Sunday, May 19, 2019

Gear Review: Minimalist Travel Accessories

I'm all about minimalism, whether it's the bags (and this bag also) and clothing I design or the products I buy to travel with. So, I was happily surprised to discover three travel accessories manufactured by Matador that fit my minimalist and practical sensibility. Below, in order, are the toiletry bottle, the soap bar case, and the toiletry case. What they all have in common is that they are ultra light, made of a flexible synthetic fabric, and are small and rugged.

Better than any of the other travel-size bottles on the market,  the toiletry bottle easily compresses, allowing me to have more room in my TSA-approved liquid's zip-lock bag for other items. You can fill it with anything from shampoo to sunscreen to moisturizer to body wash. And the little snap loop at the end allows you to conveniently hang it should you be staying at a hostel, or if you want to snap it to your backpack if you're hiking.

Maybe you don't travel with a bar of soap, preferring liquid soap instead, but doing so means you have fewer liquids to cram in your TSA-approved liquids zip-lock bag. What's super cool about this bag is that you can put a wet bar of soap in it and the fabric allows the soap to dry out. (After all, who wants to retrieve a slippery bar of soap from a bag?). The top rolls and snaps closed, again making it convenient and easy to carry. (The bag is waterproof.)

Finally, the toiletry case has that nifty feature that allows moist or wet items, such as a toothbrush, that you store inside to dry. Unlike so many toiletry cases, the soft fabric allows you to compress it, perfect for those who never check luggage -- like me! Like with the soap case, the top of the toiletry bag rolls and snaps closed and it can also be hung up or attached to anything, should you be enjoying at outdoor shower at a tropical resort, for example.

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Gear Review: A Bright + Rugged Mini Flashlight

No matter where I travel in the world, one item I never leave without is a small powerful flashlight. This can come in handy not only if there is a power failure at my resort or hotel, or if I find myself walking late at night on a lane with no street lights, or if I'm camping and need to set up my tent in the dark Any flashlight I carry has to have a wide beam that is ultra bright and goes the distance, it has to be small and withstand being dropped or getting wet in a downpour. My new flashlight of choice is the one below by 5.11. It's exceedingly bright: 107 lumens. It won't be damaged by rain or being dropped from some six feet off the ground, and the light beam distance is around 85 feet, which suits my needs. Plus, if I have to keep the light on for four hours straight, I know it will keep working on the two small AAA batteries. This is now my go-to flashlight, which I keep in a small zippered compartment of my carry-on soft luggage.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Another Great Reason to visit New Brunswick, Canada

The little-visited Canadian province of New Brunswick is chock full of treasures waiting to be experiences. And, while most visitors tend to gravitate here only in the summer for the beach and water sport opportunities, New Brunswick is a year-round destination. In the winter, for example, numerous Nordic ski centers beckon with trails that provide plenty of solitude in woodlands. Whether you're coming in out of the cold after a day of skiing or looking for interesting sensory experiences any time of the year, you may want to drive to the tiny town of Petit-Paquetville. That's where you'll find a family-owned distillery and brewery that relies on locally-sourced ingredients. This is my recent article for Forbes on the award-winning Distillerie Fils du Roy in New Brunswick, Canada.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Photos: Taiwan

Taiwan is a land of hot springs where steam billows over calm waters. A land of deep gorges and serrated peaks where wisps of mist float. A land of lakes where the sounds of cicadas cuts through the silence. And all of this can be experienced from a bicycle saddle. Taiwan is extremely bike friendly, with hundreds of miles of bike paths networking the country, and plenty of opportunities to rent bicycles. Among the numerous bucolic green spaces that are a must for cyclists is Sun Moon Lake that’s especially atmospheric if you visit in the early morning.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A New and Uncreative Development in New York City

In Manhattan, the far West Side has a new addition, a sprawling development, and, after visiting it once, I prefer not to see it again. The almost 30-acre Hudson Yards has finally opened -- or at least part of it has opened -- to much fanfare. But, sadly, it’s a symbol of the disparity of income that’s become worse in the U.S. Visitors wait on long lines for a taste of paella or churros, or to climb the more than 150 flights of what’s referred to as the Vessel, that’s an ostentatious, interactive piece of art. Climbing the network of sometimes narrow stairways in this funnel-shaped installation, you shouldn’t expect to find anything except views of the Hudson River (and the mall and cultural center). Meanwhile, the high-end crowd browses the floor set up for the superluxe retailers, such as Gucci, Dior and Rolex in the multi-story mall. Those with less than stellar bank accounts may prefer to browse the floors housing more ordinary retail outlets. Yes, there’s a cloud-like structure, the Shed, that serves as a cultural center for dance, concerts and art exhibitions. But Hudson Yards feels cold, uncreative, and soulless with public spaces that offer little verdancy. (Maybe that will change with time.). Tens of billions of dollars were poured into Hudson Yards to attract wealthy businesses and condo owners. Let’s see whether the Hudson Yards is able to turn the far West Side into a must-see destination.

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Photos: Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a multi-faceted city, where luxe hotels like the Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt displays contemporary art on the wall of an underground gallery, and where the rough-around-the edges La Boca barrio shows off its surprising street art with sculptures hanging from the colorful facades. Where the city that bustles with non-stop traffic also is home to the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve where the only sounds are the twittering of birds. Where neighborhoods are peppered with small art galleries showcasing the myriad works of Argentinian painters as well as museums highlighting the country's vast art heritage. Where one moment you can be dining in a fine sushi restaurant and the next, strolling a verdant Japanese garden -- the biggest outside of Japan -- with places aplenty that are ideal for meditation.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Photos: Anguilla

I still haven't made it beyond St. Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport or ferry terminal. Instead, I took a ferry barely 30 minutes to Anguilla, an island where you have your choice of beaches. After all, the island is dotted with more than three dozen sandy beaches. Racing around the island, I managed to check out 20 of them. Though the island was significantly impacted by Hurricane Irma, Anguilla has come back better than before.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Photos: Whimsy in a New York City Hotel

For me, so many of the hotels in Manhattan fall into two categories: luxury brands and low-end hotels that feel dark and dismal. So, imagine my surprise to discover the new Moxy Hotel in lower Manhattan that's bright, fun, and affordable. I was already in love with Marriott's Moxy brand after visiting their recently-opened property in Chattanooga, Tennessee. What makes the Moxy such a breath of fresh air is that each property has an immense, comfortable public space full of art, quirky design features, and games. Finally, a hotel where you feel like you actually want to hang out in a "lounge" and feel comfortable, even if you're traveling by yourself. Sure, the sunny rooms are minimalist -- but they've got art features as well -- and few places to store whatever you brought with you, including your luggage. But who's going to spend much time in the room when there's so much to enjoy on their third floor? These are some of the images from the Moxy that's on Ann Street just off Fulton Street, near the World Trade Center.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Photos: South Korea

Networked with bike paths, South Korea is one of the most bike friendly countries in the world.  On a two-week trip, I pedaled on mostly paved dedicated bike path from Damyang to Mokpo, taking my bike first on a ferry to Jeju Island and then to tiny Udo Island.  Along the way, I found lush landscapes, verdant agricultural lands, primeval forests, and scenic waterfronts where older female divers freedive for abalone and conch and then serve the shellfish raw on a seaside table.  One morning, I walked through a Metasequoia Forest where only foot traffic is allowed. Another day, I hiked Halla Mountain, the country's highest peak that rises over 6,000 feet above sea level. (It's on Jeju Island, off the south coast.)  Udo Island , a wee island, can easily be visited on a day trip from Jeju Island. Cycling there is idyllic with nothing but seaside and verdant vistas interspersed with small cafes and accommodations.

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