Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cambodia -- 7 years later

It was 7 years ago this December that my BFF and I were on a three-week chic vacation throughout Thailand and Cambodia, complete with daily massages, shopping adventures for Thai silk and celadon, a beachfront luxury resort in Ko Lanta, late nights on the beach with a lovely crowd of British "boys" and many a drunken evening throughout. Ah, what great memories from our single girl days. Sniff, sniff.

From what I've read today in the New York Times Travel Section, 36 Hours in Siem Reap, Siem Reap is not the place that it was back then. We stayed in a run down hotel and had a comical, bureaucratic entrance to the country at the minuscule airport, but it didn't dampen our spirits for the awe-inspiring visits to the temples and ruins. Today, it seems, you can stay in some very cool, relaxing places and a thriving art scene is taking hold, not to mention numerous places for "foodies." Just check out the Viroth hotel... looks very trendy chic.

Now, the only question is when can I get back?
Photo courtesy of New York Times

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So Many Ways to Give

It's holiday time....I'm having a bit of a hard time this year getting in the spirit due to the dust flying around my house, washer and dryer in my living room, growing tummy and overwhelming list at work. But I am trying to be more conscientious about giving this year when there is so much need at home and around the world. So, here are just a few ideas:

1. Give to World Vision through a catalogue that features goats, chickens and cows for families in the developing world. Might seem funny to purchase a goat but you only have to read one story like the one Nicholas Kristoff wrote in the New York Times a few months ago about the impact one such animal can make to an entire family's livelihood to know it is the right thing to do. You can also donate food aid, for children's education and clothing. I did this for my sisters and in-laws and each donation will be made in their name.

2. Pangea is Greek for "all lands"., supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), brings together traditional high quality handicrafts made by artisans in developing countries. This is the first time that most of these products have been available for purchase online and in our Washington, DC store. Come in and purchase these beautiful, fair trade crafts, jewelry, home d├ęcor, accessories and more, learn about the products’ origins and know that your purchase helps create sustainable livelihoods for artisans in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

3. Give to a local food bank, like the Capital Are Food Bank.

4. UNICEF Gifts: From holiday cards to kids toys to gifts that help children around the world, this site is worth checking out.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

and it's Vermont again...

Another day. Another article about our favorite home away from home. Vermont. With so much focus on hard economic conditions, apparently the ski resorts in Vermont are going to benefit from an increase in travelers who won't be trekking out West. Travel and Leisure has just written a lovely article on Warren -- one of our favorite haunts and home to our good friend, Judy. We love the Pitcher Inn, where we spent a magical Valentine's Day evening...and the Vermont country store...and the overall small ski town feel. We recently had dinner at Sugarbush and are planning to get Abigail on downhill skis this season at Mad River Glen.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So Much to Be Thankful For

Thanks again to Nicholas Kristoff's 2 latest columns on women in Pakistan who suffer unspeakable acts of gang rape, honor killings carried out by siblings and acid incidents in which their faces are purposefully disfigured by their husbands, I'm able to put the Thanksgiving holiday -- and so much to be thankful for -- into proper global perspective. Of course, I'm thankful for Brad, Abby, Nathaniel and the little one to be (as some of you know -- still no name), but I'm even more thankful for a system, no matter how flawed, that neither would allow or fail to prosecute these types of crimes.

We can't change these societies overnight, but we can continue to support the international development work taking place there and the work of groups like Mercy Corps, CARE, World Vision and so many others which are working to empower women and reform justice systems which incredibly allow these acts to go unpunished. Or contribute directly to local groups like the Progressive Women's Association of Pakistan or the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization which are bravely fighting this injustice and working to protect women.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Those French Do It Again

First it was the election of a handsome President. Then came the Presidential marriage to a hot Italian heiress/model/chanteuse. Never mind that French women seem to be able to eat and drink with abandon and always look stylish. Or that French food is a foodie's fantasy. Now comes more insult to injury -- regarding French maternity leave -- a system which apparently allows those French femmes to not have to choose between work and family. I must admit I'm envious. A bit peeved. And yes, ready to move to Paris, as I've always wanted to do. As I contemplate my 12 weeks of essentially unpaid leave, I'm reading to board the plane for Charles de Gaulle.

Friday, November 21, 2008

London -- Christmas There and Everywhere

Perhaps there was no better example of the glitz surrounding Christmas in London than the windows at Harrod's -- only rivaled by Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC. London was awash in tinsel, Christmas trees and lights, an unexpected display of commercialization of the holiday -- even well in advance of what we do here in the States due to Thanksgiving. Tho, I must admit these windows are fabu!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eating, London Style

So I had heard all about the bad English food and was prepared to not be impressed....but fortunately things turned out a bit differently in London.

Zaika -Funky purple and pinks hues over the bar and a dimly lit dining room set off the Indian food in this place on High Street in Kensington.

Livebait - Just next to the Lyceum Theater...not bad for pre-theater (Lion King) fare and a very decent creme brulee.

Babylon at the Roof Garden - Trendy High Street crowd of 20 somethings...but very kid friendly. Amazing mushroom and pumpkin risotto followed by cranberry and walnut tart. Can you say yummy with a British accent?

Gail's - Scrumptious brownies, tarts and muffins to be found as we strolled through Portobello Street in Notting Hill. Indulgence unnecessary but darn it was good.

Memories of India - Comfort food on a rainy day of biryani and lamb curry. Definitely a neighborhood haunt if we lived in Kensington.

Orangery at Kensington Palace - Tiny salmon sandwiches, pastries galore and tea, of course, in the former conservatory of Kensington Palace.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

London Day 4

Our first four days in London -- only one to go -- have been filled with traditional tourist visits and venues (just had to visit a palace or two), food, walking, and window shopping. Here are some highlights:

Day 1 -- we step into Hyde Park after a 1 minute walk from our hotel, the Kensington House Hotel and are at the gates of Kensington Palace within seconds. After a tour, including the room where Queen Victoria was informed of her ascension to the throne, we take a long, leisurely stroll to Harrod's, where we dine in the Food Hall on fish and chips (of course) and smoked salmon. Can you say foodie's paradise? Jams, teas, chocolates and all at severely elevated prices. Off to the 4th floor to rub elbows with Paddington Bear and every toy known to mankind. The windows are a tribue to the newest 007 movie -- over the top -- as is most of the entire Harrod's experience. Dinner at Zaika, a cool Indian/French place in colors of purple and pink (more on food later).

Day 2 - Grey London lives up to its name. Rainy and cold. We hop on a double-decker tour bus which takes us past all the famous sights -- Westminster Abby, the Royal Mews, the Parliament, Big Ben and finally end at the Tower of London for a 1 1/2 hour visit through the Crown Jewel exhibit and to the White Tower. For history buffs, this place has it all -- torture devices, a chopping block, royal armours, cannons, swords. Poor Anne Bolyne.

Day 3 -- Off to Westminister Pier to take a cruise along the Thames, a great way to see the Tate Modern from that vintage point, as well as London Bridge. We find a great, hole in the wall Turkish place, Troia, for lunch just behind the British Airways Eye, a monstrosity of a ferris wheel built for the millennium which takes you on a 30-minute high-in-the-sky ride over London. No thanks. Abby opts for the nearby playground. We make our way back past St. James to gawk at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen is in residence, according to the flag flying overhead. By the way, happy 60th, Prince Charles. Yesterday was his big day. Dinner at the Roof Garden on High Street in Kensington a trendy 7th floor restaurant that has the best kids menu to date, salmon with mashed potatos or organic pork with brussel sprouts!

Day 4 --Up Church Street past quaint antique shops to Portobello Road, a mass of vintage shops and stalls selling everything from sterling silverware, to teacups, to the usual assortment of British bric-brac. We wander back into the neighborhood, with stellar facades, and find a few quaint kids shops and even one for me, Bumpsville. Back down the hill to the Orangery at Kensington Palace for an afternoon tea of smoked salmon and dill sandwiches, crumpets with heavy cream...and tea, of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Visiting the Queen

So in a few days, we'll be off to London. Frankly, I'd rather be heading to Paris or a developing country but it's a work thing so I'm going to combine one last hurrah with work. Tonight, I was reminiscing about our great trip to Jordan in June -- an overnight in the desert, visit to the Red Sea, amazing day spent at Petra and fabbbbb-u-lous Middle Eastern fare. Not sure I ever posted these photos so thought I'd share them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

London Hotels

We're headed to London in a week -- and it's been a challenge finding a hotel that is under $350 and will accomodate a 4 year-old (and is up to my standards). Here's where I'd like to stay -- the Convent Gardens hotel -- a charming hotel that is everything British one imagines. Paneled library complete with fireplace. Canopied bed. Cozy dining room. It's all booked and a bit over my price range but is one to keep in the file.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Discovering Burlington...

Seems lots of people have discovered the charms of Burlington, Vermont as we have. Today's article in the Wall Street Journal, Small City, Big Charms, sums up much of my sentiment towards this charming, small city -- big on culture, restaurant scene and local flavor if one can withstand the brutal winter weather.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rwandan Inspiration

Last week in Washington, D.C. I attended a summit on international development, where Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf introduced the President. Together with the African Children's choir performance which lit up the stage, her presence was one of the highlights. Such women are an inspiration for a continent which has been continuously plagued by mismanagement and government corruption and where majorities in many nations continue to live in poverty despite tremendous natural resources.

Today's story in the Washington Post on the role of women in Rwandan politics, "Women Run the Show in a Recovering Rwanda," was another such inspiration. Given the atrocities these women suffered and unimaginable loss, it's an even more poignant example of the power of the human spirit. Amidst so much bad news out of Somalia, Sudan and other African nations, it's a sign of hope.

St. Louis Weekend

Just back from St. Louis -- not sure if that's a red state or blue state anymore. Had a lovely visit to the Botanical Gardens, which was the highlight of the visit. A special exhibit, Niki, featured color mosaic creatures and women in larger than life poses. The artist, Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002), was a citizen of the world: born near Paris, raised in New York, traveled in Europe, and later worked in Switzerland, France, Israel, Italy, and finally California.
She was the only female member of Europe’s New Realist art movement, a contemporary of American Pop Art. Enough about the accolades. My daughter loved them!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's Not to Love about Vermont?

Honestly, it's such a fair question. We spent a long, relaxing weekend in Burlington and the surrounding area, thoroughly enjoying and living in the moment of the fall colors, brrrr-ish mornings in the 30's and country life that we don't get here in D.C. First, I love the City Market -- the local grocery story/co-op, where pretty much every item is made or grown in Vermont. Milk that comes in old fashioned bottles. Love it. Second, we took our daughter to the Ben and Jerry's factory. Free ice cream after the corny tour. Love it. Third, we hung out with friends in a leisurely way, nothing important to do. Love it. Fourth, we ate great locally grown food. Love it. Finally, we took the ferry from Charlotte over to Essex, New York. Did I say fall foliage galore. Love it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Glorious Fall Weekend in D.C.

It was another glorious fall weekend in D.C. as you can see from these photos of Eastern Market. Such great sunflowers.

And pumpkins.

And apples.

And tomatos.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Foreign Aid and the latest crisis

The financial news couldn't be any more depressing or uncertain, with the latest today that some banks would be partially nationalized. Having lived in Eastern Europe and seen the perils of nationalism, I'm still struggling with this one.
The sad news for foreign aid is that it is likely to be on the chopping block, despite assurances earlier this year from both candidates that foreign aid would increase under their administrations. I'm currently sitting on an advisory committee to USAID to help improve its efforts to explain American foreign assistance to the domestic public. It's a very misunderstood topic, with majorities of Americans thinking we spend a major percentage of the budget on aid, when it is in fact less than 1/10th of one percent. When faced with spending money at home or sending it abroad, most Americans would rather see it spent here at home, unless they are truly convinced it is making an impact and helping to stabilize fragile states from further unrest and possible extremism directed toward us.

Keep reading Nicholas Kristoff, please -- he truly is a voice of authority on foreign aid. Sometimes I think he's a lone voice in the wilderness. But surely he thinks every day about these mothers and children in Ethiopia (taken on one of my trips) in ways that very few in the world do.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Right in my Backyard

It was a glorious weekend here in D.C. -- just a touch of chill in the air at night after two sunny days. Sometimes you don't have to go very far to experience something new. I ventured to Old Town Alexandria on Sunday morning to do a little shopping and grab breakfast/brunch with my daughter. We happened upon Le Pain Quotidien, a great little place serving crispy baguettes, rich yogurt with berries, frothy lattes and a wonderful French ham sandwich with my favorites -- cornnichons and tiny black olives. We also discovered The Red Barn Mercantile where we picked up a few Halloween decorations before venturing to Appleseed boutique, where I scored a great formal maternity dress for some upcoming black tie occasions!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Faces from my Travels




East Timor. Just thought I'd share some photos tonight of some memorable faces from my travels.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mexico on my Mind

My latest edition of Travel and Leisure arrived the other day and since it's a rainy weekend on Fire Island, I perused its pages yesterday while a fire raged a few feet away in our fireplace. There is a wonderful article on 25 great beach getaways from Chile to Kenya to Mexico. Since we're thinking of hassle-free travel for our next get away, the Campeche and Mazatlan articles were of particular interest. The latter boasts an Old Town and sounds as if it is now home to some interesting galleries, boutiques and this small boutique hotel, Casa Lucila, which has beachfront rooms and an enticing-looking spa.

Also of note is the article on the restored Four Seasons in Firenze, which is definitely being placed on my Must Visit list. Author Simon Watson says "a fine hotel, a really fine hotel, can give you a rosy opinion of your life and of your role in it." This definitely sounds like the place to wake up with that attitude and a good cup of hearty Italian espresso. 14th century frescos, a chef that heartily subscribes to "terroir" eating, more-than-attentive staff and manicured gardens surrounding this city jewel.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lovin' This Blog

Everyone now and then I post something that has absolutely nothing to do with travel. This is one such post....I just came across Nonchalant Mom, a wonderful blog about kids, the challenges we face in raising them and natural products. For my fellow mother friends out there, you have to check it out. And yes, there is even a shopping site, with the most adorable kids lines and organic products.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

From New York to Miami

If you've ever stayed at the Gansevoort in New York (heart of the Meatpacking District), you know what a trendy, funky place it is to see and be seen. Now apparently, there is a new Gansevoort South, in Miami beach. Just the photos are enough to entice me. This looks like a girls' weekend just waiting to happen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska's Working Mom

I know this is somewhat outside of the topic of my blog but since Alaska is practically a foreign country, I had to draw your attention to today's article in the Style section of the Post, Who Does She Think She is? by DeNeen L. Brown. It's a pretty thorough discussion of the conflicts and discussions women, including many working moms, are having about Sarah Pallin, the unexpected VP choice of John McCain. It sorts of reminds me of all the discussions I've had over the last few years with friends about how to best strike the work, life balance. For instance, I'm often asked "who is taking care of the kids" when I travel. Funny how my husband is not asked the same thing, a point brought up by another working mom. Anyway, give it a read. It's worth it regardless of whether you are an Obama or McCain supporter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cruisin' Back to Fire Island

Back to the beach...and always in search of the perfect beach cruiser. Just saw an amazing Cruiser that Electra makes as well as this lovely photo from the New York Times travel section.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lazy Sunday Morning

I'm posting this just because...just because it's good to spend a Sunday morning in bed perusing the pages of Domino magazine for the perfect rug. Just because my husband made me breakfast in bed one day in advance of my birthday. Just because it's beautiful breezy day in Washington, D.C., a rarity for the end of August. Just because life is good and this Jonathon Adler designed room is lovely.

Friday, August 22, 2008

La Vie en Rose again...

I'm lusting for another weekend trip to Paris. I happened upon the newest city guide to Paris produced by Gourmet magazine this week. Ah, I can hear the sweet sounds of La Vie on Rose in the background as I stroll along the Siene eating a pain au chocolat. A few years back, I dreamt about buying a Paris flat and biding my time between the two. Now it looks more likely that we'll settle on D.C. and Vermont but these weekend trips give me the cultural and gastronomic fix I need. So, guess it's time to start digging out Euros from my drawers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another Great Australia Location

Here's another great Australia destination...looks heavenly and remote and just the type of place to get away from it all. The home page describes it as wild bush luxury and it certainly looks to be the case....and more: "The coastal reef and inshore waters of Ningaloo Reef provide one of Australia’s great marine experiences, while the limestone back-drop of the Cape Range hides deep gorges of spectacular beauty. The coral reef is literally on your doorstep and our guides are passionate and knowledgeable people who love showing you their backyard – over 500 species of fish, 250 coral species and 600 species of mollusc. Ningaloo is known as one of the best places on earth to see and swim with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. It is also a major breeding area for Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead Turtles, which are seen daily in front of the camp."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lizard Island, Australia

One has to do a lot of reading on that long-haul flight from Sydney to LA so I read virtually every piece of paper in sight and happened upon a great find in the Qantas airline magazine. Lizard Island. Never heard of it but went to the website to check it out and discovered a piece of paradise. White sand beaches. Blue waters. Small boutique hotel.