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

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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

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

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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

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”…

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…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

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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

 

 

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