Nicaragua is on my radar. A friend in Central America swears that it’s Costa Rica 10 years ago. Which is to say, inexpensive, unspoiled, full of exotic wildlife and lush rainforests. Word is catching on and now, increasingly, Nicaragua is peppered with creative boutique hotel gems. Enter Jean-Marc Houmard and Yvan Cussigh of New York’s iconic Indochine restaurant. They infused the old colonial city of Grenada with their signature tropical-chic when they opened Tribal Hotel. It has just five rooms and two suites but is oozing with understated bohemian cool. The rustic furnishings were made almost exclusively by local artisans. Modern art ups the sophistication, and mingles with Turkish, African and Indian textiles. Like all of my favorite places, the hotel focuses on getting guests up close with the local culture, and just look at that pool. Nicaragua is now on my short list.
Our two-inch snow tease here in Richmond has me dreaming of wintery locales. Ever since I saw Jagdgut Wachtelhof, the gorgeous Austrian ski lodge outside of Salzburg in Lonny magazine, I’ve been mildly obsessed with its designer, Michele Bönan. This summer, I stayed at another Bönan-designed property, the Portrait Firenze, and was completely taken (I took a MILLION photos, post coming soon). He has a knack for creating spaces that feel modern but use classic elements. Here, he achieved that by keeping the pattern down, using furniture with clean lines and sprinkling with modern lighting and contemporary photography (especially that of Massimo Listri, whom I love), and presto!, chic, stylish but livable interiors.
What an amazing graphic logo (used throughout on pillows). And I love the reoccurring piping, must be my preppy roots. Bönan’s also big on symmetry, which helps his rooms feel neat. I need to try that.
I love the idea of turning the firewood into a design element. It’s the alpine version of a climbing vine.
Vintage is huge in Florence right now. I fell in love with Marie Antoinette Firenze vintage shop on a recent visit to research emerging fashion in Florence for a couple of articles I was working on. I stumbled across the shop, hidden in a back courtyard behind my hotel, not far from the Ponte Vecchio, and knew immediately I’d uncovered a gem. Owner Geraldine Naldini and her partner are Florentine stylists who opened the shop in April and have filled it with great, architectural and avant garde designer looks that I wish I could rock every day. Most of the inventory is second-hand designer (Chloe, Laura Urbinati, Vivienne Westwood, Miu Miu, A.P.C.), with great prices on Italian labels like Prada and Gucci. I found the BAG OF MY LIFE there, one I’ve been searching years for: a simple, black-leather Gucci hobo bag with horse-bit buckle from Tom Ford’s last line. I will have it forever. Here are some shots of the shop. The lucite hat hooks are vintage umbrella handles Geraldine inherited from her grandfather, who worked for Gucci Accessories. I particularly loved the Elizabethan-collar-inspired gilded-gauze necklaces she carried by Florentine designer Mereurio Argento Creationi. Isn’t it great? Where do you shop in Florence? I’d love to know.
My first article about my trip to Florence came out yesterday in New York magazine online. It was wonderful to get a dose of Italia and be back in what’s probably my most favorite city in the world. I’ll be sharing lots of insight from the trip and to start, I thought I’d give credit to some of the fantastic blogs and bloggers who helped in my research. Have any others you’d suggest? I’m always on the lookout for ways to stay connected to Firenze.
1. A Dusty Olive Green – Danish photographer Birgitte Bronsted has been living in Italy for 20 years. She has a modern sensibility and shares beautiful photography of Florentine sites (that’s her shot above) and shops with some side trips and Copenhagen thrown in. (Stay tuned for my Q&A with Birgitte.)
2. When In Florence – Written by Sara Amrhein, an American artist and jewelry maker who’s married to an Italian she met while studying abroad. She writes thoughtful pieces about her struggle as an artist but also promotes the contemporary artist scene with a series of interviews with artists in Florence. (Stay tuned for a Q&A with Sara as well.)
3. Girl in Florence – It’s fun to live vicariously through Georgette, an American ex-pat, who writes about events and new openings in Florence with the exuberance of someone still elated to be living an Italian dream.
4. Creative People in Florence – Get to know the native and ex-pat artists living and working in Florence through this blog (and if you’re in town, attend one of their studio visits with aperitivo).
5. Unusual Florence – I was thrilled to stumble across this collaboration of edgy, young shop owners and artisans working in the historic center. Most are run by native Florentines who are making a go of it with unique shops and restaurants that all really warrant a visit to take in their creative visions.
[Photo courtesy of A Dusty Olive Green.]
Italy is on my mind this month as I prepare for my trip to Florence. So I was happy when an episode from Ashley and Jason Bartner’s cooking classes from Italy arrived in my inbox. They’re another ex-pat couple with an enviable life (catching a theme?) who I’ve been following since writing about them in 2010 shortly after they started La Tavola Marche. They’re charming and driven. The couple moved from Brooklyn to the countryside of Marche, Italy to run an agriturismo farm/inn, where Jason, a chef, teaches guests how to shop, forage and cook Italian, which he says means “cooking with no ego,” Italian cooking is about letting very few, fresh ingredients shine. Salute to that!
We spend a lot of time at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Partly that’s because it’s about four blocks from our house and full of color and wonder for the kids. Plus a pretty beautiful little cafe. We have definitely gotten scolded a few times for sitting on ledges or … well … touching. I know. I know. Sorry, Mr. Security Guard. But I have to think at least the kids are inspired enough to want to touch, right?
Our visits are usually pretty short, which suits our attention spans, and the security guards, just fine. I always think of my friend Catherine who’s theory is that it’s best for everyone to keep kids museum visits short then hand them an ice cream. I love that. Get them to the museum but make it rewarding. The other day we visited to check out the new Posing Beauty exhibit but our favorite right now is this great exhibit called Studio Visit where they’ve mocked up artist Ryan McGuinness’ screen-printing studio. You can watch a video of him working, hear the studio sounds, see the materials he uses and take home a free poster. It’s open through Oct. 19, check it out.
P.S. Great photo of kids at a museum by Laurie Victor Kay.
Selling all your worldly belongings and traveling the world for a year or two, exposing kids to exotic cultures firsthand always seems like a completely romantic idea to me. Why can’t I do something that brave – and ultimately rewarding? Why am I so damn conventional?
I’m always trying to incorporate travel and new experiences into my life and work and not just in the two-week, American sense of vacation, but in a lifestyle of striving for inspiration and knowledge through experience. Travel writing has been my means to that end, in the meantime.
So when I learned of Adam and Emily Harteau traveling with their toddler, making art and selling artisan goods they discover along the way, I was naturally sucked in. They left California in 2012 and have traveled all the way down to the tip of South America and just had a second baby in Brazil, chronicling it along the way on their blog, Our Open Road. Amazing. I love that they’ve figured out a way to make a living while they travel. (Emily is apparently also working on a cookbook of her road-tested healthy meals.) And they also recently partnered with Urban Outfitters. This week they’re holding one of their flash sales, what they call 24-Hour Bazaar, filled with goods from Peru. Don’t you think that’s brilliant?
Here are some photos from their travels, some of Adam’s art and a handful of items from their current sale. I’m inspired! Dreaming of a road trip with our family one day…
Some of Adam Harteau’s art…
A selection of things the Harteau’s are selling through Friday on their latest 24-Hour Bazaar…. (I want one of those alpaca blankets!)
You might remember, I’ve been helping my friends John and Anya launch a new “crunchy spiced topping” called Crunch Dynasty. It’s been such a fun project because there’s so much heart in it. Anya’s Chinese mom created the recipe and it’s been a staple on her table, adding spice and crunch to nearly everything she’s made over the years. After constantly being asked by friends for samples of “that crunchy spicy stuff,” Anya and her husband, John, decided to bring Crunch to the world. How cool is that? I love their vision and ambition.
Last month they hosted a launch party for some friends, family, a few Richmond chefs and writers. The idea was to showcase the East-West applications of Crunch and they did an amazing job – everything from oysters to Chinese noodles to grilled lollipop lamb chops came alive with Crunch. The invites and Chinese-newspaper table settings, set the tone for what was definitely a “mouth party.” My absolute favorite thing was the Marinated Chinese Tea Eggs. I think I may have had at least a dozen.
My photos don’t do it justice, but the party was featured on Broad Appetit, a great Richmond-based food blog, and in R.Home magazine with beautiful photos by Fred Turko and recipes. I will definitely be making those tea eggs!
4 most-visited countries in the world: France, U.S., China and Spain
9.5 percent – tourism’s piece of the global economy
70 percent – of the world’s people need to go to an embassy to visit another country
69 – number of airports currently being built in China so that soon no Chinese person will live more than 90 minutes from an airport
100 million – number of Chinese tourists in the world (predicted to double by the year 2020)
Pretty amazing to think about the power the Chinese will be wielding, right?
Happy 4th of July! We’re growing up quickly over here. Life is busy busy busy with these two kiddies. Now that JJ is moving and communicating (though not really talking yet) we feel more like a family and less like a couple with babies in tow. That’s been the biggest transition for us. We do more kid-focused things and less hanging out at coffee shops, though we usually make it out to Richmond festivals. Marguerite continues to amaze us with her patience and love for her brother, and JJ is a little comedian and budding musician (he can even grove to the easy listening piping in to the grocery store!). Here are some favorite moments from our month around town.
Marguerite wanted to make an American flag to cheer on Team USA in the World Cup.
JJ with one of the new murals in our neighborhood from the Richmond Mural Project.
JJ and I at the Build a Better Block festival in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood. (Love my new Warby Parker prescription sunglasses!)
Scott and I snuck out for a date that started with amazing cocktails at Belmont Food Shop, complete with homemade tonic. Craft cocktails are hitting Richmond hard right now.
Afterwards we went to the top of city hall and caught this sunset view of Richmond with the beautiful, gothic executive office building in the foreground and Thomas Jefferson-designed Virginia state capitol in white to the right.