More travel videos….
Of all the activities Juma Lodge provides, my favorite was the jungle walk, a serious hike through the Amazon Rainforest. The breathtaking flora and fauna, the steamy nature of the air around you, the wild views of dense tropical rainforest reaching stories high above your head to the fallen leaves under your feet. It was – in one word – BEAUTIFUL. Leaving the lodge by boat, we ventured to a new part of this dense forest. I loved when our boat would enter into the tree canopies; it was like entering a magical world full of natural secrets. We started by clearing the path through the jungle with a machete, then learned how to climb Acai Trees like the natives by making rope out of leaves, how to communicate far distances with a stick and a tree, that Babasu Gongoin (beetle larvae) tastes just like coconuts (and according to our guide, Bill Gates loved them on his walking tour!), and how to separate palm leaves in order to fold them into forest crowns. Not your typical Monday activities in Manhattan!
After a refreshing swim at the end of our hike (remember it’s like 100000% humidity) we had lunch cooked over an open flame and took a dip to cool off. That evening we went fishing for piranhas which later became part of our family style meal. The journey to get here, the monkeys, and being forced to disconnect from the rest of the world will put this place, deep in the heart of the Amazon, forever deep in mine.
and FYI- Manaus is only a 5 hour flight from Miami, what adventure you take from there is up to you!
One of the coolest unexpected experiences of the Amazon and our stay at Juma Lodge was meeting these guys. While touring the resort, the guide told us that two monkeys lived in the area, and when they jump on you, it’s important to not be startled, to stay calm and not scream because you wouldn’t want to frighten the monkey. They also told us to keep our doors locked whenever we left the rooms, because the monkeys liked to ‘help themselves’ to your belongings and make a huge mess of it. He also warned that if we hear a “knock” on our door to not open it all the way, to crack it first and make sure it’s not a monkey trying to get in. We all chatted in excitement about all these little tips over dinner and tucked ourselves in for the night hoping we would get to see one of these little guys the next day.
Well… see these monkeys we did. Around 6:30 am the knocks on the door started coming! Just as the guide had warned us, it was monkey time. Up and down the resort they went, waking everybody up. They crawled on us, they cuddled in our arms, they swung from our bodies with their tails, they napped on us in hammocks, and they stole the limes from our cocktails. It was amazing. I’ll never forget napping in the hammock, hearing the pitter-patter of little monkey feet coming and then seeing his head popping over the hammock edge…and in he came to join me. It was a blast.
Monkey love – The female monkey was absolutely 100% head-over-heels in love with our travel companion Zach. Any time he was outside his room she was in his arms. As the trip progressed, the deeper she felt and even started swatting Kelly away to keep him all to herself! He couldn’t move without her attached to him and if he was in his room she’d knock and try the door knob repeatedly!
I love when life gives you these memories you can never plan for, an experience you didn’t know was possible. Such an adventure… just monkeying around.
All the greatest adventures require a great journey to reach them. This would be the third time, after Safari and Patagonia, I have dedicated over a day just in travel to reach a destination… but it is worth every transfer. Two flights, two buses and two boats and halfway through there, we said goodbye to WiFi and cell service. After passing pink dolphins, and navigating through large trees jutting out of the water, we motored up to the Juma Lodge just as the sun was setting. Being so far removed from modern civilization, we had ventured into an unknown world.
On Juma Lake in the Amazon River, we climbed the stairs to our treehouse bungalows. Our first night spent in the rainforest, we lay on the deck looking up at the night sky, almost bursting with stars of every size and color. We started to live by nature’s standard – it was such a funny thing, the moment we took away the every day technologies, we were all in bed by 10pm and up at 7. And what a wake-up call it was. Each morning we would hear a “knock” on our door, up and down all the cabanas, only to find a monkey waiting outside, climbing up your limbs to be cradled in your arms or sit on your shoulders. It was an awesome experience. We would swing in hammocks on the deck, suspended high above the waters below, and relish in a afternoon thunderstorm that brought a bit of relief from the humidity.
I think back on this experience and I can’t believe it lives in my memories. To see a part of the world so untouched, still so mysterious, and so influential in our modern day medicines and sciences, it almost felt spiritual, like we were sleeping close to ancient gods and all they could do was smile down upon us.
Where the two rivers meet – the above image illustrates the Rio Negro (black water) and the caramel-colored Amazon River flowing side by side but not mixing due to the different makeup and temperatures of the two rivers. This was the last Instagram I got out before we lost service!
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.
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.
It comes as no surprise a city as magical as Salvador da Bahia would have a boutique hotel just as enchanting in the heart of the old city. Two colonial homes, one from the 17th century and the other from the 18th, have been carefully renovated into the 17 room experience of Hotel Villa Bahia with two garden courtyards, plunge pool, panoramic terrace and one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. Each room unique in decor, each detail as romantic as the last. If I were a novelist, it is here where I would stay to write as I felt nothing but inspiration between these walls….
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.
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.
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.
… 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.
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!
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