Destinations: Making the Most of a Napa Valley Wine Tour...

Ma(i)sonry

All travel experiences change the traveler, but certain journeys leave such a permanent mark on the soul that they stay with you forever. I've been to California numerous times, each of them memorable trips. But Napa... where do I begin? First, I'll give full gratitude to Zephyr for inviting me to join their amazing group of design bloggers for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. From start to finish this was easily one of the most flawless travel experiences I've had the privilege to enjoy. 

Now... on to the rolling hills and tasting room wonderland that is Napa Valley. Our plan for the day was to take in a trio of diverse wine tasting experiences at three very different wineries. I'll use the term "winery" with liberty here, as one such stop was merely a curator of wines, but more on that in a bit. 

First up, the esteemed Joseph Phelps Vineyard. Talk about beginning with a legend. Even the most uninformed wine drinker has likely heard of Insignia, the winery's most coveted bottled gold. We were treated to an introductory tour of the private tasting rooms, the library and the barrel room. Our gracious hostess offered such tantalizing stories of the rich history of this redwood building and surrounding property, and what a property it is. Beyond the floor to ceiling glass panes we were treated to what is iconic Napa: rolling hills, verdant vineyards and nary modern office building or nuisance in sight. A travelers dream. (All images above except very top) are from the JP Vineyard.)

And the wines? I've made no secret of the fact that I don't drink. I simply don't enjoy it and my body doesn't metabolize it the way everyone else's physical being does. However that's what's so great about wine "tasting" is it isn't about consumption. While we captivated by our host's marvelous details of each vintage, each varietal and the amazing journey this award-winning winery has been on, we were able to sip each aromatic red. Trust when I share that Insignia is likely to change your mind about reds whether you're a bonafide oenophile or a teetotaler such as myself. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Napa, put this winery at the top of your list. 

Next stop? One you may already know of... Ma(i)sonry. Sound familiar? RH fans may recognize this as the brand's own property. Part art gallery part restaurant, Ma(i)sonry is unique among unique properties. Between the bucolic outdoor scenery, the dynamic art gallery vibe and the Silicon Valley clientele (a large table hosted a dozen or so Google employees the afternoon we were there) Ma(i)sonry is hip, cool and all about the experience. Think: vintage Louis Vuitton trunks, pop art and a dreamy Lucite 9real Lucite, mind you) with every design book you ever hoped of owning one day. 

Our ridiculously fresh meal was paired perfectly with a handful of wines my fellow travelers seemed to love. But it was the light-as-air potato chips we were addicted to. It's worth a stop for those alone! Between sumptuous bites we moved through the space and took in the smaller details that make this unique establishment so unique. Open, breezy and garden-centric, this is one of those interesting stops I highly recommend. Tip: bring a group and reserve dining space outside. The long, rough hewn plank table beneath a towering tree was an almost magical place to sit and take in the perfect weather. 

Next? Our increasingly playful group rolled through the countryside to reach the acclaimed Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Our appetites sated, we were primed and ready for our educational tour of this unique estate. Whereas Joseph Phelps is the upscale, classic, sophisticated wine experience and Ma(i)sonry is hip and cool, Stags Leap welcomes you with its powerful modern architecture rising from the Napa Valley floor.

Once inside the reception area of SLWC your education begins. Like sparring siblings, the ground of the same property produces two very different wines: Fay versus S.L.V. Fay is the more refined, elegant of the two siblings, with hints of cinnamon & clove meeting the sweetness of berries. Fay is easy to love. The feistier sister is S.L.V. This cabernet is spicy, rich and a full on sensory assault, perfect for those seeking more complexity in their red. And then there is... Cask 23. This highly sought after blend of Fay and S.L.V is limited in quantity high in demand. Earning an enviable 97-100 points from The Wine Advocate, this bottled beauty combines the best of each of the primary cabernets to create a drinkable masterpiece. 

The history of Stag's Leap was as much about the pursuit of excellence in win as in architecture. Widely known for being the winery that won the Cabernet Sauvignon competition in the 1976 Judgment of Paris, was founded in 1970, and is considered a Napa Valley "first-growth" estate. With the wine cave arcade and visitor's center designed by Barcelona architect Javier Barba (a pioneer of green architecture), this is a modern gem that somehow blends with the mountainous surroundings and shows off its man-made origins at the same time. Their history page will offer a much more robust and colorful view of their storied past, but Stags Leap is a legendary winery with a truly legendary collection of wines you must not miss when in Napa. Book a tasting, take in the resplendent view of the stunning landscape and count your blessings. This was the perfect end to our busy day. 

So... what are my Napa Valley tips?

BOOK EARLY

Book early. Tastings at wineries in this region are some of the most sought after experiences in the area. With limited capacity and high demand, you'll want to do a little research and whittle down your list to a select few you'd love to visit.

HIRE A DRIVER

Drinking & driving? Not cool. Plus, you and your squad can have plenty of fun enjoying the scenery and chatting about your experiences en route to the next tasting room. Place the responsibility of driving in a pro's hands and relax. 

PACE YOURSELF
 

Our happy group was marvelously content to sip & learn for most of the day. But I can tell you that our attention span was pretty spotty by the end of the day. If your squad leans more towards the wine enthusiast side, allow more spacing between tasting experiences and give yourself a few hours at each location to fully soak in the view and the moment. It will pass too quickly as it is. 

BRING THE FUN WITH YOU

Tastings are fun. Really fun. The staff at each location were uncommonly good looking, excellent conversationalists, impossibly well-informed and skilled at the art of hosting. Why not take your favorite people in the world with you to enjoy the experience? Wine and food are best enjoyed in the company of others. Bring along your besties and your love to make the memory of the day (or days) more meaningful. I will forever be grateful for the fun day with my old and new friends in Napa. Come prepared to have a fantastic day. 

BRING YOUR CAMERA & OPEN YOUR EYES

I'm a digital citizen. I live for (and with) my iPhone almost glued to my hand. But in Napa? I hardly wanted to touch it. Aside from the epic scenery and marvelous company, my desire was to take it in with my eyes. I wanted to BE in the moment and capture as many mental pictures as possible. Napa is best seen with the eyes and then captured with a high quality DSLR camera. You'll never capture the majesty of the landscape with your iPhone. 

WHAT TO WEAR

Ahhhh, fashion. My comfort zone. My love. My private passion. Napa is certainly more upscale than its laid back sister Sonoma. Still, the art of low-key chic is at play. Blessed by that impossibly pleasant California climate, you'll have flexibility in your choices but versatile layers are ideas. If you follow my lead you may want to consider nice jeans, dressy flats (or wedges or booties if the season commands), a simple cashmere sweater and a scarf and or vest. Layers are key, as a warm day soon turns to a chilly evening and pleasant breezes become gusty winds very quickly when you turn a corner. Tastings will be seated at large tables, so you'll have plenty of time to rest your feet, but sophisticated comfort is the vibe. You'll be walking  briefly in wine caves and touring parts of the various properties, but no long distance trekking is required. Still, those stilettos are best left at the hotel for dinner back in the city. 

Here's the look I rocked on my tour of the heavenly Napa Valley...




WHERE TO STAY

Napa is stunning. Stay there. Find a fabulous hotel like the Auberge du Soleil and make it an affair to remember. Or, for an even more serene mountain vibe and upscale experience (and the above is hard to beat) try Callistoga Ranch. Both offer jaw dropping vineyard views, unbeatable culinary experiences and posh accommodations. Did I mention spa treatments? Yes, it's all waiting for you. 

Destinations: The Wintery Appeal of All Things Palm Beach Chic...

If you've not yet discovered the joy that is the winter jaunt to Florida, you've been missing out. It's at about this time every year I begin longing for those tall waving palms, white sand beaches and Worth Avenue. While I've enjoyed the sandy shores before, this year feels especially right for the preppy chic style feast that Palm Beach affords.  

For you snowbirds, I'd love to suggest you treat yourself to an extended stay at the one and only The Breakers. It's a classic for good reason with celebs and everyday style-seekers making annual visits to this oceanfront property. Golf, upscale accommodations and every amenity one hopes to find within those 120-year old grounds. It's simply a must at least once.

But let's just say you're more the sleek boutique hotel type. You won't be able to resist the appeal of The Tideline Hotel just steps from the Breakers and also right on the beach. Formerly the Omphoy, this hotel blends modern sultry design with Balinese intrigue for a stay that is at once sexy and posh. 

To busy to hop on a Virgin America flight? Grab a copy of Palm Beach Chic, Jennifer Ash Rudick's hardcover homage to the area's most wondrous residences. I have been devouring those book for a few months, but as the cold settles into Dallas I'm suddenly transfixed with its colorful imagery and cheery estates. 

To get you in the mood for those sunny afternoons on Worth Avenue (or to substitute for them) I'll dazzle your eyes with inspired picks that will conjure the vibe of this unique tropical haven where the rich and perhaps not-so-famous enjoy the sunshine. 

CHANNELING PALM BEACH CHIC




Planning a getaway? Don't miss the packages and deals Jet Setter and Expedia offer. But for you more adventurous (read: less hotel-oriented) types, Airbnb might have just the private oasis you seek. Some offering the preppy, pretty pink, green and white vibe we've come to know and love about Palm Beach itself. Here's a link for $20 off your first stay.

Now, back to that inspiring book I mentioned earlier. Palm Beach Chic takes you inside never seen before properties (as well as a few highly publicized icons) to showcase what chic Florida coastal living is all about. Beams of sunshine, a preference for happy colors, expansive arches and always an invitation to blur indoors and out. These are hallmarks of the luxe lifestyle that is Palm Beach. If you can't board a jet or venture out by car, this book will take you where you long to go without ever leaving the comfort of your cozy nest! 

{all images at top via Palm Beach Chic}

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Destinations: Fabulous Food, Top Design & Creative Inspiration Collide in San Fran...

Later this week I'll be joining a small band of fellow designers for a fast but thrilling tour of San Francisco's Design District, Napa Valley and that all important 2015 Showhouse. Generously hosted and designed by Zephyr, the retreat has the making of one of the most enjoyable trips I've been on in a while. I can't wait to share stunning moments with you via Instagram and the like. If you're not following me yet, by social links are all below. 

Our goal? To dig into the design scene that San Francisco offers and share that with readers and clients like you. From those sexy modern hoods our hosts creates to artisan creations at showrooms like Coup d'Etat and one-of-a-kind wineries like Ma(i)sonry. The toughest part of any trip lately seems to be clearing the schedule to board the plane, but once aloft I know the thrill of it all will kick in and daily to-do's will be a blip on my mental screen. 

Stay tuned for updates and be sure to connect on Instagram and follow #ZephyrBloggerRetreat2015 on all your social networks. The flight takes off in just a few days! 

Luxe Accommodations: A Chic Boutique in Paris's Golden Triangle

A playfully chic Paris hotel between Avenue Montaigne and the Grand Palais for around $200USD per night? Some might say you are dreaming, I say you've stumbled upon the dreamy La Maison Champs Élysées

The opulence of Paris is all there: gilded staircases, marble floors and terrace dining. But La Maison has a bit more fun with the usual visit to the City of Light by featuring trompe-l'œil in lieu of authentic boiserie - just one of many cheeky elements in their classical-meets-avant-garde design.

Frankly, if you can get to Paris and score a room at this fabulous boutique hotel you'd be a fool not to do so. You'll have the option of an opulent suite (part of their Couture Collection) or a more contemporary (read: less pricey) Boutique Collection suites. All of these have been designed by fashion designer Martin Margiela. 

What to expect? Sophisticated details with a twist of irony. Luxe finishes juxtaposed with trendy details. It's the high-low mix of street style applied to an exquisite boutique hotel. Explore this lovely hotel here and enjoy your stay in the center of this magical city. 

Can't get away? I have some fun things for you below.. including wallpaper to give you the illusion of that coveted French paneling. Enjoy! 

PARIS INSPIRED DESIGN ELEMENTS


CHANNEL YOUR INNER FRENCH GIRL


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Luxe Accommodations: Set Adrift in an Opulent Seafaring Private Penthouse...

Imagine this: owning a roaming penthouse that docks in one fabulous port after another and has its own submarine and helicopter on board for your private use. Sorry, bucket list. You just got turned upside down by this new offering from Crystal Cruises.

I've blogged about The World before, so the idea of an upscale residence at sea is not innovative or new. What it noteworthy is that individuals have been warming to the idea of extended stays on ships whether or not the industry adapts to the idea. Picking up on this niche need (or perhaps pushing the envelope to create one), Crystal (and likely soon other cruise lines) decided to develop 48 penthouse suites across their entire fleet of ships. To keep the experience elite, homeowners will enjoy their own pool, their own restaurants and a wide array of posh amenities in keeping with the million dollar pricing. Celebrity chefs, submersible vehicles and sophisticated ports of call will be a part of the dazzling list of offerings dangled in order to lure would-be buyers. 

Ready to take the plunge and see the world from your private balcony? Me too. Sounds positively dreamy. And if the images above are accurate, we won't be the only ones eager to see the inside of these 4,000 square feet suites at sea. Details can be found here

Never heard of The World? Well, it's positively dreamy and has been on my radar for years. They can be credited with putting the idea of a residence on the ocean on our collective consciousness. The World is not your typical cruise ship. It exclusively houses owners of 165 individual residences and is touted as the worlds largest privately owned residential ship on earth. The happy few aboard enjoy exceptional voyages, learning opportunities and unrivaled cultural enrichment opportunities.

My husband and I share the goal of having access to one of these regal pads. Once we "get there" in our financial goals we'll sort out the details of how (and now that there are more options, perhaps even "where" becomes a question), but the idea of going to sleep in Seychelles and waking up in the Maldives sounds pretty sweet to me. What about you? Does sailing the world sound dreamy or torturous? What if you could board at your leisure and live on land most of the time? Wouldn't this be the coolest classroom in the world for a family with children? The possibilities are endless, really. I just completely adore the idea of private travel aboard a floating luxury resort. 

SHOP MY SHIP SHAPE FAVORITES



Luxe Accommodations: Thailand's Tranquil 137 Pillars House...

The idea of spending a few slow weeks in Southeast Asia is absolutely thrilling to me. Cambodia, Burma, Java, Bali... oh, it entices me like few places do. So far I can boast about no Asian travels as we've stayed largely on the European continent and surrounding areas. But when I think of epic journeys and unforgettable voyages, Thailand and the surrounding areas certainly come to mind. 

A quick tour of Kiwi Collection (which I ADORE for their unique rating system & huge photography) led me to 137 Pillars House, a tucked away retreat in Chang Mai. Stay long enough (or even for one magical night) and you'll forget it's a hotel at all. The suites feel like private estates hidden within tropical gardens. In addition to inspiring my approach to patio decorating this season (hello, wall of meandering greens!) it conjures up images a breezy dresses and slip on shoes over nothing more than a bathing suit. Now that's the kind of vacation wardrobe I can get behind.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER VACATION BABE 



Now... on to the idea of vacations. Where do you long to go? Where are you plotting to visit this year? What was your favorite trip. And how do you go about researching your accommodations? 

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Extraordinary Journeys: Trina Turk + Jonathan Adler's Epic Italian Summer Vacation...

 
 

What happens when two of the fashion & design industry's most vibrant characters go to the Italian coast? An Instagram feed of epic photos emerges. Traveling with their significant others (Mr. Turk & Simon Doonan, respectively), the fierce foursome gave us plenty to add to both our bucket list and our ultimate closet wish list.

What, you ask, did they do? Everything a good little vacationer should do. They enjoyed colorful cocktails, wore gorgeous tunics (or cool shorts, for the boys), dipped their toes in stunning pools, enjoyed the view of the Italian coast from a boat and dove head first into the sea. The photos of Capri, Sicily and Naples are enough to have me strategically plotting my tunic and fedora purchases. 

What did we learn from this digitally documented journey? Let's review a few teachable highlights:

  1. Italy is awesome. (Not that you needed a reminder of that.)
  2. Happiness and a big smile are a clearly girl's best accessories.
  3. Trina truly lives the lifestyle her brand portrays. (Way to represent, sister!)
  4. Tunics & kaftans are a must-have summer vacation staple for every female. 
  5. You can never have too many chic straw hats. (Smart sun protection is always in style.)
  6. Never underestimate the power of a stylish and confident man. He makes life more exciting. 
  7. Get out on a boat. The view (and the breeze) is far better from the water. 
  8. Take in the local scene and indulge in the experiences your vacation destination offers. 
  9. Italians can make even common popsicles seem incredibly chic. 
  10. Book the ticket. Take the trip. It will ALWAYS be worth it. 

Where did they stay? Naples, Capri and Sicily were among the photographed locatons. In Capri they enjoyed the beauty of La Scalinatella and I'll dive deeper into that property in another post. For now, let's focus on loading your closet up with tunics & other Turk-worthy looks. 

CHANNEL YOUR ITALIAN SUMMER GODDESS




See more of Trina & Jonathan's pix here. Don't be envious. be inspired. Go make your own memories and build a life worth smiling about! Now... go book those summer trips!   

Luxe Accommodations: Securing Some Alone Time In Sicily...

When someone asks you to fly to Sicily, you don't take long to say yes. Instead, you promptly thank them for their graciousness and begin plotting outfits and pulling out your TSA-friendly toiletries. In addition to checking another destination off my list, it is Italy - my happy place! I'll be traveling alone and I cannot think of a time in my life when I've been more excited about flying solo (literally & figuratively). Hectic schedule? Daily routine? Workout rut? Buh-bye! Armed with my camera, a few dresses and little more, I'm excited about making this a carry-on only trip. 

Where to stay? I'm looking at all options, but have stumbled upon what looks like paradise. Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo has hosted such lovely ladies as Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. The hotel is nestled in a stunning hillside overlooking an ancient Greek theatre and oozes Sicilian charm. One look at that view & those suites and it's not difficult to see why. A wellness center, locally grown fruits, the essence of orange blossom drifting through the air - this is one vacation I'm really looking forward to. 

So... why am I going? It's a work trip, actually, for a fun new client. More on that later. And since this isn't exactly a business hotel I'll be trying to work out the accommodations on my own. BUT... since I am desperate DES-PER-ATE for some "me time" it would be worth the cost if Im footing the bill on my own. Did I mention there will be fresh flowers and fresh fruit in my room upon arrival? Major swoon. And can't you just see me on that balcony overlooking the water, dreaming up lovely ideas? I certainly can. And you can bet I'll be instagramming my little heart out. But I'm also very, very committed to a not checking my bags. It's a fast trip, so a carry-on sounds like sheer heaven. And that pool? I have got to squeeze in a quick dip in that lovely situation. Dreamy, indeed. 

Care to see what I'm hoping to stuff in a my bag? Let's look:

WHAT I'M PACKING





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Wanderlusting: West Coast is the Best Coast...

Normally my wanderlusting posts are reserved for exotic locales and destinations that require a passport. But right now I'm in a Laguna Beach state of mind and have my sights set on a West Coast escape that meanders up the picturesque coast. Those of you who've stood on the craggy rocks in La Jolla or seen the to-die-for vistas from Geoffrey's in Malibu know what I mean. Cali has the lock on natural beauty and the power of the Pacific. 

So, where to stay? I do love luxe hotels, so it's no surprise I'm loving Pelican Hill and a handful of other comparably impressive resort-style accommodations. Also, the girls will be in tow, meaning a family-friendly stay is a must. L'Auberge Del Mar is always my go-to stop in Del Mar. But as we head up the coast to Malibu I realize I've stayed with friends there, not in hotels. So those airbnb and home away spots start standing out. Choices, choices. 

The best part of this type of trip? Every roadtripping on Highway 1, the most dreamy of "woah, look at that!" drives. So hearing my own thoughts echoed from the back seat of a sweet rental is going to be well worth the airfare from Dallas . 

Now... what to do? Well, that's a matter of preference. For me it's all about getting outside and soaking in the view and the sunshine. Golf is a huge draw for the men, for the girls...? We love ti all. Spa days, chilling in a cabana and of course,  plunging your toes in the sand as the sun sets. Few things compare to strolling the local scene and window shopping between iced coffees and fresh food on gorgeous restaurant patios. 

So... you can expect to see a few more posts as I plan this mid-summer getaway to the Golden State. In the meantime, let's pack our imaginary bags... shall we? 

WEST COAST STYLE = BEST COAST STYLE




The mood? Totally low key. Effortless. Comfortable. An off the shoulder dress here, some espadrilles there. Add a hint of gloss, a light misting of sunblock, a shimmery bronzer and pop on your hat. Boom. Outfit done. 

West coast may catch flack for being casual, but in summer I see no reason to deny them that right. Frankly, I think we've all adopted a more laid back approach to fashion in recent years. SoCal natives have simply been ahead of the curve. 

So... where are you going this summer? 

Luxe Accommodations: Sweeping Vistas in the 'Bu

So let's just get this out of the way: I adore Bravo and the wanderlusting, lifestyle enabling, success celebrating nature of its Million Dollar & Real Housewives shows. This week I find I've been missing and longing for the Joshes (both Altman & Flagg) as well as the dreamy California properties they feature. 

This airbnb listing has me almost realizing my Malibu dreams with this stunning modern residence. This is surely a home Bravo's very own Malibu expert Madison Hildebrand would have personally been familiar with. Yours (or mine) for $900 per night, this glamorous architectural beauty boasts mountain and ocean views - and enough jaw dropping vistas indoors to make the nightly rate feel downright reasonable. What it lacks (pool... where are you???) it strives to make up for in high end appointings and Kelly-Wearstler-meets-Martyn-Lawrence-Bullard sexiness. Brass wrapped tufted velvet seating, anyone? Check. Sleek white kitchen? Check. Deep soaking tub with a view of the Pacific? Check! 

So come on, Bravo. Bring back my house lusting summer show. I do believe I do believe I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms of the luxurious kind. 

Not on Airbnb? Sign up here

PACK YOUR BAGS


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Wanderlusting: Why the Best Time to Go is Now...

Let's face it: you're not getting any younger and they still haven't invented a way to stop time. Both are disappointing to say the least. What isn't a let down, however, is this amazing spinning ball we live on. It. Is. Amazing. There are islands to be visited, galleries to be discovered, infinity pools to be enjoyed and culinary-meets-cultural experiences to be had all over it's watery surface. 

Your job - scratch that - our job is to go exploring and enjoy every bit of this incredible planet while we're here. Yes, I actually believe it's something we should all feel compelled to do. For me (and others like me) the desire to travel is like an unquenchable thirst. A thirst so dire and palpable that there is only one cure: to go. 

Before you go raising objections, let's get this on the table: it needn't be wildly expensive to go to Mozambique, Morocco or Monte Carlo. Take for example Matt Knepes. He's carved out a niche for himself via his popular How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and the accompanying Nomadic Matt Travel Site.

What makes this budget travel guru unique is that instead of telling you to hoof it and find a hostel, he'll reveal how to use the established travel system to land yourself squarely in a posh hotel for a veritable bargain. Hint: you'll want to leverage sites like Airbnb and consider the art of house sitting to snag a chic abode while enjoying a city or location. While he does offer insights for solo travelers (those for whom hostels might be appealing), he dives in to seek solutions for families, couples and passport-wielding females.

What you spend in time learning a few insider tips you'll surely save in dollars (or Euros, as it were) once you take the plunge. 

Another modern travel pioneer is Scott Keyes. Scott, 28, gained notoriety for leveraging the art of gaming the airline industry and maximizing those miles programs. How savvy is he, you ask? He has flown to Milan for $130, gone to the Galapagos Islands for $45, and visited Norway and Belgium for around $350 instead of the typical $1,000.

Thanks to mastering the ins-and-outs of numerous loyalty programs, he's been to 30 countries — this next trip will make that count 42 — and flown 354,000 miles or roughly 14.3 times around the earth. Why do we love him? Because he wants to share this information with all of us via his e-books and widely publicized tips. I've bookmarked his story (link above), and I suggest do too. Guy has figured out "the art of the spend" using his 25 credit cards. Note: he is NOT racking up debt and has actually improved his credit throughout this incredible process. 

Taken one step further: San Francisco-based Jay Meistrich did the math (I mean that quite literally) and realized it was actually far more affordable to live elsewhere while he developed and launched his startup business. The Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur gave away everything I owned, and moved into a 40 liter backpack. He traveled to 45 cities in 20 countries, 3 Disneylands, and 1 "bunny island" all while working 50 hours a week building and launching his startup. His total costs were less than just the rent in San Francisco. Granted, he has no family, but there are many lessons to be learned from his travel-thirsty exercise. I have several times proposed this concept to my husband and once (oh, once) I had him almost convinced it was possible for us. Alas, he does not suffer from wanderlust at all and perceives viewing the world as "nice, but not necessary" to a fulfilling and healthy life. Yes, I cry a little inside every time I read these inspiring tales of those possessing globetrotting bravery that flies in the face of convention. Can you tell? 

Need more motivation to get up and go? Travel+Leisure offers 40 excellent reasons to drop that nasty Facebook habit and start staring at the sunset in a new destination. There are cobblestone streets to be walked, windows to be shopped, lobbies to be lingered in, rooftop bars to be enjoyed, horizons to be seen, balconies to be discovered, people to be met, winding roads to be driven,languages to learn and museums to go see. GO DO THOSE THINGS.

May we all live long, bold lives that allow us to explore all that we thirst to discover. 

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Visual Poetry: World's Most Magnificent Sites as Seen By A Drone...

Seriously.. I have ONE thing I desperately want at the moment. A drone. I know, I know... controversial at best. Truly, I just want to look at gorgeous houses and green areas, nothing nefarious here. Although, the idea of everyone having ready access to these makes me nervous enough to leave the recreational espionage activities to others. Anyway... seeing the world from a top-down perspective such as the images above is beyond awesome. These photographs are of some of the world's most spectacular "bucket list" sites as seen via high-powered drones equipped with phenomenal camera equipment. Impressive? You bet. In fact, some might say this is precisely how these structures were designed to be viewed. Seem a God's-eye view of the world is actually pretty spectacular.  {source}

Destinations: Modern Classics, The Venetian Way...

I've recently written of Venice so if you've never been (or merely lack the passion for all things Venetian) I apologize. It's just that I love the city so much. It's been in the news of late thanks to the latest round of Acqua Alta (that's "flooding" for the rest of us). Carnival revelers walk on elevated sidewalks or merely trudge through the water-filled piazzas. It is heartbreaking and breathtaking simultaneously to see this city once again under unusually high waters. 

While I'm not a fan of Carnival or masquerade balls in general (I blame Tom Cruise for that), I do love the idea of a city steeped in tradition.  I find the the event a bit too "dark" for my taste, but... the art student in me loves the fanciful costumes and the idea of the masses so committed to the spectacle of charade. Millions flock to Venice despite rising waters to partake in this annual event. Tradition is a beautiful thing, and though modern day Carnival is surely the furthest thing from its historic origins, I love to see that the art form live on today. 

Also excelling at old meets new: the Aman Canal Grande Venice. Regal and dripping in old world luxury, this historic hotel is anything but outdated. Modern amenities abound in each suite. No detail has been overlooked. But looking around, lassic Venetian details abound - including a glorious salon boasting floor to ceiling original frescoes. This luxe property is not to be missed (and frankly, you can't miss it when you're on the Grand Canal). 

I particularly love the juxtaposition of sleek marble slab en suite baths with sweeping views of the paint-chipped colorful villas across the canal. Modern furnishings meet aging Venice. It's beautiful. Or dine in the elaborate dining room with classic age-tinged brocade wallpaper and minimal Mid-Century influenced furniture. Contrast is a rich and interesting thing. The entire 24-suite property is a study in melding timeless classics and modern advancements. 

Enjoy a vacation of the mind by gasping at the gallery of images. And promise yourself that one day you'll make your way to Venice. It truly is unlike any other city. 

CURRENTLY CRUSHING ON...

Destinations: A Picturesque 18th-Century Farmhouse in Provence...

Today I'm inspired by the stunning natural beauty of Provence. 

When it comes to planning a vacation there's the push-pull decision of whether you're looking for a thrilling destination or a serene escape from the norm. I tend to think that even in bucolic settings the soul itself experiences scintillating new cultural discoveries and the senses are put on overload experiencing the new visual input, sounds and smells. In short, even a relaxing vacation invigorates body, mind and soul. 

That's where La Bastide de Marie comes in to play. Situated on 60 acres of rolling vineyard and gardens, this 18th-century Provençal farmhouse allows your mind to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Lunch under the sun surrounded by olive and lemon trees. Rooms that are charmingly named - not numbered. Billowing linens lining open windows are blown about by breezes carrying a heady mix of anise, lavender and sage. This, dear friends, is exactly what I crave at the moment. Stunning serenity in a setting so fantastic my eyes can barely believe it exists. 

I'm already packing my imaginary bags and leaving my modern life behind. If ever there was an Anthropologie moment to be had, this is surely it, right? It is the idyllic setting for their special blend of French boho insouciance, and we can't deny ourselves a trip to Provence without delicate linen dresses and pretty artisan accessories.  

Here's what I plan to take (on my imaginary trip) to this fanciful old French estate at the base of the Vaucluse Mountains...

FRENCH-INSPIRED RELAXED CHIC

My "look" as you can see is one of relaxed chic. Pops of shimmer and pomegranate here and there, but overall an understated neutral look to the days. The idea is to let the gorgeous natural setting and your innate personal beauty (which will surely radiate under the veil of sunshine & aromatic breezes) be the star of the show.

If, like me, there's no jet on the tarmac to take you off to Provence this month, perhaps infuse a bit of this relaxed attitude into your daily life this month. Let your light shine. Let your beauty come through. Let life be the joy filled experience it should be. 

Au revoir! 

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Dreaming Of: Snowy Castles...

Thinking of all of you snowed in (or at least enjoying a light dusting of the good stuff) up north. May your day be bright, light and filled with magical moments. Stay warm & safe. 

COLD WEATHER FAVORITES

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Wanderlusting: Every Voyage Begins with a Single Step...

I've been reading a lot more lately. Not books... but blogs, forums and lengthy facebook posts exploring the motivations of blogs, bloggers and online publications in general. After reading through old conversation threads and participating in new ones I found myself doing a bit of soul searching. Why on earth do I blog? What are my motivations? 

Frankly, I do it because I enjoy it. I do it to sort out and explore my thoughts, to document and share my personal journey, to push myself to grow, to remind myself to pull my head out of the sand and TRAVEL. To perhaps maybe inspire others to stop settling. I do it because I feel deeply compelled to put this content out there - for me and for perhaps that small handful of people who enjoy a swift kick in the motivational booty now and then. I do it to inspire both you and myself. 

The most beautiful aspect, however is the interaction and connection with people. Over the years I've built great relationships on and offline with so many of you. It's the bright upside to blogging (and Twitter, Facebook & Instagram). It's the relationships that grow that make it so fun. When they morph into real life girlfriends it's so much sweeter. 

My weakness as a blogger is this: I don't carve out much time to study blogs. I do love reading posts via facebook when the title or the author catches my eye (Erin's captivating content always woos me), but by and large I'm authoring what I hope is original content inspired by my present life, my present interests and my present outlook. 

The motivation: to express what inspires me and to perhaps inspire and connect with you. 

In life it's a poor idea to compare yourself to others.  I hope you feel the same internal cravings for personal achievement and realizing your personal best that I do. The desire to develop ourselves, to bloom into our individual personal best versions of ourself is, I hope, a universal crazing. If a post or a series of posts can spark something in you and encourage you to raise your personal standards or goals so that you can reach your highest personal potential... that's beautiful. 

So I hope you enjoy reading simply because you enjoy reading and connecting. If I inspire you to buy the ticket, take the ride and escape any negative lifestyle ruts then I'm thrilled. If a post is in any way a catalyst - even for myself - to shake things up and reach for the stars... this entire seven+ year process of blogging has been worth every moment. And it is. especially when you share your great selves with me. 

I urge you to explore magazines or pinterest to identify some far flung place you've never been but always dreamed of visiting. Does Paris call you? Cambodia? Thailand? Portugal? Some remote surfing destination on Australia's coast? Then it's time to go. Begin planning that trip. Begin ACTIVELY making plans to get there. First with a cursory look at things to do and then with a more specific plan of where you'd like to stay and your ideal activity list once there. Buy the ticket. Take the ride. Make it happen. Life is fleeting, and you'll regret not going. 

So tell me... where do you want to go this year? What do you hope to achieve during this year? Will you visit Sicily and start your business? Will you finally enroll in that art program you've been considering? Will you finally open yourself to truly loving someone? Will you bravely begin your journey towards healthy living? I hope to see you GO and GROW this year. I hope we all decide to be bold and take that first magical step towards our best and brightest future. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for emailing. Thank you for simply being you. I appreciate it so much! 

Dreaming Of: A Cozy Ski Chalet...

Forgive us southerners: snow is a rarified experience. We just don't receive enough of the white stuff to feel burdened by its presence. We're the ones on facebook and instagram saying "let it snow" and gushing on about how "fun" it will be if a few inches of the powdery goodness falls upon our southern city. It must drive those of you scraping off your windshields and shoveling snow crazy. And for that, we're sorry. On the rare occasion that we do experience any significant accumulation, our cities literally shut down for a few days until the mercury rises and melts it away. We're sissies and really can't handle the cold. Usually we only see a light dusting that doesn't allow us to really feel the thrill of snowfall, anyway. Believe it or not we suffer from snow envy. We just want the snow on our terms. 

For this reason, many of us head to the slopes during winter months to get our fix of fabulous snow-covered scenery. Even those of us who don't ski love the scenery and the vibe. There we can indulge in our fantasy of cuddling under fur blankets by the hearth, sipping cocoa straight from the stove and tending to a fire just to keep our toes warm. Surely that's what you all are doing up north all day... right? We seem to believe you're living out our winter wonderland lives for us. Rustic ski lodge fantasies?  Guilty. And we actually look for excuses to pull out the gloves and coats because they are novelty items rather than survival tools. Unfortunately, winter is just getting started and our achingly cold feet indicate that we are poorly prepared for this frigid polar weather. 

Want to mimic that fabulous ski chalet cozy vibe at home? Right now I certainly do. I'm craving (more) plump pillows, antler accents (yes, I know it's silly), far more blankets (because, dear God it is cold) and definitely more hot cocoa. I'm also having flights of fancy about trying my snowboarding skills. So.... who wants to go on a make believe snow-covered mountain escape with me today? Are you in? 

FOR FEELING COZY INSIDE


FOR THE OUTDOOR ADVENTURER

Whatever your weather, I hope you'll enjoy the day and dress the part. I'm learning to embrace the season - whatever that is - and indulge in the weather as it comes. Happy Friday to you all!

Wanderlusting: I Still Dream of Venice...

I miss Venice. I miss it a lot. It was my very first overseas destination and it was so beyond the realm of my comprehension that I could not quite grasp its awesomeness (in the truest sense of the word) until I had left its watery environment. Venice is a one-of-a-kind city that you will carry with you for the rest of your days. It is enchanting, it is magical, it is mysterious and it is undeniably romantic. 

We stayed right on the grand canal and our room was everything you could hope a Venetian room would be. The walls were lined in silk brocade that matched the heavy drapery panels. The furniture in our suite was ornate, gilt embellished and gorgeous. Our windows had these amazing shutters that flung open to reveal the bustling water taxis and passers by just outside. Adding even more of a thrill, our shower ALSO had a very large window overlooking the canal. Hello, Italia! 

We enjoyed that sweet city for three or four delicious days. Stopping to see the "must-sees" along the way (St. Marks, The Rialto Bridge and others) we still had time to enjoy getting lost and finding our way in the network of narrow passages. I can honestly still remember it like it was yesterday, and often in fall my mind wanders back the constant sound of water lapping against the building foundations. 

Never mind that the whole of the city stopped for an interminably long siesta every day. It gave us time to discover new areas and old churches and all but ignored frescoes on chapel ceilings. It gave us the opportunity to sip espresso overlooking the Palazzo. It provided the time to find ourselves in this enchanting European gem.

If there's one place I can't wait to go again - especially to have my little girls marvel at its uniqueness - it is Venice. It is one of the few destinations I can think of that cannot be overhyped or accurately described. Regardless of how grandly I describe it you will still be filled with marvel and awe when you stand over the waterways looking at the melange of architecture, history and busy city life. It is absolutely unique.

When you do go (assuming you have not already been smitten by the life-changing experience that is Venice), go with an open mind, and empty schedule and someone special. You will not want to miss a single moment of the experience and you'll want someone to share in the journey. I promise, long after you've sailed away it will still feel as though those hazy few days must have been a dream. Almost too good to be true. 

Expect a few Venice posts to follow this one. I can't quite shake the place from my mind and can't wait to share more pix of where we stayed and where I would love to stay when we return!

Tot Travel: Bienvenidos a Miami...

Miami might not be top of mind when traveling with kids... by why shouldn't it be? Kid & Coe - the booking site for family-friendly house stays around the globe - has become my go-to travel resource of late. Ever since our apartment rental in Rome I'm completely sold on the concept of renting a home.  If you plan to be at your destination for any length of time, a home will be much more accommodating to little ones and teens than a hotel.  

Warning: this swanky Florida pad might just be too hot to handle. Jet skis, a separate villa for extra guests, modern interiors and a chef's dream of a kitchen, this Di Lido island residence sleeps up to 14. Yes, that's an infinity pool and the sleek three-story house has an elevator too. Gaze out at downtown Miami while sipping your morning OJ in that massive bath tub. I die! Hello, nighttime excitement and incredible daytime fun. 

Why is a house stay such a win for families? For one, you can really settle in for your stay. A home allows for entertaining, preparing home cooked meals (or hiring a chef), enjoying your own schedule and really customizing your schedule. And finding the right residence continues to get easier with sites like this one gaining traction. 

But back to this fabulous waterside Miami home... flying south for the winter is starting to sound like a very, very good idea. While your brood of minis might not have the same affinity for Art Deco buildings and rooftop sushi, I assure you this south Florida destination has something for everyone. Besides... you've got an infinity pool. What more could a kid ask for?

See this and other destinations at Kid & Coe. Happy traveling!

Wanderlusting: Don't Wait...

I have a series of wonderful travel posts coming up. Places I have been will be highlighted, places I can't wait to visit will be showcased. I love, love, love travel. This marvelous marble we are on is - to me - complete proof that we have a God who loves us. Just look at this place? Teeming with rolling hills, blue skies, thrilling seas and more flowers and wildlife than any of us could have dreamed into existence. 

You always think you'll have "more time" and that you'll go "someday"... but one look at life and those around you confirms otherwise. In the words of the wise Anthony Robbins, "When would now be a good time?"

Don't wait. 

{images via}

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