Wild at Heart Part 1 - San Francisco

Every year I get the call - an internal clock pulling me towards the sea!

This year my eyes are on the ritzy Basque country of Biarritz.
Did you know that it has the reputation of being the California of Europe? My bohemian/scientific mind wants to put this statement to the test, hence my exposé on a 3 full day mini break to San Francisco.

Say Yes to the Market
The main market is at the end of Market street in the historical ferry building. Eat your heart out and taste away. Local organic cherries, nectarines, white peaches, plums and apricots were top features. Be sure to check out hot pepper bun and matcha ginger white chocolate cookie at Craftmen and Wolves contemporary patisserie stand and artichokes and mesclun in bloom next to the Mexican brunch stall with the long lineup. Best coffee in my books goes to Sightglass Coffee yet feel free to challenge me on this! Missed the Saturday market? I hear they pop up throughout the week at various places. I discovered a mini version at Fort Mason the next day. If you go - hit the historic veg resto Greens while you are there.

Go Public
As an East coaster, I am always floored by the extravert quality and kindness found in the West. San Francisco locals are curious and eager to chat - don't be afraid to show your map and answer if someone asks you where you are from. Take the public bus and chances are that you will be smitten by friendly bus drivers and riders- $2.50 a pop with a transfer that lasts 1 to 4 hours depending on your luck beats the one time $7 trolley fee.

Choose Nature
Head out to Presidio Park to hike Bay Ridge Park Trail, Coastal Path and for a grand finale -  Battery to Bluff Trail. Your senses will be caressed with aromas of Eucalyptus, Pome, Cypress, Lilies, Echium as well as sounds and sights of birds and roaring coastlines. Discover hidden beaches and meditate alongside the magical pacific. End at the Cliff House to relax and imagine what it was like in 1914.

Join the Golden Gate Whale naturalist who will guide you towards sprouts and sea parties featuring whales, seals, sea lions, purposes, diving pelicans and packs of Comorans.

Bike through Chrissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge. Do take the long run out to Sausalito, Mill town, and Tiburon. Enjoy breathtaking coastline views, country scenes, apparently the tallest trees in the world & unique houses. More down hill than up hill and the ferry ride back seals the deal.

Walk up Telegraph hill to discover the most enchanting bohemian gardens, a bee hive and design delights.

Stay Real
Head to the Eclectic Mission District for shopping and dining.  Cute boutiques, Vegan Mexican & vibrant street culture. Do have the spicy pickles entrée at design throb bar Agricole.

Up next part 2:  Biarritz

 

 

"Buy less, choose well, quality over quantity"

Capping off the year with a Dame Westwood quote and my top 10 purchases in 2016. All hail more travel, wellness and good design experiences for 2017!

#1: Cream Linus Scout 7
This smooth ride roadster has gingerly taken me across the island of Montreal - as far east as les Îles-de-Boucherville and west as Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.

#2: Turquoise Pepper Grinder
I found this artifact at Café Pistache in Saint-Lambert. Finally, good design has reached the pepper mill. A perfect accent for my white kitchen and much needed tool to tame my fiery taste buds.

#3: One Night at the Malmerendas
My June stay in Porto would not have been the same without this little Portuguese gem. By far the most fitting hotel -  Go ahead, try it along with the many treats that travel in Portugal will bring you.

#4: Ceramic Butter Knife (Carefully placed on top of the Beurrier Breton)
Believe me - this knife will create the most simple and stylish spreads!

#5: Beurrier Breton
My coup de coeur at the Souk @ Sat this year was this Porcelain Butter Keeper hand made by Atelier Jarre in Montreal. Not only does it accessorize my counter perfectly but also keeps my butter fresh at room temperate using a natural water cooling design.

#6: Little navy dress
Montreal was blessed with the arrival of the Cos boutique in 2016. Minimal designs with mostly quality oriented compositions - I bought 2 staple dress up or down navy dresses that have so far endured many wash cycles.

#7: Pink Bubbly Flutes
Anything sparkling including Grapefruit & Ginger fizzes reach a new height in these vehicles.
Destined to brighten your day and your cabinet.

#8 Mini Boot Ear Threads
These were designed alongside the extremely talented bro and sis duo behind Atelier L.A.F. Something dazzles inside when I wear this one of a kind design. A dash of rebellion coupled with quirky daintiness that has yet to be matched by any jewelry designers (in my mind at least:). Ahhhh, the joys of custom.

#9: LesMills Body Pump
This class came with my Energie Cardio Membership. Perfect for those who need "at your own pace" challenge with visible results. Marie-Claire, Alex, Malik and more recently Johey's energetic passion for body pumping have been key to my weekly fitness regime.

#10 Tie between Quinoa Bread & Bob Red Mill Pizza Crust
Le Marquis bakery in Montreal has officially helped me convert to a gluten free lifestyle. Bob Red Mill pizza crust and this beat pesto & crispy kale pizza have equally helped with the transition.

Lisbon Workout

Portugal won the Euro finals last weekend. My mind kept drifting in and out of the fact that just over two weeks ago I was in Lisbon witnessing the beginning of the winning spree. Nuno, my Lisbon Rider guide, told be that they only celebrate the big wins - and they certainly did!

June is a perfect time to witness the Portuguese passion for festas. Lisbon was mine to conquer for 4 days and my expectations were well exceeded. While best to explore by foot – you need to be prepared for a good workout. The perfect antidote for the delicious pastries you will "sample" along the way. If working out is not your thing, you can also choose to navigate the city in one of its many vehicle offerings: jeeps, tuk tuks, vintage Volks, double-decker buses, trams, metro/public buses.

I chose the Baixa neighbourhood as my main headquarters - the Portugal Boutique Hotel (also known as Portugal Hotel) was a dreamy rest spot.

My workout mainly consisted of the following:

Circuit 1: Baixa/Barro Alto

Walk down rua de la Madelena. Have a fresh cheese sandwich and lemonade at Fabrica Lisboa (121, R. da Madalena) – the lemons in Lisbon are deliciously sweet. Explore the side streets but don’t go too far off course. Head to the water and stroll alongside the boardwalk all the way to Cais de Sodre. Walk across the street to Mercado de Ribeira, you will find all of Lisbon’s top food picks under one roof. Leave some room because you will hit Gelato Davvero (Praça São Paulo 3). The unique & bursting flavors will make it so worth it (highly recommend citronella gengibre paired with ananas). Next, walk up to Bairo Alto, if you feel tired, there is a vintage tram to help you get down or up. You must try the Ginginha at de Carmo (Calçada do Carmo 37 A), a local cherry liqueur that is dangerously potent. Finish off at Taberna or By the Wine on R. das Flores. Two unique restaurants that will allow you to taste local wines and eats.

Circuit 2: Belem & Alcantara

Head out to Belem to explore the tower, stroll along the boardwalk and take advantage of the pop up rest stops where you can have fresh lemonade, orange juice and/or local wine. There is a famous pastry shop in Belem which is easy to find if you don’t mind queues. Walk or take the train to Alcantara to find LX Factory - an industrial lot taken over by local independent designers and craftspeople. Look out for “HelloWorld” street art at back.

Circuit 3: Principe Real

This neighborhood made me think of Outremont, Notting Hill, Park Slope. Start by walking in the Principe Real garden and perhaps do a bit of people watching with a café on one of its corner kiosques/terasses. Walk by the most enchanting facades with whimsical names such as “jasmin noir”. You must go to entretanto, an indoor market situated in a 17th century palace and classic example of residential architecture from Marques de Pombal. Another must is Embaixada, shops and restaurants that boast the made in Portugal stamp and exist in a 19th-century mansion, with Moorish influence. On your way down, drop by pharmacia for dinner - both in & outdoor experiences are sure delights.

Circuit 4: Castelo, Mouraria, Alfama

This is my personal fav since it offered the most different perspective. Perhaps because of the Moorish influence, the way it felt more authentic & raw and the sense that “new ideas” are thriving. Start by walking towards the Jardim Da Cerca Da Graca, a unique garden that plays with space. Look out for the Mouraria innovation center at the entrance - Nuno told me that this area is fast becoming a center for start-ups in Portugal. From the garden walk up to Miradouro da Graca for a breathtaking view from the highest point on the city! From there you can walk to some of Lisbon’s most famous landmarks such as the castle, the cathedral, the city’s oldest building. You will discover little markets, quaint cafes, restaurants that offer fado performances. You may cross deserted areas with historical remains covered with colorful designs or positive statements. St Vincent is Lisbon’s patron saint, do pass by to say hello at Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol, the view is spectacular. Look out for the street art that explains the history of Lisbon in greater detail.  Rest up at Wine Bar do Castelo, Rua Bartolomeu de Gusmão. Lots to discover on the way, whimsical alleys and shrines, once you made it your taste buds will explode with a wide selection of local wine, cheeses and meats. Walk back up to Miradouro da Graca to catch the sunset and if you are lucky, top your adventure up with a live music performance to go along with the majestic view.

SoloMoon

March is near its end and the ocean is at its wildest yet - turquoise waves are competing for the front as they crash under the caressing sun. My bohemian duchess is satisfied as I lay solo in a tented bed in the preferred section of Secrets The Vine. Mission? Maintain an ultimate state of relaxation for 4 days straight. My only worry is to overindulge in rays, fancy drinks & scrumptious eats.

 

Sample solo moon day

Get up with the sun at 6:30 - quick nespresso shot, shower and change into shorts & tank. 

Head for the beach and enjoy a long morning walk, cool off by plopping into beach chair and taking a few deep breaths while staring out at the sea.

Join the yoga class at 8:30 and stay for pilates until 10:00.

Grab a cappuccino at the coffee stand and head to the Market Café for the best spread ever. Eat-in or take out to your terrace, your fancy.

Take a quick shower and slip into bathing gear. Score a cabana at the preferred pool and proceed to lounge, swim, read & sleep for the next 6 hours. 

Strategized how to face the red flag sea - then just go! The salt water on your sun kissed skin feels amazing. Smile and exhange your mixed emotions with Mexican families who are most likely to adorn the beach - let yourself be enchanted by their warm and vivacious culture. 

Rock and retreat in a hammock while sipping a Miami Vice (Strawberry Daiquiri topped with Pina Colada). Snack on Tortilla chips, guacamole & green hot sauce. Finish another chapter or two (I read "The girl on a train" by Paula Hawkins, an easy read that you can't let go!).

Drop by the preferred lounge around 6, pick up a glass of white chardonay and slowly stroll to your room. Take a long shower and spend another hour sunset gazing on your terasse.

Dress casually elegant and choose your dining haven: Asian, Mexican, Italian, Seafood, Grill, Mediterranean? 

Thrill your sweet tooth with a Swan shaped cream puff, a mini upside down pineaple cakes, tamales rustic chocolate neatly tucked in a banana leaf or/and what about tempura coconut ice-cream?

Let the resorts' entertainment team tantalize you with adventures of the night or calmly retreat to maximize tomorrow's sun experience.

Are you ready for a Solomoon?

Length & Depth

Thank you 2015 for bringing me Tucson, London(x2), Bath, Dublin, Copenhagen, Prince Edward County & New York. A few thoughts on the year ahead.

Complex world issues are influencing people to seek deeper meaning - to slow down and connect with humanity and nature in unique ways. 2016 is likely to create a wider gap between the tourist and the traveler. Experience will trump material. Another coat or a w/e in Portland? How about watching the stars in a glass hut, sleeping in a lighthouse on a remote island, kayaking at the bottom of a canyon, learning to be a farmer for a week, floating in the dead sea, taking a dip in natural hot springs, learning to cook differently in a real home, choosing to cruise on a bike rather than racing in a taxi.

Destinations that highlight "culture" and "natural wonders" in their value propositions will generate more growth.

On that note, a few highlights from my recent NYC adventure:

Take the “High Line”  - Walk above the city while being surrounded by old and new architecture and distinct landscapes. Look out for art performances in the windows of passing galleries. 

Ahhhhh New Yorkers. Always inspired by your sense of togetherness. The honesty in your expressions, your ease of striking a conversation with strangers or spontaneously exploding in song and dance on the streets! I have yet to experience this human rawness anywhere else and it never ceases to fuel my drive to stay curious, calm and authentic!

Here's to embracing the year ahead of us with length & depth.

Happy 2016 ✌

London Kick

There was just over one day of exploration before the World Travel Market and I wanted to see something different. Fresh off the overnight flight, I quickly drop off my luggage and take a brisk walk to the V&A for coffee, scone & clotted cream.  Must quickly pop over to Harrods’ food hall - Ok - now for the new. 2 buses and one tube ride lead me to a hood called Hackney. I first discover a bakery called "yeast" which tantalizes me with coconut kouign-amanns. A few more steps lead me to a quirky jam-packed indie market offering designer jewelry, antiques, vinyl records, artisan coffee, Prosecco, cakes & savoury treats.

Hit broadway for more decadent offerings such as mini meringues, cheese of all sorts and very popular buttermilk fried chicken burgers. My mouth is watering and my eyes are ogling the flower arrangements, vintage frocks and unique objects. The row of merchants leads to an emerald green canal with whimsical houseboats serving drinks of all kinds. My inner explorer is actualized. This may very well be my TOP market hangout yet.

My next find is at the Barbican center, a unique hub that melts performance, music, fashion, design and fine arts. A perfect place to host a Charles & Ray Eames retrospective. The exhibition proceeds to delight my senses and pushes me to reflect on the evolution of design in the past 60 years. On my way out, I am enchanted by a concert where musicians are stationed within several meters radius. One is placed on the 5th floor balcony, two more on the terrace and another is across the canal. A distinct & meditative harmony is played using percussion instruments of all kinds which I learn is part of a series called "sound unbound".

Thank you London for the little kick of inspiration - you've hit the right spot yet again.

Hot Water – Fun!

As promised, a glimpse on my escape to Bath, UK. 

Left early in the morning from London on the National Express - arrived around noon. Started to wander and came across an indoor market selling everything from vintage trinkets to rocky road & the famous bath buns! Took a few of these sticky sinful delights for the road and head for the Roman Baths.

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As I was about to pay my 14 quid entry – I heard a quirky voice whaling “Free Bath Walking Tours”, I looked to the right and saw Bill, a retired headmaster, sporting a vest that stated CITY OF BATH Free Walking Tour… Hmmm, decisions, decisions…The walk it was and so are my key learnings.

Bath has a deep and long history for being associated with hot water, relaxation, society & good times! Its natural hot springs come deep from beneath the city.  The baths were at times promoted as having miraculous properties around health & fertility.

As we left the crowded area of the roman baths, our guide blurted out “Let’s get away from din & hoypaloy” – Needless to say I heard many more new expressions along the way.

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The bath stone itself is quite remarkable as it brands the city in a way that is both consistent and magical. Its warm white hue brings a glow that I have yet to see anywhere else.  According to my guide, Bath Stone comes from beneath the sea and was swept on the shores by a Tsunami.

Jane Austen wrote 2 novels based in Bath – Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

Queen Victoria left her mark with a beautiful park & gardens. Black iron gates can be found throughout the city – It seems that when Albert died, she had them painted in line with her emotions. Bill told a story about her ankles and bad gossip which unfortunately seemed to have kept her away.

After exploring the streets, architecture and listening to a most knowledgeable and witty Welshman – I knew that I made the right decision. Bill kindly offered to share a "free" point of view to the Roman Baths if we stayed until the end of the walk – however, after 135 minutes, I quietly retired to the Bath Spa and immersed myself in a small open-air bath. I closed my eyes and imagined I was in the middle ages, fueling my thoughts with the content of some of the stories I had just heard.

Capped my day off with a bright green watercress and pea soup at the Crystal Palace Pub across from the Bath Bun tea shop. Back in London by 9:30pm.

Bill mentioned – “If you are going to engage people truly, you have to feed them surprises”.  Powerful words spoken by a master of delight, which I gratefully stumbled upon during my too short of a visit. Next time I will surely give it a night’s stay.

2 Meccas in 1

Just returned from my second 2 city in 1 European adventure - 4 days in London +  4 days in Copenhagen to compare and contrast these international meccas. One says "Hiya" the other a quick and high pitched "Hi". Both have strong design & foodie cultures. One thrives on the eclectic and the other has the reputation for having the most work/life balance in the world.

1st stop - London, UK. 16 years since I last visited... Curious to see how it changed - Was I caught in a romanticized bubble?

Standouts

1.     Sleeps & Surprise notes at the MeLondon

2.    Notting Hill Stroll

3.     Food market growth spurt - treats at Dalston Yard’s StreetFeast

4.     Gallery hopping in Shoreditch

5.     The V&A - Alexander McQueen, shivers all the way

6.     Top front seat of dd bus

7.     Learning about 2015 Design Hits at the Design Museum

8.     Prosecco, English Cheese & Sun Rays on Somerset House’s Terrasse

9.     Harrods food collection & Egyptian escalators

10.  Day trippin' in Bath (this outing calls for its own post - stay tuned!)

 

2nd Stop – Copenhagen, Denmark. Simplicity, balance & long flowing hair - could this be Copenhagen's “Je ne sait quoi”. 

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Standouts

1.   Sleeps in a sweet family home

2.   70% of city travel by bike – depending on the area, you don’t need a lock!

3.   Brisk winds – do bring your raincoat, scarf and hat

4.   Notable coffee shops throughout the city

5.   Grey's, black & taupe galore + 3/4 pear shaped coats

6.   General sense of quietness

7.   Pumpkin seed rolls, ginger & elderflower juice

8.   Shop for unique lighting!

9.   Cream and jam on your sorbet?

10.  Colorful Norrebro - bridge hangout!

11.  Lunch at Mother & personalized drink at Ruby

12.  Osterbro’s boutiques

13.  Luxury baths & sauna in Frederiksberg

14.  Design museum collection, exhibition design, café & library

15.  Landscaping at Rosenborg Castle

16.  Sand dunes and endless beach in Hornbaek

17.  Kronborg castle’s underground & m/s' unique Terrasse in Helsingor

 

 

 

 

A Saturday's Worth of Dublin

Application sent, Nomination in, Gala invite accepted - Now how do I spend the day after in Dublin?

Part of my everyday includes collaborating with Tourism associations around the world to build effective marketing strategies and plans. Tourism Ireland is one of these and I was fortunate to witness their value proposition in the flesh this past weekend as Air Canada Vacations was nominated for best international access initiative during a gala that celebrated excellence & innovation in tourism promotion. The event itself was inspiring and left me with a day's worth of Dublin exploration. I had two choices- sit on a bus to see the top sights or wander by foot keeping a few key attractions in mind. My intuition chose the later & this is the result:

 9am- Armed with an umbrella and city map (get one at airport tourist point), I head out of Ballsbridge for the Iveagh Gardens. Along the way, rows of cherry blossoms and lush hedges. I later find out that the gardens are one of Dublin's best kept secrets. The hedge maze is the discovery of the day!

Next stop, Camden street, trendy shops and intertwining cobblestone paths. Come across Joe's Coffee- a perfect spot to refuel - my macchiato is top!

1pm - Dublin Castle's 1 hour guided tour is the perfect way to soak in Dublin's rich history - find a potential link with my heritage on a plaque in the chapel. Look out the window to discover an extraordinary pattern on the lawn. It's official - Dublin is the largest garden in the world. What luck, a free design exhibition is just across "hidden heroes:  the genius of every day things". 2015 has been chosen as a year to celebrate the best of Ireland's design scene. Coming out, I pause to admire the architecture of the nearby Chester Beatty library and make a note as a tentative future lunch spot.

2:30 - Trinity college is my next destination. A few wrong turns lead me to an outdoor food market in the temple bar area - the quality and variety of goods is remarkable. Enjoy a healthy version of a samosa before continuing my journey toward the ancient Book of Kells and most inspiring long room (main chamber of old library).

4pm- Off to the sector of Grafton where Lux boutiques, department stores, quirky markets and local design hubs occupy the floors of antique buildings. Am tantalized with chocolate, cheese, ice-cream shops, natural food markets, creative cafes, award winning restaurants & historical pubs. Meet Helen who recently moved back to Dublin from Canada - we chat about her new adventure over wine and a local cheese board at Café/Market/Wine Bar Fallon & Byrne. Helen points to a relic pub, reputed for harboring unique characters.  I chose this spot to try a glass of Guinness. Never liked it but apparently it tastes different here. A shot of black current syrup later, a frown from a drinking veteran, and I am still not converted. Sorry.... J. Grogan's, however, does live up to its name.

Follow up with a promenade in St. Stephen's green - the cutest map points to its highlights: 2 ponds (with giant swans), marsh, falls, Swiss refuges and more!

I take the longer way back to witness more or less of the same eclectic mix. 8pm, seal the day at the corner pub to exchange stories with my colleague Alessandra who chose to hop on- hop off.

Thank you Dublin! You do justice to your brand's positioning - left me truly engaged & thirsty for more of your creativity & authenticity. See you in 2016?

 

Blooming, Mating & Worshipping

Love is in the air in Tucson -  birds are mating, buds are popping and early flowers are blossoming while snowbirds & naturalists flock to the desert.

 This is my second "family" trip to Arizona. The first was seven years ago and Sedona was the main hub. Since then, my parents have been spending a big part of their winter in Southern Arizona to benefit from the healing properties of dry heat and desert hiking. 

While we are having one of the worst winters in history in Montreal, Tucson has experienced one of the warmest winters on record! The flowers are one month ahead of their game, making it a perfect week to experience what my mother calls "la magie du desert". 

 We hiked every day - hitting either the Sabino Canyon or the Saguaro National Park. We walked amongst the Sentinals of the Desert, also called the Saguaro cacti as well as Prickly Pear, Cholla, Barrel, Hedgehog and Pin Cushion cacti. Notable plants included the Aguave and Ocotillo and Hummingbird Yucca. The variety of landscapes is refreshing: dry sand, rocks to full on greenery, and yes, there are mountains for the cardio inclined. Hats & water were a must to keep us going.

A big highlight was the Tuesday 8:30am plants and birds walk at the Sabino Canyon State park. Our volunteer guides, Heather, Eileen and Edie were eager to share 3 hours of their expertise as we scavenged the desert with a group of 20 or so “mature” nature enthusiast. 

 Top discoveries/sightings

 1.    There are over 200 birds in Sabino Canyon - March brings unique mating calls and nest building activity 

2.     The desert is starting to bloom and will reach peak state in April

 3.     Honest hummingbirds and their nests (hummingbirds strategically will build their nests around a hawks nest to protect themselves from predators such as snakes)

 4.     Cedar waxwing eating mistletoe berries

 5.     Cactus wren (National State Bird) singing his heart out 

 6.     Watching a Black-throated sparrow call to get a new mate

 7.     The elegance of the Rose mallow- hidden on the edge of a mountain top path

 8.     Limber bush also called Sangre de Christo since it produces sap that dries blood red

 9.     Odora- lovely flowering plant that produces distinct odour and soothing relief when ingested

10.  The most adorable Roadrunner frantically crossing the path ahead of us

 11.  London Rocket -delicious mustard taste known to be the first plant that appeared after the London Great Fire in 1666

 12.  Africanized killer bees (periphery of nest was protected, we heard them and this was good enough for me)

 13.  Empress Leilia, Pipevine Swallowtail, Desert Orange Tip, Dainty Sulphur butterflies

 14.  Lupin flower (bud turns bright red when pollinated - otherwise purple)

 15.  Fox on rock skat (if you see wild droppings on a rock, most likely to be from a fox)

 Top misses include Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Gila monster, any type of snake – oh, and binoculars.

 Flying back, replenished and ready to send winter off. Daydreaming about the Desert's unique value proposition and wondering what it would be like to return in April. The magic has stuck again.

 

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Chicago Chicago!

A few weeks ago I attended a luncheon hosted by "Choose Chicago" - this brought  flashbacks of last year's 48 hour December spree. Most people know of Chicago for its food, shopping and architecture scene..  I got to uncover some unique brand offerings that got me thinking - move over New York, has Chicago taken over my heart?

Top reasons to visit Chicago in December

1- Make the visitors center in the Chicago Cultural Center your first stop. The building itself hosts art galleries and the world's largest Tiffany stained-glass dome! Book a walking tour with an instagreeter and if you are lucky, you can customize its direction. Do integrate some stories of Chicago's urban landscape - you may find out why there is car lift all the way up one Chicago's most "precious buildings". If spontaneity is not your thing, you can pre-order your custom tour. Friendly tip - the concierge at the InterContinental Hotel lends out iPods with self guided tours - you have to see the legendary pool!

 2- German and European traditions are celebrated in a lovely Christmas market - Glühwein, strudel & glass ornaments galore are sure to delight! 

 3- The Been is covered with Snow and looks even more magical! I visited the Anish Kapoor sculpture very early on a Sunday morning and got to witness the creation minus the crowds - in fact, I was the only one there - captivated by the the reflection of Chicago's ravishing skyline! 

4- Chicago has the best shopping scene - hands down. You will find all your dream stores on the Magnificent mile. Make sure to stop for lunch at Eataly - a market/ 15 restaurant establishment dedicated to Italian lifestyle & cooking. Hit America's first Macy's and do explore a little further by visiting the first ever Crate & Barrel & Andersonville's antique shops!

5-  Take advantage of low season hotel rates. I had the pleasure of staying at the Swissôtel - a sister brand to the Fairmount that caters to the modern traveler. You can walk to the subway and the magnificent mile through the underground passageway + get a lovely view of the pier, Aqua building and Mies van der Rohe's IBM building

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Ode to Paul

If I had to give an award for SPARKLING retail brand communications strategy - Paul Smith would be right up there for his 1) clever copy & tactics 2) visuals that are consistently elegant & fun and 3) leadership in community engagement!  Paul communicates regularly via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, You Tube, his newsletter and his blog! He often posts about his personal mail and recently invited his community to decorate a new store on Beak Street in London! Sir Smith engages us in a way that feels HOT & HONEST - often featuring his love for bikes and quirk! Honestly, I must confess that my crush grows with every post and I have a funny feeling that I am not alone in this corner... KEEP ON Paul Smith - your goodness is rubbing off.

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Masters of Delight

HAPPY MOMS DAY! I thought it would be appropriate to take the time to reflect on a notion that is mastered by some inspiring moms & one of my favourite local entrepreneurs. Tamey Lau, mother of 14, owns a flower shop in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood. Much like my mom, she knows a thing or two about “delight” with her ability to surprise and bring joy. For example, the last time I went to see Tamey, I wanted a bouquet that fit a certain budget. I diligently built my assortment while resisting some of the pricier selections that attracted my attention. Later, as I unwrapped the bouquet, I found the pristine white rose which I so diligently spared – WOW - TAMEY knew - a moment of true delight and gratitude. I felt like a kid - as I opened my lunch bag and found the occasional chocolates & love note. Tamey’s boutique recently went up in flames and community experts are rallying up support to ensure that Tamey can continue to spread meaningful value. Delight is an essential component of brand development - especially on the loyalty front. When was the last time you brought delight or was delighted?

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Oh Mickey

This morning, I read a great article on how Mickey saved Want les essentiels de la vie : "Turning Point | How Want Les Essentiels de la Vie Found Its Footing".  It got me thinking about about their partnership - both brands are focused on quality, craftsmanship, classic styling with a nostalgic twist - JCREW benefits by associating with WANT ESSENTIELS' affordable luxury category, newness and growing cult following while WANT gets a push on the distribution & visibility front : a natural fit.  What brands would you partner with and why?

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Atelier l.a.f. + Friends Pop-Up!

Last weekend Atelier l.a.f. held a Pop-Up Shop in collaboration with friends agence Chelsea, Dargelos and Maria Aparicio Puentes. The Pop Up was held in a somewhat newish space owned by Pop Montreal on Parc ave. at the corner of St-Viateur in Montreal. The opening night celebration which included a lovely performance by Missy Rose and the antelopes, bread pudding by the Arts Café and an assortment of wines by Carrelot des Amants, set the tone for the three day event. The designers presented an array of products (jewelry, bags, safety vests, candles) with a similar focus on quality and innovation. The results were more than satisfactory and have called for a Fall repeat. Pop Up Shops can be a good way to introduce new brands & test out new product lines. Good to know: 1) Reinforce the meaning of POP-UP Shop in your communications - the young term still has a way to go.... 2) Don't assume that if you build it - they will come : promote from within and without using a blend of traditional and digital.  Hot tip: create a pinterest board to tell your story! 

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