Germany’s edgy capital offers wine and culinary experiences that push the envelope.
Berlin’s progressive disposition is driving its trendy art and fashion scene. Just as controversial to some are its cutting-edge restaurants and bars, which attract visitors with a flair for wine and food.
The richness of Berlin’s history becomes apparent within seconds. Immerse yourself in Berlin’s complicated past by walking through the city, starting at the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall. The open-air space near the center of Berlin along the Wall promotes paintings by artists from around the world. Study the artwork paying homage to Berlin pre- and post-Wall as you walk toward the Brandenburg Gate, through which people who were allowed entry into the West from the East passed. Don’t miss a walk through Berlin’s Jewish quarter (berlinwalks.com), which despite its demolition during the Nazi era, is now a revitalized part of the city. Young designers are located in the Mitte Quarter, where new labels are sold, including Lala Berlin, C’ést tout and Starstyling. Galleries like Me Collectors Room and provocative art and hidden sculpture gardens will delight art lovers.
Read more about Berlin in my article for Wine Enthusiast.
If you listen closely, you can still hear the swooshing of the wide Victorian dresses on women as they walked down the hallways of the St. Pancras Hotel in the 1800s. Built to accommodate the glamor of the time, the unusually wide hallways at the St. Pancras are adorned with dimly-lit chandeliers and red and gold accents. The suites connect on the first floor of the Chamber’s Quarters so guests could have a parlor room, dressing room and bedroom. As the trains rumble into the station below the hotel, you half expect to see men in dress coats and top hats step off the platform, their leather luggage properly in tow, heading into the hotel for a glass of scotch as the night’s party slowly begins.
Originally built in the late 1800s, the St. Pancras train station soon became a staple among London’s elite. Not only did it connect East Midlands and Yorkshire with London, but it included a hotel designed by George GIlbert Scott – an architect commissioned from Victoria to create the memorial in Hyde Park to Prince Albert – that wrapped gothic attitude around English civility. The station started operating in 1868 and by 1873, the Midland Grand hotel (built as part of the station) welcomed its first guests. The rooms featured 18-foot ceilings, neoclassical murals and marble floors. The wallpaper was created specifically for the hotel — an ornate red and gold fleur dy lys pattern — and the accessories (everything from mirrors to pillows) were handpicked for each room.
The new majestic hotel was a divine addition to the classic architecture that lined the city streets. The St. Pancras station and hotel introduced London to a new way of travel and living. Not only was it the first time trains connected in the north side of London, but the hotel was the first to introduce the Ladies’ Smoking Room — the first public room in Europe where women were allowed to smoke, acknowledging the status (and often, wealth) of women.
Read more here and view photos of the hotel’s grand opening event.
I arrived Berlin eager to see all I could in three days, but I had a secret mission to research my family’s past. Germany’s history is tumultuous, to say the least, and it’s not uncommon for tourists to want to explore the country’s dark past — this visit was no different for me.
I took two steps into the square where the gray stone slabs were purposefully placed on the ground, and was immediately confused. I wasn’t sure what was going on, which way to turn or which path I should take. The walls seemed normal at first — almost as if I could carry on a conversation with friends as I walked through toward an unknown destination. Seconds later I was lost in a maze of gray. The slabs had grown bigger, I felt smaller and could hear my own breathing. There was little light and I felt trapped; I was afraid to speak, and unsure what I even would say. I maneuvered my way through the maze of gray, wondering when the end will come. Suddenly, and without warning, I emerged among the smaller slabs of gray and into daylight. Suddenly, I was free from the maze. I had survived. This was Berlin’s way of reminding all who walk through this memorial that 6 million Jews never found their way out, and were never free again.
Read more from my column in Huffington Post.
River Seinne, Paris France
It’s tough being a woman. Aside from the typical annoyances that fill our day, we have fashion to consider. Chloe, Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent, Christian Louboutin – how can you say no? But being a woman also means knowing when to say ‘no.’ Thankfully, in Paris, I can put all will power aside and cave into my indulgences.
It wasn’t my first trip to the City of Light. Paris stole my heart almost nine years ago when I first stepped under the Eiffel Tower and watched in amazement as the sun set behind the steel structure. I was romanced, swept off my feet and sent spinning along the Sienne and even as I tried to contain my enthusiasm, I knew what was happening: I was falling in love. Nine years later, Paris still holds my heart.
This trip, my hotel was perfectly placed in the 6th arrondissement. The Jardin le bréa was seductively tucked off a side street and but perfectly placed within walking distance from Jardin du Luxembourg and the grand Notre Dame Cathedral. Steps from some of Paris’s tiny cafes, patisseries and plenty of boutique shops, I nourished myself in the morning with a fresh croissant and cup of coffee before I set out to explore all that Paris had to offer. (more…)
Capuccino at the Hotel Homs
It started with my first cup of coffee. The foam on my latte was perfectly placed on top of the steaming brown cup of brewed beans. The barista finished off my much-needed caffeine fix with a heart in the center of the cup and asked me for me 2 euros.
I wasn’t in Rome for one hour and already love was being thrown in my face, and it was in my coffee – the only thing I needed to turn me from sleepless psycho woman to life of the party.
But surprisingly, Rome took a turn for the interesting…
Read more on SingleMindedWomen.com
Armored knights, white horses and maidens-in-waiting. Moats, bridges and canals leading to ivy-clad castles and hidden corners off cobblestone walkways. Even in the 21st century, Bruges still oozes a medieval atmosphere.
The journey begins in the “Markt” – the central square area of Bruges whereby all side roads connect. If you’re feeling brave, climb the 300-plus stairs in the Belfry Tower and witness the most spectacular views of Bruges before exploring the city on foot.
Your climb is worthy of a snack, so treat yourself to a side of Belgium fries for 3 Euro from one of the many snack stands in the Markt and start exploring.
From any of the roads leading off the square you’ll stumble upon magnificent brick buildings from as far back as 1200. One your walk, make sure to stop by the lady making lace and watch her weave the strings that eventually become breathtakingly beautiful cloth meant for clothes, tables, windows and more. Stumble upon the artist’s corner, where Bruges residents offer their own perspectives of the city in oil, chalk or charcoal. Before you hop on a canal ride to see Bruges from the water – one of the more magical ways to explore the city – stop by the open-air flea market to see if you can’t find some ancient Bruges artifacts. (more…)
One of the pitfalls of being a travel writer is the excessive urge to pack up and travel at any given moment. It’s not always easy on the bank account, although it’s always inspirational for the craft.
When approached by my Irish-born blonde, freckled friend to take a trip to Ireland this summer, I was skeptical. I’ve never had a strong desire to visit Ireland, mainly because I don’t have any ancestry attachments or historical knowledge of the country. I’m told the Emerald Isle is beautiful, especially the countryside. So when my friend told me that the entire trip – including airfare and hotel for four days – amounted to a whopping $700, I handed over my credit card and within seconds was booked for a June trip to Ireland.
The overnight flight arrives Shannon, Ireland at 6:05 a.m. on a summer Saturday morning. The hotel sits along the Shannon River and is located 30 kilometers from the airport. But what does one do in Shannon?
My knowledge of Ireland is simple: Dublin and drinking. When told of Ireland’s beauty, however, I was intrigued. The thought of driving through Ireland’s countryside seems somewhat magical. The rolling green hills, the windy roads, and of course, the Blarney Stone.
I love exploring Europe – I feel at home in this country across the pond – and I have high hopes for Ireland. Truth be told, I’m most looking forward to the drive to Galway. I’m told luck follows the Galway Girl…
“Frogger” is a nickname I got after my first trip to Paris, when my overeager self dashed through traffic across a 4-lane rotary, narrowly escaping death in a way that reminded my girlfriends of the quintessential Atari game. I’d like to think I earned a 100-point bonus.
In 30 days, I’m on a plane back to Paris and the emotions are overwhelming. I’m sure Paris changed over the years, but I’m confident Paris will remember me. I’m the one who ran to the Eiffel Tower straight from the train, bags in hand, to breathe in the breathtaking structure I’ve dreamt about. (more…)
One of the side effects of being a travel writer is that sometimes you wake up and forget where you are, or more likely, what time zone you’re in. Some days you wake up and you’re just too overwhelmed by the sights and the sounds of a new place that it’s almost hard to take it all in. That’s Rome.
It’s been 24 hours in Rome and I’m already in love with the Eternal City.
We had dinner last night in the Jewish Ghetto. A man walked with a violin playing songs I used to sing as a young girl in Sunday school. That’s Rome.
After dinner we went to the Spanish Steps and (full of gumption, thanks to the bottles of wine we consumed) we ran to the top. There was a lovely wine bar at the top of the Spanish Steps, hidden behind tresses of ivy and wildflowers. We were seated for another glass of wine and the waiter poured himself a glass, lifted a glass and said “Salud” into the air to the crowd. That’s Rome.
We stumbled home and crashed into bed. Eleven hours later it’s noon in Rome – I’m over the jetlag and now battling a headache. Off to meet MFTM for some pizza before taking in the Colosseum, Forum and the Pantheon.