Half Moon – Montego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaica. It’s my favorite island for so many reasons. I’m part Jamaican and it feels nice to come ‘home”. BUT, every time I go, it’s always about the people. Their warmth, kindness, killer sense of humor, and, yes, a little bit of attitude to keep it real. And, this trip was no different. Put that with beautiful weather, lush surroundings, good food, and some ‘essential-listening’ reggae? Done. This year I tried a different place. I had heard of Half Moon many times and all reports were great. Scratch that. Pretty fantastic, actually. Somehow I never made it. I always go through that mental back and forth of “easy resort. Ahhh.” vs. “shouldn’t we be doing something more rustic and authentic?” Then I factor in traveling with my husband (“beach is non-negotiable”), daughter (“activites!”) and this year my mom (“just put me somewhere warm and I’m happy”), and I figured let’s go easy and not stress. We all loved it.

The property is literally 10 minutes from the airport, but when you enter, it’s a different, hushed, beautiful world. I love a good entry — you need to set the right tone immediately — and the lobby’s sweeping, open-air views of the ocean are wonderful. I would call the decor, “modern colonial”. Elegant wood furniture with soothing tropical (not crazy primary color) patterns. Tasteful. Chic. There are many different accommodations to choose from. Beach front cottages, single rooms, suites, split-level cottages, and private villas that are located further in on the property. (While biking, I craned my neck more than once to get a glimpse of the villas, which look amazing.) We chose a garden villa suite. Well, actually it was chosen for us as we made a late reservation and that’s what they had left for the Christmas week. When I say ‘late’ I mean August! It all worked out though. We were steps away from the beach, palm trees, and fresh coconut water every day. There are three pools, and two main beaches. I preferred the one further away from the main building as it was like a private beach with a great snack bar/bbq.

There are dedicated programs and facilities for tennis, horseback-riding, and a renown golf course. We tend to be slackers in this department, but I’m happy these amenities are here. Future aspirations? Maybe! Their yoga pavilion is wonderful. Actually, there are two. One at the Fern Tree Spa (great!), and one on the beach. Literally on stilts over the ocean. Special. I had, ‘Gabi,’ a german transplant as my teacher and she was a perfect mixture of no-nonsense/soulful/warm/fun. Very much like Jamaica itself.

Half Moon

Healthy Travels Survival Kit

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When I travel, I never leave without my essentials … my survival kit. Even before the toiletries, I make sure that I have the following products to help me stay healthy on the go:

1. Vitamin C drink – I have used different brands, but my current is still the slender packets from Whole Foods’ 365 line. I typically drink this while on the plane and take extra packets for the rest of my trip. Just pour into a glass of water and you’ll feel like you’re warding off any and all airborne diseases.

2. Travel Matcha Tea — I have written previously about the joys of matcha travel packets. These are from a lovely store in St. Germain, Lupicia. The tin case that holds 10 packets is fantastic.

3. Natural Calm Magnesium drink — Keep stress at bay with these little packets of magic. Pour into a glass of warm or hot water. Bonus: Magnesium also seems to help out with any digestive craziness. (I like the “Original” flavor.)

4. Pana Cacao Dark Chocolate Eighty — I know 80% seems high but this is hands down one of the best dark chocolates out there. Smooth, rich, sweet but not too much. There are treats and then there are treats!

Le Tigre – Yoga and Well-Being Center, Paris

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It took me a while to find a place to practice yoga in Paris. Mind you, not because of a lack of studios! This city has amazing yoga studios offering every kind of yoga in every part of the city. Seriously. When I lived here nine years ago, I had a great spot in the 5th arr. neighborhood, which was easy to get to as I was also on the left bank. Now that I’m across the river, I had to find a place with just as good a vibe — and convenient to get to. Le Tigre (the name!) is my new spot. Love it. Yoga, pilates, snacks, tea, books, lounging… it’s a community. Beautiful space with a “minimalism meets Bali” type aesthetic. I’m a Kundalini Yoga devotee. Typically, not so easy to find, but it’s offered at Le Tigre, and the teacher is excellent. Isn’t it always about the teacher? Caroline Bénézet will take you through familiar poses, but she also infuses her class with thoughts on inner strength and self-acceptance. All with honesty, a little irreverence, and a good sense of humor. Oh, there’s singing, chanting, and perhaps one of the best Savasanas — she bangs a gong, first softly then the volume progresses. Hypnotic.

Le Tigre Yoga

Hotel Okura – Amsterdam

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Recently, I was in Amsterdam to celebrate a friend’s birthday and stayed at the Okura. Although I haven’t been in a long time, I’m a big fan of Amsterdam. Great people, amazing art, the coolest bike culture — it’s hard not to have a great time. (Well, there is the horizontal rain from time to time, but still…) I also love Japanese culture, so the Okura worked out perfectly for me. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the Okura is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum. If you’re looking for “boutique,” this is not for you. However, although it is a large hotel, the public spaces typically have an amazing zen-like calmness. Three things stand out from my weekend: the gorgeous indoor pool, the ease of getting into central Amsterdam, and THE FOOD. I was with my family and we still talk about the incredible Teppanyaki experience we had at Sazanka. Dishes are prepared on a hot iron griddle right in front of you by chefs who are so serene … yet dazzle! This is not a gimmicky, showy affair. The chefs are just perfect. The food is delicious. Period. The Okura (no stranger to having Michelin-starred restaurants) has three other acclaimed restaurants here as well.

After seeing amazing art at The Rijks Museum (I could have looked at Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” for hours…my husband and daughter had other ideas) and walking around the city center (and, yes, dodging some dedicated cyclists), the rain started and we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed the beautiful pool and its atrium-like setting. A great place to swim (my daughter) or just relax (hello!) on a chaise and sip something delicious. Beautiful spa and gym as well.

NB: Breakfast is fantastic! Served in the restaurant Le Camelia. Beautiful classic buffet, plus traditional Japanese. Staff is wonderful. Such a happy way to start the day.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam

 

Muji.com for Travel Supplies

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This is one of my favorite stores. Ever. When I’m in a MUJI store, I get that same gleam in my eye that my father would get in a serious hardware store. I love to explore every department. And every time I marvel at how such simple design can be so insanely cool AND functional. This is my go-to place for cosmetic travel bottles. Such a selection! Then you’ve got passport holders, neck pillows, cosmetic cases, luggage carts, and so many other things you didn’t even know you were missing out on. Nothing beats the in-store experience, but MUJI.com has everything you need. Happy travels!

NB: For the travel cosmetic bottles, look under “Health/Beauty”. All other travel products are under “Travel Goods”.

Muji.com

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