27 June 2010

What I'm Coveting from J.Crew this Summer

I started shopping at J.Crew in high school and, honestly, really haven't bought much from the store since sophomore year of college. Lately, however, J.Crew has been entering my fashion radar too often for me to discount. Before Jenna Lyons took over as Creative Director, J. Crew was a virtual shopping cliche, filled with out-dated and tired looks from "The Official Preppy Handbook." Lyons, thankfully, has completely changed all of that, making J. Crew a beacon of style for the non-Nantucket set.

Here are some of my favorite looks for summer (and early fall):

The pieces that I get the most mileage out of tend to be tops like this one- bright, textured pieces that I can wear a million ways. This top could be worn under a skirt suit, layered over a tissue tee, worn belted, or worn with another bold shirt. J.Crew calls it the petal vine shell. I would call it perfection.

I adore this playful twist on Breton stripes. The red stripes and light sequin detail make it unique enough for me to want to wear it.

Blazers are staples in my wardrobe. I am particularly fond of this one because of the fit and whimsical Ikat dot pattern. The cost-per-wear of this blazer for me would be about a penny, because I would wear it so often.

The painted silk Bridget dress would also go the distance in my closet. It obviously works for summer, but I also foresee it working well with opaque tights and ankle boots or another type of structural heel. And I love dresses, especially elegant ones like this.

The floral fantasma clutch caught my eye instantly. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I love statement clutches like this one. The bag also gets bonus points for the use of bright, neon colors. I would probably get a lot of use out of this bag, even if it is a bit expensive for a clutch at $128.

26 June 2010

Edinburgh is for (History) Lovers

Edinburgh was one of those rare cities that I felt as if I had visited before. It was unlike any city I had ever been to, but it instantly felt familiar and friendly to me. Having spent time in England and Wales, I was familiar with some elements of Scotland like the currency, the language (obviously), the food, and British customs and etiquette. Yet, Scotland was as unlike both of those nations as it was similar. Edinburgh, in particular, was just filled with contradictions.
Here is a bit of what we saw:

Second day in Edinburgh. We needed a day to recover from the overnight coach from London, or at least I needed a day to recover. This was also our first experience with the crazy Scottish weather.

The Heart of Lothian. If you need to spit in Edinburgh, this is where you do it according to our walking tour guide, Mark. Rival football team fans spit here both for good luck and to curse their opponents. Charming!

Greyfriars Bobby. This beloved pooch is arguably the most famous dog in Scotland. After his master passed away, Bobby stood dutifully by his grave for fourteen years. After Bobby himself passed away, this statue was lovingly erected in his honor. I'd like to think that a similar statue might one day be built to commemorate the life of my blessed and most beloved Chihuahua.

Inside Greyfriars Cemetery. It was definitely a little spooky, even during the day. Laura and I had planned to go on a ghost tour of Edinburgh (a free one, of course), but we were apparently the only two budget-savvy travelers in Edinburgh that evening. No one showed up for the free tour, opting for the various 15GBP tours instead. So, we decided to walk through the cemetery at night by ourselves...for at least a minute or two before our wits got the best of us and we fled the grounds.

Our walking tour guide, Mark, a postgrad at the University of Edinburgh, demonstrating the heroic acts of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who was so loyal that even a bar was dedicated in his honor.

One of the supposedly haunted crypts in the cemetery. Our would-be ghost tour guide claimed to have "invented" the tale of the haunting behind this grave, though. He also alleged to have been executed sometime in the 19th century, too, so I don't know how credibly his story was...

An eerily haunting image of Edinburgh Castle, perched atop of the volcanic Castle Rock. We walked around the castle many times, clinging to the walls and gates for dear life so as not to be blown off the mountain.

Celtic high cross. I've been fascinated with Celtic history and folklore since childhood. Now that I've made it to England, Scotland, and Wales, I really need to venture to Ireland.

The National Library of Scotland. I adore libraries. I probably visit my own public library anywhere from 3-5 times a week. The public library across from the National Library was also fantastic. They had the best collection of DK Eyewitness Travel Guides that I had ever seen. I was in heaven.

Lovely fountain in the middle of one of the public parks. Just don't walk too close to the fountain when the wind is blowing!

I truly loved Scotland. It may be a place brimming with contradictions, folklores, and myths, but one thing is for certain: Scotland is for history lovers. If you love history, you will not be disappointed in Scotland!

25 June 2010

Finally- A Voguette with Affordable style!

The newest installment of perennial Vogue.com classic, "Five Days, Five Looks, One Girl," finally featured a young lady with style and taste that we can not only relate to and appreciate, but, most importantly, afford. Photo assistant Sara McDowell provided the newest five looks for this column, and I was shocked to read that her clothing items were found at "normal" stores (i.e. Banana Republic and Nine West as opposed to Christian Louboutin and Prada). In fact, she exhibited realistic style choices for a girl with a non-investment banker salary living in NYC. The looks were also varied, whimsical, and full of color. Here's one of my favorite of McDowell's looks:

To see all of Sara McDowell's looks, be sure to check out the full column at http://www.vogue.com/voguedaily/2010/06/five-days-five-looks-one-girl-sara-mcdowell/

(** photo image is courtesy of Vogue.com at the above link**)

23 June 2010

Who is the best on-screen Chanel?

The film industry has certainly been smitten with Chanel lately. First we had Lifetime's Chanel biopic starring Shirley MacLaine as the title role. Then there was "Coco Before Chanel" with Audrey Tatou taking the lead. Now we have "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky," a film based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Greenhalgh with Anna Mouglalis playing Coco. I haven't seen the newest adaptation yet, but I did read Greenhalgh's novel. I wasn't too overwhelmed by it, finding the prose rather dull and slow-going. I am very curious about the film, though, mostly for the fashion. I think Mouglalis makes a terrific Chanel, too.

Who makes the best Chanel on screen, though?

Anna Mouglalis as Chanel in "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky." Love the hair, love the clothes, love the look.

Audrey Tatou as Chanel in "Coco Before Chanel." To me, Audrey was as close to the real icon as you can get.

Shirley MacLaine as the contemporary Chanel in Lifetime's "Coco Chanel." I kind of hated MacLaine's portrayal of Chanel.

Barbora Bobulova as the young Gabrielle in Lifetime's "Coco Chanel." I thought Ms. Bobulova was fantastic in this role. She deserved far more praise than she received.

And the legend herself, the irreplaceable Gabrielle Chanel.

So who is the best on-screen Chanel? I've made my pick; send me yours!

(** all images in this post courtesy of Google**)

22 June 2010

The Perfect Honeymoon Trip

As soon as one travel adventure ends, it is time to start planning the next. This usually entails searching through my favorite travel websites and magazines for ideas, comparing my "shortlist" on Intrepid Travel (a list that is by no means short with over 20 trips selected!), and playing around with international airfare on kayak.com, one of my personal favorites. I never like to plan too far in advance, since I have one of the rarest of diseases- Travel ADD, in which I can feel compelled to travel to Croatia one minute and Kenya the next. I never know when a bout of the disease will strike, so it's best to research all destinations and go with the one I am most drawn to at the time of booking.

Lately, I have been on a huge adventure-travel kick. The below trip with Aventouras struck me as the perfect blend of both what I am used to in travel and what I hope to experience next: a unique mix of history and culture with an emphasis on nature and outdoor adventure.

Here is the itinerary:

Days 1-2, Lima and Cuzco Meet in Lima and overnight in the vibrant Miraflores section of the city or near the airport for later arrivals• Short scenic flight over the Andes to the ancient Inca city of Cuzco • Explore ruins near the city• Enjoy Cuzco's cuisine, combining Andean specialties with modern tastes

Days 3-6, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley Bike to the unique Inca site of Moray and the incredible salt pans of Maras • Raft the Class III Urubamba River through the Sacred Valley with examples of Inca stonework and terracing along the banks• Tour the ruins of Ollantaytambo • Hike the Royal Inca trail to Machu Picchu or other equally spectacular trails • Half-day tour of Machu Picchu

Days 7-10, Kayaking Lake Titicaca Transfer back to Cuzco, flight to Juliaca and transfer to Llachon on the shore of Lake Titicaca• Kayak across Lake Titicaca to Isla Taquile • Hike and explore the traditional culture of Isla Taquile • Kayak the shoreline of Isla Taquile before visiting the floating islands of Uros • Fly back to Lima and onward home • Note that because return flights to the United States are usually overnight flights, you will arrive back home on day 11 of the trip.

My sister has been my traveling companion on recent trips, but when I mentioned the excursion to my boyfriend (who has an affinity for Latin American culture), he was interested, too. We decided that it was the perfect honeymoon trip. What better way to start out a marriage than with a life-changing experience hiking, biking, and kayaking to Machu Picchu? The trip is a little pricey at $2698, but, fortunately, airfare to Peru can usually be found for around $600. No, I am not engaged yet, but after five and a half years, a girl can dream, right? And, as I always say, you never know when you'll need to jet to X country at a moment's notice, so it is always best to be prepared.

(** Collage and trip itinerary are courtesy of Aventouras at www.aventouras.com**)

17 June 2010

Intrepid Travel Launches Adventures in Antarctica

Antarctica may be the last frontier on the planet, but it also represents the holy grail for travelers. The place you visit if you want to earn travel bragging rights for the rest of your life. The world's most remote destination is also one of the world's most expensive destinations. Since you must travel by large ship or yacht (naturally) to reach the Antarctic islands and you must fly down to the very tip of Argentina, getting there can be extremely costly.

My favorite travel company, Intrepid Travel, is hoping to make Antarctica slightly more accessible. In celebration of the newly-launched trips, Intrepid Travel will be offering 20% off selected Antarctic departures and cabins if you book before August 15, 2010. The ten-day Antarctic Peninsula trip starts at $5260 and takes travelers to the South Shetland Islands, after departing from Ushuaia. The Antarctica and Polar Circle excursion is a bit longer at twelve days, but it is also a bit pricier at $6720. This trip also includes excursions to the South Shetland Islands. However, for the full Antarctic experience, Intrepid Travel takes travelers on a once-in-a-lifetime nineteen-day excursion to the South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, South Georgia Island (burial place of famed Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton), and the Falkland Islands. Coming in at $9595, it is also one of the most expensive trips Intrepid Travel offers. However, if you're able to book up to fifteen months in advance, Intrepid Travel knocks 5% off the price. Free accommodation and transfer packages are available when departing between November 2011 and March 2012. Check out www.intrepidtravel.com for all trip details.

Antarctica is the one destination that my father said he would like to visit in his lifetime, mostly out of his genuine admiration and respect for one of his historical heroes, Sir Ernest Shackleton. I'm determined to make the voyage to Antarctica with him, and, fortunately, Intrepid Travel now offers a way to make that travel dream come true.

16 June 2010

Trailing Umberto Eco in Bologna

Admittedly, one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Bologna was to sample the spectacular food. Bologna, located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, is widely touted as the culinary capital of the country. And that is saying quite a bit, considering that the entire nation of Italy is no slouch when it comes to food. I also wanted to catch a glimpse of Umberto Eco, professor of semiotics, linguist, and world-class writer. While I was not disappointed when it came to the food of Bologna, I did miss the chance to mingle with Senor Eco. I tried, believe me. My sister and I were staked at the University for several hours, waiting out a rainstorm and searching for glimpses of the high-profile Eco. Alas, no sight of him.

Here are a few pictures of what we did see in Bologna:

This was the first church we encountered during our long walk into the city center. We found a terrific hotel in an all-local neighborhood outside the city center. It was thrilling to walk around as the only non-Italians. People stared at us like we were aliens. We loved it.

An authentically medieval town center. This city is unchanged and devoted to its traditional ways.

The Fontana del Nettuno in the city center. Everyone tended to congregate around this statue at all times of the day.

The Basilica di Santa Maria dei Servi. I absolutely love the porticoes and frescoes that lined virtually every street. Bologna was a feast for the senses.

The iconic twin towers, the symbol of Bologna. Of course, one of them was under renovation. Towers like this are spread throughout Bologna, and no one knows their true purpose or exact origin.

Me in front of one of the many elaborately ornate fountains in the city.

Beautiful stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables lined the narrow streets of Bologna. Laura and I contemplated buying a bunch of grapes or some gorgeous melons, but we naturally gravitated towards gelato, pasta, and pizza.

This was the most beautiful fresco that I came across in the city. Many of the arches in the porticoes were graced by bright paintings like this one.

Proof that we really did try to find Professor Eco. The Universita di Bologna is the oldest university in the Western world. Yes, even older than Oxford. I was certainly inspired walking around the university. We even hung out in the student center for a bit. I fine-tuned my coffee-ordering skills in Italian. Note: if you want an iced espresso, ask for a "shakerato." Delicious!

I was quite taken with this little rock garden. I especially love the little statue the garden is built around.

The imposing, life-size Neptune. Oh, the sky was that blue for most of the trip!

I can't recommend Bologna enough. Definitely visit this vibrant, medieval city when you're in Italy next. And be sure to sample some of that extraordinary cuisine!

14 June 2010

(Not) All Passion Spent

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I have been on a huge Virginia Woolf kick lately. My great love and admiration for Virginia led me to read All Passion Spent by her great love, Vita Sackville-West. This was one of those rare books that was not only delightfully enjoyable to read, but one that delivered a powerful message, as well. It was about the importance of being true to our passions and our one true vocation.

Lady Slane was a woman who was confined to the traditions and social customs of 19th century England. Unable, or so she thought, to pursue her passion for painting, she assumed the traditional role of women by marrying and having children. Only when her husband passed away some seventy years later was she finally able to devote herself to her true passion.

She defied and mystified her adult children by leaving her home and moving to an old house in Hampstead. Here she would encounter eccentrics and odd characters alike who nourished her passion in some way.

Mr. FitzGeorge, millionaire art-collector, would have this poignant conversation with Lady Slane while visiting her at Hampstead:

"I had everything that most women would covet: position, comfort, children, and a husband I loved. I had nothing to complain of- nothing," Lady Slane.

"Except that you were defrauded of the one thing that mattered. Nothing matters to an artist except the fulfillment of his gift. Face it, Lady Slane. Your children, your husband, your splendour, were nothing but obstacles that kept you from yourself. They were what you chose to substitute for your real vocation. You were too young, I suppose, to know any better, but when you chose that life, you sinned against the light, " Mr. FitzGeorge.

"Yes, I know you are right," Lady Slane.

It may have been too late for Lady Slane to devote herself to her life's passion, but I'm finding that it is not too late for me, or one of my best friends, who recently found the courage and conviction to go after her life's vocation. In some way, I think Vita Sackville-West stressed that it is never too late to go after what is really important to you. Even Lady Slane found the courage to do so, even if it came at the end of life. Be true to your passions and to yourself, the book seemed to say.

I heard the message loud and clear, realizing that not all passion has been spent just yet.

10 June 2010

The Allure of Iceland

My sister was the mastermind behind our recent jaunt through Iceland. Laura and I are both aces when it comes to booking European airfare. I don't think either of us have ever flown (roundtrip) to anywhere in Europe from the U.S. for over $600. Laura outdid herself with our most recent ticket, though. She was able to secure us a ten-hour layover in Reykjavik with Icelandair before terminating at London Heathrow. Icelandair was certainly not the most accommodating carrier I've ever flown with (that would be British Airways, of course). For the five-hour flight from Boston, we were served neither a meal nor beverages. Everything, including the headphones, was a la carte. Being without water can make even a relatively short flight seem like a flight across the Pacific! With the flight behind us, though, we landed at Keflavik Airport at 6 a.m., ready to see as much of Iceland as we could. This is a country that both of us will be re-visiting, mark my words!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from Reykjavik and Keflavik:

Maybe I spoke too soon about Icelandair. They do have the best free luggage tags ever. Laura and I will no doubt be flying with them when we go back to Iceland.

Before making the 45-minute voyage to Reykjavik, we had a quick breakfast at the airport. Skyr.is is the best yogurt I've ever had. I know that I tend to overuse superlatives when describing Iceland, but this yogurt was truly wonderful. Better than Greek yogurt, in my opinion.

Keflavik Airport is more futuristic than modern. I half expected Bjork to walk around a corner wearing her infamous swan dress.

Leif Ericsson was everywhere in Iceland in some form or another. Cafes, hotels, streets, airport wings, etc. Were he to visit Iceland today, he might leave with a rather big head.

Iceland may be bankrupt, but the country is rich with natural beauty. Imagine waking up to this view each day!

Hip Icelandic fashion on display at a boutique in the center of the city. The pink and orange skirt reminds me of Carrie's infamous tutu.

I think I could be happy living on this street... if only it weren't so expensive and difficult to get residency in Iceland.

Inside the Hallgrimskirkja. I've never seen a statue quite like this in any church or cathedral.

The giant eggplant that fell from space and landed behind Keflavik Airport.

09 June 2010

Sally Singer to Bid Adieu to Vogue

The Cut broke the news yesterday (following a Twitter update) that Vogue's Fashion News/ Features Director, Sally Singer, would be leaving the hallowed halls of Vogue for the greener pastures of T Magazine to serve as its Editor-in-Chief. I'm sure you're probably scrambling to picture T Magazine (I know I had to) in your head. It's the style and fashion magazine supplement for The New York Times, and, admittedly, it's not a publication that I've spent much time reading in the past. That will have to change in the future, as Sally Singer is one of my most admired fashion writers.

Many of The Cut's readers seemed to think that this was a wise career move for Sally Singer. Perhaps by leaving Vogue now, she might be the front-runner as the heir to Anna Wintour's crown, most people seemed to speculate. I tend to agree, though, as someone who had graced the top of the masthead for more than a decade, she was already a front-runner for the job from my perspective. If Sally Singer left Vogue predominantly to put herself in a better position when she returns to the magazine, she'll be joining a long list of editors who left Vogue (or Bazaar) only to wield even greater fame and professional success since the departure from the world's most famous fashion magazine.

Here's the short list:

- Lauren Weisberger. She was a mere assistant to Anna Wintour before she left Vogue and hit it big with "The Devil Wears Prada." Even S.I. Newhouse probably couldn't afford her services were she to want to return to the magazine.

- Vera Wang. Ms. Wang left the fashion editorial world with a dream of creating beautiful wedding dresses. The rest is history.

- Suzanne D'Amato. She worked as a fashion writer for Vogue before leaving for The Washington Post. She now has the number two position at People Style Watch as the Executive Editor.

- Thakoon. He worked as a fashion writer/ editor for Harper's Bazaar before leaving to create his namesake line.

- Jenny Comita. She worked as a fashion writer for Vogue before leaving for a senior editorial position at W. She now interviews celebrities like Amy Adams for the magazine.

- Derek Blasberg. The former Vogue assistant now pals around town with Lauren Santo Domingo and Chloe Sevigny. He also contributes for Harper's Bazaar and has a book coming out this year.

- Amy Astley. Granted, she has stayed in the Vogue family, but Ms. Astley left Vogue to assume the role of Editor-in-Chief when Conde Nast launched Teen Vogue.

The list goes on and on. It's safe to say that Sally Singer made a wise move, though she will be greatly missed. After all, who else could give us thought-provoking quips like "The jacket is the new coat?"

(** photo courtesy of http://nymag.com**)

08 June 2010

A child strangling a goose and other oddities in Switzerland

Ah, Switzerland. The land of cheese, chocolate, Roger Federer, really expensive watches, and investment banks. On a recent trip to Geneva, I discovered that there is so much more to this land-locked nation than merely the above. My sister and I were eye-witnesses to a crime scene, brutally rebuffed when approaching passerby (in French, mind you) for directions, and shocked by the scary conditions in the city's only hostel. That's what happens when you travel, though: all of your expectations and preconceived notions are shattered. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from Lake Geneva:

While this is no doubt a beautiful church, I am most drawn to this picture because of the unusual tree in front of it. We saw trees like this throughout Switzerland and Austria. They almost look possessed or haunted...

This jet stream of water shooting into the sky is the symbol of Lake Geneva. It was really difficult to photograph because the image disappeared into the hazy sky.

This colorful sign encouraging people to refrain from feeding the water fowls was near the harbor. The message is pretty simple, but this sign never ceases to make me laugh.

This artwork was on display outside a cafe. I'm not sure what materials were used to construct it, but it definitely caught my eye.

This is one of my favorite photos from the entire trip just because it is so strange. We were walking down by the shore when this baby went crawling by. Fear not: her parents were nearby.

This beautiful lighthouse/ gazebo was accessible only by walking across this narrow strip of rock. In order to get to this point, Laura and I had to pass sunbathers in bathing suits that left very little to the imagination, even though it was a crisp, cool day. We're still recovering from some of those images...

The adolescent and the horse. Simple description, yet right to the point. Statues like this were omnipresent in the parks of Geneva.

A child strangling a goose, perhaps my favorite statue from anywhere in Europe. I'd love to know what the artist was thinking when he/she proposed putting this most unusual sculpture in the park.

Beautiful trees and flowers like this lined the paths and walkways along the shore of the lake.

Both Rick Steves and Samantha Brown have joined in on games of bocce ball on their respective travel shows. I missed my chance to do so, but still enjoyed watching the people in the picture play the game.