Around South Beach

 

I’ve only been to three countries:

Canada, LA,

and Miami.

Larry The Cable Guy

 

One Hotel rooftop pool

 

The best remedy for the winter blues is to plan, or at least imagine, an escape to warmer climes. Miami is quick and easy for us, Northeastern birds, while also being a great destination for our young adults to explore on their own.  These family fun recommendations tend to skirt Ocean Drive simply because I’m not a fan of that part of town:

 

Faena Hotel is a distance from the maddening crowd, but you have to see the fantastic murals in their lobby by Juan Gatti (above,) their glamorous Living Room lounge (below,) and the live show at their cozy theater inspired by Europe’s grand opera houses.

At the opposite end of Faena’s velvet and gold plush interiors (which are so very much my style) but within easy walking distance to the action on Collins Ave, One Hotel is all about sustainability and being environmentally friendly. It has a vibrant lobby scene with a live band trio playing most evenings and–most important for the young ones–free WIFI.  If you stride past their rooftop restaurant and bar at night, you can have all the the pool’s lounge chairs to yourself, making a fabulous after dinner hang out for a quiet chat with family/friends or your kindle.

Time Out Market is a hopping food hall off Lincoln Road with a wide selection or food purveyors that allow everyone to take their time mixing and matching cuisines.  My favorite, Lena, cooks dishes on a wood burning stove and serves a unique combination of fresh burrata sitting on a slightly charred slice of pineapple–the memory makes me salivate as I write. They also have a couple of bars for alcoholic beverages as well as an oyster bar.

Chalan On The Beach is a very casual family-run Peruvian restaurant with the best fish cerviche, Pargo Frito (fried whole red snapper,) Lomo Saltado (beef stir fry), and mango, passion fruit or soursop smoothies.

Around 4:00 pm, park yourself at the waterside bar of Smith & Wollensky South Pointe to watch cruise ships parade by as the sun sets.

For a change of scenery, take a 22 minute drive to Rusty Pelican in Key Biscayne for magnificent city views all around.

 

On Sundays, catch the fresh cut tropical fruit market on Lincoln Road at the corner of Washington Ave.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your Miami faves.

(All photos on this page are from Google Images.)

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

The Unusual Selfie

 

The best advice I’ve received is

”No one else knows

what they’re doing either.”

Ricky Gervais

 

All our friends, family and Facebook’s facial recognition software already know what we look like so how about we give them something more interesting to see than just another selfie?

Here’s how I made these Unusual Selfies without needing a selfie stick:

Get a Folio Case for your smartphone. Coach.com has a fun selection in leather to hold your cash/cards as well as protect your phone’s glass surface. More importantly, it serves as a stand to angle and prop up your phone so you can use its timer (and AF lock) to compose the shot before you jump into the frame.

Google knows everything.  In researching my travel itinerary, I stumbled upon another mom’s blog which mentioned that Dubrovnik is a film site of HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones (GoT). My sons are great fans of this show so I thought it would be funny to impress them and sign myself up for a GoT themed city tour there.

Prep the prop. As inspiration for this GoT tour, I decided go as one of the show’s main characters, Daenerys, aka “The Mother of Dragons” who wears the best costumes among its lead cast.  I packed a fantastic 3D print replica of her Mother of Dragons necklace as well as three custom painted dragon eggs from Etsy.com.

Dubrovnik is King’s Landing in GoT, the capital of the story’s 7 Kingdoms. It has imposing medieval fort walls flooded with tourists. You’ll have a better chance of enjoying the place all to yourself if you visit in winter. Finding a quiet spot can be impossible so keep an eye out for locations  with relatively few passersby.  Be patient and wait for a lull in the crowd to get a clear background.  From the pier, for example, I walked along the base of the fort until I found an outcropping of rocks facing the sea that also happened to have an angle of the castle known as the Red Keep in the show.  I took time positioning the dragon eggs and iPhone until I got the shots I wanted to tell my story—an especially poignant one for a mother of three (dragons) who have all flown the nest. Rain clouds were perfect for the mood and a scarf billowing in the wind added the effect of dragon wings.

If someone offers to take your picture, all the better!  At the Iron Throne (GoT souvenir shop at Boshkoviceva 7 in the old town), my GoT tour guide impressed me with the filters on his Samsung even as he envied how my iPhone takes creamier pictures in daylight.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your best selfie trick without a stick.

Xoxox

 

 

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a most memorable photo shoot for up to three people!

 

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

Greece To Me

 

It’s nice to know that there are Greek gods out there,

because you have somebody to blame

when things go wrong.

Rick Riordan

 

To begin celebrating empty nest, let me take you along on a European adventure that I will feature over the next few months with glimpses of Croatia and Italy. First stop, Athens!

After seeing some ruins one moonlit night 1867, Mark Twain concluded “We have seen all there is to see,” and set sail for the islands. I have met a few travelers who share this attitude thus I have not hurried to visit. If there is truth to Athens’s reputation as ugly, dirty, even dangerous, that you should get in and get out as quickly as you can, then we can, at least, spend a day there. If you need to check off the Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Agora, etc. off your list, arrive early in the day so you might spare yourself a long queue before the heat gets miserable. I feel sort of “been there, done that” after a well-traveled tour guide in Sicily assured me that the Greek ruins in Sicily are far better preserved than those in Greece so my brief stop in Athens will be about mingling among people, not stones.

Stay at the Hotel Grand Britagne (photo at top of page) if you’re a fancy old world Europhile. I like that its location straddles the Kolonaki and Plaka districts so you can walk either way. They have the best views from their rooftop restaurant and bar. The rooftop of the Electra Metropolis Hotel gives you an even better close up view of the Acropolis.

For the quiet romantics who prefer a boutique hotel experience, check out the quaint Palladian Home in the Plaka.

Check out the upscale Greek version of Eataly at Yoleni’s in the higher-end Kolonaki district where you will find a bit more foliage amidst the hilly streets of shops and restaurants. The Travel Porter blog lists where to dine and shop in this neighborhood.

In the shadow of the Acropolis, the Plaka is like a village within the city for those who don’t have time to island hop. It’s arguably the nicest commercial neighborhood in Athens without car traffic.  Even regular tourist shops have amazing postcards to make your friends wish they had traveled with you. I’m happy to breach my “no jewelry shopping as a tourist” rule to find a truly golden souvenir from Byzantino Jewelry store (120 Adrianou Street), an artist-owned shop that makes quality modern jewelry, as well as copies of ancient museum pieces. 

To keep kids of all ages occupied while you browse, send them to the nearby Children’s Museum, the Music Museum or for art lovers, the Frissiras Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Painting at 7 Monis Asteriou Street. The only museum of its kind in Greece, it houses a private collection of contemporary paintings and drawings as well as temporary exhibitions by Greek and European artists in two fully renovated neoclassical buildings of the 19th century.

Cafes may be pricier on the main roads (Kydatheneon and Adrianou) and around the squares, but they are worth the fun of people watching. Everyone who comes to Greece walks down these two streets, true crossroads of civilization.

Cine Paris is the best outdoor movie theater in Athens with a bar, featuring movies in English with Greek subtitles. The theater is on the roof with a view of the Acropolis so you can get lucky and witness the colors change during its sound and light show. This is also one of the best places to browse and find unique gifts for movie fans because their shop sells the Greek versions of movie posters from the 60’s to today.

For those who need their ouzo, stop by Brettos Liquor store. This was the oldest distillery in Athens. Admire the old barrels and the colored bottles that line the walls all the way up to the ceiling. It has a tiny bar where you can get drinks by the glass.

George Dolkas T-Shirt and Swatch Shop may be your best bet at finding those last Olympic Pins people fanatically collect and trade. He offers the more tasteful shirt collection in the Plaka. If you walk up Kekropis Street next to the T-shirt Shop, you will find the small workshop of Dimitris Koutelieris (14 Kekropis Street) on your left. Dimistris makes furniture and art out of recycled objects and materials. His creations include smaller pieces that you can carry home with you.

Anafiotika is the cluster of small houses built on the slopes of the Acropolis above the Plaka. The name Anafiotika is from its original inhabitants who were stone masons  from the island of Anafi who built Athens in the mid-19th century.   Anafiotika is as close as you can get to imagine wandering around the back streets of a Greek island like Mykonos without leaving the city.

I found the best picture of Anafiotika on this blog post with a cheeky title on Athens Insider: If Athens Were a Dating App, Which Way Would You Swipe?

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Athens favorites. (All images on this page from Google.)

 

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a most memorable photo shoot for up to three people!

 

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up The Vessel

 

Yes, of course, I’m athletic–

I surf

the internet everyday!

Anonymous

 

Though I don’t like walking without a destination that involves shopping or, at least, a snack, I firmly believe that all aerobic exercise should only be done outdoors, breathing fresh air.  Best scenario is when there’s a pretty view and luxury shopping to boot like at the newly opened “stairmaster” of New York City, The Vessel. Conceived by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, The Vessel is made of 154 flights of stairs in a fantastical shape, a welcome thrill for families to share and perfect enticement for anti-exercise heathens like me to be swept away by the adventure of exploring all levels even while wearing heels. When I meet Mr. Heatherwick, I’ll have to ask him if “The Pinecone” or “The Honeycomb” were runners-up in name selection for his creation because it looks to me like it’s waiting for a gigantic queen bee and her drones to arrive.  Humans crawling all over it look like mere ants!

Tickets to The Vessel are free but best reserved ahead (up to two weeks in advance) and since it’s the newest hot ticket in town, don’t be surprised if you find there can be such a thing as having to wait online before you physically wait in line.  Get there before The Vessel opens at 10:00 am if you’re not a fan of crowds and long queues, especially on weekends. Don’t bother hoping for a ride on its elevator–it’s only for the handicapped plus you’ll run out of patience waiting for your turn anyhow.

The Vessel sits in front of the Hudson Yards Mall leaving a sliver of a view of the Hudson River to only two restaurants:  Wild Ink and the second level of Estiatorio Milos.

New York did need an indoor mall for weather that’s wet, too cold or too hot.  But if you’ve heard the dig “The best thing about New Jersey is (it’s proximity to) New York?” Well, let’s just say whoever said that has not seen the elegance of space and light in the hallways of the Garden State Mall (also a Westfield property.) 😉

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite fitness distraction.

xoxox

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a most memorable two hour photo shoot of up to three people!

 

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

 

 

The Classy Holiday Gift Guide

 

If men are God’s gift to women,

then God must really love

gag gifts.

Maya Angelou

 

December snuck up and caught me completely unawares this year! Fortunately, like Santa prancing with reindeers, we can skip traffic completely and let our fingers be the elves doing all the ordering, packing and delivery.  For gifts to impress or easy stocking stuffers, may you find something uncommon for everyone here:

A rich robe for her. Silk keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. This buttery soft robe is made from ethically and sustainably sourced silk and cashmere–easy on the conscience and likely to become your favorite at home while doubling as pajamas when you travel. Khimori silk cashmere, $175 at naadam.co.

Coffee, tea or (water in) me. Sleek, stainless steel, insulated bottles in fun colors that keep beverages warm or cold for at least 12 hours. Now all we need is for Starbucks to offer discounts to those who bring their own stylish recyclable. HAY George Snowden water bottles from $35, store.moma.org.

Sleek folio. Elegant leather pouches to protect your devices in colors that make you smile while impressing clients. Leather iPad case, from $75 at leatherology.com.

Luxe lunch bag.  This chic Insulated vegan leather bag just might be the inspiration we need to be kinder to the planet and pack our own lunch with reusable containers. The Luncher $149 at modernpicnic.com.

Game night with style.  Playing cards for those who appreciate handcrafted quality, $30 at SeasonsPlayingCards.com.

 

For the crafty. Measuring tape too pretty to sit in a dusty toolbox. Geometric wood tape measures, $36 at jaysonhome.com.

 

And, of course, books never fail!

For the Francophile foodie. This fun book on all things related to French food will make an excellent conversation starter on your coffee table. Let’s Eat France: 1,250 specialty foods, 375 iconic recipes, 350 topics, 260 personalities, plus (everything) you want to know about the food of France, $50 at workman.com.

Inspire wanderlust with wonder. This book transports you to the world’s most unusual and obscure places you may not find in popular guide books. I’d recommend this for the young gentlemen on your list: Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, $35 hardcover at amazon.com. For an illustrated version for budding adventurers (age 8-12) The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, $20 at workman.com.

For the fiction reader who loves travel.  I’ll let the title tell you what this book is about. Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West. $16 hardcover at amazon.com. And an airplane ticket hidden amongst the book’s pages might be the surprise they’ll remember for a lifetime!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your uncommon and bright gift idea this year.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people!

 

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Why I’d Rather Not Halloween

 

Never put your faith in a Prince.

When you require a miracle,

trust a witch.

Catherynne M. Valente, In The Night Garden

 

 

There are more than a couple of reasons why I don’t like Halloween. For one, black is not a color in my rainbow and, more importantly, I don’t believe in encouraging ugly people to dress up looking worse. I love Halloween for one thing only: I adore pretty costumes and faith in the goodness of all mankind–an occasion to forget “stranger danger” paranoia, gamely opening our front door, offering treats to whoever rings the bell even when they look scary or wear masks.

Rita Rudner, a favorite standup comic, sums up this dilemma best:

Halloween was confusing. All my life my parents told me, ‘Never take candy from strangers.’ And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Go beg for it.’ I didn’t know what to do! I’d knock on people’s doors and go, ‘Trick or treat’ and when they offered me candy, I said, ‘No, thank you.’

And while you’re at it, please keep all skeletons where they belong: buried deep underground,  in biology labs for educational purposes only, or tucked away in the back of your proverbial closet. Trick or treat!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite costume.

xoxox

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people!

 

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Paris for Teens and Tweens

 

Airplane travel is nature’s way

of making you look

like your passport photo.
Al Gore

Though teens might consider getting their own car as the best gift of all, plane tickets with a plan for adventure that gets another stamp on their passport could be better for creating family legends from shared memories. I want my young adult wanna-bes to seek the stories that are different as well as familiar in people of other cultures and feel at ease in unfamiliar lands. How else will they truly know that the world has so much more to offer beyond their daily routines and virtual tech obsessions?

Paris being a favorite gateway to Europe, a lucky teen is going to see the best of the best with mom as tour director–thanks to my curated list of fun possibilities culled from previous visits and research. Keep this page handy for your family because it is only a matter of time when the travel winds will blow you through the City of Lights. I’ll be severely testing how far I can keep up my style using the “How to Pack Light tips for our extended trip!

Begin with a city bike tour with Paris Charms and Secretsorienting you through the essential and hidden corners of the city. Your guide will fill you in with interesting facts and tales that will keep you enchanted through 4 hours of pedaling or not–thanks to their electric bikes. Choose their afternoon tour because your guide will likely time your stop at the Eiffel to coincide with its 6:00 pm twinkle time.

A popular eerie attraction, the Catacombs are the city’s old mineshaft-turned-mass grave. The tunnels are lined with the bones of millions of citizens who were laid to rest here by King Louis XVI before getting his own head chopped off.

For movie and theater buffs, the Studio Harcourt gives you the starlet experience with a cinematic black-and-white portrait shoot to commemorate your Parisian adventure. Everyone from Brigitte Bardot to Marilyn Monroe has had their photo taken here.

If waiting in line for the towers of Notre Dame is not your idea of fun, tire your teens out with the impressive climb up some 300 stairs to the top of the Sacré Coeur. Six o’clock in the evening is Vespers when you might get lucky hearing the mystical voices of the Bénédictines Sisters at the church reeling you back in time to how life must have been like there in the 18th century as you view sunset over the city. Sigh!

For a swim in the city with local Parisians, Piscine Molitor is the prettiest old school swimming pool in Paris which was recently renovated. You can surprise your teen with a treatment at The Spa by Clarins or go for drinks and a salad on the rooftop. This is a members-only kind of place except if you get an Escale Molitor package at the spa (one-hour treatment +access to the pool, hammam, sauna, and gym). Book well in advance.

Curious to cook? I’m not, but as a mother, I’m a firm believer in the proper training of future husbands especially when you are in a country known for le gourmet. La Cuisine has a variety of cooking classes from macarons and baguettes to apertifs and entrees.

For treasure hunts to engage even those who are not art enthusiasts, see what fun and games THATMuse can plan for your museum of interest.

Then, of course, Versailles… A stay at the Trianon Palace, a Hilton Waldorf Astoria luxury property, is the closest thing to feeling like Marie Antoinette. If you can’t stay the night, you can book treatments at the Guerlain Spa and enjoy its beautiful pool, go for a walk in the royal garden, then have a spectacular Michelin Star lunch at the veranda of Gordon Ramsay au Trianon. Wear comfy shoes please.

If not Versailles, then at least the Opera Garnier in the heart of Paris for its version of the Hall of Mirrors and so much genius behind the architect’s choice of design and construction elements. Join a guided tour run by the opera house or an independent walking tour that covers its surrounding neighborhood.

As tourists, early birds get the worm and wait less in queues at popular attractions.  If you’re not into worms, wait for later in the day to go when the masses have been let in.

A note on museum tickets: All Kids under 18 enter free (or EU citizens under 26 with proof of age). For adults, get your entry tickets from the   Louvre website because they are they cheaper and allow you into a much faster security line than tickets bought elsewhere like getting a “Paris Museum Pass” from the Paris Tourist board which covers most monuments & museums (eg, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Versailles, etc) or through your hotel.  Note that tickets sold as ‘skip the line’ passes could have you standing in longer queues than the Louvre’s own e-ticket line.

With or without teens, eating will never go out of style where there’s a lot of walking and sightseeing involved. At the Trocadero, Monsieur Bleu’s terrace has one of the best views of the Eiffel tower with very good food. Note that on Saturdays and Sundays, Monsieur Bleu offers free babysitting services on the French floor (there’s also an American floor) with a disco for kids on Saturdays and other fun activities on Sundays. Dress well because shorts on a hot summer’s day may get you turned away despite having reservations.

A cross between Parisian and Japanese, Le Kong is a futuristic Japanese restaurant  with curved floor to ceiling windows decorated by Philippe Starck at the top of the Kenzo building. Perfect spot at sunset to be surrounded by Louis XV armchairs, plasma screens, a fluorescent staircase and a carpet of pebbles.

L’Oiseau Blanc (the White Bird) at the Peninsula Hotel is named for a French plane that crashed over the Atlantic in 1927 during a transatlantic flight attempt. The restaurant’s décor pays homage to the pilots, complete with a small-scale replica of the biplane that looks like it’s flying off the terrace. Even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll appreciate the sweeping views of the Eiffel Tower.

Every weekend between 4:00 and 6:00 pm at La Bauhinia bar of the Shangri-la Hotel, Pastry Chef Michaël Bartocetti celebrates a veritable French ritual and a moment dear to little ones and grown-ups alike: the Goûter!  A superb buffet of traditional French pastries to satisfy every sweet tooth. Reservations at +33 (0)1 53 67 19 91 or by email: labauhinia.slpr@shangri-la.com.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your Parisian favorites for the family to enjoy. Enjoy your summer adventures and try not to miss me too much. Bon voyage and a bientot!

Photos on this page courtesy of Google Images.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

How to Travel Light

 

When preparing to travel, lay out

all your clothes and all your money.

Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

Susan Heller

Can you believe Summer is just around the corner? Whether you’ll be traveling with First or “cattle” class, nothing beats the pleasure of skipping airport luggage check-in and the mindless wait at baggage claim carousels. Assuming your hair and makeup tools don’t require an entire suitcase, here’s how you can prioritize and pack lightly with ingenuity:

Choose the right bags. Carry-on rolling cases with four wheels like Louis Vuitton’s Horizon are the best gift from the travel gods.  When choosing yours, consider the smaller measurements required for domestic flights so you can easily hop onto connecting flights after the international leg of your jaunt. For your large tote, choose wide straps, with a cross body strap when possible, so you can be kind to your shoulders and back. A backpack would be the kindest of all, but I’d rather suffer for the sake of style.

Multi-task everything. A stylish belt bag (at the top of the photo above) doubles as your wallet and evening purse while holding valuables under your shirt when sightseeing during the day. A fabric/synthetic foldable shoulder bag can hold your shopping treasures, water bottle, extra layers of clothing, and serve as a decoy for pickpockets.

Hallelujah for the iPhone that saves us the extra weight of a computer, books (thanks to the Kindle app), phone, camera, alarm clock, flashlight, GPS, diary, ad infinitum.

Bring an extra large shawl for use as a head/neck rest on the plane, blanket, beach wrap, scarf, towel, or picnic blanket.

Choose an accessory that makes a fun accent piece like a necklace that can double duty as a belt or as bracelet when wound several times around your wrist.

Consider clothing color and weight.  Start with a basic neutral palette of gray, black, blue, or beige for pants, leggings, jacket and sweater then add fun splashes of print or color with your tops and accessories. White needs extra care to keep clean when you’re on the road so it’s not my go-to.

Clever dual-purpose travel garments like pants that can be turned into shorts by zipping off the legs are not my style but are worth mentioning here. Jackets with many pockets can serve as a sly piece of “luggage” when you’re traveling with a super strict airline that actually weighs your carry-on luggage.

If traveling through wide swings of climate, the secret key is layering. One warm jacket and one medium weight sweater will serve you well with a change of layered shirts closest to your skin. For variety on photos for Instagram and Facebook posts,  accessorize with different color scarves.

Unless you’ll be sending out your laundry for cleaning, choose material that’s easy to wash and hang dry. For this, I am a huge fan of silk–it is chic, lightweight and can be easily layered, plus it keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool. Style wise, a mid-length dress can be worn short with a hip belt and leggings.

To roll or not to roll? I roll leggings and pants (above) and use them to flatten out the bottom of my case with other odd shaped items. On top of all these, I lay my selection of tops, a skirt and a dress minimally folded as shown with the ivory shirt below. Pull the shirt arms straight over and across the chest then fold the torso horizontally once (or twice for longer shirts and dresses.) Voila–fewer wrinkles when you unpack!

My silk robe doubles as pajamas.  Pack extra shoes in bags at the bottom of your carry-on and wear the heavier rubber sole shoes/sneakers/boots in flight. Open toe sandals can serve as slippers while lounging in your hotel room and also give your feet a breather on alternate days of much walking. Roll up socks and stuff them inside the pair of flats or stilettos you pack to save room while keeping your shoes in good shape.

Wear as much as you can. On the flight, wear your heaviest boots/sneakers, jacket, sweater with a couple layers of shirts.  You can easily take them off on board then layer them back on as necessary. What about undies, you ask?  Let’s just say this is the matter where I stand on the complete opposite end of wearing as much as you can. 😉

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite secrets for traveling light.

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Touring Indochina

 

Adventure, yeah.

I guess that’s what you call it

when everybody comes back alive. 

Mercedes Lackey

 

Early at Angkor W(h)at?!

 

This week’s weather has officially done away with winter and please let’s not start complaining about the heat because this is nothing close to how summer gets in Asia. April and May are the warmest months in that region of simply ‘dry or wet’ seasons and ‘hot-hotter-hottest.’ So if you’re keen on heading that way this year, wait after the cooling monsoon rains blow off some of the heat.  And if you must travel solo, tours like National Geographic Adventures will make sure you’ll have the best time and never feel like you’re traveling alone.

Here’s a glimpse of the fun I had in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia with an active and erudite group of engineers, doctors and lawyers:

 

 Hue, Vietnam 

Stopping to hang with locals going about their day as we bike through town and rice paddies.  Whatever calories we expended was well rewarded with great meals including  a very special private lunch at Tha Om, a century old garden house made from local timber that didn’t require the use of a single nail.

 

Indochina Sails, Ha Long Bay

Cruise Ha Long Bay on a traditional-style wooden junk boat. Kayak around karst formations, visit caves and local fishermen’s boathouses. Just to be on the safe side, I waited until our cruise was about to dock before attempting this Titanic themed shot.

So grateful to our petite yet fearless tour leader who was completely unflappable and generous with her loving kindness and Buddhist wisdom.

Waterfalls at Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang is a World Heritage site chosen by an ancient king for the protection provided by its surrounding hills, rivers and mountains. It sits at the junction of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers.

We spent a day visiting some Buddhist shrines then joined a local family for a Buddhist Baci ceremony followed by dinner in their home.

Another day we hiked up a hill, stopping by the school of a Khmu village to play with the children and with its traditional houses, water buffalo and farm animals, the farmers and master blacksmiths dealing with their daily tasks.  We wound up at Ban Thapene, a village with a butterfly park founded by this courageous Dutch couple who seek to educate children on the importance of small bugs and insects in the world’s ecological balance.

 

I made an exception to my religion of waking up as late as possible and rose before the sun to catch the enchanting sight of hundreds of saffron-robed monks walking silently through town to collect offerings.  Even more impressive–since I’d rather not be in the kitchen–are those who have committed years of waking even earlier than these monks to cook hot food to offer them.

Ancient Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Explore one of the most ancient temple sites in the region: the Roluos Group. Bike around the countryside and make a stop at local house to enjoy snacks and meet the locals. My favorite temple is the ancient Ta Prohm Monastery, where humongous tree roots weave their way through the temple walls—hence the “Jungle Temple” nickname and more popularly “Tomb Raider temple” after Angelina Jolie’s movie.

Angkor Wat is  the Times Square of Cambodia and you’ll find yourself in traffic at 4:00 am in the morning as tourists hurry to snag a prime spot for catching the sunrise behind the temple. The vernal equinox on March 22 is THE DAY to see the sun rise exactly at the center point of the highest temple spire. Genius math for such ancient architecture!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share what’s on your travel bucket list.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Best Family Ski Trip: Mont Tremblant

 

I do uphill skiing.

Downhill skiing

is for nerd amateurs.

Judah Friedlander

 

Mont Tremblant Village

It will probably take another lifetime for me to attempt skiing, but when that day comes, I know exactly where the experience is fun for the whole family in the Northeast. Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada has 96 trails from Green to Black Diamond where you have the option of watching your ski bunnies from your warm and toasty hotel room.

Save yourself the trouble of parking the car and schlepping everyone’s skis by staying at one of the ski-in ski-out hotels in Tremblant’s quaint pedestrian village. If not, between the bunny hill and gondola is a kiosk known as the Tremblant Ski Valet where you can keep your skis and poles at the base of the mountain.

The best hotels with the ski-in/ski-out advantage are:

Fairmont Mont Tremblant.   Sits overlooking all the action on Place St-Bernard, a hop to the best coffee shop in the village, Au Grain de Cafe, Centre Aventure (where you pick up your lift tickets and rentals), the tour-booking office, the gondola that takes you to the summit, a chair lift, and the bunny hill that’s converted for night tubing most nights from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The hotel has its own, free valet service on the terrace level where your skis were taken in, dried daily and packed up in your ski bag the day you check out.

Sommet Des Neiges. You’ll get very spoiled by the convenience of having your ski lockers right next to the gondola! All rooms are one bedroom suites with your own washer/dryer and kitchenette. Right below the window of your mountain view room is the bunny slope where there’s all day entertainment watching adorable ski “midgets” (3 to 12 year olds) and their ever patient instructors who help prop them up when they lay helpless toppled over. The $13 overnight parking fee must the best deal in the entire town.

Restaurant options within Tremblant’s village:

La Savoie Restaurant has excellent fondues and wine.

The Creperie (La Maison De La Crepe) has sweet and savory selections–delicious for most though not intended to be held up to the French standard.

The Pizzateria has a fun vibe, with a lovely terrace in summer.

Le Forge Bar et Grill for apres-ski pub far has delicious burgers and grilled salmon on a plank.

If you don’t mind a short drive:

La Petit Cachee (considered a must when in Tremblant) looks like a quaint ski lodge with fine dining and a kids’ menu. Try the grilled salmon with foie gras or their famous Normand’s braised ribs.

Seb L’Artisan for the more serious foodie–it even has its own published cookbook.

Le Cheval de Jade another very well-rated restaurant in a homey atmosphere.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your winter holiday favorites.

xoxox

 

Gondola and bunny hill right outside your Sommet Des Neiges window

Spoiled for choice with 96 Trails!

Top of Mont Tremblant

Cafe at the top of the mountain

Northern View from the top of the world

Looking out at the Fairmont Hotel across the slope

 

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

Wander Women

 

Our happiest moments as tourists

always seem to come when we stumble

upon one thing while in pursuit

of something else.

Lawrence Block

 

 

In planning a holiday, do you ever feel torn between your inner gym rat and spa goddess? I am definitely neither. I don’t see the point of giving up an hour of a good night’s sleep to workout before the start of what is already called a work day. I am confident sunsets are just as lovely as a sunrise. I do not have patience for enclosed chambers with scents or recycled air when my lungs are involved in aerobic exercise. My skin crawls at the thought of spandex, sneakers and extended lounging in bathrobes in public spaces. I question the regimen of standing (or even sitting) upright when the laptop has been ingeniously designed for a comfortable recline on the sofa.  And hard as I try, I simply can’t think of one good reason why I should be running when no one’s chasing me.

This December, I shall explore where I belong in the spectrum in between. I will give up my usual seat on an air-conditioned tour bus to join a National Geographic Expedition where the itinerary includes days of two to four hours on the kayak or hiking and six to eight miles of biking in 90 degree heat. Even without the physical strains, their recommended list of what to pack already tests the religion of my closet:  a hat with a chin strap, a rain jacket that blends with the crowd, sneakers, a backpack and a 44 lb. baggage weight limit for a two week trip. Holy Mother of Glam!

If you’d rather not be seen this underdressed in male company, Travel & Leisure recommends adventure companies that cater to female travelers only. Why not consider a new spin on the bachelorette party, the mother daughter weekend, the sisters bonding holiday, the stocking stuffer?

 

Adventures in Good Company  Specializes in expeditions in the U.S., like dog-sledding and snowshoeing on the shores of Lake Superior

Balanced Rock  This nonprofit’s yearly Women of Color Wilderness Retreats in Yosemite combine survival-skill building, yoga, and mindfulness exercises.

Wild Women Expeditions  Leads intimate journeys, like a horseback ride across Mongolia, designed to foster inclusivity.

Adventure Women  Books luxe trips, most lasting at least a week, to 26 destinations — like hiking, biking, and whitewater rafting in Colombia.

Explorer Chick  The company arranges backpacking trips in the American West and Appalachia, including a trek in the Great Smoky Mountains.

WHOA Travel   Climbing Kilimanjaro and other destinations like Bavaria, Peru, Nepal, Russia, and India.

REI Women’s Adventures  This outdoor-gear co-op leads ambitious expeditions, like a South Africa safari, and three-day Outessa retreats in California, Oregon, and New Hampshire.  Outessa is another REI brand.

Fit & Fly Girl   Daily workouts anchor retreats to party-friendly locales like Ibiza, Spain.

FP Escapes  The Free People clothing brand’s itineraries in places like Nicaragua’s Playa Maderas emphasize mind-body connection

Damesly  Hosts self-discovery workshops in Arizona, Hawaii, and Iceland.

One more that’s personally recommended by a friend who travels the globe year round:  Private Journeys  for small group luxury and exotic destinations.

Intimidated or not, I love National Geographic Expeditions for their commitment to environment conservation through sustainable travel and donating 27% of proceeds to the National Geographic Society, whose explorers and researchers are furthering our understanding of the planet.

A challenge is a good thing when you begin to think you have clearly delineated fences around your ways of being. Even if I don’t discover the Iron Woman in me, at least, the hotels will be fabulous and I’ll have a few laughs to share when I get back in January.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your most memorable, albeit unlikely, adventure.

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

Italy With Teen

A good holiday is one spent

among people whose notions of time

are vaguer than yours.

J.B. Priestley

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Winter break now and Spring break soon! With Milan offering the best airfare accessible to favorable climes by train, here is a quick week’s itinerary if you can travel light with your teen.

From Milan’s Malpensa airport, take the Malpensa Express train to Milan Centrale and connect with the fast train (Trenitalia.com) to Rome.

In Rome, book a hotel (at least 3 nights) between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon so you’re in a lively area in the evenings near restaurants in any direction.

Some Rome tour options are on my When In Rome Again blog post.

Take a morning train to Florence Santa Maria Novella and before exiting the station, leave your luggage for a small fee at the depot along the wall where you see the sign for Track 16.

Florence in a day: You can’t miss the outdoor sculptures at the Piazza Vecchio, the fantastic embossed door of the Baptistry, museums galore, Pitti Palace, if the weather is lovely, catch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo for panoramic views of Florence and to say hello to yet another David statue.

Take the evening train to Venice Santa Lucia station and book an overnight stay at one of the hotel’s across the canal so they can hold your bags while you sightsee the next day.

Venice in a day: Catch the vaporetto to St. Mark’s Square and feed the pigeons, admire the golden mosaics of the cathedral, climb up the bell tower, shop a bit, walk to Rialto Bridge and if you’re an early bird, catch the vendors setting up shop at the open air market. If you haven’t had enough of churches and museums yet, there’s the Accademia, the Scuola Grande and the Doge’s Palace. If you’d rather row a gondola than sit in one, check out Row Venice.

Take the evening train to Milan and stay near the Golden Triangle of designer shopping (ie, Via della Spiga, Via Sant’ Andrea and Via Montenapoleone). You’ll be within easy walking distance to the very well preserved Sforza Castle that holds a good collection of museums.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Italy travel tips.

xoxox

Ceiling at the Vatican

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Even a very tall man appears to be a midget at the mini-Hall of Mirrors of the Doria Pamphilj mansion in Rome

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Michaelangelo’s David and work in progress at the Accademia in Florence

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Rape of the Sabine Women at the Piazza Vecchio, Florence

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Would you rather ride or row?

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Sunset in Venice

venice-sunset

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Hot As Mercury

I adore Chicago.

It is the pulse 

of America.

Sarah Bernhardt

The-Bean-Chicago-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

Famous for it’s gigantic drop of liquid mercury, Chicago just won my vote for The Prettiest City in the U.S.!

You’ll love the river that snakes through dazzling skyscrapers, the helpful locals, and the ease of getting around and through the fabulous park set beautifully next to a lake. See the city in different ways:

Inside Chicago Tours Hillary is charming and funny as she takes you on small group walking tours of the city’s best building interiors and sssshhh! secrets.

Architecture River Cruise The Architecture Foundation’s First Lady Cruises will give you all the right facts. For more entertaining versions, try Shoreline and Jim Collins is one of the fun guides of Wendella boats. Choose the sunset cruise to see the lovely change of city lights.

Bobby’s Bike Hike Yes, you can stand on a Segway or sit in a cool limo. I like combining the distraction of interesting sights with a workout and a bike tour on a cool night is just perfect. Wednesday and Saturday evening tours end with spectacular fireworks on the lake.

Other evening entertainment:

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Chicago is the home of improv comedy so skip Broadway for this town’s longest running show of 30 mini plays in one hour. Mostly funny, sometimes poignant, sad and real. Not 21+ though the material can be.

Upstairs at the Virgin Hotel. I’ll have to come back without a teen chaperone to check out the fun at this naughty venue.

Fun restaurants with the family or not:

Three Arts Cafe Whether it’s your first date or the 100th, you’ll enjoy this romantic courtyard with chandeliers, a fountain and glass ceiling, indulgent service with a rooftop, too.

The Palm Court at The Drake Hotel Old world elegance for glamorous high tea after a day exploring the Gold Coast neighborhood. You can combine your tea reservation with a tour of the hotel on weekdays.

Fulton Market Kitchen Feed your inner artist with this feast for the eyes.

The Terrace Regardless of your politics, the Trump Hotel has the best open air views facing the river and half the Chicago skyline.

And if the kids insist on the Skydeck, mom must stop by the breathtaking atrium of the pink building next door.

The neighborhood you stay in makes all the difference and I suspect I adore Chicago because I chose a central location (between Clark Street Bridge and Millennium Park) for easy access to the city’s attractions, shopping and innumerable dining options.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your best Chicago travel tips here.

xoxox

Chicago-skyline-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

Blonde-Glamour-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

Cloud-Gate-Chicago-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

Pearls-Red-Dress-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Myanmar Meander (Part II: Mandalay, Kalaw and Inle Lake)

Travel far enough,

you meet yourself.

David Mitchell

Too many fun things keep popping up that kept me from getting to this sequel sooner.  I’m off on another trip this week, always compelled to follow where joy leads me.  This summer has been particularly full of fun firsts. This year literally started on the right elephant’s foot!

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In the mountains of Kalaw, all is green, peace and quiet except for my occasional shrieks while on a  bareback elephant ride at Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp. Green Hill is a sanctuary for retired elephants (even their vet is a retiree) that also promotes reforestation with its tourism program. You get to feed and pet the elephants at their hut then scrub their thick hide as they soak in the river. And don’t you worry, riding them bareback is optional–only for the brave or the reckless. 😉

Selfie or not? Even the monks do it. At the U-Bein Bridge, the longest teakwood bridge in the world built in 1850 and still holding up to foot traffic.

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Mandalay, the last royal capital of the former Burma, has a romantic name that sounds infinitely more beautiful than its downtown area. The best parts of it are the hills dotted with stupas and temples and the sight of monks–men in burgundy robes, women in pink, all with shaved heads.

Mandalay is known as Motorcycle City among locals. I’ll remember it more for vans with passenger doors that open to oncoming traffic.

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The Shwenandaw Monastery, a glorious example of traditional 19th century wooden monasteries, is made of intricately carved teak.  Originally part of the Royal Palace in Amarapura, this building is also a fine example of recycling, dismantled and transported to Mandalay as the King’s living quarters when the capital city was moved in 1857, then moved a second time outside the Royal Palace grounds when his son succeeded the throne.

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In remote villages, life seems to have gone on largely unchanged for the past 2,500 years: peasants, oxcarts, the same kinds of food and clothes. The same pagodas covered in gold in the richer towns or merely painted in the poor ones. Cellphones are quickly becoming ubiquitous though.

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I bought a farmer’s umbrella not quite the size of this red giant, but ingeniously made completely of handmade paper and bamboo moving parts.

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There are 500,000 monks and 150,000 nuns in Myanmar—which is to say that a significant percent of the country aspire to follow the Buddha’s path. Most boys spend some years as monks before returning to their families. I met a couple of women who chose to join an order after they had already finished college and had worked on a career.

Busloads of tourists certainly don’t make studying easy for this little monk.

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As a tourist, you pick up some Buddhism along the way, getting a better understanding of the variety in religious structures. The pagoda or stupa (or zedi) is a solid structure with no interior that often contains a relic. A temple is a hollow square building. A cave serves as a meditation center for monks. The ordination hall is for exactly that. The monastery is the monks’ residence. The library is where scriptures of the Buddha are kept.

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Mornings in Myanmar often find bewitching mists hovering in the valleys and lakes.

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Inle Lake, in central Myanmar, is the region where locals  live on wooden houses on stilts, farm on floating patches of soil, bathe, brush their teeth,, do their laundry, commute, etc… all in the same water.  My fellow travelers asked our guide, “Where does the sewage go?” She doesn’t look us in the eye when she answered, “Septic tanks.”

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Aside from farming on floating patches of muck that are held in place by bamboo poles, industry in the lake includes boat making, weaving silk and lotus fiber, tobacco rolling, silver making, iron work, religious traffic, etc. A big gash in the mountainsides for new hotels represents the government’s ambition for a stronger surge of tourism. How will the lake’s ecosystem support such deluge? Beats me!

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Stay at a lake front room of the Inle Resort or catch the sunset from their boat landing. The spa is absolutely stunning here!

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Inle Lake fishermen are an iconic sight standing at one end of their boats, gracefully paddling with just one leg to keep one hand free for the net and the other for the spear.

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The beauty of Myanmar is in considerable part a consequence of its inaccessibility. Get there before it becomes more mainstream and lose its unique charms. Best month to catch a tour group is February.

Moi in their traditional wrap.

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Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your exotic travel tips.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

At the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum

You can’t connect the dots looking forward.

You can only connect them looking backwards.

So trust that your dots will connect in the future.

Steve Jobs

NYC-Cooper-Hewitt-museum-family-poster-Sharon-Birke

Benker & Steiner 1996 poster on the beleaguered patriarch

What museum allows you to photograph and assemble a webpage of your favorites among their exhibits? Encourages interactive fun for design inspiration? Has the stairs of a London Bus wedged into a mansion’s grand staircase?  New York City’s Cooper Hewitt checks “Yes” to all these and more! Even my difficult-to-please teen says he’ll save his ticket stub to remember our visit. Next time the heat gets unbearable this summer, hit this cool destination with your favorite young adults!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your fun family ideas in/around NYC this summer.

xoxox

In the mood to design a hat, a chair, a building? Possibilities can be endless here…

NYC-Cooper-Hewitt-museum-interactive-design-Sharon-Birke

Extrusions 2009 by Heatherwick Design Studios.

A metal bench inspired by the toothpaste you squeeze out of a tube.

NYC-Cooper-Hewitt-museum-extrusion-bench-design-Sharon-Birke

My kind of grand staircase model, but, boy, would I hate forgetting something in my bedroom upstairs!

NYC-Cooper-Hewitt-museum-grand-staircase-design-Sharon-Birke

An artwork from the more glamorous days of luggage airline tags.

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A functional chair that lets you spin like a top.

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Next two photos, a dress that folds itself neatly soon as you drop it onto the floor. Every mom’s dream!

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Did I say we love the Cooper Hewitt?

Go on weekdays to enjoy the “Immersion Room” for more than the 5 minutes you’re allowed when there’s a crowd. Draw a single object and the projector will multiply it across two walls. Lucky my teen was game to plaster himself amidst his heart pattern.

I-love-NYC-Cooper-Hewitt-design-museum-Sharon-Birke

See my collection of Cooper Hewitt exhibit favorites at

http://cprhw.tt/v/n42f

Happy Summer!

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

 

Marseille: Shade and Shadow

Boy, those French–

They have a different word

for everything!

Steve Martin

South-of-France-Marseille-NYC-NJ-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits-Sharon-Birke-4875-2

Mature romance by the water is how I will remember Marseille. With its Mediterranean harbor of clear blue waters coyly inviting you for a dip, sunshine 300 days of the year, a spread of restaurants representing its multicultural population, Marseille has all the good stuff tempered by a rough-edged reputation.  It’s a three hour train ride from Paris and an easy commute from the smaller cities of Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Arles and Nîmes when you’re in the South of France.

Marseille is both gritty and pretty–full of graffiti and locals who warn tourists not to wander in certain areas after dark or even during the day. Despite this, I had a wonderful time traveling with easygoing photography lovers who had much enthusiasm for the town. Marseille reminds me of the less savory parts of ourselves we’d rather skirt over and the dark corners of our psyche that might prove to be less dangerous  if we embraced them.

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The freshest seafood right off the boat!  At the fish market, this octopus stealthily tried to grab some lunch before he became someone else’s lunch.

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Stay at the Intercontinental or chill on their terrace bar and restaurant with its view of Notre Dame de la Garde. Thanks to Anais, Gerard and Olivier for charming service!

InterContinental Marseille Hotel Dieu, 1 Place Daviel, +33-4-1342-4212

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At the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée), admire the engineering genius and patchwork shadows of its lace facade made of cement. Check out the sea view from their restaurant “Le Mole Passedat.”

7 Promenade Robert Laffont
Marseille, France
+33 4 84 35 13 13

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Underneath this Cathedral (across the street from the MuCEM) is Les Voûtes Marseille: home to shops, restaurants, bars, etc…

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Open air Tango in the square on Friday evenings by the ferry dock. I loved seeing elderly couples walking hand in hand, dancing tango in the open air, women much older than I am still wearing high heels and above the knee dresses on date night. C’est si bon!

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Hop on or off a boat to swim, visit the calanques, the Frioul, and the prison of “The Count of Monte Cristo” (a movie you’ll want to re-watch!)

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Go topless at this most adorable little cove near Le Petit Nice, a Relaix and Chateaux boutique hotel best known for the Marseillaise specialty dish, bouillabaisse.

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For casual rooftop dining with sea and marina view among good looking locals:

Rowing Club, 34 Boulevard Charles Livon, 13007 Marseille, France
+33 4 91 90 07 78

Best couscous is at Le Kahena, beside the white church corner of the Vioux Port.

Le Kahena, 2 Rue de la République, 13001 Marseille, France
+33 4 91 90 61 93

Foster and Partners’ Ombriere reflecting steel pavilion at Vioux Port.

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Had the most delicious meal at the casual garden of La Passarelle. Look up when you’re facing their kitchen to find this embroidered artwork.

La Passarelle, 52 Rue Plan Fourmiguier, 13007 Marseille +33 4 9133 0327

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Limo to/from the airport and anywhere else:

Taxi Perez (Joseph’s phone 0613360991)

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your South of France travel tips. Vive Le France!

Watch my slideshow on Youtube

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Myanmar Meander (Part I: Yangon and Bagan)

This is Burma

and it is unlike any land

you may know about…

Rudyard Kipling

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Catch a fiery sunset at the golden Shwedagon Pagoda

A place uniquely preserved in culture with people still true to their native traditions, Myanmar (aka Burma) stays mostly untouched by modernity–except for cellphones and the quickly thickening deluge of tourists.  Go see this country sooner than later, while golden arches are still made of wood and gold leaf at sacred pagodas with no McDonald’s in sight! I loved traveling to this country where markets abound with fresh produce and natural herbal remedies, shoppers who carry their own reusable baskets, where people know only to cook and eat real food–a reminder of our almost forgotten connection to nature’s divine wisdom and benevolence.

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Helpful and kind despite economic hardships, locals still proudly wear their traditional longhis (i.e., long skirt wraps for men and women) in cotton or silk, as well as their native thanaka skin cream which also doubles as makeup and sunscreen.

As smitten with technology as we are

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Their legendary political heroine Aung San Suu Kyi

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Primarily Buddhist, alms giving is a daily ritual in this country.

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Monks at work

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Monks at play

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Someone’s not too thrilled by this makeup business… His mother’s market basket doubles as baby swing.

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When traveling to exotic locales, I prefer to head out of the big cities to get the real pulse of the country.  Bagan is an hour’s flight Northwest of Yangon. Morning flights make a clockwise circle of Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay-Inle Lake.  It’s always best to take the first flights out in case of delays.

To imagine small town Bagan, picture the entire stretch of Manhattan with nothing but stupas of all sizes. Early bird or not, rise for a ride with Balloons Over Bagan. At the bottom of this photo is the outer edge of one of the prettiest hotels in Bagan, the Aureum Palace.

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Grandma in tribal headdress, fierce as the dragon it is supposed to conjure

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Horse and buggy ride

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Sunset over Bagan

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Welcome to Myanmar!

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This series is inspired by the revival of “The King and I” on Broadway. While waiting for Part II of this travel guide, click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what you’re curious to learn about other cultures.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Paris Charms With Teen

 A good holiday is one spent

among people whose notions of time

are vaguer than yours.

JB Priestley

Paris-Intercontinental-Le-Grand-Hotel-Sharon-Birke

Have you met a doorman as young as this?

What would you do if you just got back home from too many weeks on the road and your husband dares, “Can you get back on a plane tomorrow?” Do you say, “But this… but that…?” No! No! No! You book tickets the next day, tell your daughter to pack her bags, and get on a flight the day after. This sudden turn of events left my teen in a daze, “I can’t believe this is really happening!”–she thought the upcoming school break meant being glued to her pajamas and iPod. Nah!

This being her very first trip to Europe, our itinerary was designed to please her. “No museums,  no shopping,” she insisted. “No Disney, no queues,” I countered. We walked to and from the Seine, taking in magnificent architecture, pink skies, and painterly scenes at every turn.

At my favorite Pont Alexandre III, I found this scorpion catching the Eiffel. For the best portraits with the Eiffel as background, wake up before the tourists, head to the Trocadero and have that fabulous marble platform all to yourself!

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Stay at the Paris Le Grand Hotel

2 Rue Scribe, 75009

+33 1 4007 3232

Love this elegant atrium where a piano man plays classical or jazz tunes in the early evenings. The Le Grand has large (for Europe) rooms at a most central location. The Opera’s golden facade and the metro are at your doorstep.

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Bike Tour with Paris Charms and Secrets

Fancy seeing the city like Parisians on bikes? We did! But I must admit these electric bikes saved me from un-chic huffing and puffing!  History buff Xavier (or Paris Charms and Secrets founder, Olivier) takes you around the best sites, sharing little known facts of Paris lore. Make this your first activity upon arrival so you’ll know–among other secrets I’m not telling–which Louvre entrance has less of a queue than underneath that iconic pyramid. Take the afternoon tour and they’ll time a 6pm stop at the foot of the twinkling lights of the Eiffel.  My teen remarked, “If my history teacher told stories like Xavier, learning would be so much easier!” Ah-men!

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When you’ve had too many macarons and can’t be bothered lining up for the sweets at Angelina, pick an eclair at L’eclair de Genie, 32 Rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 75002, phone +33 1 8479 2340.

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Find Marie Antoinette’s last handwritten note (among other historical artifacts that belong in a museum) at the restaurant, Le Procope13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 75006, phone +33 1 40 46 79 00.  We spotted a waiter calling Napoleon, “Will you ever pick up the hat you left here, Sir?”

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I did make an exception to our “no museum, no queue” agreement with a day in Versailles. She had zero idea what Versailles was about so she cooed at the palace’s golden gates and lavish decor, walked wide eyed through the sumptuous interiors, and it was only after we finished touring the palace that it finally dawned on her, “You know, this is like a museum!” Aha!!! 😉  Here, I take a moment to commiserate with a statue underdressed for the winter’s cold.

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Did I say “No ‘Buts'” when opportunity presents itself?

At the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

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If this trip weren’t such a whirlwind, I would have introduced my teen to Paris’ great artists before we got there.  She would have enjoyed a scavenger hunt of scenes from Monet’s “The Boathouse on the Seine,” Marc Chagall’s “Paris Through the Window,” Van Gogh’s “Sidewalk Café at Night.”

For walking tours, there is Paris Walks for daily local variety in different neighborhoods. For guides with academic backgrounds specializing in your area of interest, book a private tour with Context Tours. And when your teen can’t walk one more step, take a trip on a bateau-mouche, the glass-enclosed boats that ply the Seine, giving you a graceful overview of the city.

To see earlier Paris travel related posts, enter “Paris” in the search box on the top right of this page.  In the near future, I’ll list my favorite books set in Paris. Until then, click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your tips for Paris travel with teens. xoxox

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

London With Teen

I sometimes wonder if

Americans are fooled by our accent

into detecting brilliance

that may not really be there.

Stephen Fry

London-Eye-Family-Travel-Sharon-Birke

Last week, I suddenly found myself in London with a young travel companion who–though smitten by the British accent–did not come to visit the Queen nor her crown jewels, completely determined to avoid museums at all costs. Some shopping maybe? Not that either.  So what else was left to do? Plenty, it seems!

Keep an eye on the London Eye

 Skip the endless queue and buy tickets ahead online for the 3:30 pm guided tour

London SE1 7PB, United Kingdom
+44 871 781 3000

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Trot through Hyde Park on four hooves with these beauties of Hyde Park StablesThey couldn’t trust beginners like us to hang on to the reins while holding a camera, so this is our best shot right by the stable.

 63 Bathurst Mews, London W2 2SB, United Kingdom +44 20 7723 2813

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Boudoir high tea, Madame?

Have a party designing your own at

Biscuiteer’s Boutique in Notting Hill

194 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2ES, United Kingdom
+44 20 7727 8096

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Watch a show at the grand Royal Albert Hall

Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP, United Kingdom
+44 20 7589 8212

Royal-Albert-Hall-London-Sharon-Birke

I spy a scorpion!  Watch the modern Sherlock Holmes British TV series to whet teen curiosity for this icon of mystery

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From the London Eye, a sunset stroll over the Charing Cross pedestrian bridge takes you to my favorite hotel in London:

The Corinthia

Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD, United Kingdom
+44 20 7930 8181

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My teen had no interest in a guided tour so I’ll just pass on a recommendation by a Powerful Goddess client: Context Tours for guides with academic backgrounds to match your tour of interest. You won’t have to wonder if the stories they tell you is just another fairy tale. London Walks is famous for its 7:30 pm Jack The Ripper tours.

And if you’re in town at the right time, Vauxhall disco roller skating happens on weekends and The Magic Circle has a once a month event open to the public.

For those who are not particularly museum averse, the Victoria and Albert is my favorite for art and design!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your favorite  tips when you keep calm and travel to London with teens. xoxox

 London-Keep-Calm-with-teen-Sharon-Birke

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Carnival of Venice

If you can visit Venice

only once in your life,

make it Carnivale!

S. Birke

Share this link to watch on Youtube http://youtu.be/szPv4UIFFzg

Shouldn’t you be in Venice right now?  What better place for adults to remember how to play and have fun than Carnivale–the world famous winter event that attracts revelers and tourists from every corner of the world. Before fasting and introspection, the ten days before Lent is an endless round of parties and feasts for the eyes anywhere you turn! How can you possibly keep a serious face when you’re surrounded by people who take costume even more seriously, preening strangers who revel in the anonymity of masks, robes and cloaks, cheerfully posing for any passing camera?

2015 Calendar 

Events, parties and masquerade balls

 http://www.venice-carnival-italy.com

Where to stay

The Gritti Palace

 http://www.thegrittipalace.com

Hotel Danieli

 http://www.danielihotelvenice.com

Aman Canal Grande Venice

 http://www.amanresorts.com/amancanalgrandevenice/home.aspx

Where to see the most costumes

Masks and costumes congregate in various sites around Venice. Weekends are the busiest. They usually start the day posing in front of the gondolas outside the Doges’ Palace at St. Mark’s Square.  You can follow the revelers when they change venues and stroll elegantly to the Arsenale, a church around the corner or take the ferry to San Giorgio and Burano Islands. Those who prefer the more authentic period costumes hang out at Caffe Florian for tea in the afternoons.

Venice Carnival 2015 runs until February 17.  If you’re not the type to dress up, done a mask at least. This year’s theme “The Most Delicious Feast in the World” celebrates Italy’s culinary traditions and triumphs so if you insist that masks and costumes are really not your kind of eye candy, feast on delicious looking Italians instead!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how a mask helps you tell your truth. xoxox

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© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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