Like a sparkling jewel atop the crown of the Parisian influenced Buenos Aires neighborhood of Recoleta sits the regal Alvear Palace Hotel. This Leading Hotels of the World palace was built in the Louis XV style in 1932 out of materials brought from France making the property feel fit for a princess. As a luxury meeting point for the Buenos Aires elite, it was even more heightened when the President of Argentina decided to come to the hotel for dinner during our stay, filling the lobby with press, security, onlookers all vying for her attention. It is to say, this hotel with its cozy Champagne Bar and elegant restaurants is a place to see and be seen.
I felt like Pretty Woman, sleeping under crystal chandeliers, running around in white terrycloth robes, eating dulce de leche chocolates from a silver tray (a daily treat from the hotel) and soaking in a golden fixture bathtub. It didn’t hurt that every room of the suite was adorned in red roses as if waiting to be brought to life in a tango dance. We dined at the hotel’s French restaurant La Bourgogne where I had the opourtunity to try frog legs for the first time, and yes, they taste like chicken. There is also fish from Patagonia, table side sautéed steak in a cognac and my favorite french restaurant trick in the book: the cheese cart.
Everyone told me before this trip that Buenos Aires was the Paris of the south and after a few nights at Alvear Palace with the city’s elegant residential district of Recoleta waiting proudly outside the swinging doors to be discovered, I have to say… it did.
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Finding a balance between historic and new is a very fine line. I have never stayed in a hotel that has walked that line more perfectly than Inkaterra La Casona.
Tucked away on a quiet square just a few blocks from the main hubbub, this very small 11-suite luxury boutique hotel subscribes to the discrete way of life where luxury exists in pride, quality, history, upkeep and experience. Why I love it: the hotel was originally built as a mansion in the 16th century first occupied by Conquistadores and to this day maintains the design and architecture of the original manor.
So here is how it goes, you step into an antique carved wooden door back in time, the smell of eucalyptus dances around your body. They hand you a cup of the local ‘coca tea’ which comes in handmade pottery crafted by the owner of the hotel. This was my first experience with coca tea which was not unlike a green tea in taste, coffee in effect but most notable made from the same plant used to produce cocaine. So there’s that. On the second floor you find your suite, peacefully facing the inner courtyard dripping in colonial history and begging to be instagrammed (which I did here, and here, and here and here, and here). The room is warm and soft with original textile murals, baroque wood colonial furniture and those beautiful Spanish accents including white adobe walls so thick each room has to have it’s own wifi. The heated tile in the bathroom leads you to one of those perfect bathtubs which can (and if you’re me, will) be filled with a bubble bath infused in local aromatic oils. Biggest surprise… when you get into bed at night to the roaring fire at the foot of your bed, you’ll find a chocolate on your pillow and a hot water bottle under your sheets.
The best part about this hotel aside from the beauty of preserved history is their commitment to the future through conservation and programs such as Carbon Neutral. Beautiful and smart- doesn’t get more perfect than that.
In sum, TOTAL ROMANCE.
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I always want fashion shoots to feel like a memory…the memory of the lace table settings, the feeling of the spirituality of the local people, the colors in my mind…perhaps it’s not the way they were but it’s the way I remember them. Bahia was a very special place for me. The whiteness in my memory was the inspiration for the walls of this shoot. In my mind I remember leaning against white sun bleached walls, the wind off the ocean pulling at my clothing. Layers of clothing imitate the layers of history, complex and textural…the stories this special place will tell you! I remember the dances, the ritual and percussion of the bodies floating about the floor as weightless as air. These memories are the inspiration behind this shoot, our Salvador Da Bahia muse, come to life in our studio in New York City. Styled by Kelly Framel, our travel companion who brought her own inspiration to the clothing from her personal experiences, from the lessons of dressing she took and the history of fashion from this seaport town.
above: Alice + Olivia Ball Skirt underneath a DKNY skirt, Candela crop top under a Donna Karan top, La Petite Princesse necklace, Jewels by Dunn horn necklace, and Jewels by Dunn bracelets
below: Candela dress underneath a Delpozo gown, Lizzie Fortunato short necklace
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The Pestana Convento do Carmo, originally built in 1586 as a convent, has now been carefully restored into the first luxury hotel in Brazil. There is a peacefulness to the corridors, a safety behind the stone walls. The outdoor living spaces, with their mix of antiques and art, made you never want to leave this timeless atmosphere. Each of the rooms, or apartments as they call them, have the original window seats that look over the center courtyard of the property, a view of history, nature and modern comfort.
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We arrived into the port town of Salvador de Bahia on Friday, the day of Oxala which means God of Creation. I didn’t know much about this place, only that it would have a deep river of African history underneath a colonial Portuguese settled landscape. Over the few days I was lucky enough to spend in this culturally rich destination, I discovered a new and very deep love for what they call the Capital da Alegria, or Capital of Happiness.
As we rode in the car to the historic area our hotel lived in, our amazing guide Conor O’Sullivan tells us how an Irish man ended up in the most African American city in the world outside the motherland. He took a 10 month backpacking trip through South America, found himself on a beach in Bahia and that was it. When he moved here in the early 80s he had $600 in his pocket and a return ticket to London that never got used. That is a pretty great first impression.
I think a comment on my Instagram that best describes this destination is a tropical Portugal. We strolled for the entire afternoon climbing up and down narrow cobbled streets where rows of houses are brightly painted in a sorbet of colors. Grand Baroque churches on every other corner. Each block a new sound of music, music flows here like the subways at rush hour. Drums, guitars, African instruments, music for the soul not for the name. Men sitting outside on the petite sidewalks playing dominos. They feel free, they feel happy, they don’t feel the bland taste yet of globalization. Maybe I didn’t know about Salvador da Bahia before because it’s better as a secret, a play for life and love.
Keeping cool on the streets of Bahia in a white cotton Tibi poplin top that loved to dance in the wind, J. Crew capris, and Of a Kind D’Orsay flats
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The white walls call to mind the elegance of Paris…the tropical plants the sexiness of the Caribbean…and the location is one that could only be found in Brazil. No wonder this place is as famous as its name…it really does sparkle like a piece of coral washed up on the shore.
The famous “Copacabana” song, sung by Barry Manilow, was actually set at Copacabana nightclub in New York City…but was inspired by a conversation Manilow and fellow recording partner Bruce Sussman had at the Copacabana Palace.
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RIO… as colorful as the sunsets that are applauded each evening as the golden globe slips under the ocean’s horizon on Ipanema Beach. What a culture that celebrates life and living. From the bossa nova beat to the gorgeous beach bodies, everything in Rio de Janerio was bright, light, and fun.
We spent the afternoons laying on the beach, watching a world of men and women go by who are so comfortable in their skin no matter what the color, shape or size…I was inspired to love my body a little more and let go of all the details. The people of Rio just enjoy life and enjoy being. Men would walk by selling shrimp and lime, corn, watermelon slices, bikinis, and a variety of fresh fruit drinks. We walked along the beach, kicking back soccer balls with the locals and drinking fresh coconut juice cut open for you moments before. One of the people we met in Rio de Janeiro said he walks to Ipanema Beach every evening to watch the sunset, an experience I would recommend over anything else; it was an urban paradise.
For me, the coolest thing about this city is Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer, visible from almost anywhere, standing tall watching over his people. It felt safe, the way you feel with your father, to be under his watch, your life witnessed. He watched us try Cipriani‘s on the rooftop of our hotel, explore the art museums, glide up the mount of Sugarloaf, dance at the Copa-Copacabana and play with pieces of Carnival. When we paid Jesus Cristos a visit, to see what he sees, we found a view that can only be described as heaven. White buildings rolling up and down lush forested hills until they run in to the beaches smiling out at the ocean. On the horizon islands dance endlessly between the seamless boundary of ocean and sky.
I felt like RIO gave me a gift, the gift of life.
Staying cool in the heat & humidity in a MAIYET dress, Tibi mules and local beer
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… and oh, the falls. The beautiful nature of almighty water displayed in the grandest of dramatic fashion. God must have been truly inspired when he painted this masterpiece. Layers upon layers, walls among walls of never-ending falling water. I stood on the footbridge in the center of it all, mist wrapping around me in a whirl and felt the freedom of letting go and floating away into the fog of whiteness. It was a breathtaking romance, a real rapture between power and might, and breaths of teardrops. Iguassu Falls, when witnessed by Eleanor Roosevelt, caused her to say, “Poor Niagara!“…and I think that says it all.
The best view of the falls, however, is underneath the falls! A real river safari, a true Brazilian adventure. We screamed, we laughed, we got totally soaked and begged for more. There are these moments in life when you sit back and say, “Am I really here right now?!” I knew when coming to Brazil I was going to experience a lot of color, culture for sure, but oh, the COLOR. Such a welcome escape from the cold gray winter days back home. Sitting on a log in the middle of the Bird Park, my eyes were feasting on the red, blue, yellow, pink, and green feathers flying around me. Colors so vivid and saturated you can’t help but stare in love. The bird park, a refugee camp for birds that have been injured or rescued to recover, was a real study of natural beauty…
Cataratas, Brazil: This is what adventures are made of.
Alone in the natural wonders… if you stay here you can experience the falls before they open to the public. Wearing a white Tibi crochet dress.
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It was a bizarre and wonderful experience: boarding a plane in the middle of winter in one of the biggest cities in the world and 14 hours later, walking off a flight onto the runway of a single baggage claim airport on the edges of Brazil’s famous rainforest, being immediately wrapped in summer’s heat. I couldn’t wait to get here, to smell the forest and feel the dampness on my skin. The air, sticky and thick, wrapped around you like a hug from an old friend.
We arrived in the quiet of night, a blanket that covered the infamous Iguassu Falls but could not hide the sounds of her roar. We stood there over the vista listening, catching the faintest glimmer of white capped water reflected from the starlight. We had just missed the full moon where upon the falls appear lunar rainbows, like a secret gift from the constellations.
Our hotel with its open-air walkways and pink-washed walls framed by grand oak rooms was more reminiscent of dreams I have had of colonial inspired adventure travel than anything I have experienced before. The beds where lords and great minds have rested, where Princess Diana took in the very view that stood before me, was as proud and polished as it was when it was built in 1958. I wondered what they thought about as they lay in the silence of night with one of the natural wonders of the world just a breath away…
*PS- if you stay at this property you can have private viewing access to the falls one hour before the park opens to the public!
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If you’ve been following along on Instagram (sorry about it) you know we’ve been on another epic South American adventure, this time to glorious Brazil! We travel all the time, currently at 10 weeks straight at airports!, so I’m always looking for better ways to streamline, simplify and carry my necessities in the most comfortable & stylish way.
I found this vintage Hermes backpack, which is such a far cry from the JanSports we all carried in elementary school, from a vintage online luxury retailer LXR & Co. which is now my globe-trotting best friend. I’m guessing the quality and craftsmanship will hold up better than my last travel backpack…
What’s in my bag:
- The Leica M which I’m loving for travel, as it is lightweight & more compact than DSLRs
- Michael Kors Double Wrap Leather Watch I wear a wrist watch set to the local time I have traveled to and keep my iPhone on NY time so that I can stay in touch on email and post to social channels in appropriate real time
- A Peace Treaty silk scarf a scarf is an easy thing to throw on and dress up your look from day to night if you don’t have time to go back to the hotel. I also spray my scarf with perfume as an extra layer of refreshing the way you feel
- Hermes Passport Wallet when I’m not carrying my Coach Travel Wallet which I use as a master catch all of airplane tickets, money, itinerary, coins, and transportation tickets, this Hermes is simple and indiscreet.
- Ralph Lauren Gentleman’s Card Case I like to keep my wallet as slim, simple, and lightweight as possible so that I may slip it in a pocket and go for times I don’t need to take everything with me.
- Steven Alan Monroe Sunglasses for the sun and for the travel days you don’t wear makeup.
- Of a Kind Nude iPhone Wallet I use the little pockets to hold business cards!
- Silver Travel Pill Case I bought recently from a shop window on Royal Street in New Orleans because nobody has time for a headache when you’re looking at beauty like this…
*Plaid alpaca throw and sheepskin rug are from our adventures through Chile’s Patagonia
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I hear there is a polar vortex in New York right now, which is making me love aviation even more today as I am traveling through summertime in Brazil. It was only a couple months ago this jetliner took me on my first South American adventure and I’m already back for more. What an incredible thing it is to fly – changing countries, temperatures, and cultures in mere hours – not to mention glimpsing the earth from so, so high above…
The view from a plane window is an amazing way to see the world. I love flying, I love seeing our life in a new perspective, I love being someplace totally different in the blink of an eye. Time does not exist to me in the sky, it’s only when your feet touch the ground (and your airplane mode turns off) that we start keeping track again… but for a moment, when you’re up in the heavens, all is peaceful out that little window below.
You’ve been on this great Chilean adventure #onlyinsouthamerica with me and I wanted to say thank you to Lan Airlines, the premier carrier for South America, for taking us to all these places I could only have dreamed of before. The greatest end to this unforgettable journey was coming home to New York on the new Dreamliner. Total game changer! The difference in cabin pressure, theatrical mood lighting that changes throughout the flight, the LARGER WINDOWS (by 30%), the friendly flight attendants and the wonderful food made the last leg home one of peace and relaxation. I’ve never enjoyed a flight more than this… I’ll come fly with you anytime.
Views out my window:
My top three favorite fun facts about LAN Airlines!
1. A LAN flight takes off every 2.5 minutes around the world. Can you believe it??
2. The TAM business class wine list is ranked among the top 5 in the world by Global Traveler Magazine in their article, “Wines on the Wing 2013“. And speaking of wine (which I always love to talk about!), there are 522,000 bottles of wine opened on LAN airplanes each year.
3. The airline created the Call for Social and Environmental Projects, which focuses on investing in nonprofit organizations that help develop sustainable tourism and environmental conservation!
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The most beautiful view is the one looking up.
Patagonia’s skies are true works of art. With the drama of a Renaissance painting and the bizarre UFO-like nature of lenticular clouds there is never a dull moment, as if the sky was nature’s form of entertainment. It all just gives way for the spectacular light show that happens this far south leaving you with the memories of the most beautiful saturation and contrasts of colors that can only be found in Patagonia.
“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”
– John Keats
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