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I consider myself to be a pretty responsible human, therefore, when a good friend suggested St. Barths in January at the exact moment I should be in Dallas debuting the spring collection, I declined. Clearly, I hadn’t heard her offer to share her room in St. Barths in the freezing new year? Oh yeah, Dallas would have to do without me as a too good to pass up adventure was in the offing.

GETTING THERE

I worked the ENK Accessorie Circuit show ‘outside’ for three days in temperatures in the high teens, causing a chill in my bones that wouldn’t leave even upon arriving in Atlanta for another show, where again temperatures were unseasonably frigid. I started to think I had acute bronchitis or walking pneumonia as I couldn’t get warm for days, and wondered if hopping a flight to the Caribbean was the right thing to do. Well of course it was, as I needed the Vitamin D and the sun to warm my bones and brown my skin, and the warm salt water to heal me, right? When we arrived in St. Maarten, I looked up at the monitors and saw numerous flights scheduled for St. Barths. The only problem was we weren’t on one of them. Why were we taking the ferry? Because my friends don’t take prop planes. We missed the first ferry and ended up waiting two hours for the last boat. Finally, we were headed to paradise on a thirty minute ferry that quickly felt like thirty hours, with workers passing the aisles with paper towels and clear baggies. Within 10 minutes, the hacking and vomiting all around me was enough to have me put my ear buds in and blast ‘Waves’ so loud as to not hear any of my sick fellow passengers. We survived but all agree it ranked up there as one of the all-time worst experiences. In short, take the plane.

STAY

All was quickly forgotten, however, upon arriving in paradise. The Eden Rock is a storied boutique hotel in St. Jean, sandwiched between the runway at Gustavia Airport and the raves at Nikki Beach. Its location only adds to its charm as you swim in turquoise waters and watch the planes fly so close you can see the passengers smile from their window seats. Another plus is the short walk to town where you can shop for pearls and caftans, and to the restaurants Nikki Beach and Kiki-e Mo.

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Le Sereno on the Grand Cul de Sac is a quieter getaway but still offers some local dining options just a short walk away on the beach. A pool located just steps from the sandy beach also gets my vote. Further down the beach, I happened upon Les Ondines, a lesser-known and simpler resort with large efficiencies and couldn’t-be-closer-to-the-water rooms.

EAT

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that St. Barths is ‘tres cher’ (that’s French for crazy expensive.) The restaurants are no exception with a burger costing as much as $36 Euro. I like a gourmet meal in a beautiful setting as much as the next girl, but I also like a more casual and authentic local flavor. We tried Bonito, with great views of the harbor, blue and white batik print cushions and simple wicker hanging lamps, delicious fare, and a giant chess board, and all agreed it was a winner. Cheap it was not. A dinner at L’Esprit left us wanting more food options and better service, although the garden setting is lovely. Try Tamarin for a knock out garden setting and menu. Le Ti is a must, a serious fun night out in an intimate clubby atmosphere where the burlesque, rhinestones and Indian feather headdresses entertain. We tried the black truffle pasta at the buttoned up Le Toiny and marveled at how black the night was looking out from the terrace. Far and away, our decided favorite for dinner was Eddy’s. A favorite among the locals (our Budget rental car guy gave us the tip), nestled in a secret garden behind a fence in Gustavia with a South Pacific vibe, we agreed we could have eaten there every night.

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For lunch we got hooked on walking into St. Jean and getting the most simple and delicious (and well-priced) salads at Kiki-e Mo. Hard to beat fresh avocado salad with red onion, kale and cranberry, local beet, mango, and caprese. Do Brazil was another sunny spot in the sand at Shell Beach with gazpacho and satay. Or reserve a table ‘in’ the water at O’Corail on the Grand Cul de Sac beach. For a sweet afternoon treat go to Barts Gourmet in Gustavia and get one (or two) of the mini tarte tropezienne.

DO

If you must shop (and you can afford it!), I loved Lili Belle in St. Jean and Clic in Gustavia where I bought my daughter a very detailed large format coloring book of all the treasures St. Barths has to offer. The hotel gift shop at Eden Roc is a winner too with Ancient Greek sandals, local espadrilles, caftans and jewels galore.

Absolutely rent a car and explore the beaches. My favorite afternoon was a drive to Flamands Beach where I hiked a short goat path to the beach at Columbie. I saw an iguana the size of a monkey jump from a tree, too many lazy turtles to count, goats (of course), and pelicans dive bombing for their lunch. And oh yeah, I caught a glimpse of the super yacht Venus too (it is St. Barths, after all).

If nude sun bathing is your thing, try the end of the beach at Gouverneur and feel free to go topless on any beach. Saline is yet another gorgeous beach surprise.

Thank you to my sweet friend for bringing me to my senses and taking me to paradise. I am so lucky to have such generous (and sane) friends with whom to share life’s adventures.

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I’ve written about HK before (here and here), but each time I go I manage to discover something new. Sorry, but I won’t stay anywhere other than the Upper House, so you will have to be satisfied knowing that it still is simply the best hotel experience ever. This time I arrived after a 16 hour flight feeling a bit queasy and maybe a bit blue (feeling far away from my daughter). When I arrived at the hotel they told me they heard I was not feeling well (my driver had called ahead) and even though my upgraded room wasn’t ready yet, they wanted to get me into a room immediately so I could rest. Rather than the extra large room I usually take overlooking the Harbour, they temporarily housed me in a large room overlooking the velvet green mountains of the peak. I felt so cozy and happy that I recovered rapidly and decided not to change rooms. Arriving at the Upper House is like arriving home to a family that has missed you. Hand written notes and gifts wrapped in ribbon from the staff are a special touch. Bliss!

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It’s hard not to return to favorite restaurants but Hong Kong always has something new and delicious to try so I make sure to include the best recommendations. On my first night I didn’t want to travel far from the hotel as I was easing my way back into life at ground level, so I tried The Continental in Admiralty. Loved the atmosphere and my perfect sirloin. My favorite meal was a toss up between Chom Chom and Chachawan. I loved the relaxed local street vibe of both and had seriously delicious and inventive food at both. The owner at Chom Chom recommended several dishes that were all perfect, including Vietnamese fried chicken and  grilled corn. At Chachawan, I watched the 26 year old chef prepare their specialty Som Dtum Goong right in front of me. It is a papaya salad dish with tomatoes, chili, prawns or pork and it was five alarm spicy and crazy good.

Hard to believe I have never walked the ‘women’s market’ or the ‘goldfish market’ before. Expect copies of handbags from Chanel, Mulberry and Issey Miyake, as well as hundreds of iPhone cases (including a copy of the Moschino Golden Arches red and gold case), miniature wind up toys, silk dresses, backpacks, hair barrettes, and games like Mahjong. I loved walking the goldfish market and was maybe a little freaked out to see a giant box of very loud crickets as food for some of the fish. I would tell you which fish but my Chinese is limited (AKA nonexistent) and I would show you photos of some of the most unusual fish and sea creatures I’ve ever seen but alas no pics allowed. You will have to go and see for yourself.

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No trip to Hong Kong is complete for me without a trip on the Star Ferry. I love the wood benches and old school vibe as much as the breeze on my face. It’s a relaxed way to visit the other side or see the Harbour lights at night. The Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a giant ferris wheel with individual enclosed gondolas, seems to have just opened offering sweeping views of Central and Kowloon, but I missed it. And I’m afraid of heights, so someone will have to report back on their experience in the comments.

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Still searching for that last minute gift?  Here are some of my favorite things to give (and get) this holiday season:

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1.  Rimowa suitcases: For the traveler on your list! I’m partial to the Salsa Deluxe series, their light weight hard shell and eight wheels (!) mean that you can navigate this bag at full capacity with merely a singer finger. Love the carry-on styles too as they allow you to push the bag down the airplane aisle sideways thereby not knocking every seat along the way! Don’t be fooled by the hard case construction either. These bags pack way more than you’d expect!

2.  S’well reusable bottle: I’m a yogi who packs a water bottle with me for my daily morning practice. This non-toxic, insulated bottle keeps cold water cold for up to 24 hours (for real) and hot for twelve. I like the stone collection and love that they don’t sweat, look fab, and that they give back to WaterAid with every purchase.

3.  I have a Vitamix blender on my wish list this year, the only question is which one? The fact that this powerful blender can turn your fresh fruits and veggies into oh-so-good-for-you juice and combine a soup and serve it hot or a frosty cold ice-cream, well, who needs any other appliance?

4.  My six year old daughter will be unwrapping Planet Earth:The Complete Series this holiday. If she’s going to have screen time this high-definition backstage pass to the animal kingdom is it.

5.  OK, maybe not for Grandma, but everyone else on my list is getting a copy of Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck. A longtime fan of their blog, they have finally pulled together their budget conscious real food healthy recipes into one awesome volume keeping me laughing while nourishing and detoxifying my bod. F*ck yeah.

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6.  How about gifting a subscription to Birchbox and giving your favorite beauty a sampling of five high-end beauty brands monthly? Yes please!

7.  The gift that keeps on giving, a weekly subscription to Blue Apron sends pre-portioned fresh ingredients and simple cooking instructions direct to their door. No more TV dinners or popcorn for dinner because they don’t have the time to assemble a meal. (Mom, this means you!)

8.  Books might be my favorite thing to gift any time of year and this season I will be gifting Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand just in time for its movie debut, and Anjelica Huston’s new memoir, Watch Me: A Memoir, should keep them up all night with stories of her rise to fame and her long term relationship with Jack Nicholson. I can hardly wait.

9.  My brother asked me recently why I wasn’t a movie producer considering how much I love the cinema. Before children I would sometimes go to the theater 4 times a week, and I prefer the experience to watching at home, especially with today’s stadium assigned seating and gourmet goodies. I’d love an AMC or Landmark gift card in my stocking on December 25.

10.  And for any New York-bound friends this holiday, why not tickets to Broadway? Some lucky girl on my list will have an evening at Beautiful, the Carole King musical. Saw it, loved it, cried through it all and left feeling inspired. What better gift is there than an experience with friends that connects and inspires.

 

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