Usually, ends up in photos.
Which is appropriate because a few weeks ago I was invited by Fujifilm on their #InstaxUSTour to join a group of other lovely girls on an amazing tour of Las Vegas which included staying at a 4000 sqm penthouse suite at the Palms Casino Hotel, a plane tour of the Grand Canyon, partying like rockstars at the hip Marquee club, a private tour of the Las Vegas Neon Museum, dining at some of the best restaurants in Las Vegas and attending the Billboard Music Awards*. How could I say no?
*Due to prior commitments, I had to skip out after on the 3rd day of the 4-day weekend and thus missed out on the Billboard Awards (I had a conference to speak at) but I do have some photos of what my #girlsquad were up to. So I lived vicariously through them.
And here’s my photodiary of what happened in Vegas for those magical 4 days.
It was an amazing experience – and I love how I was able to capture moments candidly using the Mini 70 Instax camera ( it’s really fun being able to just take photos with friends and keep them on a pin board). My favorite part of the whole trip was definitely the airplane ride over the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam, followed very very very closely by the Neon Museum with its super ‘grammable Neon signs.
By the way, I was using Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 70.
Thanks so much Fujifilm Instax and special thanks to Natasha and Morgan who made this all happen and took such good care of us. And if you want to know why the photos above look so gorgeous – it’s because we had the beyond talented Patricio who took all our photos.
I also loved and meeting such truly beautiful girls who are as lovely in personality as they are outwardly. Here are their Instagram handles to follow:
The Resort at Pelican Hill, a beautiful destination in Newport Beach, is a five-star luxury property with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. It has Italian inspired architecture and decor that brilliantly blends with the Newport Beach’s Southern Cali weather and vibe.
Driving into the resort , I can’t help but notice that the grounds and gardens (they have a lot beautiful olive trees here) are the most well-tended and
immaculate I’ve ever seen. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought the resort had only recently opened – later on I found out that it has been in business for 8 years. How is it that no one’s told me about it before?!?
As an art and design buff, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a lot of the artwork and furniture are antiques and originals imported from Italy. In fact the guide (you can go on a self-guided tour, small group tour or arrange for complimentary one from the concierge) mentioned that the two tapestries hanging in the great room across from the main lobby are 17th century Flemish originals.
This resort isn’t just for couples. It’s also very family friendly. There’s a kids pool and “Camp Pelican” which is an activity center for younger kids. For kids aged 13-17 they even have organized activities called “Latitude” so that they can be far away from their embarrassing parents. (I’m just guessing that’s the point.)
You can bring grandma along.
And the resort isn’t just for overnights and long weekends. The resort knows it’s local clientele well and offers extended-stay rates – Newport Beach and nearby Laguna Beach are wealthy communities and homes are always being renovated or built so families are displaced for a while.
The resort is also popular for family getaways and bridal parties what with their 128 villas ranging in size from 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms. The villas have their own equally well-appointed 10,000 square-foot clubhouse and pool, with private washer, dryer and personal villa staff which includes a concierge, butler and personal chef upon request.
All in all – a must visit for anyone looking for a relaxing luxury resort experience in Southern California.
But what about The Spa?
Oh yes – The Spa at Pelican Hill which was undoubtedly the highlight of my 3 day 2 night stay. Their spa has been voted “the no.1 spa in California by Conde Nast Traveler magazine “ and was awarded a Five Star rating by Forbes Travel Guide. I am happy to report that both accolades are well deserved.
Located off of the main building, and housing a state of the art gym and fitness studio, I whizzed right past those elements which would have required that I exert myself, and headed straight for the relaxing portion of the spa. Because of their extensive spa menu there is something for everyone. (PS: ask for Lydia for the most amazing facial ever) .
I can’t recommend this spa enough.
The spa waiting area features cozy blankets and a delicious spa menu so you can enjoy pre and post treatment meals. It has very spacious and well appointed with large individual shower rooms with en-suite benches for maximum privacy. And although the decor is grand and slightly imposing (it was inspired by Roman (classic) architecture, albeit a very cozy one) the staff is anything but.
From the time I checked-in, shown around the spa, right until I left, the various staff members were all very friendly and welcoming. I also love that even though a detailed protocol is given after treatment, describing what products were used and which you should have at home, there is absolutely no hard-sell.
I also found out later that the spa offers a Spa Suite VIP room (for up to 5 guests) for you and a group of friends to use for relaxing between treatments. There are also customized spa packages ranging from half-day, full day, couples, babymoons and even red carpet packages.
This spa has everything – hair services, mani-pedis, steam and sauna, a gorgeous Roman soaking tub, facials and massages, private spa suites for couples and groups – all in a high-ceilinged 23,000 square foot area. And for those more fitness-inclined, there are workouts designed head to toe: from meditation, to barre classes, organized beach walks, yoga, and more. In other terms they offer everything from A to Z: Abs to Zumba.
So they make their own pasta.
The resort is also home to Andrea Ristorante , an upscale restaurant that serves not only the most delicious Northern Italian cuisine, but also the most stunning sunsets.
The pasta here is made in-house and the olive oil is especially selected by the chef. (Plus you can take a bottle home as they sell their signature Pelican Hill olive oil at the resort.) As I watched By, my better half eating the delicious food in front of us, I had a flash of concern he would now refuse to eat my always over-cooked store-bought spaghetti , but then I realized I could us “ this is what they do professionally in their professional kitchen.” as an excuse why I am such a terrible cook. Oh well moving on.
We had a short stay and ate only at Andrea and the poolside Coliseum Pool & Grill, so we missed out on trying their Pelican Grill, Piccolo, Caffe & Market (one with freshly made gelato and free wifi), and a Great Room Social Lounge area- all the more reason to return! We especially loved Andrea because of the delicious food, romantic ambience and spectacular sunset over the Pacific.
Coliseum Pool & Grill
While Andrea may have romance and fine cuisine, the Coliseum Pool & Grill has it’s own pluses. This is the resort’s casual poolside dining. And before I even discuss the food, I have to discuss the view of the Coliseum Pool.
What a pool. Seriously – you’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a circle that’s apparently 136 feet in diameter. I don’t remember my geometry but I will say that it looks like a perfectly formed lake plunked down, overlooking the ocean.
Spectacular is a word made to describe this pool. You’ll never want to leave, which is precisely why you’ll be trying the Coliseum’s poolside menu which is delivered right to your chaise lounge or cabana. The setting is so heavenly that they could be forgiven if they served average food but they, again, do not disappoint. The food is fresh and refreshing.
Luxury does not mean wastefulness.
The Resort could, frankly, dine off their reputation for amazing service, delicious food, sumptuous spa and beautiful bungalows but they don’t stop there. Unseen is their commitment to being “green.” All the water used to water the grounds and golf course is recycled water. The resort has numerous awards and accolades attesting to their environmental-friendly activities.
Two years (and I don’t even want to think about how much money) were spent creating elaborate underground rainwater runoff collection tanks. On top of that, they built two bio-filtration/bio-retention devices that clean the runoff water. And this resort actually does what all hotels should do – if there’s an area of the property that’s unoccupied, they have the ability to shut down the electricity and gas there so that no energy is wasted.
I love that they are so environmentally conscious however I will admit that I didn’t come away thinking green, I came away thinking blue-
Blue skies, blue water and all my blues washed away…
When I thought of “slipping into Armani,” I used to picture my favorite sunglasses and red lipstick. Now that I’ve stayed at The Armani hotel in Milan, I have an entirely new picture and favorite memory. (Not to mention impossible standards when it comes to future hotel stays.)
Milan is both host to Milan Fashion Week and Giorgio Armani’s home town which explains both the fact that he’d put his name on a first-class hotel and the fact that it’s on the floors above his flagship superstore. As anyone familiar with his esthetic can imagine, the hotel mimics the clean, refined lines of Armani’s clothing design. There is the same serenity paired with attention to detail here at the Armani Hotel that one finds in his classic tailoring. Picture cool onyx and crisp edges to the furniture. Toss in hotel employees with impeccable manners and attention to detail and you can understand my enthusiasm. In my dream world I live in his clothes and his hotel year-round.
If there’s one thing Armani teaches you – both in fashion and in hospitality – it’s that feeling comfortable makes you feel more self-assured. I felt relaxed everywhere in the hotel – from the entrance to my room to the spa to the store. But not in a Miami beach way – in a “I don’t have to try too hard or make a grand entrance, because I am confident that I look and feel good.
At the hotel, no attention to detail is spared. I love how our room had an iPad I could control every.single.thing with, even order room service or ask the concierge a question. Evety single item in the hotel had been thoughtfully designed by Armani specifically so that being at the hotel made you feel like you were a personal guest of Giorgio himself. And I love that they have a pillow menu – because lets face it, most of us have a very specific way of how we like our pillows. With all this attention to detail, It was very very hard indeed checking out of the hotel when we did.
Below are some of photos I took in and around the Armani hotel
One of the other perks of staying here is access to an Armani makeup artist, a personal shopper to help you out shopping if the two stories of Armani clothing on the first two floors ovewhelm you, and of course, priority reservations at both the Bamboo Lounge and Bar as well as the Michelin starred Ristorante Armani. During the time i was at the hotel, there were lines outside the hotel entrance to go into bar and I have to admit I felt a little bit smug as I skipped passed the long lines of beautiful people as the doorman waved us inside with a “Ahh, welcome back madam.”
And then there is the spa …
Housed on the top floor of the building, it’s the only soaking pool I’ve seen with floor-to-ceiling louvered windows and roof which make you feel as though you’re outside gazing at the spectacular view and the sky at the same time. While some might gravitate to the 24-hour gym to burn off that second helping of bucatini, I opt for the less strenuous approach – a sauna and a body wrap. Well, my personal spa coach told me it was just as good for me as working out. Or at least that’s what I think she said – my Italian may not be great. But the experience certainly was.
When you think of New York, you might think of the Chrysler Building or the Empire State building. Both have long, lean lines and are sleek and classic, but never boring. Same goes for the New York woman. She never goes out of style yet always looks cutting edge.
The NY work outfit of the moment is:
1. Tailored black pants tucked in to riding boots (or skirt)
2. Black turtleneck and long sleeveless blazer (not black) hitting right below knee
3. Chunky watch
If you can’t or don’t want to follow the latest vogue on the runway, check out the iconic New York woman’s clothing style which includes:
1. Mixing high-end/low-end together
2. Knowing that black never fails
3. Showing your own personality
4. Jewelry / Accessories count
5. A Great Coat
6. A Statement Watch (because she’s busy, busy and always has to be somewhere)
7. Stylish yet comfortable shoes because there’s a lot of walking
8. A pair of black boots
9. Men’s cut blazer
10. Leather jacket
Just keep in mind that New York women, like their buildings, are built on
firm foundations and will reach for the sky with an unyielding power. Strength is her virtue.
Photos are important. When you’re sharing moments with somebody or looking back on your life when you’re old and grey (but still fabulous), you’re going to want photos to help you relive those once in a lifetime opportunities. In this day and age, selfies are all the rage.
In fact teens seem to think they are the only way to take a photo. But let’s get real, the most beautiful photos show off your gorgeous outfits and stunning surroundings and you can’t take that photo yourself. Sometimes, selfies just don’t cut it.
When you travel, you want to freeze the moment and carry it with you when you go home. If you are travelling alone it is especially difficult to capture those special moments you may never experience again. And even if you are travelling with your partner or your BFF, you still want somebody else snapping the photos so that you can both be in the frame.
Introducing Flytographer: it’s a company that specializes in capturing those special memories. It comes in handy on vacations with many photo ops, special events, or capturing a once in a lifetime moment (like a proposal!) The company boasts 280 handpicked photographers across the world. They make it easy to find someone talented who you can trust.
I recently had the opportunity to check out Flytographer and the experience blew me away. It was easy and left me very satisfied. I was visiting NYC and wanted some beautiful shots of me in Battery Park.
I filled in a simple form and the concierge quickly recommended a photographer. I had the chance to peruse her portfolio in advance to make sure her style and my own matched. I was lucky enough to be paired with the lovely Sam. She knew the city well and was extremely talented and professional. She shot me in Battery Park and also took some in my hotel room.
I was so pleased with the service (and it’s reasonable price) that I used it again in Singapore on my next solo trip! Again, I was left satisfied and with beautiful photos.
Let’s get real: just because selfies are on trend doesn’t mean you want them to be your only documentation of an amazing trip. For a reasonable price, you can preserve priceless memories and that’s something you’ll never regret.
All Photos c/o Flytographer
I’ve always heard of Murano glass and knew about Murano Island, but didn’t realize that its namesake island off of Venice is also home to a beautiful hotel build within the ancient walls of a former Murano glass kiln.
The Venice La Gare M Gallery Hotel, or the La Gare hotel for short, is only 10-15 minutes from Venice proper via boat shuttles or veperettos that dock right outside the entrance. Not only that, but the hotel will transport you to/from the airport or the train station as well for free, at any time between 9 am and 9 pm. I felt like a rock-star, or Monica Bellucci (in my dreams ) being zipped back and forth between the two Italian isles, while enjoying the view of the Venice canals. Honestly – we first had reservations about not being on Venice but realized after the first night, that we loved the fact that after a whole day of being in bustling, cramped and hectic Venice, returning to quiet Murano every night was actually a relief.
Let me just say, if I could make my home one of their rooms, I’d gladly take up glass-blowing. The rooms are roomy, and the suites are beyond spacious. Their architecture and decor are subtle so that the pieces of Murano glass placed about, really capture your eye.
These are some of photos I took In Venice and in and around
the hotel – what do you think?
Furthermore in keeping with its legacy as a Murano glass kiln, the hotel uses many original Murano art pieces in both its common areas ( just look at all the lights, chandeliers and glassware) as well in its rooms and suites.
One leisurely day we toured the Murano glass artists’ showrooms and then returned to the hotel Cafe and sat on the terrace which looks out over the Grand Canal. A wonderful way to refresh before heading back over to Venice for the afternoon.
The hotel also has a newly renovated wonderful wellness area that includes a turkish bath, suana and a well-equipped fitness area. Access is at a reasonable EUR10 per person for 2 hours.“La Gare” translated from Italian to English means “the races.” And I would urge you to race to this hotel next time you find yourself in Venice. Better yet, make it an excuse to go visit Venice.
Murano glass is famous for glass, which at it’s basic level is transparent and unassuming, and turning it into spectacular works of art. The La Gare Hotel on Murano Island does a similar job of taking something as basic as a place to stay while traveling, and turning the experience into something just short of art. The subtle architecture and designs throughout the interior are punctuated by the brilliance of Murano glass touches. The service is equally unassuming yet pervasive. Being whisked by boat to and from Venice was practically worth the price of admission alone.
If you have been following me on Instagram, you’d know that just recently I was in Italy on a month long trip. The original plan was to travel Rome>Florence>Venice>Milan>Monaco but, I adored Florence so much that we ended up going back to this beautiful city after our stay in Milan. Part of the reason for the change of plans is our Florence hotel – The Rocco-Forte Savoy. I have stayed at other luxury hotels in Florence, but this hotel is by far my favorite.
Location wise, it is perfect.Situated right on the Piazza Republica (the center of everything fashionable in Florence) and 5-10 minutes walk to anywhere you could possibly want to go in the city. I swear every time I ask the doorman for directions, almost every answer started with “turn left (or right) outside our front door and walk a few blocks”.
It is right around the corner of Via Roma ( this is where the famous Luisa Via Roma flagship store is located) as well as Via Tornabuoni which is famous for housing the finest of designer shops. The Accademia ( that houses Michaelangelo’s David) and The Uffizi is also 5-10 minutes away.
Turns out, right next door is la Rinascente. Think one-stop shopping mall, but with class and style. You know – think Italian.Did I mention there’s a rooftop cafe? So you can honestly say you’re going for the incredible view of Florence.
While a historic, 300-year-old hotel might seem romantic and ideal in theory, it’s less appealing when you’re faced with a lack of easy key-card entry, slow internet and ancient elevators. And I don’t know about you, but I absolutely can’t stand the musty smell of 300 year old wallpaper and furniture.
At the Savoy, our suites have been totally refurbished with Italian fabrics and Florentine motives, I also found out the renovation also included all common areas including hallways and the lobby. Perhaps its just because I am very visual – but after a long day of staring at ancient artwork and buildings, coming back to a vibrant and modern lobby with colorful upholstery is enough to make me feel refreshed.
Our suite had 12 foot ceilings which By describes as a relief ( I think this is a tall 6’ 3” person thing, to really care about ceilings). Breakfast was included but what is more amazing is that we could choose to have it downstairs buffet-style OR en-suite, at no extra charge. We also had free free on-demand movies and amazing toiletries from Lorenzo Vicenzi, a luxury Florentine perfumerie.
The thing that sealed the deal for me was the fact that they offer a luggage packing/unpacking service. I swear this gave me at least three extra hours out and about in Florence because they took charge of getting my haul from outlet shopping at The Mall into my bags.
The staff is either trained at some sort of special packing school, or taught magic because a certain someone did not think it could be done. I probably should have watched – instead I dashed out to get just one more thing from La Rinascente (which is just next door)
The Savoy is also famous for their restaurant Irene ( named after the owner’s mother). With a menu designed by famous Two-Michelin star chef Fulvio Pierangelini, this is a great place for lunch and dinner. We had several meals here and each one was a perfect combination of traditional Tuscan flavors and the modern desire for light, healthy fare. With indoor and outdoor seating available, it’s a great place for lunch, dinner or anything in between while you watch both tourists and fashionable Florentines walk across the Piazza Republica.
A game that By and I love to play while we sit at a table facing the street is to guess the nationality of people approaching us (which we can easily pinpoint when we hear them talk as they pass us). I also like to make up their conversations (mostly about how the girlfriend or wife wants to shop more, and how the boyfriend or husband doesn’t understand). By usually ignores this part of the game.
So the only question is – when can I go back to Florence? PS : Do book early, the Rocco Savoy hotel is very popular so rooms go fast.
Stay tuned in for the rest of my Italy Adventure– Next up VENICE! #SUCCESSINSTILETTOS