Peace and Party At The Farm

 

All animals are equal,

but some animals are

more equal than others.

George Orwell

 

 

Now that travel to other continents is not feasible for many of us in 2020, I’ve had to re-consider my aversion to long drives (ie, anything beyond 7 minutes) and to explore the joys of what’s within driving distance.  Two hours from Manhattan is the Peaceful Windhorse Farm, an idyllic party venue for those with the “return to nature” sensibility or those who want relief from all this isolation and regroup under open sky. When public transit comes back in style, the Metro North is another romantic way to get there as you soak in the zen Hudson River views along the way.

The farm’s gracious overseer guided me on a tour of its 108 acres with her handy plant ID app. That afternoon, she discovered that the wide variety of foliage on her land included a liberal sprinkling of olive trees and bushes which could be fruitful if warm weather were more fashionable year round in the Northeast.

We meandered over grassy pathways through woods and prairies that have hosted memorable candlelit parties on long dinner tables under the stars, gatherings around breathtaking bonfires, happy hour on a hill at sunset with a bartender or two possibly serving drinks from a rustic hunter’s hideout.  Its main house has a pool that can host a family for the summer.  Its expansive barn has been converted into a spacious event space for weddings or family reunions. Guests are thrilled to pet and feed the Noah’s ark stable of local residents:  2 enormous pigs, 2 handsome goats, 2 bucolic horses, 2 sheepish (I couldn’t help this!) sheep. There may have been more than 2 chickens, but we all know extra eggs always come in handy.

After harvesting the mulberry tree as far as our fingers could reach and a few futile attempts at convincing the goats and pigs they’ve had enough feasting underneath it, we sat for a picturesque dinner overlooking the pond. To my hostess’ delight, what appeared to be a little rock tucked next to the candle on the table was a live frog. She let her ravioli get cold as she excitedly searched for and downloaded the Frog ID app, determined to identify the species of this Frog Prince before we deemed it worthy of a kiss. She snapped the frog’s photo and we held our breaths while the app searched its data base. We waited… and waited some more… until, at last, the app made up its mind. This creature, the app decreed most assuredly, was a mushroom.

For inquiries on hosting your next memorable party event or family reunion at Peaceful Windhorse Farm, contact ‭(212) 807-9642‬. And enjoy making the best of this summer of our new normal!

xoxox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

xoxox

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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

 

 

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

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a most memorable photo shoot for 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

Boracay: A White Beach Island Guide

 

Everyone must believe in something.

I believe

I should go to the beach.

inspired by Groucho Marx

 

 

Looks like an early white Christmas already where I am in the Northeast. As an island goddess, I prefer a white beach Christmas so it’s fortunate that I know exactly where to escape to.  With its archipelago of almost 8,000 islands, the Philippines has three that rank among Travel & Leisure’s top beaches in the world. Among its 6.6m tourists last year, about a third visited Boracay, a relatively small island measuring 3.98 square miles with a local resident population of only 30,000. You can dive and snorkel through top notch reefs, enjoy a variety of waters sports, go island hopping, kayak or canoe, hike trails and waterfalls, chill on a lounge chair or beach bar, all the while enjoying the help of smiling locals everywhere you turn.

A couple of decades ago, Boracay certainly was idyllic with its throw back in time feel amidst thatched roof hut accommodations.  As late as 2012, Travel+Leisure declared it the best island in the world for the powder soft sand on its White Beach. These days the main stretch of white beach feels more like Florida’s South Beach party town with hotels and restaurants of all stripes shoe horned one after another.

Getting to Boracay  An hour’s flight from Manila gets you to Caticlan (the Kalibo International airport option is farther away), followed by a ferry ride from the Caticlan Jetty Port and a drive to your hotel. Caticlan is a small airport that allow small aircrafts so luggage weight restrictions are strictly enforced. Book transfers ahead with Island Star Express or My Boracay Guide with your preferred level of service.

If that sounds like too much work, consider a hotel that includes inter-island transfers like the luxury T+L favorite Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa, where guests can arrive via speedboat directly from Caticlan to the resort’s private jetty.

Which beach?  Of the island’s 12 beaches, White Beach lives up to its name except it can get busy because most of the island’s shopping, nightclubs and hotels are found here. Spanning 2.5 miles of the island’s west coast, it is divided into three “stations.”

When to go  The weather in Boracay, like most of the Philippines, is either hot or hotter.  Prime travel season runs from Christmas until May. January gets extra busy with the Kalibo Ati-Atihan Festival–the Philippine version of Mardi Gras–and the annual water-sports competition, the International Funboard Cup. Given a choice, I’d pick the shoulder season (October to November), when temperatures have  cooled down after the monsoon rains of July/August. Low season is June to September if you don’t mind rain and wind.

Where to Stay  To get away from the maddening crowd, The Shangri-la Resort and Spa makes you feel like you’re on a private island because it sits on a sheltered bay at Boracay’s pristine northern coast. Heaven must be not unlike staying at a quiet villa looking out to peaceful blue waters with a friendly butler at your beck and call.  The resort’s layout offers rooms with spectacular vistas of lush green scenery and azure ocean views from every vantage point. TheIe hotel airport transfer takes you on a speedboat directly to the property so you need not suffer the usual drive-ferry-drive routine.

If you want relative quiet without having to spend as much money while having the option to walk to the action on White Beach, you want to be at the  farthest end of Station 1. There are Airbnb beach front homes like Mayumi Villa and Robinson Beach House next to The Lind. These are the better beach front hotels on Station 1:

The Lind Hotel is a high rise with modern facilities, a good sized swimming pool, and the only beach front space for weddings/parties.  Their restaurant has pretty good food, too, if the tender grilled octopus and cucumber mint slushee are an indication.

Friday’s Boracay is among the older properties (since 1982) without a pool but their restaurant has an unobstructed beach view while their accommodations are the closest thing you get to going native.

Ambassador in Paradise is a narrow property with a lap pool. Their restaurant spreads out amidst coconut trees featuring a raw seafood bar set up on a quaint little boat in the evenings.

Boracay has gotten overbuilt so I find it a bit stressful to get to with the traffic and before with the throngs on the beach at sunset. The government’s clean-up initiative in the past year has banned sandcastle artists and other beach entrepreneurs but has not remedied the eyesore of dilapidated and abandoned properties amidst better hotels. But with more than 7,500 other islands to choose from, I’ll have to feature a couple other options on future posts

Click on “Leave a comment” (top left) to share your favorite winter escape. (Photos on this page are from Google Images.)

xoxox

Shangri-la Resort & Spa’s beach cove

Friday’s Boracay beach front

xoxox

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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

When in Rome: Best Photo Locations

 

Sometimes the road less traveled

is less traveled

for a reason.

Jerry Seinfeld

 

What is your favorite corner in the Eternal City?

Piazza Navona

This is my favorite piazza for its open space, sculptures in fountains and its nightlife of hawkers, locals and street artists. This is the neighborhood I consider central for booking a hotel to stay in because I can walk in every which direction to different neighborhoods.

 

The Tiber River

There are lots of points along this river that you could use. Here are three of the most popular choices.

  • The view to St Peter’s Basilica – The view down to St Peter’s from Ponte Sant’Angelo is one of the best in Rome. Certainly the best along the river Tiber. Aim for sunset and blue hour to make the best of this location.
  • Castel Sant’Angelo – Looking along the same bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo, is Castel Sant’Angelo. The lines of the bridge leading up to the Castel offer another great photo from this location.

 

Altare de la Patria (aka Vittorio Emmanuel monument or The Typewriter Building)

The Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) is an imposing structure with striking architecture. Get up close to get interesting details of the sculptures. You can take the elevator to the top for the views.

 

Spanish Steps

Always crowded with tourists because it’s iconic and has been featured in popular movies set in Rome. New regulation does not allow people to sit on the steps anymore which takes away from its personality.

 

The Colosseum

Among the “new” 7 Wonders of the World is the Colosseum. Can you imagine its glory days when the entire structure was wrapped in white marble? There are plenty of good options for photographing this masterpiece, so let’s look at some of the potential photographs you could take.

Arriving at dawn means you can photograph the Colosseum with no people with the bonus of catching the sun peak through its arches.

Trevi Fountain

Completed in 1762, this still counts among Rome’s most popular tourist attractions.  Its statues are dramatic backdrops for portraits if you can avoid the crowds by waking early or elbowing your way to the front row.  Crowds can provide an important narrative element to a photo, giving the image context and life. To get the best of crowds in a photo you’ll want to get above them.

 

The Pantheon

This building has a lovely dome with genius construction in allowing rain to fall from the hole in its center and flow down the gently sloped marble floors with built in drains. If you get lucky at night to catch its front foyer lit, you can create a fun picture with someone in the spotlight juxtaposed with the gigantic pillars.

For a wide shot of the entire building, come at twilight when it is lit up and you’ll have the blue skies to complement the yellow glow of lamp lights.

 

St. Peter’s Basilica

Get lucky with the Pope’s appearance or enjoy the details in the architecture and the mosaics that look like very fine paintings.

Best time to photograph  Arrive early to avoid queues at tourist locations. Sunrise and sunset are fun for playing with shadows. The twilight hour after sunset is magical when the sky is that shade of blue that complements the brightness of streetlamps.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite corner in the Eternal City. All photos on this page 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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Thank The Thanksgiving Hostess

 

There’s turkey ham, turkey bologna,

turkey pastrami… Someone needs to tell the turkey,

“Man, just be yourself!”

Mitch Hedberg

 

When I grow up, I’ll look forward to being the guest for Thanksgiving. Until that day comes, I soldier on hosting for the sake of keeping my teens engaged in the kitchen and leaving them with good memories of tradition and togetherness.  A bit more fun than being sad and lonely tech zombies on their individual cellphones and laptops, yes?

My wish for them is to be wanted as guests in other people’s homes, too, and here are a few clues to what it takes to be the hostess’ favorite whatever your age:

Arrive on time–no excuses. No asking for pickup from the bus stop if you have legs that can carry you the distance.

Send a lovely flower arrangement before the event or visit.  It is always wise not to show up empty handed but bringing a bouquet of flowers only gives the hostess one more last minute thing to do (find and fill a vase) when she already has more than enough on her plate.

Clean up after yourself and help clear the kitchen sink.  If the hostess protests. tell her it’s against your religion and you’d rather make it to heaven.

Bring the entertainment.  Being a good guest can simply be as fun as bringing a game, activity (eg, face painting with young kids) or teach a magic/card trick or skill that entertains all.

If you’re a weekend guest, make/bring breakfast one morning and pay for at least one meal out while you’re there.

After you leave, mail an old fashioned thank you note with prints of your best photos from your time together. Nobody makes time to print but, truth be told, in our age of constantly changing technology and infinite digital photos, only prints count for posterity.

Surprise the hostess with a gift she will enjoy (a board game her family will love, a wireless speaker for their porch, etc).

Pick up the phone and invite them to be your guest when they’re in your part of the world.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share what you like to add to the Thanksgiving table.  Happy Gobble Gobble and know I’m thankful for you!

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!

 

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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

Amazing Libraries of the World

 

Everything comes 

to those who wait

except a loaned book.

Kin Hubbard

My Inner Nerd was terribly excited to tell you about this futuristic Binhai Libray in Tianjin, China that went viral on social media. It promises to be a book lover’s paradise with grand sweeping curves of floor to very high ceiling shelves crammed with books. There’s just one catch: Don’t look too closely at the millions of books in its architecturally stunning main hall because they’re merely painted and only a few real books are strategically positioned at certain sections.

Other fabulous ones for your travel bucket list follow below. I’ve been to most of these cities but have yet to remember to officially add libraries to my itinerary and see them for myself.  Having read about the architecture of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris, I once spent an entire day searching for it with my fumbling French, getting misdirected by well-meaning locals to the more popular, modern and out of the way  Francois Mitterrand library.  When I finally figured I had to find my way back to Paris central, the librarian curtly informed me that their gorgeous oval reading room is only for students. ;(  I’ve gotten luckier with a private tour of a stunning one among those cloistered in European monasteries and abbeys.  What’s on this list are libraries that you can possibly visit when you happen to be in their neighborhood.

Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

Austrian National Library, Vienna

Klementinum Library, Prague, Czech Republic

Bodleian Library at Trinity School, Oxford, London

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Boston Public Library, Massachusetts, USA

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your Inner Nerd’s travel delight. Big thanks to the favorite blog fan who inspired me to write about my favorite things all at once: reading, design and travel.

Photos on this page all from 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!

 

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

The Romantic Road

 

I married a German.

Every night I dress up as Poland

so he invades me.

Bette Midler


Dreaming of your next anniversary, honeymoon or escapade for two?  What’s now called The Romantic Road used to be a major trade route during the Middle Ages and has been re-branded today featuring plenty of old world charm. It is Germany’s most scenic drive through rolling hills past vineyards, restaurants, lush parks, historic castles, and old towns that transport you back in time. Mapped out in 1950, this “formal” route through the southern provinces of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg helped rebuild Germany’s tourism industry after WWII.

To get started, fly into Frankfurt or Munich and rent a car. For the love of all that is good and metallic, skip the compacts and rent a fast BMW, Audi, or Mercedes. You’ll be on the Autobahn and you’ll feel safer with a big engine when everyone else is going 120 mph.

I love spontaneity and waking late, but it’s not a vacation if I have to drive (or cook.)  So I opt for the trains and, even better, an organized bus tour. There is much to be said about leaving all the planning and booking to someone else though I can’t rave as much about the “See you on the bus by 7:00/8:00 am” schedule.  To be fair, there is no way I’d get to see  half of a tour’s itinerary if I’m left to my own late start devices.

Photo up top is lunch by the Mosel River on a fine summer’s day. This area is home of the Reisling grape and where there are vineyards–no matter how slanted on a hillside–there’s wine! Nearby is one of the oldest and largest wine estates in Germany, Bürgerspital, situated in a beautiful and historic courtyard right in the middle of Würzburg.

The casino in Baden-Baden has got to be the most glamorous I’ve seen even though they humbly defer to being second to Monaco’s. I’d have to agree that their facade and lobby do not do justice to the interiors that’s still stunning after over a century.

Where to stay: Brenners Park Hotel & Spa is excellent in location, food and service with superb attention to detail.

In Munich, join a bike tour to add variety to your fitness routine and stop by the English Garden to see their famous surfers. This all white church in the city could inspire your next wedding or anniversary (cake.)

Where to stay: The Mandarin Oriental is modern and elegant, but the Bayerischer Hof has the prettiest lounge under a blue dome with a white bar set on a stage at the far end. If you can’t sleep early, there’s a nightclub in the basement with a live band most weekends.

And what’s romance without a bit of fairytale? Neuschwanstein in Bavaria is the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty version in Disneyland. I completely missed this highlight in a previous tour due to a shroud of fog so I’m thrilled to report I made it this time around. While many of its rooms went unfinished whenThe Swan King who designed this castle died, the intricate workmanship that executed his vision in the finished rooms. Tickets are time specific and if you’re late to claim them at your appointed hour, they’ll be quickly snapped up by some other tourist.

Where to stay nearby: Hotel Das Rübezahl, a spa hotel at the base of the Alps with a welcoming fire in the lobby, a glass of sparkling wine on arrival, and views of the castle from bedroom balconies.

For more sights along the Romantic Road, see Germany Travel Guide. Fun fact: While Americans have been captivated by the “Romantic Road” and the classic movie “The Sound of Music” filmed in Salzburg, many Germans have not heard of either one.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share where you’d map out your own romantic road.

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

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

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

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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:

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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

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

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

Rodin At The Met

 

Between lovers,

a little confession 

is a dangerous thing.

Helen Rowland

The Kiss

Fun fact while touring colleges with my daughter:  Philadelphia was the first city in the United States to exhibit works by the French artist Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).  Apparently, Rodin had sent eight sculptures to the Centennial Exposition held in Fairmount Park 1876, but his work did not win awards nor impress the press. He could not have imagined that this city would one day house one of the greatest single collections of his work outside of Paris.

To contest Philly’s claim to fame, NYC’s Metropolitan Museum is currently hosting a retrospective of Rodin’s sculptures, drawings and art to celebrate his centennial.

In a career that spanned the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Auguste Rodin rebelled against the idealized forms of tradition and his discovery of Michelangelo during a visit to Italy in 1875-76 inspired him to introduce innovative techniques that paved the way for modern sculpture.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite Rodin piece(s). Mine are on this page–including Camille Claudel’s The Waltz, Rodin’s lover and colleague who worked in his shadow, never getting the recognition she deserved.

xoxox

 

Danaid

 

 

Cupid and Psyche

 

 

Eternal Idol

 

 

Camille Claudel’s The Waltz

Photos on this page from Google Images

xoxox

 

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session 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

 

Italy With Teen

A good holiday is one spent

among people whose notions of time

are vaguer than yours.

J.B. Priestley

italy-rome-coliseum-sharon-birke

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

italy-rome-vatican-art

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

italy-florence-sculpture-sharon-birke

Would you rather ride or row?

venice-gondola-sharon-birke

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

Barcelona Travel Guide

Kilometers are shorter than miles.

Save gas–

take your next trip in kilometers.

George Carlin

casa-batllo-roof

The roof of Gaudi’s Casa Batillo

I usually say I prefer to feed my eyes before my stomach, but as I’m packing for Barcelona, I realize that I may not have to choose one over the other in this city. I love the genius of Antoni Gaudi‘s unique yet practical architecture, intrigued by the twists of Dali’s surreal art, and ready to feast on a wide variety of tapas. Here’s what I’ve got lined up:

Stay at Hotel El Palace Barcelona, where else for Goddesses?

el-salon-del-hotel-el-palace-de-barcelona

Barcelona Day Tours for a welcome overview of the city and a side trip to Montserrat for wine tasting.

montserrat

Catch a Flamenco performance at Gaudi’s jewel box theater El Palau de la Musica. Take a tour of the theater during the day when the sunlight makes the stained glass windows sparkle.

palau_de_la_musica_catalana_barcelona1

Stained glass at Gaudi’s Palau de la Musica Catalana

Join a bike Tour with Excursions Barcelona and pay a little extra for the convenience of an electric bike. They offer a free walking tour downtown starting at Plaza Catalunya at 11:00 am each day.

01_Barcelona_Bike_&_tapas

Barcelona Architecture Walks gives you a range of itineraries depending on your style of buildings. This fish sculpture is Frank Gehry’s.

gehry-fish-Barcelona

If you’re into city views, the Cathedral de Barcelona has an elevator that takes you to the roof for better views than at the Sagrada Familia.

For a change of scenery, Spanish Trails is another popular option to take you out for the day to see Surreal Cadaques and All Things Dali, including a drive along the shores of the Costa Brava.

Salvador Dali surreal art painting

Surreal art by Salvador Dali

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your Barcelona travel tips. Ole!

All photos from Google Images

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

The 5 Classiest Cocktail Bars of NYC

I drink 

to make other people

more interesting.

Ernest Hemingway

Thank Goddess It’s Friday! Alcohol may not like me, but I do love the concept of extending “Happy Hour” to “Happy Days and Nights” where there are high ceilings, fancy chandeliers and lovely decor and/or views to go with it.

My absolute favorite for elegance is The Baccarat lobby bar, a glamorously French interpretation of the American long bars of old. It is the sparkliest new addition to New York City since cut crystal and its picture can do all the talking. The Baccarat Hotel is right across the Museum of Modern Art.

Baccarat Bar

Baccarat Hotel, 20 West 53rd Street, NYC

(212) 790 8800

Baccarat New York Bar

The Top of the Standard with live jazz most nights is Art Deco with virtually 360 degree views of Manhattan–even the Ladies’ Room has a view! Get there before dinner or stay and enjoy their light menu so you don’t have to  bother with queues for “The List” after 8:00 pm.

Top of the Standard Hotel

848 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
(212) 645-4646

Top of the Standard Hotel

The lobby lounge of the Mandarin Oriental is my favorite for views of Columbus Circle and Central park. Get there before sunset to see very far.

Lobby Lounge of the Mandarin Oriental

80 Columbus Circle, NYC

(212) 805-8800

Mandarin-Oriental-Lobby-Lounge

Spyglass is a small space on the 22nd floor of the Archer Hotel with a personal view of the Empire State building. Fancy toasting your latest international caper with James Bond as you sip Joe Goglia’s specialty cocktails and mill among a better dressed crowd.

Spyglass

Archer Hotel, 22nd Floor, 47 W 38th St, NYC
(212) 730-0538

SummeratSpyglass_edited-1-620x413

The Rose Bar at the Gramercy Hotel is pink and sexy with velvet seats and pretty waitresses. Get there before 10:00 pm to skirt “The List.” You can order from the menu of the Gramercy’s restaurant, Maialino, if you get hungry,

Rose Bar

Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010
(212) 920-3300

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Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your favorites. Cheers! (Photographs courtesy of Google Images.)

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

Stockholm In Love

Traveling is like flirting with life.

It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you,

but I have to go… this is my station.’

Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

photo 2

I’m back from another European jaunt where I met a city I’d move to in a heartbeat–or at least when it’s summer!  😉

Stockholm is vibrant, cosmopolitan, surrounded by a crisscross of waterways, verdant parks, buildings both old and new, and a crowd of charming elegance.  I found that I quite enjoy being around people and public transportation that show up exactly when they say they will.  The taxi fare situation is another matter…

While I make an effort to bring a camera, I find myself reaching for the stealth of the iPhone for street and travel photography.  Add the ease of instagram for filters and web sharing et voila!  How much more fun can you have? Plenty more when you’re traveling with family and friends as tag-along models.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your favorite travel and fun photography tips.

xoxox

In the photo above: Add a foreground element to make a unique cityscape. While I tried to position the sculpture of the man with an eagle “cape,” these lovers showed up adding an even more dynamic layer.

photo 3 copy 2

When telling a story with pictures, set the stage with a wide opening shot (caught a pun there!)  This is the ferry I took from Helsinki to get a break from running to/from airports.  I framed the ship and waited for the next cargo truck to hit some sunlight.  The bright yellow panel is an excellent focal point and the red gates act as a leading line to direct the viewer’s eye.  On Instagram, I usually pop contrast (the icon that looks like the sun above the filter choices) before deciding if the photograph looks better with one of the filters.  Many times, popping contrast is all you need. In this case, the ship’s hull was not that shiny–the reflection you see on it is of the skyline behind me on the glass walkway where I was standing.  But, hey, would you have guessed that?

photo 1

As a committed night owl, I have to bribe myself to catch a sunrise.  While the ship sailed through the Swedish archipelago, everyone photographed the same view from the railing.  I stepped back to include my fellow early birds for a unique sunrise photograph no one else has.  Including people in your pictures helps give a reference for scale and literally adds life.  I framed for the green lamp post and waited for the man in the matching jacket to walk (movement is always interesting) a certain distance from it to balance the composition.  Notice the diagonal from the lamp to the man on the far left that eventually leads your eye to the horizon.  And how lucky the folks in the background knew to stand with spaces between them so they’re not one dark blob?

photo 1 copy

The tiny island of Skeppsholmen may not figure much on most travel guides.  But if you want to get the best views of the city, this is where you want to be!  Walk past the Grand Hotel and the National Museum over a short bridge with a crown in the middle (see second to last photo below).  You’ll find the Asian and Modern Art Museums there.  I brought glorious weather with me, so I preferred tracing the perimeter of the island.  Local friends give you the best insider tips–Thank you, Lars and Wiveca!

The light over the cityscape looked perfect during my stroll. Whenever you find great light, remember to turn around and see what could be interesting behind you.  I found this car that drove straight off a comic book!  The shadows of the bikes/chains intersect with and lead attention towards it. On Instagram, I popped contrast and chose a filter that pleased me.  One of the pleasures of creation is:  Choose what makes you happy.

photo 3

A good rule for portraits?  Run to where there’s laughter!  Here, a tourist takes a turn with the high tech equipment of a bubble artist in Gamla Stan.  I love how the onlookers as well as the statue behind them are all rapt with attention on the girl.  Are they mesmerized by the action or her thigh highs?

Gamla Stan is the old city of Stockholm where only pedestrians are allowed.  It has two of my favorite restaurants:  (1.) Mr. French Brasserie for fabulous waterside views, excellent service, and their finger licking red shrimp appetizer. (2.) Le Rouge is very sexy red velvet for dining with someone you can cozy with.

photo 5

The diagonal of the vine covered wall against the rhythm of the windows of the yellow building caught my eye first. This couple taking their “selfie” and the sun flare were wonderful bonuses.  I also loved how the statue above them appears to be taking her own selfie or checking her cellphone.  Give your viewer a layer of elements to discover.

photo 5 copy 2

I adore men in suits with red socks!  There’s a sign of someone with a sense of humor if not brave fashion style.  This man walked too fast for my iPhone to catch a good shot of his socks, but his simple dark form is a perfect anchor for the diagonals of the cars and the stripe of the bike lane that lead the viewer’s eye to the background. I love how the passing cars replicate the rhythm of the windows on the buildings’ facade.  The black and white filter creates a classic look.

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God(dess) is in the details. This red chair is a signature Scandic design so it’s good to include in the narrative.  What I was really photographing was the pair of red socks that sat still for a proper photo this time.

photo 2 copy 2

Keep an eye out for shadows and patterns, use diagonals or curves with foreground and background elements. The title of this piece is “I Leave My Crown in Stockholm”…

photo 5 copy

…As well as my heart!  Use reflective surfaces like (shop) windows that also serve as a framing device for your next selfie.

xoxox

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Where I Left My Heart in San Francisco

 

The major advantage of domestic travel is that 

most locations are conveniently situated

right here in the United States.

Dave Barry

In the last two decades, I’ve traveled everywhere else in the world but here.  Guess where?

Garden Court at the Palace Hotel San Francisco Luxury Starwood Preferred Guest

The Palace Hotel

Can’t beat this excellent location between Union Square and the Embarcadero! The BART train to/from the airport stops right at the hotel door (Montgomery station.)  Ask Front Desk for rooms on the 8th floor facing the street for a large arch window.  The room carpet is a bit tired, but the the staff members are kind, bathrobe and  pillows are plump, and their Garden Court is absolutely magnificent! Pianist Gea plays jazz and classical music after 5:00 pm.

The Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco travel sightseeing things to do

The Palace of Fine Arts

My absolute fave in this town and a glorious photo opp!  For best photos, visit early in the morning when the sun shines on the majestic columns and all other people are still in bed.  Or just sit on a bench by the pond and soak in the beauty of the architecture.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco travel bike tour

Golden Gate Bridge

You don’t seriously believe I biked here, do you?  I gave up dodging other tourists to take an unusual shot and on my way back to the car, I spied these bikes posing for a photo.  Climb up the hill on the far side of the bridge to get the best scenic shots of Alcatraz and the city.

Castillo Di Amorosa romantic castle vineyard in Napa Valley

Castello Di Amorosa Vineyard

In Napa Valley, the vineyard you must visit is Castello di Amorosa for the romance of the castle and its adorable little farm.  Dine nearby at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay luxury hotel San Francisco travel

The Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay

Escape the city crowds and take a scenic drive on the Pacific Coast to the Ritz at Half Moon Bay.  Stop for a romantic lunch or dinner, maybe a round of golf with an ocean view or stay the night.

Christian Louboutin Impera red sole pumps heels San Francisco

Christian Louboutin Shop on 29 Maiden Lane

What’s a trip without a souvenir?  And if you can’t find anything made in San Francisco, something bought in San Francisco is quite fun, too!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your San Francisco favorites.

 

xoxox

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Beyond Fashion

 

You can never be overdressed

or overeducated.

Oscar Wilde

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Iconic photograph by Cecil Beaton of 10 of Charles James’ designs

© Conde Nast

 

Charles James, the most influential couturier of the 1940’s and 50’s, is largely unknown to the general public though his revolutionary designs have graced the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country.  Recognized for his genius in the magical use of color and artistic drapery, he started out creating the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee’s breakaway striptease costumes and is best known for his gloriously sculpted ball gowns.  I share his great love for the theatrical, the grand and the magnificent!

This week, the Met’s Costume Institute launched an exhibit of his life and designs:  Charles James: Beyond Fashion. Curator Harold Koda describes James as “one of a handful of designers to have changed the métier of design. Christian Dior has credited James with inspiring his New Look. And Balenciaga said, ‘James is not America’s best couturier; he is simply the world’s best.’ When you have the two perhaps most important male designers of the mid-20th century endorsing you, you can understand that it’s something of a lack that the general public is not aware of this man’s work.” James invented the spiral-cut taxi dress, the figure eight shirt, the puffer jacket, the no cup bra, and a waistline that expanded with your meal. Koda told Style.com, “[He] was really radical. He treated the creation of clothing as an art”–combined with the exacting precision of structural engineering it seems.

Admire the genius of Charles James at the Met’s Beyond Fashion until August 10, 2014.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how your life is an art.

xoxox

Elettra Wiedeman in Charles James four clover gown at NYC Met Costume Institute

Elettra Wiedemann in James’ Clover Leaf Gown at the exhibit’s opening night

(Photo by Hannah Thomson)

 

Charles James haute couture gowns

 

 

Charles James Tulip Gown

The Tulip Gown

nancy-james-in-charles-james-swan-gown-1955-photo-cecil-beaton

Nancy James in one of her husband’s creations

 Charles James by Cecil Beaton 1943

Charles James pinning a model

photo by Cecil Beaton © Conde Nast

 

xoxox

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

 

 

On The Beach

The ant is knowing and wise,

but he doesn’t know enough to take a vacation.

Clarence Day

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If you have more than 7,000 islands, you run a pretty good chance of making the list of the world’s best beaches.  Boracay Island in the Philippines is renowned for its powdery white sand and clear blue waters.  Though its main stretch now feels more like Miami’s South Beach with rundown buildings sandwiched among the new, this island and many others in the archipelago have beaches that remain untamed.  My vote for best beach always goes to the one with soft sand, calm waters, tree lined shade and service with a smile nearby.  After almost a decade away, even I am impressed by Filipino hospitality.

To me, paradise means basking in loving kindness and cheerful helping hands, a dinner table that stretches as far as the horizon full of friends/family, and large platters of my favorite seafood!   Neither luxury nor squalor, relentless heat nor humidity gets in the way of everyone sharing an easy laugh and a lilting accent.  Among the variety of cultures I’ve observed in my travels, wealth always brings many comforts that are easy to love.  The indomitable Filipino spirit and charm are  powerful reminders that happiness exists with or without it.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your definition of paradise.

To get to this beach, you must…

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Cross a deep ocean or two,

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Brave flipflop traffic,

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And risk being charmed by the locals.

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What is a beach without palapas and coconuts?

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My kind of charcoal grill has style

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Tinikling is the traditional Philippine dance between 2 bamboo poles

that relentlessly snap at your heels

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My favorite breakfast, snack, drink, shade, souvenir, etc…

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Catch of the day

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A little shell of a crab poked my toe–

making sure  this night owl wasn’t just sleepwalking on the beach at sunrise

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Not all crabs are created (or cooked) equal

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Many happy returns!

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© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

xoxox

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