Category Archives: Travel

No Regrets

Etretat, France

Etretat, France

When I was in my early 20s, having just graduated from college, I took out a bank loan so I could travel Europe for the summer. The first two-weeks of the trip was through my college, studying International Business. When that ended most of my classmates went home (what?!), but I traveled for another two weeks with my sister, who came over to join me. She and I got ourselves around Germany, Italy, a bit of Switzerland, and France, all by the grace of luck, the camaraderie of fellow travelers and our trusty Let’s Go: Europe guidebook. This was (way) before cellphones or the internet as we know it. I remember getting off the train in bustling Florence and heading to the nearest payphone to find a room for the night.

Me and my sister in Finale Ligure, Italy

Me and my sister in Finale Ligure, Italy

After my sister Cindy went home, I spent another month traveling by myself around France, since that was the only foreign language I spoke. It was exhilarating, scary, freeing and sometimes lonely. It gave me a sense of self-reliance and confidence that was previously unmatched. I would call my mom and dad from a French payphone every Sunday evening and tell them where I was and where I was heading. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age.

Doing this trip and specifically traveling on my own, made a huge and lasting impact on my life. I didn’t know, what I didn’t know and went into the whole endeavor with the blissful ignorance of a 20 year-old. Thank goodness for that. This was one of those experiences that helped shaped my life, perspective and self-worth. A hearty thanks to my parents for believing in me and letting me go.

Ahhh, Venice

Ahhh, Venice

It took me two years to pay off the loan, but I never regretted it even once. Since then, traveling has been a delicious itch in my life. I still get incredibly excited about going places. Now, it’s often with my family and I love the new perspective of going with our daughter. I get a real kick out of watching her explore the world. And it’s a thinly veiled attempt to make a traveler out of her.

I’m curious how other people got the travel bug? If you’ve got a bit of wanderlust, how did it start?

x Laura

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Summer Style in Amsterdam

One of the best parts about traveling is getting a glimpse of the local culture and appreciating a city for its own personality. We spent four days in Amsterdam and oh my, I’m in love with another city. Not only is the city downright captivating, but the people are really very nice. We managed to avoid getting run over by bikes, scooters and trams, which is harder than it sounds — they are zooming from all directions. I’m glad the Dutch have figured out their traffic patterns. There seems to be a method to their madness.

In the morning, I’d grab a cup of coffee, sit out on the front stoop of our hotel and watch the bikers heading to work. It’s a parade of chic women in dresses and skirts with one hand on the bike and the other fiddling with a phone, coffee, bag, etc. The most popular look for summer is a short, white dress with lacy cutouts. I must have seen handful of variations every day, which was a smart way to handle the heatwave and still look very breezy and put together. This photo of Annabelle Fleur (who’s based in California) has captured the European look perfectly.

Annabelle Fleur of VivaLuxury.blogspot.com

Sandals ranged from the on-trend Birkenstock Arizona to spare sandals with metallic accents, like these from Vince Camuto. I was completely at home and happy in my new-ish Sofft ‘Breeze’ gladiator sandals in black. I comfortably walked miles in them and they were stylish enough for this chic city. White sneakers are definitely in, but not the clunky athletic kind, more of a paired-down sleek style (like above). The Amsterdamers infuse sensuality into all of their outfits with either short hemlines, bare backs with interesting straps, sheer tops over cute bras, or low-cut tops. It’s not at all tarty, just confidently sexy.

We also made stops in Berlin and Reykjavik, cities which had their own personalities and style. I’ll need to do a separate post for them. I’ve come to believe that there is no one-style-that-fits-all. What is perfectly stylish in one place, doesn’t feel quite right in another. The fashion industry may say, ‘this is in or that is in’, but each city puts their own spin on what is current. It’s fun to try and guess where people are from based on their style alone and makes waiting in line at the airport a bit more tolerable.

Hope your summer is going well!

x Laura

5 Random Things: Nov. 7

It feels like the calm before the storm of the holiday season. The next two weeks will be a good time to put fall projects to bed, snip the last of withering plants from the garden, and to get my ducks in a row for family visits, end-of-year school programs and holiday parties.

To make sure we’re taking care of ourselves, my husband and I have challenged each other with a sticker chart (exactly like the ones we do for our kiddo) for working out. It’s amazing how much we enjoy getting a sticker for each workout. Just having it visible in the kitchen and being accountable to each other has made for good, friendly competition. Just trying to stay motivated!

In no particular category or order, here are 5 Random Things from this week:

  1. Heading out over the next months? Here are 11 Things You Should Never Delay Before Your Trip.
  2. With friends coming over it’s time to spruce up the place with 8 Ways to Decorate a Center Table, using things we already have, which I love.
  3. Fascinating video on how the wolves in Yellowstone have changed the flow of rivers, in a good way. Why Mother Nature usually knows best.
  4. How one woman became President of this online fashion darling, only 10 years out of university. And she’s killing it.
  5. Not happy with your black leggings? Me neither. Here are the 10 Best Black Leggings that take you from couch to cocktails.

Happy Friday!
x Laura

Postcard: Kid-friendly London

London is one of the best cities in the world, so when my husband was heading there for business, I knew I wanted to join him. The timing was over the summer, so with the blessings of good luck, we took our daughter and made the most of it. The first week of our trip, was all London, then we spent the next week seeing Bath, the Cotswolds and Windsor, before heading up to Edinburgh for a few days.

London

We decided to stay in the oldest neighborhood, which is called the City of London (Roman walls still exist in places). It served as a home-base to nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Museum of London and the financial district. It’s also just across the Thames from the Southwark neighborhood, which includes the Globe Theater, Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market and the Tate Modern. We rented a flat for the week, rather than book a hotel, so we could have more family-friendly space and eat-in when we wanted, for a far more reasonable price. The location turned out to be ideal for us and we loved hearing the bells of St. Paul throughout the day.

Here’s an early morning picture of the street where we stayed (on Carter Lane), very close to St. Paul’s Cathedral. By evening, it was filled with young professionals having a pint after work.

Carter Lane

Carter Lane, near St. Paul’s Cathedral

At the British Museum we got to see Egyptian mummies (including Cleopatra), the Rosetta Stone, Sutton Hoo (an extensive collection of Anglo-Saxton artifacts), The Lewis Chessman (82 iconic chess pieces that testify to the cultural ties between Britain and Scandinavia circa 1150 AD), Viking artifacts and gorgeous Asian arts. The stunning atrium architecture (below) is a mix of historic and modernistic. Afterward, we went to Coram Fields, near Russell Square, where my daughter could climb, zip-line and do kid-stuff.

British Museum

British Museum

We spent some time checking out the royal Horse Guard in their impressive uniforms. This did not rank very high with our daughter, but I thought it was fun to see. She also did not appreciate all the ‘creepy dead people’ in the floor tombs at Westminster Abbey, but gave Big Ben two thumbs up. We all loved climbing up the steps to the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s Cathedral and taking the London Eye. It’s definitely worth the extra effort if you have older kids in tow.

Horse Guard

Horse Guard

Horse Guard

Horse Guard

Parliament

Parliament and Big Ben

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, from the inner courtyard

Having been to London a few times before, I didn’t have an enormous checklist of tourist sights to see. For me, it was more about experiencing it as a family and planting the travel bug in our daughter. The best moments are the ones that you never plan for. She marveled at the number of different languages she heard and took in all the different cultures and types of people she saw. She got energized by taking the Tube and being in charge of figuring out our daily route. She loved seeing impressionist art by Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Manet, and Pissaro all together, at the bite-sized Courtauld Museum. At Somerset House she had the chance to run through the jet-fountain courtyard. She got to stand on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, just after walking the deck of the Cutty Sark, whose wood still smells of tea from voyages to China long ago.

Somerset House fountain courtyard

Somerset House jet fountains

It’s cool stuff and I think it helps shrink the world for a kid. My hope is that she’ll feel more connected to the broader world and realize that how we live in our town, is not the only way to live.

 –> Up next: Bath, the Cotswolds & Edinburgh

x Laura

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

— John Steinbeck

Five for Fall

Sitting here in a sweater and pair of boots for the first time this season, I guess it’s time to fully embrace the coming of fall. It’s my favorite season, with the moderate temps, gorgeous foliage colors, and the introspective mood before the coming of winter. As nature scurries to prepare for the onset of cold weather, I follow suit with a new-found energy toward finishing projects and clearing out our nest. There’s no use in trying to stop the change.

Jason Wu Spring 2015 Ready-To-Wear (New York). style.com

Making the summer-to-fall leap:

  1. Fashion shows for Spring have begun! New York, London, Milan and Paris will show collections over the next two months. I’ve started a Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear cheat sheet here to track trends, colors and fabrics.
  2. Donate, sell and consign. Good grief — the clutter! Create a haven in your space this winter by clearing out unwanted things now. Start small with a bag or two. Please don’t freak out and do too much. Slow and steady is better.
  3. Get the house winterized while the weather is still nice. Here’s a helpful list of maintenance items to get done now –  To Do: September Home Checklist
  4. My workout routine was non-existent this summer, so it’s time to make it a priority again. I’ve signed up for two classes and am ready to kick some booty. No time for the gym? Check out this printable No Running Required, 20-minute Cardio Workout.
  5. Plan the next vacation. Summer trips are still fresh in our memories, but fall and winter breaks will be here before we know it. Don’t get shut out by waiting too long. 5 Things Smart Travelers Should Do in September.

Lastly, here’s a 15-second beauty cheat. I just got wise to this brow product that is really fantastic. Gimme Brow by Benefit ($22) has a tiny mascara-like brush that fills in brows, even where they are seriously lacking. Covers little grey hairs, adds dimension to the arch and tail, and fills in patchy areas. It’s kind of a brow miracle and very easy to use.

Gimme Brow by Benefit

Enjoy all the good things that September brings.

x Laura

“My heart is drumming in my chest so hard it aches, but it’s the good kind of ache, like the feeling you get on the first real day of autumn, when the air is crisp and the leaves are all flaring at the edges and the wind smells just vaguely of smoke – like the end and the beginning of something all at once.”
Lauren Oliver, Delirium