travel essential: OKA b. ballet flats

Finding the perfect shoe to travel in isn’t always easy. They need to be comfortable (natch!), stylish and versatile. And a shoe that slips on and off easily is also a prerequisite for me. Since removing your shoes is an imperative when you’re going through security, I hate holding up the line, fighting with laces, buckles and zippers.

I love these simple, stylish ballet flats from OKA b. I have the ‘Taylor’ model in camel (although they do have a model named ‘Natalie’; maybe I should have gotten those!) and they’re one of the best shoes I’ve found to travel in. These shoes are flexible and oh-so-comfortable, probably because they feature an ergonomic footbed enhanced with massage beads, which cushion your feet as you walk. They’re easy to slip in and out of easy to clean – you can easily wipe them clean when you’re in a hurry, but can you believe they’re machine washable as well?

Available in a variety of styles and colours like Licorice, Cranberry, Hot Chocolate, Jade, Popsicle Pink, Fuchsia, Camel and Cherry, and priced at just $45, they’re your perfect travel companion. And … they come packaged in a delightful gift box, making them that much sweeter! For more information, visit oka-b.com.

What’s your favourite shoe to travel in?

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retail therapy

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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

two days in athens

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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.

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?

how to: pack smart

packing-smartI know. It’s not easy to pack light. I don’t know how guys do it – well, I do know how they do it. They pack one pair of shoes, one pair of jeans, maybe a pair of shorts and two T-shirts. They don’t mind that everything doesn’t match and they have no problem leaving their products (if they even use any) at home. Oh, they just don’t understand us women. The clothes, the shoes, the hair products, the skin products, the makeup, the purses, sweaters if it’s chilly, sundresses if it’s hot … did I mention the shoes? Like I said. I know. It’s not easy to pack light.

But … I will say that I myself have learned from my BF and travel expert, how to pack smart, without having to leave all my fabulous stuff at home. It all started when he and I began planning a trip to Hawaii and Australia, with a pit stop for me in Los Angeles, that would last 16 days. Awesome! Until he called me up one night and said something about only bringing carry-on luggage. Huh? Was he planning a different trip than me? Didn’t he realize that we were going away for SIXTEEN days? I started to argue until he made the one point that was unarguable. We would, he explained, be flying on some small planes, including one puddle jumper to Fraser Island. We simply couldn’t weigh the plane down with excess luggage. Gulp. Carry-on it was.

But how? It was like the riddle of the Sphinx. I was stumped. But with the help of my ever-ingenious mom, we figured it out. The key is rolling.

First, I place my shoes around the perimeter inside the suitcase. Small shoes like flip-flops can easily fit into pockets. That leaves what looks like not-a-whole-heck-of-a-lot-of-room for anything else. Before you start packing your clothing, survey everything you’re planning to take and cut it down by half. OK, maybe by one-third. Then start rolling. Clothing rolled into tight cylinder-like shapes can be lined up in rows tightly against one other and you’ll be surprised just how much fits. Depending on what you’re packing, you may even be able to do another row on top. If you’re heading to a warm-weather destination, this is much easier as summer clothes are so much smaller and lighter than those in our winter wardrobes. But the principle still applies. Packing this way, I can still fit two pairs of jeans along with shorts, skirts, dresses, tops, shoes and accessories.

But what’s the big advantage to traveling light? Well, there are lots of pros. First of all, you don’t have to get to the airport quite so early if you’re not checking a bag. You won’t have to worry about it getting lost in transit (it’s a real pain, trust me!). You don’t have to waste time at the baggage carousel once you’ve landed. It’s safe and secure with you at all times and it gives you added flexibility. Say you want to change flights for some reason (maybe there’s an earlier flight or your flight is significantly delayed); having your luggage on your person means you can make quick decisions and change your travel plans … on the fly.

There are lots of other packing tricks like socks inside shoes. What are your packing tricks? Leave a comment and share! But remember ladies, you don’t have to bring everything but the bathroom sink! It took me a while to feel comfortable traveling without my hairdryer (even still the thought stresses me out), but for the most part, all hotels have hairdryers. They’ve got shampoo, conditioner, soap – so leave that stuff at home. I know you’re partial to your own products. But what would you rather have – your own shampoo or your cute strappy sandals? That’s what I thought.

tory burch flip flops

tory-burch-flip-flopsI’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my oh-so-cute Tory Burch flip flops. I love the patterned soles and assortment of bright candy colours they’re available in. I ordered them online at toryburch.com and I can’t wait for them to show up. They’re also available online at Bloomingdales. Neither online retailer ships outside of the US, so if you live elsewhere like me, you’ll have to con someone who lives there into ordering them for you (that’s what I did!) Anyhow, I can’t wait to take them on my next trip, wherever that may be!

things to do in tel aviv

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Tel Aviv is a city just like so many world-class cities across the globe, something I’d not really realized or even expected, truth be told. The city is in its infancy, particularly compared to neighbouring cities like Jerusalem; Tel Aviv celebrates its centennial in 2009 and the city is alive with a festive flair, with events planned throughout the year. Everywhere I went, I found myself charmed by the people and the character in this young city. And there’s so much to do. If you’re not sunbathing on the shores of the Mediterranean, there are plenty of places to shop. In fact, the shopping here is spectacular. There are many areas to visit; try Sheinkin Street, perhaps the trendiest street in the city, lined with beautiful boutiques and cafes. I had to drag myself out of stores like DL by Daniella Lehavi, which boasts a gorgeous collection of bags and shoes featured in the photo above. DL by Daniella Lehavi, 35 Sheinkin Street, Tel Aviv, Tel: 03-629-4044. Along Sheinkin Street you’ll find all kinds of local designers with collections the likes of which you’d see in Paris or New York. After a few hours giving your credit card a workout, take a load off at Orna and Ella, the most popular cafe on the street. Coffee and pastries will give you the energy you need to continue! Orna and Ella, 33 Sheinkin St., Tel: 03-620-4753. Tel Aviv has got a vibrant nightlife with bars aplenty, perfect for a pub-crawl if that’s your scene. Or, if you’re more interested in lively places for dinner, definitely hit the Tel Aviv Port, an action-packed place any time of day, lined with trendy restaurants that attract a hip, young crowd. TIP: Bring a sweater or pashmina if you’re dining al fresco in the evening. It can get chilly along the water.

My trip to Israel came to a close far too quickly. I could easily have spent a month discovering more of the history of places like Nazareth and Galilee or exploring more of Tel Aviv’s vibrant culture. This tiny country has so much to offer travelers. If you go, plan your time wisely to make sure you see as much as you can. As I boarded my El Al flight back home, I made a silent promise to one day return to this special place.

switchflops

OK, I don’t know about you but one of the biggest problems I encounter when I’m packing is shoes. I have learned the advantages of traveling with carry-on only and for the most part, it’s completely do-able. But where I run into trouble … ? It’s the shoes. Different outfits require different shoes and to pack so that only one or two are required, well, I find that an enormous challenge. I mean, I typically need (and by “need” I mean “want to bring”) a pair of running shoes, a pair of flip flops and a pair of walking shoes … oh, and a pair of heels. And that doesn’t take into account the fact that sometimes I might want to bring a particular pair of shoes in a particular colour to go with a particular outfit. Oh boy. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered SwitchFlops. SwitchFlops are flip-flops that feature Velcro straps. When you want to change the colour of the straps, simply remove them and replace them with new straps. There are lots of colours and patterns to choose from. So when you’re packing, you can pack just one shoe base (there are flip-flops, wedges and kitten heels) and an assortment of straps to change up the look. The shoes range in price from $35 to $49 and the straps are only $12. Talk about saving valuable space in your suitcase. Brilliant!
For more information, visit switchflops.com

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