04/21/2017

Stay Here: Luxurious Italian Treehouse

I want to travel to a treehouse and not with my child. Is there something fundamentally wrong with this? Though Casa Bartel is not your expected fort in a tree made from broken down orange crates for children enacting battles with styrofoam swords.

“No Kids Allowed.” A tree house built for romance or a creative escape, 20 minutes outside of Florence.

On the outskirts of Florence, the structure is plotted within a family compound that includes other residences, themed after the interior’s collections like the “Movie House” (decorated with vintage film posters) and “Ceramic House” (designed with handmade 18th century tiles).

The terrace acts as an additional room with views of the sublime grounds and Italian countryside.

Casa Bartel overlooks orchards, olive groves, the Tuscan landscape, pool, tennis court and a sole cypress tree. The terrace is spacious enough for dining, which you will share with the tree’s neighboring tenants of birds and the occasional squirrel. Inside and you will quickly forget that you climbed a narrow staircase up a tree to discover a room with a fireplace, bathroom and full-service kitchenette. The chalkboard wall behind the bed displays an artistic rotation of drawings and notes from past guests. The decor rivals most New York City apartments.

Travel has become a luxury service operation. We have glamping in pods equipped with wood burning tubs. Safaris where you can see wildlife outside a cabin that’s illuminated with antique chandeliers. Desert hotels with pools that can be dove into from a room’s terrace. Luxury tree houses are a natural extension for the traveler who doesn’t want to be close to nature but in it. While the sounds of birds and wildlife are engaging, there is something appealing to the swish of a running shower as well.

Creative impulses facilitated with a chalkboard wall.

Learn more about Casa Bartel at www.casabarthel.com. The owner’s design shop in Florence can be visited at www.riccardobarthel.it, www.desinare.it.

Photography by Elena Barthel

04/10/2017

Ultimate Guide to French Living

The French have their beautiful little phrases to sum up life lessons. A beloved style that somehow cannot be replicated unless your passport is from France. Their mannered customs that fail to crumble in a fast-paced world. It’s all intertwined, how life can follow a joie de vivre approach.

A colorful view of French life, as seen in France: Inspiration du Jour.

Americans have a tendency to try too hard. We purchase an abundance of things we don’t really need. Test health fads that don’t seem to work. Fall into the influence of marketing manipulation. The French aren’t as quick to change their storefronts. They market by connecting to the supplier who grows the food, sliding soil speckled produce into a reusable bag well before it was trendy.

The French find time to enjoy and reflect, which is important considering what’s involved in all the buttoning and tying when getting dressed in tailored clothing, beautifying their meals with inventive sauces, and setting a table that could stage an Old Master painting.

The artistry of a French meal as featured by Rae Dunn in France Inspiration du Jour.

Mimi Bleu of Belle Inspiration, a delightful magazine (which I happen to contribute to) and imaginative nook in the online world that interprets Paris through an American’s eyes. Mimi married a Parisian but her romantic sensibility doesn’t end there, she treats each day as an adventure and shares her city explorations with those who want to taste a sample. Mimi breaks down French living into three important segments, as follows:

Food/Markets

“The food markets are serious business here in France. Living in Paris, or even during your stay, you’ll soon get to know your local fromagerie, butcherie, patisserie and the all-important boulangerie for your fresh baguettes, croissants and sweet treats,” says Mimi.

Marketing the French way is the only way for Mimi Bleu. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

Passport to France? Bonjour

“The food vendors take pride in their products and will gladly share their freshest picks, or even the perfect recipe for the veal chop you purchased. The key is to always (did I say always?) greet them with ‘Bonjour.’ In fact, this is the golden key to open all of France – cafés, boutiques, offices–you name it, bonjour is the way to start to friendlier service. And don’t forget to leave with a merci, au revoir,” she says.

Flea Markets

“French flea markets, or marché aux puces, are truly a window into Frenchness. Again, bonjour is your key and an opening to better negotiations. The big market at Saint-Ouen (Clignancourt) is an endless display of anything you can imagine in every price range–so everyone leaves happy,” says Mimi.

Finds at a Marche aux Puces in Saint Ouen. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Smaller brocantes (popup flea markets) and vide-greniers (attic sales, the French version of a neighborhood garage sale) pop up all over the Paris arrondissements each month. These are a fun way to get some great deals in a relaxed atmosphere to strike up a conversation with the vendors. Don’t forget that bonjour!”

Décor

“French interior décor has many faces and styles. Today’s modern touches make sure there’s not too much gilt or heaviness. True French décor is never overdone. It’s all about subtlety…and fresh flowers,” she says.

Flowers are a main staple in a French household. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Authentic French pieces are almost always unpainted (except in the south of France where you’ll find more of that style), the natural beauty of the wood shines through. It seems to have two distinct looks: Traditional French period pieces from top to bottom or as I like to call it, ‘Eclectic French,'” says Mimi.

Selections at a marche aux puces. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Visiting my traditional French friends draws an image of true French home décor and it does still include marble-topped commodes, Louis XV a fauteuils and ornate gold frames are still surrounding oil paintings. Eclectic French is more modern, it works with touches of gilt and the classic French lines but the period pieces are calmed with modern touches. A glass coffee table in front of a carved settee. Modern lucite chairs slide under a dark wood dining table. An elaborate gilted mirror inherited from grandmother’s living fireplace sits atop a mid-century piece,” she says.

The blend, or melange, honors the past in a present day context. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Pieces passed down from generation to generation keeps the past alive and the French appreciate heritage. There’s a bit of a movement to move away from all that charm and beauty, to replace it with IKEA–quelle dommage! Fortunately, there are still many who insist on keeping those grand armoires, cachepots and gilted sconces.”

Louis XIV chaise is authentic with a modern sensibility from its upholstery.Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

Two recently published illustrated books capture glimpses of French living. France Inspiration du Jour is a travelogue by artist Rae Dunn where the reader has a deviant feeling of sneaking a glimpse into her personal diary. Her watercolors bring to mind a fashion page that illustrates pieces on what to wear to a polo match. There are dreamy renderings of tea towels, roadways, a lot of food and the beauty found in a simple teacup. Or despite eating enough figs to warrant an Oompa Loompa cleanse she till has not tired of the fruit.

This is not a passageway. Dunn learns to navigate French roads by keeping a mindful eye on doorways that could be a safe haven from incoming cars.

With a cover designed in airmail colors and iconic city monuments, Say Bonjour to the Lady features authors Florence Mars and Pauline Leveque sketches on the difference in child rearing between New York and Paris.

Say Bonjour to the Lady takes on two great cities and their parenting philosophies.

Family

Covering such topics as school and holidays, the authors poke fun of both parenting methods in metropolitan life. There is a Manhattan home overrun with kid things aside an elegant Parisian dwelling void of any sign of children. At the beach an American toddler is seated beneath a beach umbrella, dressed in protected clothing, Swimmies and sunscreen, while the French child plays along the coast in the nude.

The French make us question our ways. If a trip the country is not in the plan, you can always take note of their customs with a bit of mind travel.

City backdrops and the children they influence.

Credits:

Belle Inspiration Magazine

Reprinted from France: Inspiration du Jour by Rae Dunn, published by Chronicle Books 2017.

Reprinted from Say Bonjour to the Lady. Copyright © 2017 by Florence Mars and Pauline Lévêque. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Pauline Lévêque. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

 

02/17/2017

Travel Style Guide: What to Pack

The realistic traveler does not depend on valets and bellhops but will race through terminals to make a 15 minute connection. A sensible traveler will not pack optional hairdryers but travels with an edited collection of items that coalesce–wrinkle-free compact pieces that can be spot cleaned in a hotel sink. To keep from looking like you followed tips in a “What to Pack” guide, throw in a few accessories with a shared accent color that add verve to holiday snaps.

On the Plane: Distinguish yourself from the black nylon cases by wheeling a statement piece. While delays and turbulence are par for the travel course, lighten the mood with comedic socks and bright baggage.

  1. Rolling suitcase 2. Hat Box 3. Socks

In the Case: You don’t need to travel with a steamer trunk for a curated collection of dependable comfort pieces without looking slouchy. Affordable accessories are lightweight additions that polish a look for those who rather leave the pricey baubles at home.

  1. Scarf 2. Sneakers 3. Straw tote 4. Veronica Beard blazer with hoodie 5. Panama hat 6. Shirt dress 7. Knit pants 8. Sunglasses 9. Skinny jeans 10. Beaded necklace 11. Pajamas 12. Cape 13. Square Scarf 14. Silver Pleated Skirt 15. Foldable Flats

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11/17/2016

Little King Restaurant Opens in Williamsburg

Dining out may be the ultimate bargain, especially if the restaurant delivers an international experience without the overseas expenses. Little King in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, takes the concept even further by offering time travel. Master that Sir Richard Branson! The recently opened bistro, designed by Christina Salway, deftly melds Art Deco and European influences.

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Little King’s front entrance with dramatic Art Deco doors salvaged from a Manhattan skyscraper.

A visit is literally an opening-the-wardrobe experience from its imposing Art Deco doors the designer salvaged from a skyscraper in lower Manhattan. “I basically said, ‘This is happening!’” explains Salway. “And from then on we looked to the doors for scale, inspiration, and ambiance.”

Hand-painted checkerboard floors play on the whimsical yet Old World theme.

Hand-painted checkerboard floors play on the whimsical yet Old World theme.

Salway brought in other Old World details such as the metallic wallpapered ceiling and hand painted checkerboard floor, which is both playful and sophisticated. “And then truly the fact that almost every piece is vintage or antique, creates a comfortable lived-in quality, like a good pair of jeans,” she says.

Bar lighting, sourced from Craigs List, blends with vintage finds.

Bar lighting, sourced from Craigs List, blends with vintage finds.

For a recent opening Little King has created the feeling of a favored local spot more endemic to Paris or an English pub. Though pub fare this is not with an inspired menu that includes brioche grilled cheese to accompany drinks made with artisanal ingredients.

The bar offers such drinks as the John Henry and Big Queen.

The bar offers such drinks as the John Henry and Big Queen.

“What you’re eating has to feel appropriate to the environment and vice versa. For Little King our primary goal was to create a space that was both refined and rowdy so that our guests would feel comfortable getting a little loud, but also know they could count on us for a higher quality of food and drinks than your typical bar,” says Salway.

A delicious mix of pork belly beignets, scallop crudo and house cut fries with infused drinks.

A delicious mix of pork belly beignets, scallop crudo and house cut fries with infused drinks.

Salway’s design process:

  • We only used a few colors throughout Little King and used them frequently. Benjamin Moore‘s Black Jack and Farrow & Ball‘s Old White are our two primary colors. They manifest on the walls, in the checkerboard floor, in the bathroom tile and wallpaper, and even in our logo.
Bathroom wallpaper by Cole & Son connect to the interior design.

Bathroom wallpaper by Cole & Son connect to the interior design.

  • Brass details added throughout the restaurant draw attention to the brass wrapped bar and metallic paper ceiling, warm wood tones on the bar counter (also an antique deco piece), tabletops and stained wood doors.
  • Throw in a splash of deep turquoise on the banquettes to keep things from getting too serious.
Neighborhood atmosphere achieved via a smoky color palette, touches of blue, and vintage details.

Neighborhood atmosphere achieved via a smoky color palette, touches of blue, and vintage details.

  • The design of Little King incorporated many bold decisions: checkerboard floor, wall papered ceiling, detailed beadboard throughout–so keeping our palette simple keeps the space from feeling overly cluttered or busy.

For more information please visit Little King.

Photography by Jane Beiles

Christina Salway Design

Resources:

Bathroom wallpaper: Cole & Son. Ceiling wallpaper: Stark. Pendant lights: Craig’s List. Similar fixtures found on rejuvenation.com. Local auctions.

 

 

08/12/2016

Travel – Why Choose a Bed and Breakfast

Travelers have options, another byproduct of the digital age. There is the standard hotel with its two square beds, circulated air smell, and requisite ice bucket and coffee maker atop a dorm-sized fridge. You can easily rent someone’s home or go the luxury route with a resort. All venues were considered when planning a last minute quick getaway to Ogunquit, Maine. Here’s how it went:

  • Hotel: Too impersonal and claustrophobic.
  • Renting a private home: Too personal, staying among a stranger’s belongings feels like an intrusion.
  • Resort: Rather not spend our annual travel budget on a few nights.
Farm style kitchen at Beauport Inn, which centers on hospitality.

Farm style kitchen at the Beauport Inn, the center of hospitality.

We then thought of B&B’s and this is why: Bill and I have an annual one-week window a year to travel without kids. This eliminates all family friendly places. We are good parents but a vacation from being cannonballed while reading poolside ranks as a luxury. We both work long hours so we chose a place within driving distance. We also wanted to test out Maine considering that in our combined lifetimes we have been to every East Coast vacation spot aside from the “vacation state.”

There were many no vacancies but we stumbled upon Ogunquit’s Beauport Inn, which caught our interest from the farm style kitchen and breakfast food shots.

We chose the Moulin Rouge room, a red-painted suite equipped with all the B&B trappings of 4-poster bed, closet padded with robes and linens, shelves with readable titles and two separate couches so we can both doze off without a kicking match. The terrace led to the pool, hot tub and first floor that has a steam room, library of DVDs and selection of board games.

The innkeepers, Linda and Ellen, love their job, Ogunquit and treat visitors as houseguests. In fact their kindness extends to their private part of the home where they take care of rescue birds (also appearing on the toiletry packaging). They gave good advice on restaurants and the use of bikes for riding into town, which was a highlight as it takes ten minutes to move two miles on a typical August summer day.

You can connect with other guests or retreat into your room. Another unique quality to Beauport is the space was designed as a B&B so your rooms are private and solid. By day two we were Beauport veterans, understanding the breakfast routine and what to do in town. In a gesture we’d expect from a family member or close friend, Ellen thought to serve Bill’s eggs with his beloved hot sauce. Holiday Inn this is not.

08/11/2016

Travel – 48 Hours in Ogunquit, Maine

When you are over 40, lived on the East Coast for most of your life, and have not traveled to an entire vacation territory on your own coast the prospects of a new discovery excite. Ogunquit, Maine, was the chosen destination.

A typical August Ogunquit beach day.

A typical August Ogunquit beach day.

Maine is the most eastern point of the East Coast, which is why I have neglected it for so long. Seasoned Maine vacationers reminded that just over the state border, a four hour drive from NYC metro area Connecticut, are fantastic coastal towns to rival touristy Cape Cod or the sleekness of the Hamptons.

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Local color seen when passing through Ogunquit.

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Ogunquit is just before Wells and Kennebunkport, the tony enclave of Bush family notoriety, and has as much to offer. It is laid back, caters to family SUVs loaded with floats and coolers but refined. Refined meaning this is a friendly community that promotes flying kites, playing outdoors till dinner is served and going to town for a block of fudge or hand-crafted ice cream.

Double chocolate ice cream, a traditional choice over Rococo's artisan offerings like rhubarb sage and sweet avocado cayenne.

Double dark chocolate ice cream, a traditional choice over Rococo’s artisan offerings like rhubarb sage and sweet avocado cayenne.

The state mascot, I will safely assume, is lobster. The bright red crustacean is seen on license plates, games, kid’s hats and definitely on the brain. In fact once we arrived we forewent showers for a lobster dinner. This does not involve research, just hit the main road and everywhere serves it. Even the local McDonald’s advertised their $8.99 lobster meal.

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Choosing a lobster restaurant was simple, our hunger trumped waiting an hour for waterviews and dinghy art.

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Waterside restaurant with a long waiting time but loads of touristy charm.

We chose Capt’n Hooks, which has it down with its seasoned summer employees who helped us choose our own lobster, offer a thoughtful recommendation of the house root beer and hastily interrupted our order so he could holler at a kid standing on the lobster game. For less than $30 Bill and I enjoyed a meal that he inhaled while I was too busy snapping photos. The lobster was tender, perfectly steamed, while the picked-that-day corn and potato sides was the ideal accompaniment.

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Simple lobster meal: inexpensive and delicious.

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A vast selection of fresh choices.

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Lobster American Style.

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Easy takeout for stomachs on the go.

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More lobster kitsch.

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Ogunquit is crowded but understandably so. In fact it’s good to compete for beach space with fellow visitors who appreciate a classic summer.

08/05/2016

Home in Hanoi

If you want to find inspiration from a home with worldly tastes plan a visit to Hanoi, Vietnam. American designer Amelia Fendell, founder of Chez M’Lain, is mother to 18-year old son Nico (who has the good looks and enough passports to pin him as a young gentleman spy–he may very well be a young gentleman spy) and travels so frequently an app to track her location is in the works. Coincidentally Amelia is currently renovating her other home in Amsterdam with her partner of over ten years. More to come on that later…

The living area has a delicious mix of vintage finds and newer accents. Every piece adds comfort, designed to sustain endless gatherings.

The living area has a styled mix of vintage finds and her own designs. Every piece adds comfort, designed to foster endless gatherings.

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An unusual skylight becomes an opportunity to display collectibles and bring in the natural with flowers and plants.

Her influences as a global citizen is shown through quality wares. She is also in awe of history, the grandeur and customs of past times, and the works of skilled artisans throughout the world.

While Amelia piles on air miles achieving global style can be effortless without the need to travel. Simply follow Amelia’s 14 tips:

1. Old and New Combo: Start by mixing vintage pieces with contemporary patterns and color to create eclectic and inviting spaces

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Vintage pieces and contemporary art are a timeless mix, which style the stairway.

2. Vintage Shopping: I am always walking through the markets and antique shops looking for unusual pieces. Sometimes I will change an entire room based on one piece–whether it be a small tray or chair.

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A room can be themed around a starring piece, such as this antique rattan settee.

The best vintage markets are in Belgium. I find a variety of unusual pieces there and in the auctions in the Netherlands.

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Part of the journey in creating a home with global style is to shop the flea markets. Belgium is Amelia’s favorite place to find great loot.

Vintage finds with Amelia's custom embroidery is a tasteful mix.

Vintage finds with Amelia’s custom embroidery is a tasteful mix.

3. Light at Home: Good lighting is essential for composing a room. Add layers of lighting from floor and table lamps to overhead lighting with dimmers.

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From overhead lights to supporting fixtures, lighting helps accentuate a well-appointed room.

4. Color Process: Sometimes I have a vision in mind for a room or space and will work from the walls inward. Selecting paint is key and takes time–always painting squares of color on the wall and seeing how it feels during the different times of the day. Then I begin layering in colors with the cushions etc.

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A dramatically colored wall creates a look, which highlights the added detailing.

5. When to Splurge: Lighting and always one extraordinary piece for each room such as an antique carpet, chair, paintings or objects are worth the investment. I also have a large collection of contemporary art from Asia and Europe, which is great for building character to the rooms. I also find unusual objects to refurbish, like new shades to update a lamp or upholstering a worn piece.

Invest in an important piece, like a rug or art work.

Invest in an important piece, like a rug or art.

6. Thrift Store Finds: Many unusual pieces can be found in secondhand shops, antique stores and flea markets. They usually need a bit of love and attention but it is worth the effort if you find a great piece.

7. Show Offs: I collect many small items and learned that they are best exhibited in gatherings. Not all collections need to be displayed in one place. Break it up and put them in groups in different places.

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Likeminded pieces create an eye-catching vignette.

8. Accentuate the Bathroom: I love powder rooms, which is a fun place to be creative. Personal photos and mementos give me joy to look at them.

A bathroom need not be sterile, but is personalized by bringing in accents.

A bathroom does not have to be sterile, which can be personalized by bringing in unexpected accents.

9. A Good Mix: There should always be fresh flowers in unusual vessels. Mix the arrangements as small groups of flowers or one extraordinary bunch. Candles are also a must-have, which immediately sets the mood for a special evening.

Mix your personal finds with flowers for a pop of color and touch of the natural.

Mix your personal finds with flowers for a pop of color and natural element.

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Hallways are a great opportunity to add design intrigue. Gallery walls and a slim bureau with a mix of pieces weave in the home’s worldly theme.

10. Strategic Placement: Lighting should be in pairs as well as end tables. The sofa should be the same color as the large mirrors in the dining area and in the hallways to reflect light around the room.

11. Layered Look: Layers of old kilms and variety of plants create an oasis of sorts, notably in the bathroom.

12. Open Kitchen: I love having all my silver and objects on display, which makes it easy to find what I am looking for.

13. Conceal Electrical Cords: Do some planning of where to situate outlets. In the house in the Netherlands we splurged by putting the electric outlets in the floorboard near the tables and sofa so we would not see the cords.

14. Mud Room Must: Have a great mudroom or shoe room at the side of the house or kitchen entrance with hooks and cabinets to hide and hang all the gear.

Photography by James Vigliano.

For more information on designer Amelia Fendell please visit Chez M’Lain.

07/05/2016

Travel – Fisher’s Island

Fisher’s Island has a few basics: the ferry, beach and meals prepared with food bought from the only market in town. We began the weekend by driving to the dock in New London, Connecticut, with a few panicked calls to the ferry office on holiday traffic and the probability of catching the boat. The friendly dispatcher recognized my voice upon arrival, our bags bouncing with carsick dog in tow, and granted us entry without collecting our tickets so we’d be on time.

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Fisher’s Island map, an island of 9 miles, which is in New York’s Suffolk County but the only way to travel there is from the New London, Connecticut, ferry.

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We made the ferry, preventing us from having to wait three hours for the next departure.

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Kids under 5 and dogs ride for free.

The calm after chaos quickly levels when you decompress to the steady hum of the engine. You observe other passengers who share the anticipation of arriving to the island in a spirit that is more exalting than the return ride back. Approaching the dock and you could be entering a past time where phones and gadgetry are not an essential. We chat with new acquaintances with pets as we navigate the steep stairs with plans to meet up at the dog beach. Everyone is ready for a summer experience that has little deviation from those experienced as a child.

Fence art.

Fence art.

Island transportation of choice.

Fisher’s is about nine miles long but not cleanly cut like Nantucket or Bermuda. It’s scraggly, like a chewed up piece of gum, and the island’s insignia is seen on everything from bumper stickers to golf balls. If you want to stay overnight you must either know a resident or rent since there are no hotels. Marketing for food happens at the local food store though Peapod has become quite popular. Nightlife primarily consists of a friend’s porch. Send a letter with only the name of the family and it will most likely get to them.

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Tray of Long Island by Ben’s Gardens on a Fisher’s Island tea towel.

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Topper’s, the exclusive ice cream shop, has recently changed hands to the owner of Drink ‘n Vessel, the only wine store–a transaction that happened at the end of a routine business call. Kids expertly wield an ice cream scoop and record the purchase on an index card for those with an account.

Boy's night out.

Boy’s night out.

There is a lot of travel by bicycle. Dinner plans are made at a friends’ home, just plan to bring what you intended to cook on your grill. There may be a movie later or unexpected guests will stop by. They bring the drinks. You provide breakfast.

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A vintage car that fits in with a vintage summer.

Topper's for ice cream where locals have an account.

Topper’s for ice cream where parents went to as a kid.

Shopping in town, resort style.

Shopping in town, resort style.

Home decor style of the island.

Home decor style of the island.

Pop up shop in the one lane town.

Pop up shop in the one lane town.

Summer cottage, typical Fisher's Island style.

Summer cottage in typical Fisher’s Island style.

Transportation of choice.

Beach cruiser.

Ironic signage.

Ironic signage.

Side kitchen entrance.

Side kitchen entrance.

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Porch living is key on Fisher’s.

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Front entrance of the club.

Front entrance of the club.

Kid with a pointed sense of humor.

Kid with a pointed sense of humor.

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Ready for windsurfing class.

Ready for windsurfing class.

Inside the sailing shack.

Inside the sailing shack.

Path to fun.

Path to fun.

Door to the sailing shack.

Door to the sailing shack.

Fisher's Island blue.

Fisher’s Island blue.

Poolside at a neighborhood club.

Poolside at a neighborhood club.

Dogs have free reign.

Dogs have free reign.

The homes share the New England clapboard look, they just escalate from beach cottage to cottage mansion, which includes the stately home where the movie World According to Garp was filmed.

View of the coastline with the home featured in The World Accoring to Garp.

View of the coastline with the home featured in The World According to Garp.

The best summers practice simple pleasures, which have been experienced on the island for centuries. The less beeps of an iPad and more games of kick the can the better. With so much to pack into a season that goes into seclusion come Labor Day (there are less than 300 residents and only one elementary school) there is little regard in new constructions or upgrading cars. Besides, a 19th century summer home is built better, more authentic and withstood many hurricanes, while beach cars like a VW Thing endures all the sand. The main island dilemma is choosing between kayaking or crabbing.

06/25/2016

Travel – Venice

There is a storybook quality to Venice, the ideal place to see through a six-year old. It’s a city on the water where gondoliers share the same qualities as a performer in a mouse suit. In San Marco Square I stopped myself from thinking about health repercussions and gave in to beggars who lured pigeons onto Luc’s head. By spending time in the city, wandering its streets, shops and restaurants, you step out of your regimented self to learn there is something more to this city than boat rides in narrow canals.

Luc picking up hearts confetti outside one of the many churches after a wedding.

Luc gathering heart confetti outside one of the many churches after a wedding.

Chasing pigeons.

Chasing pigeons.

Arriving in Venice.

Arriving in Venice.

Luc and his cousin versed in ordering in Italian.

Luc and his cousin ordering in Italian.

Luc and his cousin being chummy.

Luc and his cousin being chummy.

The streets are ancient and a bit gritty. You will wander along peeling walls, stray cats and cleaners who sweep with the kind of brooms I thought were only used for a witch’s costume. Another Italian street look is clothes drying from lines that perplex me from the logistics of how a Venetian resident approaches the tenant across their window for access to hook their line. Shopping runs the gamut from luxury retailers like Prada and Frette to quaint souvenir shops peddling tourists needing to deplete their Euros on wooden Pinocchio dolls and carnival masks. The carnival is a very big deal here, perpetually present with storefronts displaying costumes and posters advertising next year’s event held during Lent. It’s a tradition where streets bustle with masked celebrators and a series of events with scenery that rival the Cirque de Soleil.

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Souvenirs of Venice.

Chilling on the gondola ride and completely unaware of our gondolier hamming it up for the camera.

What we presumed a chill moment, unaware of our gondolier hamming it up for the camera.

A first for Luc, being a statue and allowing pigeons to land on him.

A first for Luc, being a statue and allowing pigeons to land on him.

It’s Venice’s mix of culture, art, architecture, food, history and theatrics that keep visitors on hyper speed. We only amble about our tiny hotel loaded with antiques for clothing changes. We were fortunate to be there during a full moon. San Marco square flooded, which evoked something biblical. Young couples fall into the romance of it all while Luc slid into the water fully clothed. I couldn’t be too upset despite an early morning flight and traveling with wet clothes is not something Americans do but we adapt to the frivolity of this intriguing city.

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San Marco square during a full moon, walking back to our hotel in the flooded plaza.

06/22/2016

Italian Street Style

Italians are known to design a car or an espresso machine as an art form. Part of the world’s fashion elite, with such houses as Fendi and Prada fermenting their street cred, town life is the most authentic way to view everyday style in its natural habitat.

There is a gutsy mix of classic, punk and avant garde. From the children to their grandparents they follow their own rules, which is the Italian way.