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
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”.
Spa My Blend by Clarins
Although I don’t get them often, I love a good facial. When I lived in New York City, I was a devotée of Christine Chin. She is a formidable, tell-it-like-it-is (“Oh, does it sting? Good! Beauty is torture!”), skin genius. Period. It’s taken me awhile to find a new place, but I think I just struck gold with the Spa My Blend by Clarins at the Royal Monceau hotel. The design is a sea of white lacquer and mirrored furniture. With so much stimulus hitting us from every direction these days, the minimalism felt clean, crisp and oddly soothing. Plus, I loved the beautiful fresh juices and treats to sample pre-appointment. My therapist, Marine, was a true delight and the real deal. Professional skin diagnosis, an incredible custom protocol for my skin (hence the name, “Spa My Blend“), and (when has this EVER happened) on top of a fantastic facial, the treatment included a hot stone massage for my neck and shoulders. Oh, a hand and and foot massage as well. When the treatment was over… a salted caramel macaron was waiting for me. Hello? God, I felt great.
There are moments as an expat when you love where you live, like where you live, feel like a fish out of water or just want to go home. By the way, these moods can all happen in one day. What helps tip the scale more to love is when you start to have your “network” going. Your friend tribe, your butcher, the fabulous lady you buy your flowers from, your fish monger, your “bio coop,” and on and on. Spa My Blend is officially part of the network. Expats in Paris: what gems are in your network?
Spa My Blend by Clarins, Royal Monceau Paris
The Body Holiday, St. Lucia
Here’s one to put on your calendar. Yamuna Zake is leading her first Body School at The Body Holiday in St. Lucia. If you haven’t heard of Yamuna, this is a good day. She created a program for movement that focuses on proper alignment. Her goal is to teach her students body sustainability. I have taken her classes. They will change your body and your relationship to your body. You start by focusing on your feet with a special ball called a “foot saver,” and soon realize how much we all neglect two of the most important things we rely on every single day. I’ve met women in their seventies who were able to avoid hip, knee, and back surgery by practicing the various methods she teaches in her classes. It works! The basic method involves small, medium and large balls that you use to target different areas of your body. (Have a look at the photo above.) This falls under the genre of methods of movement that engage your deep faschia, the connective tissue that attaches different muscles and organs. When you engage faschia, you release trapped physical and, many believe, emotional energy. The result? You can expand and lengthen rather than contract.
And what better place to expand than in stunning St. Lucia with none other than Yamuna teaching you how herself? Dates are April 26th – May 1st, 2017.
This is truly exciting. Wanderfuel is a new company that wants to revolutionize how we eat while traveling. I think it’s pretty safe to say that more often than not, your typical in-flight meal will leave you wanting … and wistful. Wanderfuel wants to change all that. Well-curated (and beautifully designed) boxes are filled with snacks that are delicious, help you feel energized, and are easy on your digestion. Sample goodies you might find in a box are coconut chips, “Raw Gorilla” granola snack packs, chia treats, and mushroom coffee. (Yes, you read that correctly.) So now you have a choice: do you want to land feeling bloated and cranky, or feeling refreshed both inside and out? Did I forget to mention Wanderfuel also has a Refresh & Recharge: Spa Kit as well? What snacks do you usually bring when you travel?