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Puerto Vallarta: Land of the Sun
May 04, 2021

Puerto Vallarta: Land of the Sun

Pack your sunglasses and slather on the SPF! Bountiful rays are on the menu in the beach paradise known as Puerto Vallarta.    Embraced by the Sierra Madre Mountains and cozied up to Banderas Bay in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, Puerto Vallarta feels very, well, Mexican. With rich cultural traditions evident at every turn and the kind of welcoming atmosphere that makes you feel like you already belong, PV is the real deal that’s also safe and accessible for newcomers. It’s a town of harmonious opposites. Tradition and tourism. Sun worship and renowned nightlife. Relaxation and recreation. Comfort food and culinary innovations. You could zip line through the forest canopy or go whale watching one day and find yourself gallery hopping on an art walk tour the next.   It’s all in Puerto Vallarta and at a price point where you can truly indulge. So, go ahead! Order the guac!    SEE  CATCH THE SUNSET The sun is an all-day attraction here. Locals and visitors alike can be found soaking up the sun on one of the many beaches or while stand up paddle boarding in the gentle, glistening waves until that magic moment when the whole town seems to stop, take a collective breath, and gather to watch the sunset in all its honey-gold and fiery orange glory.    Finding the best spot to catch the sun’s descent is something of a sport. The right beach, the right open air restaurant, the right spot on the Malecon, all at the right time for the best show in town.            PRO TIP: The aptly named beachfront restaurant and bar combo, Solar/Barracuda is located along Camarones Beach and boasts refreshing drinks and top notch sunsets. Or experience wow-worthy sundown views at the more upscale, open air La Capella Restaurant located in the downtown area and just steps away from the “Bridge of Love” where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor famously started their love affair during the filming of Night of the Iguana in 1963. As the celeb gossip spread and word got out about this dazzling location, expatriates flocked and it became known, lovingly, as "Gringo Gulch."          The Arcos amphitheater (looks like something out of ancient Rome; is really just something out of Mexico circa very modern times) as well as the Triton and Siren mer-people statues located along the Malecon also serve as photo-friendly sunset-watching venues. If you time it just right, the adept shutterbug can even create the on-camera illusion that Triton is passing the sun to the Siren.      BELIEVE IN MAGIC: The winding Malecon, or seaside boardwalk, not only provides free and ample seating for the nightly sunset show (see above), musical performances and daring feats based in indigenous tradition (see the Papantla Flyers below) but a little escape into the longstanding Mexican tradition of magical realism.          While you won’t be whisked away into a wormhole (or will you?), anyone biking, running, strolling, or testing out their high heels on the nearly mile-long stretch is instantly transported through the whimsy and fantastical themes of the many sculptures lining it. Most sculptures are donations from local artists. Not local as in they own a second home nearby and pop in once a year but local as in you may walk by them, unassumingly manning their booth at the farmer’s market. Nearly all the installations are interactive and have the well-worn, polished spots to prove it!  “La Rotonda del Mar” or “The Roundabout of the Sea” is a fan favorite and the kind of sculpture you could visit time and time again and still discover something new. Completed by Alejandro Colunga in 1996, the sculpture feels like something out of the world of both Seuss and steampunk, futurism and fairy tale. Cast in bronze, the work features 8 “adults” who appear part creature, part towering throne encircled by 8 small “children” who could almost be mistaken for tiny fire hydrants. Slow down and have a Goldilocks moment as you move from chair to chair; experiencing a new vantage point and taking on each character’s playful identity.        Test your athletic ability (and your fear of heights) with another fantastical installment known as “En Busca de la Razón” or “In Search of Reason.” Some may call them aliens, others may say pillow heads, but according to artist Sergio Bustamante it’s a mother standing at the foot of a ladder while her two daughters ascend the rungs, higher and higher looking for, as the title suggests, reason. Despite some speculation that the mother is scolding her kids to “get down here right this instant” it is widely believed that she is encouraging her children to aspire to greater things. Which is exactly what most visitors do who inevitably take the suggestion and start their climb. Sometimes all the way to the tippy top! Who could resist the photo op and the call of these participatory pieces? But be careful!      Like what you see? Get more of Bustamente’s work at his gallery located just down the street from the famed Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.    See those stacks of rocks along the beach? They might be gone tomorrow! Such was the inspiration for artist Jonás Gutiérrez when he created “El Sutil Comepiedras” or “The Subtle Rock Eater” in 2006. What other explanation could there be? High tide? But what fun is that? Instead, this 7 foot bronze statue with a big eggplant-like obsidian belly and oversized clown-like shoes is the culprit; coming out at night to stock up on his diet of neatly arranged stones.        No walk along the Malecon would be complete without a stop and photo opp at the much beloved “El Caballito.”  The sculpture, formally entitled “El Niño Sobre el Caballo de Mar” but known simply as “El Caballito” or “The Seahorse,” has a storied past to say the least. It is based on an original statue by artist Rafael Zamarripa who placed the naked, cowboy-hat wearing boy riding a seahorse on a concrete block in the ocean at Las Pilitas. As you might imagine, a few strong storms took their toll and eventually Zamarripa decided enough was enough and provided PV with a large replica that would live safely on the boardwalk. Today the little seahorse and his unclad companion are flanked by giant letters that spell out “Puerto Vallarta.” These are the creations of artist Carlos Terres who based the colorful designs of landscapes and children on the folk art style depictions of local hero, Manuel Lepe Macedo. You can celebrate Manuel Lepe Macedo day on April 17th each year.        PRO TIP: Interested in indigenous art? Look no further than El Malecon boardwalk itself. Right beneath your feet are forty five symbols that represent things like cacti flowers, snakes, humpback whales, and much more.      DO TAKE A HIKE With so much beautiful PV to see, why not see it all at once? Puerto Vallarta is rife with vistas and lookout points to catch all the action at once. The trick is getting there! Making your way through parts of Puerto Vallarta can feel a little like triathlon training but the rewards are more than worth the trek. Just plan on proper footwear so you’re ready for those 45-degree-angle, cobblestone streets. Really.      As you snake through the flower-filled, tile-laden staircases of the central region, you’ll reach lookout point number one: Faro de Matamoros. Black and white striped with a metal spiral staircase to boot, the Tim Burton-esque structure was once a beacon used to guide ships to port from 1932 to 1978. Remodeled in 2006, the Faro de Matamoros now offers an enclosed terrace and serves as a prime location for panorama views where the bay seems to stretch on to infinity and the crown-topped terrace of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish appears more regal than ever gleaming in the sunlight.      .     Oh! And don’t be intimidated by the tiny, hidden pathways. While you may feel like you’re walking through someone’s backyard, treat these like sidewalks to get from point A to point B.     If you’re feeling brave and like you really want to work on those calf muscles, make your way to the Mirador de La Cruz. No shame in stopping to take a breath or two. After climbing a series of seemingly vertical staircases, scenic views are yours to enjoy in the company of a giant, towering cross and a sleek observation deck. A popular choice by day but also by night when the lights of the city dance across the water and twinkle.  PRO TIP: Between 9 and 9:30 PM each evening, the Marigalante Pirate Ship hosts a short fireworks display from Banderas Bay. While you’ll likely hear the series of pops and booms from most anywhere, guarantee your unobstructed view atop one of these lookout areas or treat yourself to a front row seat and book a romantic dinner for two at La Capella Restaurant.   HAVE SOME ALONE TIME...ON THE BEACH Los Muertos Beach in downtown PV is poppin’ round the clock which is definitely exciting! But if you want to spend some time in the surf and sand without much company, hop on a “lancha” and find your little slice of secluded paradise.      Lanchas or water taxis are accessible from a worn wooden dock in the little fishing village of Boca de Tomatlán and take you to where you need to go in just minutes. No more than five minutes west lies Colomitos Beach, a narrow, tranquil cove edged with large rocks. Here you’ll discover warm, turquoise waters, oversized coconuts to drink, and wooded trails to explore just beyond the sand. Note that you are likely to encounter the occasional small party boat but if you’re a fan of the musical stylings of Cher that should be no problem!         From there, hop a lancha to more beaches that have that almost-private feeling including Playa Madagascar and Playa Caballo, the latter offering shaded spots, soft waves, peaceful vibes, and immediate access to Casitas Maraika.      Like some chic version of Swiss Family Robinson, the treehouse-style restaurant and hotel is the perfect respite for nature lovers and those in search of a fruity beverage.            Further along the coast you’ll find Playa Las Ánimas, Quimixto, and Yelapa which are certainly more popular with the range of restaurants and beach sports to prove it, but still feel like you’re getting away from it all. Shocking as it may seem (joke), these are also great spots to catch the sunset!       On your way back to the center of town, be sure to stop by Los Arcos de Mismaloya, a national park composed of two massive islets and their smaller sidekick. Enjoy a quick view and a pic from the road or make a day of it snorkeling and diving to get up close and personal with some colorful fish friends throughout the many caves and tunnels.      PRO TIP: When sunbathing on the beach you might just make a new friend! Keep an eye out for iguanas large and small scurrying everywhere and practicing their best camouflage routine while hanging off trees.     GET BACK TO NATURE Take a quick trip to the south zone of Puerto Vallarta to spend some time in the great outdoors exploring the lush tropical jungle interior and learn more than you ever thought possible about orchids!    The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a local treasure composed of 64 sprawling acres of trees, cacti, cacao, even carnivorous plants, and yes, the seemingly infinite varieties of orchids.     Not to mention a free range menagerie of birds, insects, reptiles, and even jaguars, ocelots, and pumas. But no need to worry, these large cats only come out at night!          The passion project of Robert and Betty Price, two Americans from Georgia who simply fell in love with PV upon their first visit, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 2005 with an ever-growing collection of both indigenous and exotic specimens.     Since then, the gardens have maintained their mission of education, conservation, and the appreciation of all nature has to offer.      While you can’t see it all in a single day (some locals make a point to visit the gardens at least once a month), you can try to catch the highlights until you meet again. Go nuts with the bug spray and saunter down to the vanilla plantation area before visiting the Rio Sendero.          Seek some shade on the picturesque Bridge of Dreams, take a peek at the rows of agar-filled beakers through the laboratory observation windows, catch a glimpse of Military MaCaws flying in pairs through the palms, and find a little respite at the Our Lady of the Garden chapel which is home to a small pet cemetery as well as weddings and other events.        PRO TIP: If you see a large, yellow plant that almost looks like a claw, you’ve come face to face with the real life logo of the garden that can be found growing throughout the grounds. These are Tillandsia compressa, native to Mexico and South America and a real eye catcher!    SIP AND SAVOR EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY Hungry? You’re in the right place! Whether you’re waiting in line at a popular dinner spot, picking up something for a few pesos on the Malecon, or affixing your napkin ever so carefully at a fancier joint, it’s all mouth-watering and true to Mexican fare.    For street eats, a family-run oyster stand set up in the sand close to Los Muertos Pier is a go-to for fresh daily catches at totally affordable prices. Quench your thirst with some “tuba,” a strangely satisfying concoction of coconut juice, apples, and walnuts sold by the cup-full all along the Malecon.        Basilio Badillo Street set in the colorful Romantic Zone is chockablock with reasonably-priced restaurants, high energy, and patrons ready to have a good time. Musicians line the streets (and often visit your outdoor seating area) and the tacos are bountiful. Cafe de Olla, Pancho’s Takos, and El Mole de Jovita are just a few standout venues. Los Muertos Beach is just a block or so over where you can look out at the ocean while you dine. Try La Palapa or El Dorado for seafood that lives up to the hype.  If you’re looking to break out your Sunday best in el centro, Café des Artistes is a glamorous garden oasis that does cost a few bucks. Pipis has some of the smoothest guac in town, prepared right in front of you by a nimble-handed pro while a Mariachi band takes requests ranging from Mexican standards to covers like Justin Beiber’s “Despacito.” Gaby’s sits atop one of those charming tiled staircases; offering balcony views and the kind of grande Margaritas that build up your biceps.  ¡Buen provecho!      PRO TIP: While many restaurants do take credit cards, some of the wonderful hole-in-the-walls (and some you wouldn’t expect) are cash only! Check in advance and be ready with pesos in your pocket.      Your love affair with Puerto Vallarta begins with a flight straight into PVR and continues to grow with each return trip. Direct flights from cities across North America and beyond don't hurt either! Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, and Newark are just a few of the USA locations flying directly into PVR while Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Calgary represent some non-stop Canadian highlights. As Puerto Vallarta is an extremely popular destination for R&R seekers and families throughout Mexico as well, Tijuana, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puebla, and Monterrey also offer easy breezy passage.    And it’s the kind of place visitors from other states in Mexico, the US, Canada, and beyond keep coming back to over the years. Like visiting an old friend who always has something new and exciting to share.   
Best of the Philippines: Boracay
September 09, 2020

Best of the Philippines: Boracay

If you love the idea of an island vacation, Boracay is considered one of the best islands in Asia and well, pretty much the world. It's famous for its blue waters and endless stretches of sandy powder white beaches. Thanks to the efforts of locals and the Philippines government, Boracay’s ocean remains crystal clear and clean. With so many things to eat and do (or not do and just relax), you’ll never run out of reasons to love Boracay.      RELAXING ON WHITE BEACH Beach is a 4 km stretch of soft white sand lapped by turquoise waters and fringed by palm trees. It’s perfect for those who love swimming, snorkeling, and sailing or just getting some much needed R&R thanks to its flat, calm waters. Plus, White Beach is considered the top diving site in the Philippines.       White beach is divided into three stations. If you’ve got cash to burn and want to treat yourself, staying in a fancy and luxury resort, Station 1 is your top choice. Station 2 is bustling to say the least and a convenient area for those who love shopping and partying.   The majority of the water activities are in this area, too! Station 3 is calm and not crowded so if you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere and affordable prices, this is the place for you. It’s easy enough to walk between these three stations or, if you want to travel in style, you can take one of these colorful Philippines tricycle taxis you’ll find right on the street.  SUNSET PARAW SAILING      Simply taking in a sunset is one of the things you don’t want to miss in Boracay. You can watch the sunset from the beaches, restaurants, or even your hotel room. But the most unforgettable experience in Boracay is watching the stunning sunset on a Paraw Sailing Boat. These are small boats with two sails that look like little kites dancing on the water and a pair of outriggers like large crab-claws, called "katig."     Upon boarding the boat, you will be seated on the outriggers with your bare feet! Sea waves licking your legs, wind blowing across your face, and the yellow-orange sunset coloring the sky. Ahhh, Is there anything more lovely than a relaxing ride on the ocean to watch the sunset go down? Our guess is, no!   TROPICAL FRUITS AND COCONUT WATER   What beach day would be complete without the perfect beach beverage? It doesn’t get more refreshing than sipping out of a coconut. A real coconut! Pair it with a sweet and juicy Mangosteen fruit. These little purple treats are often referred to as the “Queen of Fruit” and can be found throughout Southeast Asia and are known for having lots of antioxidants!     Not everyone knows how to open a mangosteen. Here’s a tip: First, remove the stem end and twist it off. Second, press in on the indentation of the top. Third, gently squeeze from the side to break apart, but don’t push too hard. Finally, you can open it really easily and enjoy the sweet white soft flesh inside!    Wanna try something else special? Get a cup of Philippines Yogurt mixed with papaya, cereal and blueberry jam, and of course, there are a lot more fruity flavors you can choose!   ISLAND HOPPING   The half-day Island hopping trip is the best way to escape the crowds in White Beach. Puka Beach, Crocodile Island, Crystal Cove, Tambisaan Beach, Balinghai Beach and Magic Island are the popular destinations. If you want to explore all the snorkelling hotspots, wander around nature, and enjoy the tranquillity on the beaches, make sure you book a tour in advance! They have the most professional and friendly tour guides, so you won’t miss any must-see spot!   EXPLORE
THE MUSTS: Rio de Janeiro
April 20, 2020

THE MUSTS: Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a lush paradise in the southeast of Brazil; plentiful in mountains, beaches, and festivities (though not without political connotations). With music alive in the streets and nature hugging every corner of concrete, the city has a certain magic about it. You could easily embrace the Carioca lifestyle for eternity. But when time is of the essence, get the most out of your trip with this shortlist of top experiences to guide you through “The Marvelous City.”     1. Grab a Caipirinha along the Mureta da Urca A walk along the muereta, or small wall, offers impeccable views of the Guanabara Bay and the Sugarloaf summit in the distance. Locals flock to Bar Urca, situated in this prime location to take in a dramatic sunset while quenching their thirst with a delicious Caipirinha (the national cocktail made of lime, sugar, and cachaça).   2. Reach New Heights on Corcovado Mountain  With tram rides, bus tours, and your own two feet there’s plenty of ways to get to the pinnacle of this “top" pick--though if you’re able, a hike through the Tijuca Forest National Park is a peaceful albeit challenging route to reach the 100 foot Christ the Redeemer Statue. The massive soapstone art deco Jesus is an almost surreal sight to behold as is the endless view of Rio down below.       3. Catch a Wave and some Rays  Not surprisingly, Rio is famed for its stretches of sandy beaches including household names like Copacabana and Ipanema as well as the slightly less lyrical Leblon. Most beaches are in close proximity to tile-laden promenades and high class restaurants and shops.       4. Take it One Step at a Time in Santa Teresa The artist village of Santa Teresa not only throws the best blocos (street parties) during Carnaval season but isn’t bad on the eyes either. Escadaria Selarón is just one photo-worthy example. A gift to Brazil from Chilean artist, Jorge Selarón, the 215 stairs of the world famous Escadaria Selarón is a labor of love and features thousands of scavenged tiles from over 60 countries across the globe.     5. Get your Antioxidants at Takaka Sucos Despite its unassuming diner-like appearance, Takaka notably serves up the best açaí in town. Less syrupy sweet than most açaí abroad and topped with mounds of self-serve granola and tapioca, you’ll be surprised how much of this refreshing treat you can put away in a sitting.     6. Flamengo Park at your Leisure One’s trash is truly another’s treasure at this landfill-project-turned-popular-park. Stretching 1.2 square KM, Flamengo Park, or, officially, Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, is the innovation of famed Brazilian landscaper Burle Marx and features 300 species of trees, not to mention recreation areas, museum, and monuments.    7. Go Green at the Botanic Gardens  The aptly named Jardim Botânico district is home to the Jardim Botânico or Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. Nearly 150 species of birds and over 6.500 species of plants can be found within the square mile of the gardens which also includes a museum, research center, art collection, and cultural centers as well as a darling little cafe. Meander through Amazon jungle greenery, cacti, bonsais, and even some plants of the carnivorous variety! And don’t miss the splendid Avenue of Royal Palms lined with 134 specimens, all descendants of a single palm tree once known as the Palma Mater.     8. Sample some Samba If you’re lucky enough to be in Rio during Carnaval, the week-long celebration that begins the Friday before Ash Wednesday (but in reality lasts months!)  you’ll want to grab tickets to the Sambadrone Parades that take place in the Marquês de Sapucai Sambadrome. Here, the top schools in the nation compete; showing off their music and dance skills, spectacular costumes, elaborate floats, and oftentimes biting political commentary. If big crowds aren’t your thing, the parades are just as fun to watch on TV at a local bar.      9. Gain Perspective atop the Sugarloaf Named for its likeness to refined sugar before the introduction of today’s sugar cube, this peak offers amazing panoramic views of the city, Guanabara Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Just take a glass-walled cable car from Praia Vermelha to the Sugarloaf Mountain, stopping at the tourist center atop Morro da Urca along the way.      10. Hit the Town in Botafogo Once led by Lapa, the quirky neighborhood of Botafogo is now where it’s at for nightlife in Rio. Here you’ll find samba circles, outdoor cafes, pubs, wine bars, dance clubs, karaoke, and even what was voted the best craft brewery in Rio: Hocus Pocus. EXPLORE  
LIVING IT UP IN LISBON: Liquid Diet Edition
April 14, 2020

LIVING IT UP IN LISBON: Liquid Diet Edition

The bacalhau (dried and salted cod) and pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts) are enough to satisfy your appetite when visiting Portugal’s capital city. But if you’re looking for something thirst-quenching; Lisbon’s libations are both varied and mouth watering.       From the heights of the 11th century hilltop São Jorge Castle, along the vintage trolley railways, down to the Cais das Colunas pillars that once welcomed ships into this port city, there is no shortage of exciting locations to explore and delightful drinks to taste once you’re there.     Here’s a refresher on some liquid refreshments you should be sure not to miss during your visit.     1. Galão   Coffee comes in all shapes and sizes in Lisbon from the long, dark abatanado to the refreshing, café pingado. Lisbon’s favorite way to start the day is with a glass of galão. Light brown and hot, this breakfast accompaniment is made from a shot of espresso and served in a tall glass filled ¾ of the way with milk. Pastelarias (pastry shops) and snack bars nestled throughout the labyrinth-like streets of the Alfama district, the cobbled streets of Barrio Alto, or in the bustling downtown area of Baixa provide a delightful backdrop for the most important drink of the day.     If your sweet tooth calls, pastéis de nata do pair quite nicely with galão. Just ask any local. The most famed of these custard treats can be found at Pastéis de Belém, the world famous monastery-turned-bakery that’s been selling its ancient natas recipe since 1837.      Looking to lower your lactose? A bica, or shot of black espresso, is a midday pick-me-up best sipped on the terrace of the famed, and ever popular, art-deco café, A Brasileira. Conveniently located between the Elevador de Santa Justa and the bank of Tagus river, you can drain your joe then board the lift to get an aerial view of the city. Then saunter down to relax along the water overlooking the Golden Gate-style Ponte 25 de Abril bridge.           2. Fresh Orange Juice    What’s better than a cup of galão to wake you up in the AM? A cup of galão in one hand and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the other. Sumo de laranja is served at room temperature and preppy pulpy; prepared behind café counters overflowing with mountains of vivid and freshly-picked fruit. The popularity and prized sweetness of oranges in Portugal dates back to the 17th century. Back in the day, most oranges across Europe were rather bitter but sweet orange trees from India and China were imported to Portugal. Soon in high demand, oranges were sold at staggering prices and often only accessible to society’s upper crust.     Now ubiquitous throughout Portugal and Lisbon alike, finding a decently priced OJ is no problem. Fábrica Lisboa along Rua da Madalena is worth a visit for your dose of Vitamin C in addition to a great photo op. The caf é's interior is embellished with tons of vintage collectibles. Or try Sama Sama, a health-conscious creperie where the smoothies and pressed juice just scream "fresh." Here, the menu simply refers to orange juice as “The Portuguese.   3. Port     Drinking port wine in the beverage’s very own birthplace is a must! Enjoyed as a digestif after dinner, and usually with dessert, port wine is a sweet red wine, fortified with a grape brandy, not dissimilar from Italy’s grappa. Port is aged in barrels or bottles anywhere from two to 50 years, changing its color, complexity, and flavor. You can join the ranks of port experts, or come close to it, with a visit to the Port Wine Institute’s Solar do Vinho do Porto.     A fancy sort of place, patrons have access to the best selection of over 150 different ports. The menu is thick and instructive, offering lots of educational details on what you’re sipping. Servers are there to share their vast knowledge as well. You’ll be surprised at port’s approachability and range, dispelling its sometimes stuffy image.     Feel like taking a post-port stroll? Located just 5 minutes south, the Carmo Convent is a gothic church, roofless and in ruins following the infamous earthquake of 1755. Today, it is home to tours and a small archeological museum by day and amazing performances by night.      4. Ginjinha     Good things come in small packages. And A Ginjinha is no exception! A Ginjinha is a teeny, tiny open front bar near Rossio plaza selling equally petite shot glasses of its namesake Portuguese liqueur: Ginjinha (or Ginja for simplicity). The drink is made with alcohol infused with sour cherries, or ginjas. If you so choose, you’ll find one sitting at the bottom of your glass priced at less than two Euro. Ginjinha is strong and tart and was first commercialized at this historic location in 1840. “Saude” to that!      5. Vinho Verde     As the name might imply to those with a knowledge of Portuguese, this is known as a green wine but not because of its color (which is actually white or even golden). The wine itself is very young or “green" meaning its alvarinho grapes are picked, processed into vinho verde, and then consumed all within a year’s time! No again for this fizzy and refreshing delight. While no trick to track down, pairing vinho verde with the perfect experience is key. The family-owned fado restaurant, A Baiuca, provides an evening of good wine, hearty meals, and moving serenades.     Fado music originated in Lisbon and truly comes from deep within the soul; expressing what is known as saudade--a profound nostalgia and sense of loss and yearning. There isn’t a dry eye in the house at this intimate gem as amateur fado singers, many of whom double as cooks in the kitchen, step up to the mic and fill the night with song.    EXPLORE
ITINERARY BY NPK: LONG WEEKEND IN PARIS
September 08, 2019

ITINERARY BY NPK: LONG WEEKEND IN PARIS

I’m very lucky to say that I spend about three weeks a year in Paris for work. The Food! The style! The lights…what’s not to love about Paris?! Yes, much has been written about Paris but there is a reason for that… as we all know, Paris never gets old!    My strategy is to live like a chic local while still taking in the hits of Paris and if you stay where we stay, you are setting yourself up to have the most picture-perfect long weekend in Paris. I’m convinced we stay in the absolute best place in all of Paris. We stay at a beautiful studio apartment in the Palais Royale. It’s beautifully decorated and the owners are absolutely wonderful hosts. Sophie has created a giant binder of Paris recommendations is worth it alone. If you’re lucky (like us) and get to know her over time, she may even let you rent out her main apartment when she’s at her second home in Grasse but the studio is fabulous too.  THURSDAY 1. Angelina for lunch on Rue de Rivoli. Dessert is an absolute must here so definitely save room.2. Pop into Faure Le Page on Rue Cambon (think Goyard but with a history of leather goods made for gun-toting….a little cooler and not as played out IMO)3. Louis Vuitton Foundation4. Food shopping for breakfast and snacks (and maybe a picnic) at LeBonMarche (the food hall is directly next to the department store which is very much worth a visit too…I also usually pop into the Conran Shop which is catty-corner to LBP since the one in NYC is no longer)5. Early dinner at Bistrot Vivienne  FRIDAY 1. Musee de Beaux Arts at the Petit Palais2. Musee Rodin (Great place to picnic when the weather is nice….take a morning snack of café au lait and some fresh fruit and dine among the outdoor sculptures. Afterwards, stroll the museum, which is small and shouldn’t take too long)3. Deyrolle (the famed taxidermy store, long an inspiration of Wes Anderson)4. Stroll down Rue de Bac….eat a light lunch (or skip entirely) followed by something sweet (sweet shops line this entire street and they are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the belly)5. Stop in to Popelini for an out of this world cream puff and to take a selfie in front of their “I Got Puffed in Paris” sign 6. Assouline on Rue Bonaparte (Note: You will be near Le Bon Marche so if you didn’t get to go the day before, go now.)­7. NapImage via Paramount Pictures8. Dinner at Le Grand Colbert. I love the smoked salmon with blinis to start, the roast chicken or a steak for my main and the baked Alaska for dessert. 9. Ice Cream at Une Glace à ParisImage via  Une Glace à Paris SATURDAY 1. Pack a picnic lunch if it’s nice out Musee des Arts Decoratifs (walk there from the Studio)  2. Picnic in the Jardin de Tuilleries (just a couple of blocks further on Rue de Rivoli…pick up some postcards en route and do your postcard-writing at the same time) Photo by Marco Verch 3. Start the evening with a cocktail at Le Meurice (during Fashion Week this is the best place for people watching)4. Dinner back at the Musee Des Artes Decoratifs at Lou Lou (make sure to book…I like doing the museum the same day but that’s just me) SUNDAY 1. Musee D’Orsay (I like the walk if it’s nice out). The impressionists and decorative arts collection are not to be missed. Take a selfie in front of the giant clock.2. Stroll along Boulevard St. Germain3. Musee YSL If you’re ambitious and have another museum in you, go to the Musee Picasso, one of my favorites (although a cab ride away)4. Dinner at Freddy’s or Semilla. Freddy’s is Semilla’s more casual little brother of a restaurant next door. It serves up small plates tapas style and a huge selection of great wines by the glass. Both are amazing experiences and are adjoined so you can’t go wrong (you’ll definitely need a reservation at Semilla). WHY Because I spend about three weeks a year in Paris for work and I’m convinced we stay in the best place in all of Paris! I’LL DO ANYTHING FOR Paris window shopping and French Cheeses I’LL DO ANYTHING TO AVOID The crowds in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre…. WHEN I go for Fashion Week (end of Sept/Early Oct. and March) which is an exciting time in Paris (at least if you’re into fashion) but April, May, June, and September are all fantastic months. I dramatically prefer Paris when it’s warmer. FAVORITE MEAL   Le Grand Colbert: Smoked Salmon and Blinis at / Steak or Chateaubriand / Crème brûlée or Baked Alaska (sure this place has gotten a little touristy since Diane Keaton raved about it in “Something’s Gotta Give” but the room is an atmospheric slice of heaven, the food is very French and doesn’t disappoint, and plenty of locals still eat here…This is about a 90-second walk from Le Palais Royale Bistrot Vivienne: Beef Tartar, Baked Camembert (not always available but if it is, get it!), / their incredible chicken and I rarely order chicken (I think it’s the Coquelet) / Chocolate Mousse is an absolute must and This is also about a 90-second walk from Le Palais Royale) I BRING HOME Goodies from Le Bon Marche, books from Deyrolle & quirky souvenirs from Colette RELATED PRODUCTS  
BEST SWEETS IN NYC
September 03, 2019

BEST SWEETS IN NYC

FLOUR SHOP Photo by William Sonoma If you are need of a Birthday cake this place is a must! Order an explosion cake for the most colorful cake you’ve ever seen or stop in to pick up some mini sweet treats for a mid-day pick me up. 177 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013 TAIYAKI NYC A Japanese ice cream shop known for their soft-serve served up in a fish-shaped cone. 119 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013 DOMINIQUE ANSEL It wouldn’t be a trip to NYC without stopping by Dominique Ansel’s Bakery and trying the original cronut or one of their famous cookie shots! 189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 DO Photo by DO Embrace the inner child in you at DO where you can eat as much cookie dough as your heart desires! They even have Gluten Free and Vegan options. 550 LaGuardia Place New York, NY 10012 JARS BY DANI What’s better than cake? Cake in a jar! Jars by Dani is a great addition for any event or party. They look just as good as they taste! MISTER SOFTEE Photo by Mister Softee The most famous ice cream food truck! You can’t go wrong with a vanilla chocolate swirl on a cone with rainbow sprinkles. DAILY PROVISIONS Photo by Melissa Hom Looking for the perfect match with your coffee? Look no further! With a choice of either maple, strawberry or cinnamon, the Cruller’s at daily provision are a must! 103 E 19th St New York, NY 10003 VAN LEEUWEN ARTISAN ICE CREAM Photo by Van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream made with the simplest, freshest ingredients. Vegan and Classic flavors available. Be sure to try their Honeycomb Flavor! 61 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012 SHAKE SHACK Photo by Caroline Rodriguez Best known for its burgers and fries, Shake Shack also has frozen custard available. Make sure to order a concrete, frozen custard with mix-ins, which are specialized for each location. 1333 Broadway New York, NY 10018 LEVAIN BAKERY Photo by @julianne_rucker The signature Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie is not only great to taste but also great for your Instagram feed. The crispy outside and gooey center will have you wanting more. 167 West 74th Street, New York, NY 10023 BIG GAY ICE CREAM SHOP Photo by Sideways NY Get creative when it comes to your ice cream cone here! Or just go with one of their signature dips. Either way, you are in for a BIG treat. 61 Grove St, New York, NY 10014 MILKBAR Photo by Milk Bar You can’t go wrong with a cup of cereal milk ice cream from MomoFuko Milk Bar. But if that’s not your style, they have everything from birthday cake truffles to compost cookies that are out of this world. 251 E 13th St New York, NY 10003 COFFEE & CREAM BY ODDFELLOWS Photo by Melissa Hom Want coffee and ice cream? We found the perfect place for you! Try their Wafflegato or the Matchagato. 55 E Houston St, New York, NY 10012 BLACK TAP Photo by Black Tap While their burgers are great too, Black Tap is best known for their giant freakshakes. These freakshakes are extreme milkshakes and come in flavors like Sweet and Salty or Cotton Candy. 529 Broome St, New York, NY 10013 THE DOUGHNUT PROJECT Photo by Lindsay Paulen An everything bagel? Nope. An Everything Doughnut. Too adventurous for you? That’s ok! Try the house favorite which is the Beet Doughnut filled with ricotta whip. 10 Morton Street New York, NY 10014 SOFT SWERVE NYC Photo by @feedyourgirlfriend An ice cream shop with Asian-inspired flavors! Stop in and try their ube purple yam flavor. 85B Allen St, New York, NY 10002 SERENDIPITY 3 Photo by Something Swanky People usually come here for one thing and one thing only. The iconic Frozen Hot Chocolate. Big enough to split even though you may not want to! 225 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022 LADY M Photo by Lady M Cake Boutique Make a stop to Lady M and try their signature Mille Crêpes. 20 thin crepes layered with pastry cream that will melt in your mouth. Feeling adventurous? Try their matcha or chocolate banana flavors. 36 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018 MAGNOLIA BAKERY Photo by Magnolia Bakery Anything you try at Magnolia Bakery is going to be delicious. But their Banana Bread Pudding is on another level. You can even get it in a party size! 401 Bleecker Street and W. 11th Street New York, NY BUTTERCUP BAKE SHOP Photo by Buttercup Bake Shop The perfect place to pick up 100% buttercream cupcakes for you, your kids, friends, and family. They have four locations throughout the city. 973 2nd Ave New York, NY 10022 RELATED PRODUCTS
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