Saturday, August 24, 2019

Gardens Resembling Works of Art

I’ve always been in awe of the creative works of Brazilian native, Roberto Burle Marx, a conservationist and legendary landscape architect who’s most noted for his wavy patterns on the sidewalk of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. He used plants as anyone else would work with paint pigments to design gardens that are unique in their patterns, forms and color palette. I was delighted to recently visit the New York Botanical Garden that has a tribute to him -- “Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx: -- that’s open until September 29. It’s a must see whether you know anything about this legendary man or not. The exhibition, which includes tropical plants that are native to Brazil, is divided into four sections. The Modernist Garden has paths that are curvy as are the planting beds. Here you find elephant's ears, bromeliads as well as Caribbean and Brazilian palms. The Explorer’s Garden is lush with tropical rain forest plants such as philodendrons. The Water Garden has a whimsical wall dripping with staghorn ferns, as well as a large pool dotted with water lilies and other aquatic plants, including the Victoria amazonica whose leaves can grow as wide as nine feet. There’s also an indoor exhibition of his boldly-hued abstract textiles, drawings and paintings. As part of that exhibition, the Rotunda is where visitors are given insights into Burle Marx’s estate, referred to as the Sitio that served as his studio and home. The re-creation includes wall graphics that reference the hand painted blue and white tiles that line his studio’s walls.

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Gear Review: Ultra-Light, Collapsable Day Pack

Even when I’m not hiking, it’s good to pack a backpack, one that’s small, light, waterproof and very collapsible. It’s perfect for carrying a water bottle, rain jacket, lunch or snacks and other items if I decide to rent a bicycle in a city, or do some light hiking. It works to carry a book, umbrella, hat, or sunscreen if I’m strolling around town, visiting museums and shopping. I just discovered a backpack that fits these criteria. The Backpack FreeFly16 is produced by Matador. It’s so small when rolled into its storage bag that it fits into the palm of your hand. (Because I don’t check luggage, this backpack easily slips into my carry-on.) It barely weighs five ounces. The shoulder straps are breathable so you don’t feel sweaty in summer heat. And even in a drenching downpour, it’ll keep the rain out. It has one main zippered compartment, and a much smaller one that's ideal for a notebook, pens and other ancillary items.

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Product Review: Spa Treatment from Northern Europe

Typically, when I choose a product for a gear review, it’s not a skin care product. I’m making an exception this time because it does involve a product I heard about when I had traveled to the Northern European Baltic countries, especially Estonia. Recently, someone sent me a sample of this product, which I admit not having thought about in a long while. This is peat mud, which is sourced from bogs in these countries – though it’s found elsewhere in the world. Peat mud comes from decomposed plant life, typically that means shrubs, mosses and sedges, and it’s long been espoused for its rejuvenating and therapeutic properties. It’s used in Nordic spas who claim it improves metabolism, stimulates blood flow in the skin, smooths wrinkles and much more. While I’m all about scientific-based evidence, when I was sent a sample of a peat mud mask (from Sphagnum Botanicals), I decided to try it as part of a staycation spa treatment that might help my skin condition. (I’ve long been plagued with facial seborrheic dermatitis.) The pitch black mud has a neutral aroma and a thick, creamy texture. I applied it all over my face that I had already rinsed and allowed to remain wet, and then I Ieft the mud on my face for five minutes until it was quite dry, then rinsing it off thoroughly. I was surprised to find my facial itching, scaling and redness was dramatically diminished after even one use and this relief lasted for a few days. Additional skin benefits: my skin felt moist and any blackheads were easily removed. Clearly, this is no scientific study. It’s simply my experience. But I’ve used it once a week since for its moisturizing and skin cleansing properties as well as for some relief from my dermatitis symptoms.

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Sunday, August 4, 2019

A Five-Star Accommodation for Garden Lovers

I have a love affair with botanical gardens or actually gardens of any sort. That's why finding a boutique accommodation in Madeira, a Portuguese island, that's enveloped by blooming flowers and other verdancy was a surprise. No matter where you walk on this property, whether one of two swimming pools, any of the restaurants or cafes, or your accommodation, you'll have garden views. To find out more, check out my recent article for Forbes on Estalagem Quinta da Casa Branca.

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