A Sunny Afternoon at the Parisian Flea Market - Porte Vanves

A Sunny Afternoon at the Parisian Flea Market - Porte Vanves

Paris is adorned with a number of colorful flea markets or brocantes as they are often called. On our first trip to Paris, in 2003, Scott and I spent an afternoon at the famed Clignancourt flea market, also known as the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, and thought to be the largest flea market in the world.  We shipped home a small container filled to the brim with chandeliers, sconces, trays, perfume bottles, prints and charms from Paris long ago.

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A Parisian Apartment Style Brunch

A Parisian Apartment Style Brunch

One of the most alluring reasons to stay in a Parisian apartment while visiting Paris is savoring a taste of the French way of life. With a boulangerie, fruit market, grocery, patisserie, butcher and international market on nearly every block, it’s easy to gather the freshest, tastiest ingredients each day to create memorable bites.

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Our Stay in a Romantic Parisian Apartment

Our Stay in a Romantic Parisian Apartment

With sparkling crystal chandeliers, vintage velvet couches, luxurious linens, time-worn books, a pastel collection of vintage plates, whimsical accents like a jaunty top hat, and a touch of animal print, the details of this apartment are charming. The skeleton wall, meticulously restored, is a nod to the early history of this charming space.

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An Afternoon in Picturesque Varenna on the Shores of Lake Como, Italy

An Afternoon in Picturesque Varenna on the Shores of Lake Como, Italy

There are places you stumble upon while traveling that simply need no explanation. On a hazy summer afternoon, we arrived by boat, from Bellagio. Between flashes of sunlight, bursts of showers, and a moody mist that wound around our afternoon, we experienced Varenna, on the shores of Lake Como. These images speak for themselves. Click on the gallery to open a slide show of charming Varenna.

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An Afternoon in Beguiling Bellagio on Lake Como

An Afternoon in Beguiling Bellagio on Lake Como

One afternoon Scott and I pointed our rented Peugeot northeast, from our villa in Lezzeno, to beautiful Bellagio for the afternoon. Known for grand hotels, elegant villas, voluptuous flower boxes and stunning views from the steep staircases of the city center. Bellagio is beguiling.

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Our Lakeside Stay at a Villa in Lezzeno, at Lake Como, Italy

Our Lakeside Stay at a Villa in Lezzeno, at Lake Como, Italy

If the Amalfi Coast is shimmering pastels and Siena is rich, brushstrokes in oils, then Lake Como is bathed in watercolors mingling shadows with light. The views of mountain, sky and water are made chameleon by the microclimates in the Lombardy region of the Italian Alps. From sunny and brilliant to dark and stormy, punctuated with raindrops, no wonder this moody vista is considered magical to those who visit.

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Our Stay in a Luminous Apartment in Centro Storico of Siena, Italy

Our Stay in a Luminous Apartment in Centro Storico of Siena, Italy

Thick stone walls create a sense of velvety silence and the stone stairway, leading up to the second-floor apartment, is worn with footsteps of the ages.

There are so many options of where to stay while traveling that it makes the decision all the more challenging, but also intriguing. I love to pour over the images and descriptions of each destination under consideration; our trip to Italy was no different. After months of flirting with various lodging ideas - a villa in the countryside perhaps - we happened upon a charming apartment in the historic city center of Siena. The second-floor apartment is housed in a former monastery and it looked like the right place for us.

As with most of our travels, Scott and I crafted what we wanted our experience to be in Siena. We wanted an authentic, medieval city living situation in the heart of the city.

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A Summer Getaway to Siena, Italy

A Summer Getaway to Siena, Italy

Scott and I spent a day in Siena, back in 2003, punctuated by wrong turns, a stint mistakenly driving in the no-vehicle zone and an epic heat wave. When we finally settled in and enjoyed the charms of an al fresco dinner, we vowed to return to this hilltop city someday. Siena was Scott’s top choice as a destination for our summer in Italy, so this was our time to revisit.

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A Chic Afternoon at Le Sirenuse Hotel in Positano

A Chic Afternoon at Le Sirenuse Hotel in Positano

We leave the seductive, photogenic Amalfi Coast with one last peek; a chic afternoon on the terrace at the luxurious Le Sirenuse Hotel. The iconic hotel, with stunning views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, has launched a thousand fantasies, mine included. Who can forget those scenes in ‘Under the Tuscan Sun‘ with Diane Lane and Raoul Bova filmed in Positano and Le Sirenuse? There are no words to describe the relaxed luxury of a world-class hotel like this. I’ll let the images tell the story.

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Boating to the Dreamy Isle of Capri

Boating to the Dreamy Isle of Capri

I have daydreamed of Capri. Cerulean blue waters, pastel buildings, brilliant hues of bougainvillea and windswept trees gracing the terraced landscape.  The lemon-scent mingling with fragrant notes of wild rose and sea air. I could feel the gentle waves of the bay lapping against the boat.  I am mesmerized.

You will be greeted with this picturesque scene at Marina Grande when you arrive by boat.

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Day Tripping on the Amalfi Coast [Amalfi + Ravello]

Day Tripping on the Amalfi Coast [Amalfi + Ravello]

Our next destination was Ravello, three miles up the steep, winding road, high above the Amalfi Coast. Ravello is known for luxury hotels, spas and historic villas. It has a slower, more refined pace of life and has become a popular spot for romantic destination weddings. It’s common to see vacationing celebrities gracing the cafes and sunbeds. 

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Date Night: Dinner High on the Mountainside in Positano

Date Night: Dinner High on the Mountainside in Positano

Our new Italian friend and driver, Davide, recommended a family run trattoria for dinner “high on the mountainside” above Positano.  He knew we would love it. We agreed and Davide made all the arrangements. A van filled with several other hungry diners picked us up in front of our hotel and traversed the terraced roadway up, up, up near the top of the mountain.

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Getaway to Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Getaway to Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Positano possesses a kind of magic that is difficult to put into words. It’s a kaleidoscope of shimmering light, pastel hues, vibrant bougainvillea, and the winding, terraced streets with pastel villas clinging to the mountainside. Boldly colored umbrellas bounce off the chameleon blue hues of the sea. At sunset, a rosy glow falls over the glassy sea and twinkling lights spark the views. Day or night, Positano is a place of pure magic.

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Postcard from Paris!

Postcard from Paris

The early morning light of Paris is streaming in through the luxurious linen curtains, as I sit here at the marble-topped table with my laptop. The chandelier above me is sparkling.  My husband is still slumbering in the next room and I have Carli Bruni softly crooning in french on Spotify.

I want to remember moments like this forever.

Life in Paris is very sweet.

I just noticed the patisserie across the street is already open. :) We had steaming café crèmes with a pain au chocolat croissant yesterday that blew our minds. There are no croissants in the world like France.

Is it something in the water?

File Jul 16, 8 24 26 AM.jpeg

Yesterday I awoke to texts checking to see if we were okay after the horrific attack in Nice at the Bastille Day celebration. We were just fine, but I had felt nervous about Bastille Day celebrations since we booked this trip to Europe back in November after the terror attacks in Paris.

I shared my thoughts yesterday morning on Instagram:

stylemindchic.

Another beautiful day dawns in Paris...We are excited to be celebrating retirement and my birthday today in this magnificent city, yet we are deeply saddened over the news from Nice and the losses they have suffered. We are safe and sound in this charming apartment Thank you for the texts, emails and comments checking in on us. 💕Scott and I were in the final stages of booking this trip to Europe when the terror attacks happened in Paris. I'll admit it, I've been nervous about our return to Paris. The images of terror don't fade easily from mind. When people are gunned down while dining at a cafe, enjoying a concert or watching fireworks, there is no sense to it...I saw military weapons and heard sirens at the airport yesterday. I wanted to get out of the "soft target" zone asap. Scott went out in the crowds for fireworks for Bastille Day late last night, but I did not. We will be out enjoying this summer day in one of our favorite places. 💐☀️ Terror and tragedy can happen anywhere, anytime. We want to be cautious, be we cannot let fear dictate our lives. We will continue to enjoy the adventure of travel and not let the dark side steal our joy. 💖✈️🌎 #france#paris#travel#travelgram#instagram#nicefrance#traveltales#wanderlust#traveling

And with that, we continue to enjoy the adventure of travel, this lovely apartment, and our last few days in Paris. I'm overwhelmed by the kind birthday wishes I received yesterday. Merci!!  55 is off to a fabulous start!

Here's to embracing the joy of today!

Au Revoir

A Walk Down Memory Lane in Barcelona at Azul-Tierra

A Walk Down Memory Lane in Barcelona at Azul-Tierra

It was one of those moments, and I can still see it in my mind’s eye: moody lighting, rich, warm, worldly scents, flickering candles and eye-catching objects of desire.  I return to that moment often in my mind, it’s the perfect escape. Have you ever visited a place that just sticks with you in a completely sensory way? If you close your eyes you can conjure up the fragrance, the quality of light, the sultry temperature, the whole mood of a place.


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My Spa Day at La Perla in San Sebastian, Spain (+ the naked truth)

Spa Day in Spain

For months I've meant to share the story of my spa day in Spain. With over two weeks of travel, through Portugal and Spain, under our belts, spa time was needed to work out the kinks, and soften the edges. The La Perla Spa was located just a few steps down the promenade from our Hotel Niza, in San Sebastian. I had seen the glowing locals leave the spa, as they paraded down the promenade, and thought that would be the perfect way to spend my birthday. When we stopped in to make our reservation, Scott and I looked over the menu with assistance from two beautiful, Spanish women, in stylish black uniforms. They were professional, enthusiastic and glowing. It was one of those "I'll have what she's having" kind of moments. After some consideration, we selected the seaweed scrub and mud wrap special, based on their recommendations.

I've had a number of massages, many while traveling abroad, but I've never booked a scrub and a mud wrap. Somehow the process seemed a little too intimate, with all the scrubbing and wrapping. Do they scrub and wrap ALL the parts? In the luxurious comfort of the La Perla Spa spa concierge desk, I threw caution to the wind. In my mind, I had the impression that these two lovely, professional women would be performing my treatments. THAT was where my logic went wrong!

Following a light birthday breakfast at Hotel Niza, Scott and I made the short walk down the boardwalk to the spa. I love those moments of feeling like a local, and we were feeling it. Following our check-in, changes into comfy terry robes, we waited in the spa lounge sipping on citrus-cucumber water. This is the life! Suddenly, two young men entered the lounge. They were dressed in tight white t-shirts, tight white jeans (leggings?) and...get this...they were wearing plastic gloves. One was snapping the wristband, "Ready??"...snap, snap....I looked at my husband, in horror, and whispered, "Oh Sugar (or something like that)! I forgot to say I didn't want a man"...Snap, snap! Scott later describes these young gentlemen as the "lumberjack and the waiter". I considered my two options: running up those spa stairs to safety or putting on (taking off) my 'big girl' pants. In the end, the birthday girl decided to grin and bare it. After all, it was already paid for!

La Perla Spa San Sebastian Spain

As the "waiter" stepped closer and said my name, I nodded. My cheeks were already burning. He led me to a private spa room where I noticed a shower, table, hoses, a vat of 'mud' but, unfortunately, a surprising lack of any sheets or towels. In America, and luxury resorts abroad, towels and sheets, are abundant. I especially appreciate those privacy sheets, designed to protect the eyes of your spa therapist, and your dignity. You know the ones? I didn't spot a single one. As my "waiter" handed me the teeniest, tiniest, paper string bikini bottom, I would have paid big money for a privacy towel about then. He pantomimed that I should take off all my clothes and get on the table on my stomach. I realized his English was sparse and wondered if that was a good or bad thing. The inner dialogue in my head was deafening, "He's young enough to be my son," "Poor kid, I hope this doesn't burn his eyes!" "Did I shave under my arms?" and "Maybe it's a scrub for the backside only, not the front?".  I was wracking my brain to remember how much of the body they actually cover with a scrub and mud wrap. Clearly, he had given me no top to wear.

As I changed into my dental floss bikini bottom and laid face first on the table I felt very vulnerable. The European idea of nudity seems to be completely different than in the United States. I wondered why I felt so vulnerable, while some of the Europeans paraded confidently, and openly, around the pools, locker room, and beaches.

La Concha Beach San Sebastian Spain
La Concha Beach San Sebastian Spain

I am no prude. I had my dalliances with tiny bikinis back in the day, skinny dipping, a French clothing optional beach on St. Martin, what have you. The idea of almost complete nudity, alone with a young Spanish man, covering my body with seaweed scrub and mud, was not on my radar for my birthday. Now that I think of it, what a decadent gift from my husband, right? LOL!  My burning question, and pardon me but it's the truth, do they put mud on your boobs? There, I said it!

Back to that table, and the naked truth of my spa day in Spain. Turns out my "waiter" was adept at applying scrub all over my backside. The toughest moment was when he pantomimed for me to roll over on my back....ugh!! If I could have communicated in Spanish I might have said, "Just the backside is fine."  Why was this so hard? If I had been 30 how would I have felt? It's a good thing he didn't speak English, because the stream of quips and jokes coming from my mouth, to break the tension, would have been endless. Instead, I steeled myself, and kept quiet, as I rolled over. Hello, glory!  All the scrubbing, and eventually mud application, continued on the front side. In the end, I was relieved when he directed me to rinse my body off in the shower, alone. I'm happy to report that the boobs were left untouched...

Still, poor guy!

San Sebastian Spain, La Concha beach.jpg

I remembered a moment, during our trip to St. Martin, when I saw this difference firsthand. Scott and I took a day trip to the island of St. Barth's on the ferry. We chatted it up with several German and American couples on the way. As we neared the island, the German women, still chatting, pulled their tops off and stowed them in their bags. The American men, including my husband, were suddenly speechless..... imagine! The topless women just kept on chatting. It was comical! I admired their confidence and non-nonchalance. They are just boobs after all. Maybe we treat them a bit too 'preciously', with all the nip-slips and such, here in America. It's definitely a cultural difference that intrigues me when traveling.

Men on the beach in San Sebastian Spain
Men on the beach in San Sebastian Spain

 These gentlemen at the beach, next door to La Perla Spa, have no problem letting it all hang out.

Guard my life in San Sebastian
Guard my life in San Sebastian

A final "I'll have what she's having" moment.

Wait, is that my "waiter" moonlighting as a lifeguard?

My spa day in Spain....revealing!

Is it just me? How would you feel about all that 'naked truth' at the spa?

To my European friends, any advice for getting through those revealing moments?

Ready to book your getaway?

 

Getaway Guide: Barcelona

Getaway Guide: Barcelona

Our getaway to Barcelona was the last stop on our three-week vacation to Portugal and Spain. This was our second time visiting Barcelona, and though our time was short, Scott and I were looking forward to getting better acquainted with this culturally vibrant, sexy city.

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