Month: February 2019

Pocket Read: The Art of Solo Travel

Traveling alone can be one of the greatest vehicles for self-reflection. Many of us romanticize the idea of sitting on a train, bus, or other various modes of transit, writing in a journal and feeling blissfully content as we stare out the window at a sunset. While Eat, Pray, Love moments may happen for you – don’t be surprised, or upset, if your trip leaves you without complete clarity on sense of self, a lover, a career change, or any other fairly unrealistic revelation. Going into any experience with those types of expectations will almost certainly end in disappointment – especially when the true goal is to let go. With that disclaimer in mind, we haven’t found a better way to get more in touch with ourselves than to strip away the distractions of our everyday life. If you are lucky enough to find the means and the time, traveling alone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself.

In our opinion, you have to get quiet to get loud – meaning tuning out the background noise that comes with day-to-day life and amplifying your own voice. When you’re traveling solo, the internal volume is turned way up. Your thoughts are enunciated clearly, your intentions are spoken loudly, you seem to drop-in to your desires more holistically. It hones in on the voice that harnesses initiative and allows you to feel more confident in making choices. If the energy to dive into a crazy new experience isn’t naturally there, don’t push it because of what you think you should be doing. Genuine motive is key when you’re traveling alone – so make sure that what you’re doing is for yourself. Don’t try to emulate someone that is listening to the music at a completely different volume – the only person that matters in this context is you. What does that really mean? If you are more cautious – don’t go on a solo trek through a remote country in Asia because you saw a post from an influencer on IG. If you are craving complete isolation, don’t hop on board with a travel group in South America because your friend said it was cool.

Once you’ve done that, get ready to manage your expectations. There will be nights when you are dancing on a beach with beautiful strangers – but the three nights before that you found yourself at the same restaurant, re-reading the same chapter in your book over and over. The image that you have sitting in a coffee shop, working on a novel the very first day you land, might actually look like getting lost and taking two hours to figure out a WiFi password. All of it is okay. It’s all part of the process, and you will still find yourself at the coffee shop or on the beach dancing – you’ll just be a better version of yourself when you get there.

There are certain surprises along the way you can’t anticipate. Some are far better than any expectation you could have. Some…aren’t. For example, a monkey stealing your only energy bar when you haven’t eaten in 7 hours may lead you to find the best bowl of phở you’ve ever had. Either way, it’s the unexpected that turn a trip into an experience. Our best advice is to roll with it. Don’t stick to the storyline you have in your head. If you went to “get away” but meet a group of great people at a wine bar – stay a while. If you were hoping to make friends across an ocean, but find yourself deep in your journal – give into that too.

Appreciate the nuances and even the hard moments. Loneliness is super common when we are traveling solo. That doesn’t mean it isn’t for you – and it doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, with our hyper-connected world, it can be truly refreshing to feel lonely. A lot of beauty and self-realization comes from loneliness, frustration, and getting lost. We encourage all of those things.  The conversations you have with yourself during these moments are better than any therapy we’ve paid for – because you begin to ask questions to the person who knows you best. And, of course, keep in mind that it’s all momentary. Just remember, the chances of coming home with regret are close to zero but chances of feeling some form of dissatisfaction during the process is probable. 

At the end of the day, the trip is about re-asserting ownership over your own priorities. The experience conforms to you, not the other way around. If you’re feeling too self-involved, it will get you out of your own head and thinking about the world around you. If you’re someone that doesn’t prioritize yourself, it becomes a vehicle to put your own wants first. In that way, the trip takes whatever form you need it to – all you have to do is trust that it will.

If you’re reading this, it means you are interested in flying solo somewhere. Our top piece of advice? Do it. Wherever you are at in your comfort level with traveling sans friends, there is truly a place for everybody. See below for a few thought starters:

For the rationally cautious and curious:

Lisbon, Portugal 

Europe is an easy escape plan for those wanting to test the waters of solo travel. Portugal is perfect for safety, price, and ease. Lisbon is a perfect place to land in for your first solo adventure. The town is walkable but big enough where you can get purposefully lost. There are high-speed trains to Porto or Farro if you want to explore past city lines and jump in the ocean. The food is second to none – and there is an increasing ex-pat community coming from other European counties and the US.

Where we would stay:

Santiago de Alfama

Treat yourself with a room at this 5-star boutique hotel. The 15th-century building has been perfectly preserved but the interiors have been re-done to top-notch quality. Clean whites blend in with the scenery and perfect views of the Almafa neighborhood really do the trick. Audrey’s, the restaurant in the hotel, is actually worth a visit and you will most likely meet other tourists there.

For trading in solo weekends away for a longer trip:

Sacred Valley, Peru

You could really go to Peru as any type of solo traveler – there really is something for everyone in this beautifully diverse country. Though we could talk about Lima, the cities up north, and further south near Arequipa, we are going to recommend the Sacred Valley. Welcoming millions of tourists each year, Cusco is a safe and convenient hub to fly into. From there, we recommend heading into the Sacred Valley. Instead of going straight to Machu Picchu, spend some time in the serene towns of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Urubamba. You can take cars or jump in a collectivo which is a shared ride that picks up around town. The towns have yoga studios, healthy eateries, and beautiful hiking. Each has a convenient town center with weekly markets and the necessary amenities but feels far enough away to truly unplug.

Where we would stay:

El Albergue Ollantaytambo Hotel & Restaurant

Though we might opt to spend a bit more time in Pisac, this hotel is too beautiful not to feature. It is perfectly designed with deep woods and clean whites, and the food is fantastic. The property includes an organic farm, a coffee collective, and a school for local children. Make sure to take advantage of the traditional Pachamanca lunch – where the chef will cook your food in volcanic stone buried in the garden.

For the solo traveler that wants to go further:

Mae Hong Son, Thailand 

Close to the tourist town of Pai, Mae Hong Son is a town in northern Thailand that borders Burma. Surrounded by mountains and capturing an idyllic serene lifestyle- this is the perfect place when you’re serious about getting away. Don’t count on cell service, because you most likely won’t have it. WiFi is available in some areas but not all. There are breathtaking hikes to waterfalls, hot springs, and lost caves. It’s also the perfect launch point for exploring Salween National Park and offers the opportunity to camp if that’s your thing. Pang Ung, or Baan Ruam Coffee Village, is also close by. With its gorgeous lake, it’s another great option for camping. 

If the tent game isn’t your thing, here is one of our favorite places to stay nearby:

Fern Resort

This eco-friendly resort is simple but perfect for your time in northern Thailand. Looking out into the mountains, the hotel is made up of 21 bungalows. The property is built on former rice paddies and maintains the same tranquility you would expect. 

Michael Clarke, Director + Photographer

Technically, Michael Clarke’s occupation reads as “Director and Photographer,” working for some of the biggest brands out there. This includes shooting commercials for Samsung, capturing photos for athliesure brand Outdoor Voices, and developing videos for Equinox. Speaking more liberally, you could add former professional skier, co-founder of soon-to-be luxury travel company Open Air, and dog handler to his dream co-pilot/pup, Walter (more on that below).

Born and raised in Lake Placid, NY, winter sports were second nature to Michael. He has not only traveled the globe capturing content for today’s largest companies, but frequently jumps on a plane (or into a helicopter) to find the world’s best slopes. Recently, he took a trip to Switzerland and Austria to strap on his skis and do research for Open Air’s first one-of-a-kind excursion, happening this March.

We caught up with Michael Clarke in-between trips to get his travel tips and learn about his favorite places to visit. Check out his interview below, and follow his adventures on IG @heyguysitsclarke. 

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Baldface Lodge — A nice, remote mountain lodge with good food, decent lodging, and some great skiing and snowboarding for just about any ability. Plus, you get to take a helicopter in, which is always fun.

Dunton Hot Springs — I had a reservation here for a week a couple of years ago that I had to cancel last-second. Looking forward to spending some time here in the not-so-distant future.

Hotel Almhof Schneider — Admittedly, I haven’t been here yet, but I’m scheduled for a week-long trip with Open Air in late March. The Arlberg Valley has some of my favorite skiing in the world.

Lake Placid Lodge — Had to give an additional one here. I grew up in Lake Placid, and while this place has gone a bit downhill in recent years, it’s a special one. A beautiful central lodge with individual cabins right on Lake Placid is hard to beat.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

Two summers ago I spent some time boat camping on a Norwegian tugboat, island-hopping through the San Juan Islands in Washington. During that time I frequently worked on my computer from my tent, pitching on a couple of different film projects.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

The Adirondacks (but not in the Spring).

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

I don’t believe in the acronym OOO, but:

Gente Aberta by Erasmo Carlos

My Lady’s On Fire by Ty Segall

Oogum Boogum Song by Brenton Wood.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

My Sony camera with a 35mm lens (frequently many more than that one said lens, but that’s a must).

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?

This could come off as moderately pretentious, but I typically try and seek out interesting clothing boutiques when I’m in a foreign city and ask the person working for advice. Frequently, I’ve found that these places have pre-made lists or maps with suggestions for travelers. For example, Void in Mexico City or Bastille in Cape Town both had great suggestions. If I’m in a more remote place, Google Maps in satellite mode followed by a quick image search can go a long way. Beyond that I find apps like The Infatuation or Comingo (although this one is still very new) tend to be helpful. Also, I always respect a NYT 36 Hours story.

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

Two summers ago I was driving down the Algarve after a week-long project in Lisbon with my friend, Todd Martin, who suggested that we use Google Maps in satellite view to look for hidden beaches along the coast. It was one of the better travel experiences I’ve had to date and we managed to keep a Google Map starred with all of our favorite stops.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

My dog Walter, but he does make it hard to go to certain places.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

TSA PreCheck.

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience:

Unique, Architecturally Intriguing, Comfortable, Has a Pool, Locals Hangout There, Dope Minibar, Doesn’t Break The Bank

Beach or City or Mountain?

All of the above…but mountain.

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost Phone

Favorite subscription service you’ll never delete?

New York Times

Nikki Brand, Stella Spoils Curator + Graphic Designer

Born, raised, and educated in South Africa, Nikki Brand is a multi-disciplinary creative based in Los Angeles. Having lived in South Africa, Nicaragua, and New York City, Nikki is no stranger to going where the wind takes her.

For the past 10 years, Nikki has worked developing culturally and socially respected international brands. Her portfolio includes restaurants like De Maria, which won an award for the aesthetic she helped build, hotels like Maderas Village and Urban Cowboy, and large scale projects like The Platform in LA. She is also the creative force behind the Stella Spoils newsletter – which you can sign up for here! 

When she isn’t focusing on digital design, logo development, or content curation for today’s coolest companies – you can probably find this babe on a surfboard somewhere south of the US border. 

Follow Nikki’s picturesque adventures @nikkibrand and @stellaspoils.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

1. Tribal Hotel, Granada, Nicaragua – This is a hotel you don’t need (or want to) leave. Incredible design, hospitality + food

2. Deer Mountain Inn, Upstate New York, USA – Quintessential NY Upstate experience. In-room fireplaces and really, really good food.

3. Under Canvas Zion, Utah, USA – Located in the Zion National Park, you’re glamping, in real luxury with real beds, and misters in the summer / fireplace in the winter, under the stars.

Photo via Under Canvas

As a creative, what places do you find most inspiration for your work?

Places that are in nature. Places that are far removed (in location and familiarity) from everyday life. Places with a distinctive culture.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

I’ve shaped my work and career around the concept of freedom, and not being tied down by anything other than what’s intended. So if I want to go, I can go, and I hope that there’s a WiFi connection at the other end. Being able to work remotely has definitely encouraged more travel, and having worked the last 10 years for myself, I find it easy to rework the daily schedule however necessary to make space for the good stuff.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Wet-wipes and tea tree oil

Have you or would you travel alone? 

Yes. I have, and I will continue to do so; it let’s you take your path to the places and people that are intended for you, in an unrestricted kind of way.

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

Wear sunscreen, travel light, always know where your passport is (thanks, Mom).

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Get out in the sun as soon as possible – it’s a natural reset.

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

A local breakfast bodega Nicaragua 

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience:

Comfortable, unique, architecturally intriguing, has a pool, close to things, doesn’t break the bank, locals hang out there, dope mini bar.

Beach or City or Mountain?

Beach

Airplane food- Y/N?

No

Early check-in/ late check-out?

Early check-in

Favorite travel app?

Flight Hopper

Christina Pérez, Writer + Content Director

If there ever was a true Professional Traveler, Christina Pérez is it. This year alone she has lived and worked in Brooklyn, Sri Lanka, and Venice, LA – and that’s not counting the many other destinations she’s kissed more briefly. Originally from the magical Great Lakes region and now based in LA, she’s rarely met a plane ticket she didn’t like.

Christina caught the travel bug as a teen model – suddenly, she had left her home in Wisconsin and was living alone in cities like Tokyo and Athens, London and Milan. After many years on the road, she went back to school in NYC at Parsons and then began her career in publishing. She has now worked for every fashion and travel magazine (that we’d ever want to read) under the sun, including: Vogue, Departures, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Elle, Self, and Refinery29. Now a content consultant for Vogue, Glamour, and Condé Nast Traveler, she also founded her own mindful travel & lifestyle website, Inside Elsewhere, in 2015.

We met Christina years ago while dining family-style at Maderas Village in Nicaragua, and we’ve since travelled near and far with her. She is a travel encyclopedia – anything you need, she knows it. Read on for more than a few diamonds to save for your future travels.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

The Grand Hotel Tremezzo – This is such a romantic hotel! It’s perched right on the edge of Lake Como and feels very old world and grande. I think the Violeta suite is one of the prettiest rooms I’ve ever stayed in; the walls are pale pink and the furniture is yellow velvet!

Tourists – This is a new hotel in the Berkshires. It’s modeled after the roadside motels of the 1950s, but it’s not kitschy at all. Instead it’s grown-up and refined with a vaguely Scandinavian vibe: clean lines, blonde wood, and big windows that let in the gorgeous mountain views.

Verana – Most of my favorite hotels happen to be in Mexico and this one is just unbelievably magical; just a handful of very chic, open-air casitas tucked in the jungle in the hills above the tiny fishing village of Yelapa. It is hard to get to—you can only arrive by fishing boat, no cars allowed—which makes it all the better.

Photo via Verana Hotel

What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?

I love the sustainability program at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives. The resort has eliminated all single-use plastic, created its own recycling center, and grows fruits and veggies on its own on-site organic farms; even the surf boards are consciously sourced.

What hotel room design element can you not live without? 

It’s more a question of what I can’t live with than what I can’t live without! I really dislike seeing the glow of any type of machinery—wifi router, heater, exit sign, air conditioning unit, clock radio, or phone—when I turn off the lights in a hotel room. The best hotel rooms are designed so that there is near-perfect darkness when you turn off the lights.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

My favorite way to “get off the grid” is to completely flip timezones; go somewhere 10-12 hours different from where you normally live. When everyone you know is sleeping, it’s a lot less tempting to scroll through Instagram or check your email.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I worked as a model, traveling full-time between Milan, Tokyo, Paris, London, Hong Kong … I really loved the nomadic aspect of the job. Later, when I became a magazine editor—a dream job, for sure—I realized I really missed traveling. I also found the traditional 9 to 5 schedule really frustrating; I hated rushing to an office every morning just to sit in front of a computer. Eventually I made the scary decision to go freelance with the hopes of transitioning into travel writing. It took a lot of work and time to reposition myself, but eventually it paid off. Now I still spend a lot of time staring at a computer, but often there’s a beach nearby!

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Silk eye mask, headphones, journal, pen, 8 Faces Boundless Oil.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

I almost always travel alone. It’s the best! Everyone should do it at least once if not regularly. Traveling is about experiencing a new place and a new culture—but traveling alone is about experiencing a new self. Alone in a foreign place we are forced to confront our limitations, embrace our hidden strengths, and ultimately rediscover our true selves.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

I know this sounds crazy, but I sort of like jet lag. It’s so weird, modern, and trippy, and, like all things, eventually it will end. I think you should embrace it: After all, you’ve just flown halfway across the world on metal wings—of course your body is freaking out! You shouldn’t expect to feel normal! Isn’t the whole point of traveling to feel something different anyway? (But if you really must get back on track quickly, melatonin pills really help! )

What is your favorite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why?

Vagabonding, An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-term Travel by Rolf Potts. He makes a compelling case for why you should not wait to travel until you’re retired or you’ve saved “enough” money—if you really want to travel, make it a true priority now. Take the money you’d otherwise spend on a few dinners or fancy jeans and buy a plane ticket instead. This philosophy really inspired me to change my career path and, in fact, my entire lifestyle.

Beach or City or Mountain?

Beach

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Luggage

Fantasy mini bar/fridge item?

Fresh squeezed lime juice, tequila, and triple sec for making margaritas

Nina Anakar, Founder of Ziza Mediterranean

Nina Anakar has seen almost every side of the food industry. During her time in New York, she was one of the first hires at salad empire Sweetgreen and has produced events for brands and chefs such as SoHo House and Mark Ladner (of NYC’s Del Posto and Lupa). Wanting to get back in the kitchen, she staged at San Francisco Michelin starred restaurant, Mourad, and eventually found herself launching her own business – Ziza Mediterranean.

This half Moroccan tastemaker pulls from her family’s roots in Tangier as well as her time as a child in Buenos Aires, and creates stunning dishes with seasonal California produce. Now living in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, Nina splits her time between her business and being lead chef at non-profit Akasa Community. And, of course, making chimichurri, lamb, and citrus salads for her friends.

Follow all the beautiful things Nina cooks up @nina_anakar and @zizafoods.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

The NoMad Hotel in New York, NY

I’m a real fan of perfect, thoughtful hospitality that doesn’t feel forced or overwhelming, and the team at the Nomad is really good at that. Their Library Bar is the kind of place I dream of when I’m in New York, and it’s true that the chicken they serve at dinner is a very special dish (and I never order chicken at restaurants!)

The Standard Spa in Miami, FL

Any place that welcomes their guests to hang barefoot all day in a bathroom or bikini is the place for me. The restaurant always has the types of grilled and fresh food and drinks I want to eat by the water. I also love their fire pits and the hot rocks in the spa are amazing.

Maison Arabe in Marrakech, Morocco

My dad is from Morocco and I really fell in love with Moroccan food when I first came to this hotel as a kid. While it’s true that you won’t get better hospitality than in a Moroccan family’s home, the team at Maison Arabe is so good at taking care of their guests. They also have wonderful cooking classes with Moroccan women who are serious about teaching you all of the traditions, from the ritual of Moroccan mint tea to bread making, preserving and tagines. They also have a beautiful pool and hammam spa.

Where would you go to digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Somewhere in Mexico! 

What is your most used travel emoji? 

💃

Do you have any favorite travel hacks (ways to score an upgrade, methods of getting your meal first on a flight, etc)?

Bring your own meal and snacks because plane food is the worst. If you don’t have time to prepare something, sweetgreen or something like it is a great idea. And drink lots of water!

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Books, a notebook, a pen, a rose face spray and snacks! 

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

Yes! I think it’s good to sit with yourself alone sometimes. 

What’s your favorite room service experience ever?

Breakfast in bed all the way.

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

It’s really important to me to stay off my phone, to stay nourished, and also to get enough sleep.

What is your favorite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why?

I love to read cookbooks from the places I am either about to visit or have recently visited. Most recently- Greece by Vefa Alexiadou, The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein, and Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert.

Mexico City

For the last few years, Mexico’s capital has been listed as one of the top destinations for travelers. Even though safety was a concern in the past, it seems as though the increased assurance, expat community, and tourism infrastructure have given most peace of mind and the opportunity to explore one of the greatest cities in the world.

CDMX is a city with immense design-forward thinking, a culinary scene that has taken the world by storm, and a cultural hub. The population has always been incredibly diverse, but with more ex-pats from both Europe and the U.S. moving there full or part-time, it’s only getting broader.

We could spend our entire visit to Mexico City tasting tacos from stands and dining in the progressive restaurants that are found throughout town. In fact, we have. Though the food-centric capital leaves much to be tasted – there is so much more to do that it would be a shame to miss the many museums, exhibits, shops, and parties. Plus, the walking and dancing help to manage the extra 10 pounds of taco weight we may have put on.

With so many places to explore in this expansive ciudad, we couldn’t give you a full hit list (because you would never finish it). Instead, find a few of our favorite spots to check out that you may or may not have heard about. ¡Vamos!

Where to stay

La Valise Hotel

Characterized by matte black details, beautiful tiles, and beds that can move from inside the design forward rooms to outside on large terraced balconies – this hotel does “attention to detail” very well. Not only do we love the unique experience, but the Roma Norte location is perfect. 

Nima Local House Hotel

This is a four-room boutique hotel that you should definitely consider booking in advance. Housed in one of the prettiest townhouses in Roma Norte, each room is designed with its own style and most have windows opening up onto a quiet street. The lobby is covered in greenery and makes for a perfect place for a drink, coffee, or truly anything else we can think of. The only issue with this place is that you might not want to leave.

Condesa DF

Located right in the middle of the chic Condesa neighborhood, Condesa DF is one of Grupo Habita‘s famous hotels. The modern interior serves as a contrast to the colonial exterior. The rooms aren’t large, but they are perfectly done. Definitely head to the roof for a cocktail or four.

Where to eat

Masala y Maíz

As the name might suggest, this restaurant pairs Mexican and Indian fair. The unique combo gives way to truly amazing food. The concept was born out of two friends putting together a menu for a dinner party and finding the similarities in the two cuisines. Order the uttapam and make sure to take some time to explore the natural wine list. 

Casa Virginia

When you walk into Casa Virginia you’ll notice the white table clothes and well dressed-waiters. This is perfectly complemented by the untouched, old mansion the restaurant lives in. The entire menu is excellent and the simplicity of the beautiful space only adds to the perfect atmosphere. It isn’t the tacos or mole you might be craving – but it’s really damn good for a nice meal out.

La Docena

We love Contramar, and we aren’t saying that La Docena is a replacement – but if you aren’t looking to drop serious cash on a 3pm power lunch and you want somewhere a little more hip, this is your place. The seafood is what Docena is known for, and this cantina does it well. We love the music as much as we love the food. Don’t be afraid to show up with a group.

ENO

Enrique Olvera, chef and founder of famed restaurant Pujol (which we, of course, expect you to have a res at, which is why we aren’t including it on this list), opened up this daytime cafe near his staple restaurant. It’s delicious, considerably more affordable, and should be where you head for your first breakfast in CDMX.

El Vilsito

This place will give you the gift of truly fantastic late-night al pastor. The fact that it’s next to a car wash should only solidify the fact that this taco stand is the real deal and the perfect place to end a night.

Where to shop

MACOLEN

Macolen is a print shop that functions as a commercial press where locals send their work to be professionally printed, and an adorable little shop selling its own designs and illustrations. There are varied drawings done by artists from around the world. Feel good about the prints you buy, because Macolen is committed to sending half the proceeds back to the artist.

Hi-BYE

This fashion-forward shop in Roma Norte definitely isn’t the place where everyone will find a piece to take home. It’s a bit on the edgier side and that’s what we love about it.

Sandra Weil

Weil’s gorgeous designs are all inspired by latin design and culture. Come to this beautiful boutique in Polanco to find long silk dresses, trousers, and textiles that ring true to high-end Mexican fashion. 

Ikal 

This concept store carries a great selection of Mexican designers. We love their clothing selection, but you will also find jewelry, objects, and home goods. 

Where to break

Café NIN

This beautiful Juarez coffee shop seems like a Belle Époque wonder you would stumble upon in Paris – but you’re not in Paris. You’re in Mexico. And that makes it better, you know? If you leave here without a pastry, you’re doing it wrong. 

CAFÉ NEGRO

We’re including Café Negro because it’s a solid coffee spot in the Coyoacán neighborhood (ie: not Condesa, Roma, or Juaréz). They roast all their own beans and have a commitment to small coffee producers. As the name might suggest, order your coffee black and grab a pastry to satisfy any sweet cravings you might have.

Buna Coffee

Buna Coffee is some of our favorite coffee in Mexico. We always bring back a few bags of beans in our luggage. While you’re in the DF, stop into their super sleek, minimalist coffee shop for an afternoon pick me up. This isn’t the place you can lounge all day, but it’s 100% worth the visit. 

Ojo de Agua

If coffee isn’t your thing (who are you?) and you need a smoothie or juice of some sort (or breakfast, lunch, fruit, and anything else remotely healthy) – come to Ojo de Agua. Right off the beautiful Calle Amsterdam, this adorable cafe is the perfect health fix while you’re shopping around Condesa. 

Where to drink

Bósforo

This is a mezcal bar in the city’s Centro district. Once you make your way through a curtained door, you will find yourself in one of our favorite mezcalerias. The concrete walls and narrow space ensure that this place will get heated – but that’s why you’re there.

La Botica

You will find no shortage of mezcal bars in Mexico City, but La Botica is one of the better ones. It’s one of the first and continues to support small batch production of the popular liquor.  It isn’t the millennial design inspired space you might imagine, but that is kind of why we love it. The entire staff is well versed in what we have deemed “mezcal talk” and can tell you where each bottle is from and how it’s made.

Cicatriz Café

We love Cicatriz during the day, but we love it more at night. This is an all-day cafe that serves great “food in a bowl,” good coffee, and some of our favorite cocktails. It’s a true neighborhood spot and you will definitely find a cool young, local crowd. If you’re hungry, definitely place an order – the food is great. 

Páramo

For all intents and purposes, Páramo is a restaurant. That said, we use it more as a bar. That isn’t because the food isn’t great (it is) but the cocktails are even better. We love the high ceilings, long wooden tables, and perfect lighting, and it’s a great place to come for birthday drinks. It’s loud enough to make you feel like you’re somewhere worth being but quiet enough so you can have a conversation.

Where to dance

Leonor

Leonor is an underground club in the middle of the city. There is no sign on the door, and if we weren’t visiting local friends who frequent this sweaty underground dance fest, we would have missed it altogether. The space isn’t big, but there is a disco ball, strong drinks, and great music.

Café Paraíso

There is usually a line to get into Café Paraíso, but once you walk down the stairs and see the neon signage and tropical style decor, you will understand why. The space feels a bit like Miami – but a better version of Miami because you’re in Mexico. We love the music and the DJs that frequent the club.

Patrick Miller

Note that this party only goes off on Fridays. That said, if you find yourself in the DF on a Friday – the Patrick Miller Party is where you are going. The dance moves are serious, there are two floors to appreciate the full scale of the fiesta, and you will find people from all over enjoying the music. No need for heels or dress shoes – but make sure to not wear anything too warm as you will end up getting sweaty.

Where to work

Público

This is a beautiful co-working space with three different locations in Mexico City. We love the Condesa location, but all three are perfect places to sit down and get some work done. The design-conscious space has meeting rooms, a cafe, a bar, and some even have photo studios.

Librería de Porrúa

This beautiful little bookstore is actually located in Bosque de Chapultepec park. With a store and cafe at the entry, and stairs down to a patio that overlooks the park lake, it would be hard to find a more peaceful place to work in the city. 

Courtyard of Nima Local House

If you need to find a quiet place to focus, stay in at the Nima Local House Hotel. The courtyard is surrounded by greenery, and you can make yourself comfortable in one of the banquets. 

What to do

El Bazar Sábado

On Saturday’s, a square in the San Ángel neighborhood turns into a full market full of craft vendors. You will find artists selling higher end goods, so don’t forget to bring along extra money. It’s also a great excuse to explore this beautiful neighborhood south of the city center.

La Lagunilla

One of our favorite markets in CDMX, La Lagunilla happens on Sundays. If you are a first time visitor and aren’t familiar with getting around or the language, try to go with someone who is a bit more comfortable with the language and the area. You will find exceptional antiques, great accessories, and perfect gifts to take home.

Xochimilco

If you have seen your friends on colorful boats, drinking beer, listening to mariachi music…they were at Xochimilco. Set on a series of canals, you can rent a gondola and have food vendors and other bands float up to your boat. It’s absolutely a tourist experience – but one that you might love.

Where to get your hit of culture

Luis Barragán’s Architecture Tours

You can’t come to Mexico City without seeing Barragán. Whether you make an appointment to visit Museo Casa Luis Barragán or choose to visit Casa Giraldi or San Cristóbal (which are privately owned but you can pay to visit) – you have to experience his work. He is arguably the most famous architect in CDMX and his style has defined much of what we think of as Mexico City design.

Casa Azul

The Frida Kahlo Museum is located in her home in the center of Coyoacán. Make sure to buy tickets beforehand as the time slots sell out. We could go on and on about this amazing museum – but it’s Frida Kahlo and we will just let you experience it for yourself.

Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

The Frida tour does not end at Casa Azul. Head to San Ángel to check out the studios of her and Diego Rivera. The architecture is just as impressive as the interior features. 

Museo Nacional de Antropología

In a city filled with museums (all of which you should visit), the Museo Nacional de Antropología is one of the best. It houses pre-Columbian relics which are truly out of this world – but the real reason it is our favorite is the architecture which includes a “rain tower” that will have you gawking in the courtyard for a solid amount of time. Plus, the museum is located on the edge of Bosque de Chapultepec which allows you to have a beautiful stroll on your way in.

 

V-Day Edition: Joey Kotkins & Rachelle Saletto

Joey Kotkins is our very own founder (Safara love!), and tech-industry alumn. Before moving across the Atlantic, Rachelle was an interior designer at coffee giant Starbucks, and met Joey while they were both living and working in Seattle, WA (we are told there is a very funny and slightly embarrassing story here…but suffice to say, they met via mutual friends).

This power couple now calls London home – Joey working on the best new booking platform out there (shameless plug) and Rachelle as the lead interior designer for WeWork’s Powered by We team. Though they love the UK, a huge reason they re-located was to be in a better position to explore Europe and beyond. Sounds like a newlywed lifestyle we would certainly like to lead. 

Follow them on Instagram @jkotkins and @rachellesaletto

Favorite vacation to take as a couple?

Renting a car and getting lost in the Cote d’Azur. The food, wine, fishing towns, beaches, glamorous history, and dramatic landscape make it hard not to have an incredible time.

Do you find that there are some benefits of distance/traveling separately from your partner?

Beyond “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” we like to share our new discoveries and play tour guide for each other on later trips.

Most “romantic” hotel you’ve stayed at? 

Anywhere in Paris, but most recently the Hotel des Grands Boulevards (for our mini-moon). The little design touches make it the perfect amount of Parisian romantic, while maintaining a casual atmosphere. No cliché Louis XVI style here. The cosy bar can be an ideal start or end to any date night.

Do you find going away together is an important part of your relationship? Do you make a habit of it?

We moved to London to travel more, and we’ve become big fans of weekend trips. We try not to stress and over-plan, preferring to pick neighborhoods to explore on foot, stumbling into random adventures. It always gives us something exciting and new to look forward to, and reinvigorates our love for our home city.

Must-have hotel room amenity when you’re traveling together?

We’re both a little too obsessed with fancy travel-sized bath products. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with all of the mini shampoos, conditioners, and body lotions we’ve collected, but we’ll figure something out.

What’s a must-have design feature for a romantic trip? What hotels do you think have this?

Rachelle is an interior designer, so this list is long, but lighting is on top. The Sir Savigny in Berlin does layered light well. Each room has a feature chandelier along with various floor lamps and table lights that allow you to get the lighting just right.

Do you have different transit habits/preferences? If so, what are they and do they compliment the other?

Joey likes to get to the airport early, and Rachelle prefers to walk through security and straight onto the plane. We’ve accepted this tension will persist forever.

If only one of you got upgraded to business/1st class, what would you do? A) Whoever got it takes it, B) Neither take it, as you can’t sit together, C) One of you gives it to the other (*who gets it?)

Rachelle gets it every time. It’s an investment Joey is happy to make.

Splurge on the flight or the hotel?

Hotel.

Yoga or mimosas to kick off a trip together?

Yoga.

Pack together or separate?

Separate.


V-Day Edition: Kaylan Rexer + Taylor Vasi

Kaylan and Taylor are pretty much couple goals. Kaylan is the Brand Director of Ilegal Mezcal – the company behind one of our favorite spirits and the iconic “Donald Eres Un Pendejo” t-shirts. Taylor is the Head of Ops at wellness company CryoSkin and has dabbled in the modeling world. Both are Brooklyn based boss ladies and ones we look to for a good dose of love inspo. 

With Kaylan back-and-forth from Mexico, Guatemala, and other cities across the US, and Taylor running a company back in NYC, travel definitely plays a roll in their relationship. We caught up with these two to see their tips and tricks for keeping romance alive despite distance, and making travel a part of it all. 

Follow Kaylan @kaylanrexer and Taylor @tmvasi

Favorite vacation to take as a couple?

TV: For me, it was Lake Como. We drove there from Paris through Switzerland. The drive from Switzerland to Como is stunning because you drive through the Swiss Alps into the Italian Alps and then land on the lake. The lake has this appearance of the mountains falling into the water, and the only thing to do is eat, drink, boat around and relax. 

KR: I loved Lake Como too but my favorite trip we took together was to Chablis, France. We actually drove there from Lake Como and by chance landed during the wine festival. People from all around the world descend on this small town. We stayed in a really funny Chateau, our host spoke zero English, there was no wifi, no tv, a cd player but only one CD: Amy Winehouse Back To Black. It was almost comical. Thank god Taylor speaks French or we would have never of known the festival was happening. There was something really romantic about the spontaneity of it all. Plus, we both love wine and the restaurants in Chablis are amazing.

Being that you both travel for work often, how do you keep the connection consistent?

KR: We definitely have our Saturday routine, which I love. It is a nice way for us to reconnect. We bring our puppy to the park together, then hit the farmers market.

TV:  We find time to go to dinner or drinks “for fun”. Yes, kind of like a date, only sometimes it is spontaneous and can be as casual as going to Bernie’s (one of our favorite Greenpoint restaurants) and having mozzarella sticks and burgers.

Do you find that there are some benefits of distance/traveling separately from your partner?

TV: Absolutely – especially as a New Yorker. Having those coveted days alone in our one bedroom apartment as the other travels are therapeutic.

KR: Alone time is important to both of us, it’s hard to find that in New York.  I think having different experiences is also healthy for any relationship. 

Most “romantic” hotel you’ve stayed at?

KR: I think this is probably true for both of us: ZOA Hotel in Mazunte, Mexico. There are only five villas on the property, each with a private balcony and views of the ocean.  The property is gorgeous and the service is incredible. Our friend Omar Alonso, who runs a tour company in Oaxaca City, recommended it to us.

TV: Yes definitely have to agree with Kaylan on this. The views of the Pacific Ocean from Zoa are so calming. Go here if you need to turn off for a while. I would also have to say Chateau Saint Martin Hotel and Spa was incredibly romantic. This is the perfect place to stay on the Cote D’Azur if you want pristine grounds, service, and style.

Do you find going away together is an important part of your relationship? Do you make a habit of it?

KR: Yes absolutely. We both have a lot of responsibilities and it’s hard to escape those at home.  We get to focus on just enjoying each other while we are away.

TV:  100%. We just got back from Mexico and we are already planning our next vacation.

With your busy schedule, how do you make sure to set aside time for each other, and to travel together? 

KR: Some of my favorite vacations we have tacked onto work trips. When we drove through France and Italy, it was after a work trip I had to Paris.  Taylor lived in Paris for a while and traveling there with her really made me fall in love with the city. It is a priority for me that we find time to go once a year. 

TV: To be honest, I usually just tell Kaylan when I’m ready for a vacation/need to get out of the city and we make it happen from there. I’m definitely the more restless one- the city can drive me absolutely insane. Even if it’s just upstate for the weekend to have some alone time and fresh air. 

Must-have hotel room amenity when you’re traveling together?

TV and KR unanimously: A View 

Best room service experience ever? Which hotel was it?

TV: Deer Mountain Inn in Tannersville brings a whole s’more set up to the cottages they have onsite and will even start the fire for you.

What’s a must-have design feature for a room for a romantic trip?

KR: A view and a big bathroom. We live in a one bedroom apartment together in Brooklyn with a 70lb dog.  So extra space for our things is always a plus.

Packing tips for traveling as a duo?

KR: Having a wonderful girlfriend who always remembers to pack the things she knows you will forget…for example your toothbrush. Thank you Taylor. 

 TV: Give the more responsible person the passports. Thank you Kaylan. 

Do you have different transit habits/preferences? If so, what are they and do they complement the other? 

KR: Getting through the pains of security with Clear and Pre-Check. I fly a lot for work and I have an airport routine that has kept me sane.  Which is why I have signed Taylor up for every little thing that allows her to cut the line with me.

TV:  Having Clear has been life-changing. By the time I arrive at the airport to the time I get to my gate is usually between 6-10 minutes. I prefer allocating the funds to beautiful accommodations rather than flights. In our case, the flight is for working and the accommodations are for enjoying. 

In this day and age, anxiety and burnout are big topics – how do you find ways to disconnect and stay present with each other while traveling?

KR: Honestly, we suck at it. We are currently on our computers answering these interview questions from our vacation together in Mexico! That said, we are aware and working on being better at disconnecting.

TV: Kaylan’s worse than me, but her position is also more demanding. Going to dinner and pre/post drinks is really when we disconnect because answering emails on your phone sucks anyway. 

If only one of you got upgraded to business/1st class, what would you do? A) Whoever got it takes it, B) Neither take it, as you can’t sit together, C) One of you gives it to the other (*who gets it?)

KR: Depends how long the flight is. For a long flight, I’d rather us sit and struggle together in coach.  But if we have to choose, Taylor 100% gets it. I’m a gentlewoman.

TV: As long as we both have champagne, I’m cool with whatever.

When you get the rare gift of quality time – go away or staycation? If staycation, what’s your go-to spot in town- even for a drink, if not an overnight stay?

Deer Mountain Inn upstate or Soundview Inn on the Northfork.  Both are driving distance from the city, they have very different vibes but are equally romantic.  These are our regular getaway spots.  Plus we can bring our dog…sorry our answer totally wasn’t rapid fire.

Splurge on the flight or the hotel?

Hotel

Yoga or mimosas to kick off a trip together?

Mimosa

Hot List: Hotels to Staycation at this Valentine’s Day

Flowers, chocolates, and cards are all very nice. What’s better? Spending 48 hours under hotel sheets. Whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with your partner, riding solo, or with friends this V-Day – take some time to enjoy a romantic staycation. See below for a few of our favorites.

The NoMad New York, NY

There are many places to turn the lights down and get in the mood around NYC, but our pick is the NoMad Hotel. Why? The entire space is designed to feel like a Beaux Arts French apartment – complete with warm leather couches, a bi-level library, and in-room claw-foot tubs. We’d recommend booking an Atelier room for views and a romantic soak. The cocktail program going on at the hotel bar is second-to-none, and, of course, you can’t forget Daniel Humm’s Michelin star restaurant. You won’t have to leave the hotel all weekend.

Photo via the NoMad Hotel

San Francisco Proper Hotel, San Francisco, CA

This design-centric hotel is eclectic in all the right ways. The bright wallpaper perfectly contrasts the modern furniture. We love the rooftop lounge, where you can cozy up with whomever you please around a firepit, cocktail in hand. Proper also boasts one of our favorite hotel lobbies in SF. Perfect for morning coffee and getting work out of the way, so that you can focus on what matters.

Henrietta Hotel, London, UK

This boutique hotel is covered in warm pink and blue hues, warm velvet textures, and beautiful Italian furniture. If that doesn’t sound romantic enough, their beautiful bar stays open until 1am for out-of-room romance. If you are trying to stay in a robe and under the sheets all weekend – not a problem. The food and room service is top notch.

Photo via the Henrietta Hotel

CPH Living, Copenhagen, Denmark

If you consider boats and the whole maritime thing to be romantic, then this is your place. CPH is a floating hotel in the Christianshavn area of Copenhagen. Wake up to the sound of birds, waves, and take your morning coffee on-deck. The rooms are designed in typical Scandinavian fashion, but the simplicity is what is so romantic about the place to begin with. Take a drink at their bar, which has floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the water. If you’re wanting a unique take on a staycation – this is your bet.

Le Pigalle, Paris, France

Is there anywhere more perfect for a romantic staycation than Paris? This sexy Parisian hotel is everything you want when it comes to slipping into something a little more comfortable for VDay. In-room bathtubs, view of the city, beautiful linens, and eclectic artwork all add to the vibe of this place. Open your floor length windows to let in some fresh air in the AM, and head down to the ground floor in the PM for strong drinks and great DJs.

Photo  via Le Pigalle 

Faena, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The design of this hotel is truly theatrical. Bright reds, deep blacks, and warm leather are seen in each room. The beds look out onto amazing views of the city, but if you need some time outside the room they have tango lessons downstairs and a first class spa. On the warmer days, enjoy the rooftop pool and sunset cocktails.

Hot List: Easy Weekend Getaways for You and Yours

Planning a trip with your significant other doesn’t need to be a six-act play. We’ve rounded up some easy weekend getaway options, close to our top city hubs, for you and your partner – or simply for some much-needed self-care.

New York, NY > Cold Springs, NY

This small town along the Hudson River is much closer than Woodstock or Hudson itself. About an hour and a half outside the city (we are being generous, considering traffic), Cold Springs sits on the west side of the river in Putnam County. No car? Hop on the Metro North and you can be in the center of town in no time.

If you’re itching to get your outdoor fix, head to Breakneck Ridge which is a popular hike in the area. If that’s not your thing, there are tons of little shops that line the main street in Cold Spring – from antique stores to curated boutiques like Old Souls. If you’re really looking to relax, stop in at Cold Spring Apothecary for a massage or facial, and pick up some of their house-made goods to take home with you.

A few cute inns line the town, such as Pig Hill Inn or Hudson House Inn. If you want something a little more chic, head north 15 minutes to Beacon and stay at the Roundhouse. That way, you can go to Dia:Beacon, one of our favorite out of town art museums, the next morning before making your way back to the city.

Los Angeles, CA > Ojai, CA

Only about an hour and a half north of LA, Ojai has been an increasingly popular getaway for those seeking a mental break from city life.  Though locals know it has been a hilltop paradise forever, its OG wellness culture, art scene, spiritual relevance, and beautiful outdoors have put it on the map for everyone from the Goop crowd to young families stopping in mid road trip. Mission-style architecture, beautiful gardens, and the general aroma of herbs that spreads through the town put us in the mood for romance right off the bat.

Check into the famous Ojai Valley Inn or, for a cheaper option, the Ojai Rancho Inn. If lounging by the pool and taking in the rays doesn’t take up your entire day, check out the incredible farmers market in the center of town. Around the area, you will find great shopping, including vintage jewelry at Treasures of Ojai, beautiful home decor at deKor & Co, and trendy boutiques like In the Field – opened by LA transplants selling brands like Ulla Johnson and Filson. Stop into Bart’s Books – an Ojai institution since the 1960s.

Take the outdoors and check out Meditation Mount during sunset, which has sweeping views of the valley. Last Chance Trail is a great option for solo or duo hiking, and working up that sweat before having yourself a spa moment. The spa at Ojai Valley Inn is the lux leisure experience some of us want. If you’re in the mood for experiencing a more authentic or spiritual healing session, check out Soul Body Ojai for a reiki session or guided meditation.

London, UK > Kent, UK

For a nature fix, head out of town to Kent for a romantic weekend or simply some time to disconnect. This coastal town is easy to get to from the London city center (only a little over an hour by train), but feels far away. Walk along the coast at any time of year for a break from the 24/7 worklife.

When you arrive, check in to Shephard House, which is a beautifully redone bed & breakfast. If you decide to splurge on the “very, very large” room, have yourself (and maybe a special someone) a bath to unwind.

As you might have known, oysters are an aphrodisiac and Kent is famous for them. The Whitstable Oyster Company is known for their first class shellfish, and of course, top shelf oysters. Get a glass of champagne and order a dozen, and stay a while.

There are beautiful gardens around the area to explore, and Turner Contemporary is a must visit. Enjoy markets that pop-up year round, and return to the city feeling refreshed.

Mexico City, MX > Cuernavaca, MX

Though we couldn’t imagine running out of things to do in the DF, sometimes a weekend away is just what the doctor ordered for you and yours. Head to the wealthy enclave of Cuernavaca to see colorful, cobblestone streets and beautiful colonial homes. Though it’s mostly made up of second homes, AnticaVilla is a beautiful hotel option if you don’t know anyone that can lend you their mansion.

Known as the city of “eternal spring” you can count on good weather during your visit. This means ample opportunity for exploring sites like the Jardin Borda – a French-inspired mansion with stunning gardens that Mexican aristocracy lived in during the 18th century.

Being that this is a vacation town, you can count on high-end restaurants throughout the main square. La India Bonita is set in a beautiful courtyard and serve excellent Mexican classics, and Casa Hidalgo boasts a perfect terrace for mingling with Mexico City’s well-heeled.

Stockholm, Sweden > Visby, Sweden

For a long weekend, head to the capital of Sweden’s largest island, Gotland. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this medieval town has most of its original architecture intact.  Though we mostly reserve island getaways for the warmer months, Visby is a perfect trip for the romantics that want to warm up by walking down cobblestone streets to cozy restaurants.

The Hotell Villa Borgen is the perfect place to cuddle up underneath the sheets. The Scandinavian design is the perfect mix of warm and minimal. Located in the middle of town, you are steps away from shops and restaurants so you don’t need to spend too much time wondering if the temperatures prove to be too cold.

If you’re going during the warmer months, head to Leva Kungslador for freshly made bread, organic lunch, and a beautiful garden setting. If you need to stay inside, go to Lilla Bjers for an intimate dinner. Everything is made with local ingredients from their farm, and anything that isn’t is sourced by nearby organic farms.

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