Yearly Archives: 2014
As many a new mom can attest to, decorating your new arrival’s abode is just too exciting! What colour scheme do you pick? Do you go with a theme? Paint or no paint? You hastily create a Pinterest board with all the ideas you have and start the search for all the little pieces that will make the nest just perfect. Once you have that finite list, the next huge challenge is trying to stay within budget – who knew these little creatures needed so many things!
My colour scheme was always going to be a clean palette that gave me a sense of serenity and then to add lashings of colour gradually. With only a short time until the munchkin’s arrival – I grabbed my camera to document the calm before the storm.
Crib: Babyletto, Bumper: Pottery Barn, Mobile & Washing basket: Pottery Barn, Wooden horse: Land of Nod, Curtains: UrbanOutfitters, Giraffe Clock: Land of Nod, Rug & Sheepskin: Ikea, Signage: Pottery Barn, Piggy Bank & Panda: Elizabeth’s Embellishments
Blocks & Elephant: Pottery Barn
As the weather changes and the leaves turn into kaleidoscopes of colour, we spent a perfect afternoon driving around Andover, Lake Hopatcong and visiting the historic town of Waterloo village to view the fall spectacular in New Jersey. We may have been a week or so early but the views were still breathtaking. For more info on discovering fall foliage in New Jersey, visit: http://www.visitnj.org/trip-idea/touring-new-jersey-fall-foliage
Getting into the spirit of Halloween, we finished off the afternoon off by visiting Ort Farms, Morris Country, for a traditional pumpkin picking session. The highlight of the day must of been the 45min spent in the corn mazes taking a few wrong turns (we are all kids at heart). Let the carving and trick or treating commence!
I have a secret fascination with the East. My top bucket list item is to visit the Forbidden city, mosey around the Great Wall and travel down to the mountainous panda sanctuaries. It would be no surprise then, that whatever city I find myself in, if they have a Chinatown, I’m there like a bear!
Whilst in London, I often visited their version of Chinatown for my fix of Dim Sum and Bok Choy. Just off Leicester square, through the pagoda shaped arches, you will find about a street and a half of back to back authentic restaurants, supermarkets and medicine parlours (a little secret speakeasy, thrumming 1930s tunes and serving hybridized liquids in old medicine bottles is also hidden away behind a no named door called the Experimental Cocktail Club, for a curious after dinner nightcap). Whist I loved the experience, I still felt that it was largely catered towards tourists and was interested to see what New York City had to offer.
On a cold February evening, my stomach told me that I needed a steamed parcel of deliciousness (Har Gau) and we hailed a cab and headed down to Chinatown, NYC. This sprawling neighbourhood is a small city in its own, with an estimated 100 000 residents using Chinese banks, supermarkets and McDonalds (all with Chinese insignia) and whilst this is also a tourist attraction, the community lives, trades and goes about their daily lives and therefore engulfs you in an cultural experience of authenticity. In the summer, you can visit one of the parks within the borders and you will find scores of older folks playing checkers next to peaceful warriors practicing Tai Chi whilst the soothing sounds of mandolins waft through the trees.
Unlike the restaurants that are catered towards tourists, where they have small quaint eateries with dimmed lights and the mandatory tea light on the table, the bona fide experience delivered to you in Chinatown, is a large banquet style dining hall, bright lights highlighting the gold and red traditional hues, and every so often causing the golden platters of steaming dishes to sparkle like something in a De Beers mine. You will find yourself seated at a shared round table, covered with freshly pressed white linens and yellow gold plated “DJ deck” turn table in the middle to further encourage communal style eating. Drink menus are limited, food menu options are in abundance, and the portion sizes are truly for sharing at prices lower than what you will find on the rest of Manhattan island…a word of warning though, you may want to skip the chicken feet unless you are of truly adventurous heart and spirit!
A quick nip over from NYC landed us in arguably the capitol of the world! Armed with cameras, walking shoes, backpacks and a pug, the mission was to conquer the city in 1.5 days flat in a whirlwind of marble columns, bronzed statues and political correctness.
One of many things I can commend the USA on, is that your little four-legged darling need not stay behind whilst travelling, and hotels go out of their way to accommodate the extended family member. Considering most NYC doggy hotels charge $60 a night and up, taking your pet along on holiday is massive cost saving too! We checked into our 4 star doggy friendly hotel, the Loews Madison, grabbed our doggy goody bag and then headed out for a drink and stroll around the Capitol Gardens. The Loews Madison was perfectly situated directly 1 block opposite the White House, perfect for easy access to all the key monuments and tourist traps that the city has to offer. Unfortunately, as we were arriving Obama was headed out to Camp David for the weekend, however, there was still some drama on 2 occasions where within 24 hours of each other, people jumped the fence and sprinted across the lawns. Apparently the one guy needed to warn the president that the atmosphere was collapsing…..not sure how scientific his research and data is, but for now, I am not going to worry, the President has the memo…..
We headed to the Old Ebbitt Grill, situated across from the White House for a night cap. According to their website, it was established in 1856 and was a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt. Additionally, this historic Oyster bar is renowed for the best Bloody Mary in Washington!
Day 1 of full day sightseeing commenced amid a gorgeously bright skied day in the Capital and 30 degrees on the mercury scale. From our hotel, this would take us neatly past the White House and straight down to the Washington Monument.
Laugh if you want, but from watching multitudes of Hollywood movies depicting the White house, I had imagined this larger than life structure surrounded by armed guards, fearsome jowl drooling German Shepards and perhaps camera mounted drones flying overhead with sensors identifying potential threats. This notion was immediately proved wrong by a relatively small 2 story building set slightly back from the road, with the odd short sleeved Secret Service patrol man standing back chatting to his collegues, casually observing the plethora of tourists taking selfies with their iPhones against the barricades.
Equally surprising would be the blatant protests stands and people with signboards standing around making it very obvious that they do not approve of the current governmental strategies or leadership. This is also not something that is focused on in the movies or media coverage, but it was all generally peaceful and the Secret Service did not seem to be taking it too seriously. (Note, the views of the sentiments in the images are NOT of the photographer’s and are merely for travel documentation purposes).
The next stop would be the Washington monument, this phallic shaped obelisk in the centre of dozens of red, white and blue striped flags can be seen from virtually anywhere in downtown DC and is truly impressive being the worlds tallest obelisk and tallest stone structure at 169 meters tall. Saying that, at night, this imposing figure looks to me like an evil Transformer with 2 red blinking eyes at the top….like I said, too many movies….
You can do the Monuments tour easily by foot, the landmarks have signage in each direction and you can follow the National Mall walkway or take a longer route all around the Tidal Basin (about two miles total).
The trick here is to try do half by day and the more impressive architectural buildings in the evening when they are lit up with more wattage than Times Square!
On the other side of the Mall, looking down from the Washington Monument, you will be able to see the majestic Capitol Hill building and the next stop on our trip.
Set slightly to the side of the Capitol Building, you can also find the National Botanical Garden Conservatory. This glass paneled green house is a great rest stop on any tour – with time travelling abilities – as each room transports you instantly to arid cactus infected deserts or lush tropical rainforests teeming with palm fronds.
Afternoons in DC are scorching, which allow for tourists to escape into the labyrinths of the air-conned museums of the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian is actually made up of 15 separate museams, including a zoo. So should your interests lie in fine art, air and space, animals, the bling of the Hope diamond or books, you should be able to fill up your day with scores of interesting facts and knick knacks.
As a child, a library to me was like entering a magical fairytale kingdom, and to this day, going into a library and smelling that ink on paper, or finding an old book store with first edition copies makes my heart aflutter. It made sense that I would want to visit the National Library of Congress, only THE largest library in the world, with 500 miles of bookshelves and 151 million items catalogued. The building architecture and artwork itself could easily be found in the Doge’s Palace in Venice or the Vatican – just jaw droppingly beautiful. The current exhibition with Persian artifacts dating back to the 1400’s and the encased original Gutenberg bible from 1450, considered the most valuable book in the world, are just some of the treasures to to be found here.
Tired little Pug after a busy weekend!
As most Lucians will say when you meet them ” Welcome to Paradise” – and they are not lying.
I recently had the absolute pleasure of spending a blissful, slightly delayed honeymoon week with my husband on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Kudos to him too for selecting and planning such a tantalisingly tropical destination!
One of the most alluring aspects to most holidays for me is always the element of new meets old. Whilst we all love to kick back on the beach with a tall umbrellaed cocktail not too far away, its awesome to get away from the locations catered towards tourists and see what local daily life is all about. St Lucia manages this balance perfectly and also manages to avoid the commercialisation we often see in many short haul (4 hours from the US East Coast) island retreats.
Whilst the island is small, the winding roads hug the lush jungle and coastline, rendering your trip around the island in about half a day. Whilst we had the best of intentions of exploring the whole island, long lazy afternoons raised their heads and therefore we mostly stuck to the South West side of the island.
Here’s a rough guide of places to sleep, eat, relax and have some fun!
Where to sleep:
On the South West side of the island, there seem to be a number of luxury resorts dotted around, but staying with the theme of being balanced with nature, you need to know where to look. The resorts certainly don’t have large signage or advertising which make them all the more unique. Ladera Resort overlooking the majestic Pitons that St Lucia is famed for, is an eco resort high up on the mountain side that boasts open air wood log cabin type rooms with their own swimming pools. The restaurant, Dasheena (apparently frequented by Oprah) at the resort has the same views of the Piton’s for some excellent sundowner evenings looking over the yachts coming in to the bay at Sugar beach. On Saturday mornings, you can tag along with the chef to the local fish and produce market for a hands on local cuisine experience. Ladera offers daily multiple free shuttles down the mountain to Sugar Beach. Other resorts in the local area are Hotel Chocolat and the Sugar Beach resort
Where to eat:
As mentioned before, Dasheena restaurant at Ladera resort boasts a menu focusing on sustainable cooking sourced from locally harvested ingredients by award winning chef, Nigel Mitchell. Sugar Beach resort also offer 2 restaurants and bar area with great simple lunch items while you are lounging under the palm fronds. My ultimate favourite had to be Boucan restaurant at Hotel Chocolat – conveniently situated a short walk from Ladera. Each item on the menu is made with some variation of cacao or chocolate inspiration. I’m talking dark chocolate infused balsamic for dipping your cacao nib fresh oven bread, citrus salad with white chocolate dressing, creamy mash potato made with white chocolate along side your bittersweet dark chocolate orange confit of duck. Curried coconut cacao chicken, cacao Creme Brûlée……I think I died and went to my version of heaven and yes, if you were wondering, I did eat all these things myself – dragging my husband up the hill to Boucan on more than one occasion!
For a more local flavour, head down to Soufriere town marina where you will find local restaurants and bars bristling with life and all serving locally made rum and amber coloured Piton beers.
What to do:
After resting your bones in your private mountain top pool, its time to hit the beach. Ladera offers free shuttles down to Sugar Beach, however if you are driving you will find a small obscure sign on the corner of a winding mountain road towards Sugar Beach. Along the way you will pass Petit Piton Waterfall, a 5 minute walk through some lush jungle will bring you to a small waterfall with some natural pools for a quick dip.
Heading into Sugar Beach resort, you can park your car and your own private tuktuk will pick up to scuttle you down the treacherous steep paths and plop you down on the white soft sands of the beach. When you reach the bottom, prepare to be awestruck….
Nestled amongst beach almond trees, you will find small white huts with dried palm frond roofs and the beach bar, connected by pristinely swept beach boardwalks and bamboo lanterns which are lit at sunset. Looking across the bay you will see white shuttered residences nestled in the jungle overlooking the beach and blue, tepid lake quality shoreline with the two Piton sentinels standing guard. Spend your day sipping cocktails under the trees (watch out for falling beach almonds) or for the more active, hire a speedboat and go wakeboarding or tubing, grab a Stand-Up-Paddle board or some canoes. When in doubt, mull it over in a water hammock….
Back up the hill to the Babot Estate (aka Hotel Chocolat), which is a working Cocoa farm and provides tours of the estate as well as a chocolate making course. The course is about 2 hours long and you will be provided with raw cacao nibs to mull and pummel with cocoa butter and sugar into a runny liquid which in turn is poured into moulds and sent for setting. Each person receives two of their own hand made 70% dark chocolate bars to take away. Delicious!
One element on the South West coast you cant really ignore is the constant thought that someone dropped one. This becomes more apparent when you visit the Sulphur mines and volcano where the smell is less than charming which wafts through the valley. The actual volcano does not look that impressive except for plumes of steam emanating from the earthen ground, however the odd potholes of pure 170 degree Celsius boiling mud certainly leave you impressed. However, the true highlight of the Sulphur springs trip must be the mud baths. Head downstream for natural steaming pools of water and scrape the glutinous mud off the bottom and lather yourself up with these ancient Roman medical properties. The slight grit in the mud provides a great exfoliation back treatment if you have a helpful husband up for the job!
Slightly down the road you will find the Diamond Falls Botanical gardens and more steam baths. These gardens and steam baths date back to King Louis XIV of France who founded them in 1713 and are said to cure chronic rheumatism, respiratory complaints or ulcers. The gardens themselves are lush with flowers that look like they should be eaten and buzzing with hummingbirds.
About 40minutes from Sugar beach back towards the airport, you can find Sandy Beach. Once again, don’t expect to see signs leading you there, if you want to be sure you are in the right place, look for the kaleidoscope of kites in the air. Sandy beach is the kiteboarding beach in St Lucia, head to the Reef Café to sign up for lessons or hire kit and learn to kiteboard in the warm St Lucian waters. Grab lunch at the Reef Café who make the best toasted sandwiches and chocolate shakes and rest under the trees in this rustic little open air café. Many locals come down to the beach to swim and lots of friendly beach dogs will find their way over to you for a sniff. Don’t be surprised to see young local boys bareback riding their horses home after a day of grazing along the road – here you wont find beach chairs and waitered service, but get a true sense of how Lucians spend their off time.