beach on the other side of the island. We took a taxi down. While the walk up was quite a workout, taking the stone and marble steps down seemed infinitely more dangerous – they’re slippery and there’s no guardrail. Cab, please! A five-euro ride brought us right back to the center of town where we began our trek to find the pretty pebble beach on the other side of the island.

Despite the heat, the walk could not have been more picturesque. We walked a path alongside the water until we found ourselves at the beach. The water was so warm and inviting, I never wanted to leave. I’m a very weak swimmer, paralyzed more by my fear of water than an innate inability to swim. But I have never felt calmer and more at ease than in Navplion’s clear and tranquil waters. I would visit this tiny town again in a heartbeat, just for this beautiful beach.

seabourn odyssey takes us to santorini

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As I mentioned yesterday, I traveled on Seabourn Odyssey through the Turkish and Greek islands. We went from Dikili, Kusadasi and Bodrum in Turkey to Santorini, Mylos, Navplion and Athens in Greece. While each port was beautiful in its own way, some, for me, were more special than others. My two favourites were Santorini and Navplion. Today, I’ll tell you about Santorini.

Perched almost precariously atop rugged cliffs (volcanic rock, actually), Santorini is picture perfect in every way. If you’ve never been, chances are you’ve seen photographs of this quaint island. The photos don’t do it justice. Photos simply can’t convey the magic of the island.

We arrived under the blazing sun, jostled by the populations of four cruise ships, all of which had reached port at about the same time. That’s a lot of tourists. Get out of the pulsing crowds as soon as possible. There are a variety of ways to get to the top of the island, where Santorini really begins. You can take a steep cable car ride; it’s quick but if you suffer from a fear of heights, may not be for you. You can walk or you can jump on one of the hundreds of donkeys waiting to trot you to the top. We paid five euros per person for the donkey ride, though I suspect the price varies depending on the day or the little Greek man you’re dealing with. There’s nothing organized about the trek to the top. It’s a free for all and if you take the donkey, be prepared to jump on and just go! The ride is a bit bumpy, the donkeys look hot, tired and thirsty and as they edge towards the wall and you look down, you may feel nauseous. Don’t look down.

Once at the summit, we found ourselves swimming in a pool of tourists. There are an endless number of cafes, restaurants and shops selling everything from cheap souvenirs to expensive clothing and jewelry. It would have been delightful up at the top but for the tourists. So, my BF and I made our escape. He guided, I followed and before we knew it, we were far from the madding crowd.

In the end, we walked clear across the island (or so it seemed; we walked for ages) and saw sweeping views of Santorini from various angles. We saw the island through the eyes of locals, far from the port where all the cruise ship passengers arrive and a safe distance from the tourist-trap souvenir shops. We lunched at a little restaurant that had only satisfactory food but spectacular views. We walked through streets where there wasn’t a soul in sight and the few people we did pass were locals going about their daily tasks. We passed so many churches, houses painted in a rainbow of pretty pastels and flowers, flowers everywhere.

Visiting in July, the islands are hot, hot, hot, with temperatures flirting with, and often surpassing, 40 degrees Celsius. Water, sunscreen and a wide-brim hat are essentials. If you visit Santorini, stray from the beaten path and explore on your own. You’re bound to find lesser-known treasures as you stroll the local streets and the opportunities for stunning photos are everywhere.

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The donkey ride up to the top of Santorini is bumpy but can be preferable to walking under the scorching summer sun or taking the cable car ride, especially if you’re afraid of heights.

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A weather-worn, sea-ravaged canoe or a piece of artwork sitting atop a rooftop in Santorini? I have no idea but it’s beautiful.

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Painted in shades of blue, green, pink and yellow, the homes on Santorini are clean and cheerful. The overall effect of the whitewashed walls and coloured doors and window frames is that visitors are welcome. Surrounded by a bright blue sky and deep blue sea, the setting is idyllic.

beach bag essentials

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I hate complaining about the weather but sometimes, you just have to. It’s the first week of July and it was c-c-cold outside today. Which leaves me with no other choice but to dream about warm weather destinations. So, in my mind, I’m packing my bags and heading to the beach! Here are my beach bag essentials.

1 Sunglasses: I love my Prada sunglasses, definitely a splurge but they just look so good! And besides, you do NEED UV protection when you’re outdoors!
2 Cotton hobo bag: Available at Old Navy, this bag is perfect for the beach or for toting around town. It’s so easy to fold and pack, which is another reason I love it.
3 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock: Sunblock is a beach essential but I love this Neutrogena sunscreen because it goes on smooth and feels dry to the touch once applied. I hate sunscreens that are hard to rub in and leave you feeling greasy.
4 iPod Touch: How did we ever live without our iPods? Full of my fave tunes and even a handful of movies (not to mention a vast assortment of games and other apps), my iPod goes where I go! Perfect for relaxing on the beach and the passing time on the plane.
5 Havaiana flip flops: Stylish. Comfortable. Inexpensive. Perfect.
6 OPI nail polish: OK, so you can’t fix up a botched nail polish job on the beach but it doesn’t hurt to have your nail polish on hand just in case!

What are your beach bag essentials?

sunset in aruba

arubaThere’s something about a beach that is just so soothing for the soul. As I sit here on a quiet Sunday night, I find myself yearning to be on a beach somewhere, anywhere, watching the sun set and feeling surrounded by the peace that comes with one of nature’s most beautiful moments. This shot is taken on the beach in Aruba, just outside the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino where I recently stayed. The hotel was lovely, the restaurants divine, the spa spectacular and the amenities plenty, but the real show stealer was the sunset that took my breath away each night. I dream of this moment and hope to return one day soon.