Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Nevis In The Caribbean - In Pictures

Have you ever heard of Nevis? If you asked "what's that," you're not alone. When I recently told all my travel savvy friends I was heading to Nevis for a few days, that was their response. But, when I said it was near St. Kitts, then everyone responded with recognition, not of Nevis but of its sister island It's too bad because what they're missing is a lush, volcanic island where the picturesque views of the probably extinct volcanic cone, Mt. Nevis -- it rises more than 3,000 feet smack in the center of the island -- are ever present. Most visitors come to this wee island to climb this majestic peak, an almost all-day challenging activity, or settle into one of many villas in the interior where privacy is respected. So much so that this island is quite attractive to the celebrity set. But my interests were altogether different. I stayed at a boutique inn, Golden Rock, where one of the guest accommodations is a converted old sugar mill and where the surrounding gardens are designed by renowned landscape designer Raymond Jungles; trekked along placid nature paths and rain forest trails where I didn't run into anyone else; explored the Botanical Garden that offers a high antioxidant purple-hued icy beverage in a scenic veranda; and visited the various old sugar plantations that are now home to expansive, upscale but low-key resorts. My YouTube video slideshow provides a window into my journey.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

New York City's World Trade Center Redevelopment

The World Trade Center site has certainly seen its share of dramatic transformations, decades ago it went from a landfill to an epicenter of finance with the twin towers as the centerpiece. Before the devastation, this was a complex with the soaring glass Winter Garden that was quite egalitarian: with shops and restaurants where most demographics could find something enticing. Then 9/11 occurred. And the long, drawn-out, much debated and argued about rebuilding process. And, yet, there were dining, shopping and drinking experiences that could appeal to almost every person. The waterfront property beckoned with its views of the Hudson and establishments where you could enjoy a mango sorbet at Ciao Bella, sip a glass of wine at an outdoor patio facing the Hudson at Southwest New York, shop at the Gap, pick up lunch at Blockheads Burrito, or meet a colleague for Japanese food at Yushi. All these shops and more were shuttered when the developer decided the place needed not only a new look, given the opening of the spectacularly overpriced Santiago Calatrava-designed train station, but needed to draw on customers that would otherwise gravitate to Madison Avenue. So now we have a site that feels cold and impersonal and highly elitist. Despite my negative reactions to most everything on the site with the exception of the stellar water views and expansive green spaces, I found some lovely design and architectural details to share.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gear Review: Cool Weather Skirt

For someone who loves the outdoors year round, I’m easily chilled as soon as the mercury goes below 70 F. So when the first day of fall debuted last week, I retired my thin linen tops and dresses and gauzy skirts -- though I still don sandals until I can no longer tolerate the frigid temperatures -- and stepped into a comfortable, quilted-type Tonia DeBellis skirt. It’s mostly cotton with a little polyester and Spandex, making it warm on a breezy day and form fitting, comfortable whether I’m sitting on a boulder in Central Park or strolling all over the city. It’s short -- way above my knees -- and stylish when paired with black leggings and boots, especially in New York City where a black color palette is still de rigour. Though it doesn’t pack small for my never-check-luggage philosophy, I most likely will wear it on the plane next time I head for the ski slopes where it might be my go-to skirt for lounging around the resort and walking around town.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Monaco's Green Spaces

For such a small country, Monaco is draped with an abundance of green spaces, covering 20% of its territory. In fact, the country has boasted a commitment to ecology, starting in 1873 with Prince Albert I, long before environmental consciousness was a bandwagon to jump on.

Though it's the Monte Carlo Casino, Grand Prix and other opulent- and luxury-laden sights and events that get all the tourist attention, my interest in Monaco is the myriad parks and gardens.

Located along a picturesque cliffside, the Exotic Garden is rich in plant species that are adapted to dry climes, namely cacti and succulents. These are sources from as far away as Central America and South Africa. The Japanese Garden is a wee affair, designed by noted landscape architect Yasuo Beppo. A man-made lake and a tumbling waterfall take up a good part of this small garden where the hardscape structures, including the gates and stone lanterns, were all sourced from Japan. A lovely spot to take in the shade is a lakefront pavilion. A path meanders past a small pond and myriad wild Mediterranean flora at the St. Martin’s Garden that’s also dotted with outdoor sculptures. After wandering along the paths, take a break at one of the many benches scattered about. Named for Prince Rainier's oldest sister, Princess Antoinette Park is a nicely manicured expanse with well-tended lawns and numerous gnarled olive trees

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

My Stylish + Practical Vest and Bag Combo

Have you ever been to a networking event without a bag check and wondered where you were going to leave your voluminous handbag? Or do you like to stop in wine bars as I do but you worried about draping your bag behind your chair or wondered why there are no hooks under the bar? When your cell phone rings, do you rifle through your bag, making yourself a target as you stand on a crowded sidewalk? Or do you keep your phone in your back pocket, which is hardly a secure location?

If you answered yet to any of these questions, then maybe you should think about carrying your vitals -- the things you can't live without -- in a stylish micro bag and vest. When they're worn together, there's no rifling through anything, no looking for a bag check, no worries in the wine bar. Worn together, you have the use of 10 hidden pockets in the vest (6  outside and 4 inside) and 15 pockets and slots in the micro bag. That makes a grand total of 25 pockets/slots. Do you need to use all of these? No, of course not. But at least you have options. And you'll never worry about where you left your bag. And, you'll look fashionable because, after all, who wants to look like a fly fisherman with a multi-pocket vest at a chic wine bar; or a geeky tourist wearing a bulky fanny bag/fanny pack? Think of the bag as the fanny bag antidote.

Who else would wear both or either of these two products:
students on campus
moms about town
anyone tired of neck/backache from toting a heavy bag
people in the hospitality industry
actors going on auditions

The vest is Made in American. And 10% of profits from all sales goes to She's the First, a non-profit dedicated to educating women in 11 countries.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Gallery Hopping in New York City

Walking tours are hit or miss for me, mostly miss. It’s a  hit if I come away more educated than if I walked to the venues on my own and, if not educated, then at least highly entertained. Because of either (or both), many are a miss. I recently signed up for a gallery tour of Chelsea -- the neighborhood with the greatest concentration of galleries in New York City -- with New York Gallery Tours that’s run by Rafael Risemberg.

On the plus side: this tour is unpretentious and informal, visiting a medley of different galleries with shows that just opened all within a several block radius. On the negative side, our group was more than 30 strong. (Way too crwded for me.) And, if I simply read each artist’s statement, I believe I would’ve come away with the same amount of information dispensed by Mr. Risemberg. Once he lead our group around to several works within each gallery -- the itinerary included 7 galleries -- we had all of two minutes to browse the rest on our own. (I bailed after gallery #6.)

Nonetheless, the works were impressive, some eccentric and avant garde, others sensual and curious. By far, the most noteworthy was the Brazilian art duo, OS GEMEOS, with their vibrant, boldly-hued paintings, sculptures, collage and drawings exhibited in five rooms of the Lehmann Maupin gallery. Another artist that fascinated me was Sarah Cain who showed her paintings in the Lelong Gallery -- her floor painting is on linoleum and is an expansive 2,500 square feet. Some artists either used unusual media or traditional media in an unusual way: Xu Zhen at the James Cohan Gallery created a 3D painting that looks like it’s a collage of sea shells. In reality he used a pastry bag to squeeze out the paint. Mark Wagner (at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery) is noted for making paintings out of slivers of paper currency. While Francesca Pasquali often relied on clusters of plastic straws to create her scultural pieces. 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Green Day Trip From Manhattan

I’m infatuated with the Hudson Valley. Many of the towns are easily accessible from Metro North and are a quick trip from Manhattan. Cold Spring is one of those towns, just one-and-a-half hours from midtown. But, though, many people come for one of two reasons: scrambling up rugged Breakneck Ridge or wandering Main Street for the many antique-laden shops, I traveled here one morning to make other discoveries. Arriving early before the crowds descended on Hudson Hil’s, a charming restaurant along historic Main Street with a shaded, flower-rimmed porch and locally-sourced items, I dined on a black bean burger that was served with corn tortillas, guacamole and salsa, and delectable homemade potato chips. (I had the place to myself for all of 20 minutes but that’s ok.) Then, of course, I went in search of green spaces. I didn’t have to search long. The Foundry Dock Park is a scenic waterfront spot that’s a former Civil War loading dock. Now, you can picnic, walk the trails or just relax. Or, take a side trail to the West Point Foundry Preserve with its paved and unpaved paths, ruins of the Boring Mill -- the waterwheel is impressive against the wild foliage, and tumbling Foundry Brook. Before this ironworks plant opened in 1818, these lands were dense with woodlands that, sadly, were cut for charcoal. Now the area is a peaceful delight dotted with benches including two set beside a marsh that attracts plenty of bird life. 

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

New Green Spaces on New York's Governor's Island

What if I told you that a five-minute ferry ride from Manhattan allows you to climb landscaped hills for scenic views, relax in hammocks set amid wild brush, zoom down an almost 60-foot slide, and rent bicycles to a waterfront picnic spot? This is what visitors find on Governor's Island that sits off the southern tip of Manhattan. And, yet, so many New Yorkers never make it to these green, placid shores. The island recently opened up a newly-landscaped, 10-acre sector with a cluster of four hills, proving awe-inspiring views of the lower Manhattan skyline as well as art and entertainment options: think the slide quadruplets, and sculptural installations. The photo collage below is what I found on Governor's Island on my most recent visit where, of course, I criss-crossed the island on bicycle. There's no excuse for not hopping on board the ferry for an afternoon or a day away from the city's chaotic streets.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Fargo, North Dakota in Pictures

When someone mentions Fargo, North Dakota, what do you think of? If you're like just about everyone I spoke with, it's Fargo, the movie or the award-winning black comedy series on the FX network. And the image that comes to mind is, of course, the infamous wood chipper that figured prominently in the Coen Brothers' movie. But the Fargo I experienced was a fresh, savvy, creative one with a bustling main street, myriad art galleries and coffee shops, large swaths of bikable green spaces, and a community spirit bubbling with youth and entrepreneurship. This short YouTube video slideshow provides a tiny window into my Fargo experience. (And, North Dakota makes the 50th state I've visited.)

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