Sunday, March 6, 2011

6 Tips for Packing Carry- On

Last March I travelled to Paris for a week with a group to enjoy art and architecture. About a month before we left, I was mortified to learn that our tour leader preferred we took carry-on to avoid any lost luggage issues upon arrival in Paris. Yikes!!! My first reaction was to ignore the request - maybe he was kidding- I was assured he wasn't and so I could only take it as a challenge and a learning experience. Through trial and error and advice from others, these would be my 6 tips to packing carry-on for a week's vacation in a temperate climate in spring:

1. Select one basic colour of clothing......probably black is the easiest to work with......besides what you wear on the plane, bring another pr. of pants and a skirt (same colour as pants). To coordinate, bring 2 shirts, 1 long-sleeved T - shirt, 1 light sweater, 1 vest (I have a great one that I bought year's ago from Ann Fontaine that can be dressed up or down). Wear a raincoat on the plane along with a jacket or cardigan.

2. Roll each piece of clothing to pack. *** this is the best tip - who knew!

3. Bring at least 3 scarves to provide a colour boost, one significant piece of costume jewellery, and a travel umbrella.

4. Count on using the hotel's toiletries instead of packing any and edit your makeup case. All liquids need to go in ziplock bag that you'll put in the tote (see #5).

5. Bring an over-your-shoulder tote onto the plane that can accommodate your handbag/purse, Ipad, e-tickets, headphones, camera, sunglasses, and zip-lock bag with toiletries. I always bring a black pashmina in my tote as an extra layer.

6. Pack a foldable tote bag to stash any purchases. I like the largest size Longchamp bag. You may have to end up checking this on the way home, but it will be worth it if you happen upon some just-can't-live-without shopping items.

Here's my stylish friend's carry-on luggage - by Tumi.

Here's mine...... Alfred Sung - ancient but it worked......

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Flower Arranging Class in Paris

I was in Paris for my birthday this year and I gave myself the gift of attending a flower arranging workshop with Catherine Muller, a delightful and creative florist, at her new store,'s a display from her store - yes, those are coins glued onto a torso.
Catherine's classes are in French and English and she can even throw in the odd Korean word. There were five of us in the class - three young women from Korea, myself, and another Parisian florist. Just an aside.....I've previously taken a flower arranging course in London and there were two gals in the course from Korea. I'm thinking that flowers must hold a special place in the hearts and minds of the Korean people. Does anyone know the reason?

Raw products were at each station ready for preparation of the first arrangement.
) My first arrangement of peonies, lilacs, anemones, one large hydrangea, and long strands of ivy (Catherine's signature style is natural and she uses sprigs of ivy in the arrangement as well as ties the bouquet with it instead of wire or tape.

We deconstructed this arrangement and Catherine demonstrated how to use the same flowers to create a centrepiece on a mirrored surface. She scattered water drops on the mirrored surface and petals to simulate a sprinkle of rain.

I thought this was so creative - using 2-way tape to attach single hydrangea blooms around a small vase to hold a floating votive.
The afternoon's arrangement resembled a cake of flowers on a pedestal:
Catherine's final arrangement of the day incorporated lavendar roses, sweet avalanche roses, pink nerines, vanda orchids, and magnolia branches. This would be suitable for an office desk because the flowers are arranged vertically thus taking up less space.
Catherine also has a blog which gives a link to her flower school. Interesting to note is that one her students, Laura Dowling, is the new florist for the White House.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cooking Class in Paris

Before going to Paris, my sister-in-law, Susan, sent me the Eye Prefer Paris blog by Richard Naham (transplanted New York restaurant owner and caterer) which linked me to the Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Having a free day on the Friday (classes are offered Wed. through Sun.), our group of four women decided to try it. It turned out to be one of our best experiences that week.

Richard picked us up at the Raspail Metro station at 9 am. and we shopped the Raspail market selecting seasonal ingredients for the lunch we would be making.Richard pointed out that often radishes are presented as an accompaniment to appertifs with butter and salt...the green stems removed but not necessarily the white tails. White asparagus were in season. Scallops from Normandy were displayed in their shells.
The Raspail market is open Tuesdays and Fridays and also includes clothing items such as reasonably priced scarves (beautiful ones for 5 euros) and stylish kid's clothing.

Following our market tour, Richard took us on a Metro ride to the private townhouse of our cooking class chef, Charlotte Puckette, a delightful woman originally from Charleston, South Carolina who has 13 yr. old triplets and has lived in Paris for over 20 years operating a successful catering business. Over coffee we discussed the lunch menu we would make:
Asparagus Tart with Chevre and Arugula
Roasted Duck Breast with Fig Gastrique and
Chocolate Fondant

Note the beautiful stone walls of Charlotte's newly designed kitchen - making up the entire first floor of her townhouse. Here is some of our group trying our hand at the asparagus tart.
and the finished product...
The recipes were easy to adopt to our Canadian kitchens using ingredients we could find at home. Cost of the class and market tour is 185 euros per person (about 4.5 hrs.) and it would be ideal for 3 - 6 people.....a wonderful addition to any Paris trip. Richard also does shopping tours to stores known only to insiders.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flowers Along the Parisian Streets

Last week I went on a wonderful art and architecture tour of Paris with Professor Michael Farrell through Art House Tours. We were a group of 40 from the Windsor-Detroit area and I was lucky to have three good friends with me. The art and architecture of course were the main event but, to me, a breathtaking vision was the array of flowers and plants displayed along the Parisian streets. Masses of primroses announced that this was spring in Paris.

This floral display at Aquarelle was astounding - rows of arrangements tied with raffia in plastic wrap "vases" filled with water. The prices were reasonable.....20 euros each (about $30. Canadian).

Muscari (grape hyacinth) bulbs in small pots at Bourgeon - Catherine Muller's new floral shop and school.....more about that in a subsequent post.

Multicoloured roses were the theme for this innovative shop....could this work in Windsor?

And these parrot tulips ready to burst....

I was wishing that I had a better camera by the end of the week. I'll leave you today with a photo I snapped while walking back to the hotel on our last evening. Ah there a better city on the planet?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Las Balsas Hotel, Patagonia Argentina

Las Balsas is a hotel near Bariloche which is part of the Relais and Chateaux group. You can depend on great attention paid to decor, food, and service at any Relais and Chateaux property worldwide. This is the spa and workout area.

Our room featured this unique chandelier. I apolgize for the photo not looking as wonderful as this piece actually is. It's made of driftwood adorned with crystals - such a clever combination of rugged and highbrow materials. The receptionist's sister is the artist and she also made all the lamps in the room in a similar fashion.

My favourite piece of art in the hotel is this beautiful oil painting of a fisherman hanging on their dining room wall.This artist really knows how to make every brushstroke count.

Just for fun today, I'll add one of my own paintings (completed with a lot of help from my extremely talented art teacher, Garfield Purdie from Amherstburg, Ontario) that evokes thoughts of the tango in Argentina with it's ruffled skirt design.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Flowers at the Alvear Palace Hotel

I've always admired the flowers at hotels and being an amateur floral arranger myself, I tend to study them closely. The florist for the elegant Buenos Aires hotel, the Alvear Palace, chose a brilliant red orange colour as the predominant theme in the lobby spaces.

The combination of the red hypericum berry with the roses was carried through on the lobby bar.

Even our room had roses in the sitting area and at breakfast there was a posey bouquet based on the same theme.

This last arrangement is my own inspired by the beautiful bouquets at the Alvear using a rose with more yellow in it. My hypericum berries didn't look as fresh as the ones at the hotel after a couple of days.....maybe Argentina has a better source for them?

Monday, March 8, 2010

El Pedral Lodge

Vince meets you at the Trelow airport and you load into his pickup truck for the hour and a half ride through the most unattractive scrubland along a dirt road. I could read my travel companions' minds....."where in the world are we going and wherever it is, it better be good." The drive ends at the El Pedral Lodge - a working ranch turned guest lodge in 2004 on the coast of the Peninsula Valdes region. Your opinion starts to change once you are warmly greeted and told that your first excursion starts in 15 ATV ride on the deserted beach to see their new colony of Magellan penguins.

Other wildlife viewing adventures await. You don't have to organize anything and two nights is the perfect amount of time to spend here. A trip the next day in the zodiac allowed us to get up close and personal with a large community of sea lions.

Going with another couple would be my recommendation since you are miles from anywhere and there is no entertainment (ie. no television or movies) after dinner. Accommodations and dining are comfortable, although not luxurious. This is the living room of the main house.

Clothing is ultra casual - jeans and yoga wear, a windbreaker, running shoes for hiking and boating. For the boat rides, a toque that covers your ears is perferrable instead of a visor. Sunscreen and lip protector are musts.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat.....I'd try to fly into Puerto Madryn because it would knock off 45 minutes of the drive from the airport (but flights only go Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays into Puerto Madryn while they fly everyday into Trelow)and I would definitely go during whale watching season - between July and November. You would see the magnificent whales in your private zodiac boat as well as more elephant seals. Instead of the 42 we saw, there would be 36,000 and you would see the two ton males, not just the "teenagers".

We ended the visit with a leisurely horseback ride and dinner with a glass or two of the chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon from the Tupungato Winelands winery in Mendoza.