new travel obsession

Right now feels like a luggage revolution out there. You’ve got bags that charge your devices, bags with built in GPS so you know where your bag is (but still doesn’t help much if you’re in Paris and your bag is in Dubai), bags that fold down flat to store, bags with permanent luggage scan tags as long as your airline is an affiliated partner, bags that lock automatically when out of range of your phone, bags that blink at you when they are over the 50 lb limit. In other words, bags that solve a whole lot of individual problems but none that take the entire travel experience into consideration and make it easier to get from point A to point B.

That my friends, is what I’m looking for. And as I started to look around for a good four wheeled suitcase (sadly all the bags I recently wrote about have been swept away by the digital revolution) I stumbled upon what just may be the most amazing suitcase solution  I have ever seen.Bugaboo stack.png

The new Bugaboo Boxer luggage system.

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I think I’m in love!

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the start — it’s expensive. Very expensive. And there are still a few kinks to work out of the system. But I’m going to say, if you travel a lot this luggage seemingly can make your travel experience that much easier.

Just exactly what is The System?

  • One set of wheels that allow you to pull or push your bags with ease
  • Multiple size bags that “click” in and onto each other
  • Bags within bags (that can get all your unexpected purchases home)
  • A handy laptop/magazine/important document organizer at the ready without opening another bag
  • Sleek leather add-ons that go from airport to street with ease

This was me on my last trip — large roller bag with two wheels pulled along by a single shaft handle. Over the shoulder carry on with a change of clothes, toiletries, jewelry, medication, easy to reach cash, travel documents, chargers — the things I want to keep near me —  that while it has a pocket to pass over suitcase handles for easy stacking, doesn’t work well with a single shaft handle. Large cross body purse filled with just my flight essentials — travel pillow, cashmere shawl, headphones, kindle, snacks, water and magazines. It all seems very manageable and organized until I’ve stood in passport control for over an hour and walked 2 miles to the gate wishing i had wheels to take the load. But I just can’t get past the notion that I don’t need two wheeled suitcases for any trip, even if one is very small.

But what if those suitcases stacked onto each other and had just one set of wheels between them? Drop the big bag at luggage check (sans wheels) and walk away with small bag attached to those wheels and a leather tote pinned on, along for the ride. Nothing across your body, nothing over a shoulder, documents easily reachable in a zippered compartment that also holds your laptop, magazines, toiletries and easily separates to go through security? And did I mention it glides with the touch of a finger? I’d happily give up charging capability, GPS, auto locks and auto weigh for this ease of travel.

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OK, the system is not without its faults:

  • The hard sided (not my favorite) suitcases in cabin and checked sizes, are super light (4 and 8 lbs, respectively) but the wheels themselves are over 7 lbs. So you are at 11+ lbs without being loaded to lift overhead when you get on board.
  • No locks on the wheels can make for runaway luggage if you don’t hold on at all times.
  • People complain that unlike Bugaboo strollers, the wheels are not terrain or even escalator friendly. But I say, that is when you have to put the wheels in pull mode. Then it acts like any other suitcase that goes over a curb or down an escalator. Two wheel pull mode still offers counter balancing (partially why the chassis is so weighty) that helps make the load feel lighter than a typical two wheeled suitcase.
  • You can’t (or shouldn’t) check the wheels attached to the suitcase. So if you check all your bags, you will look a little silly wheeling around just the built in document case.
  • There’s a bungie system built into the wide spread handle intended to keep things you want to balance atop your suitcase from falling through like a purse, a coat or a travel pillow. Seems a bit flimsy and a bit of an afterthought. One thing I have learned the hard way, there is something to be said about the standard double shaft handle on a suitcase.
  • The large bag is 31″ — larger than any suitcase I currently own. The small bag is an international carry on size — rather small for a long weekend I find. And while they make a more standard domestic carry on instead, I doubt I would ever have need for that much combined space which kind of defeats the purpose. I’d hope to see more sizes in the future that provide true mix and match customization. Although when I inquired about this, I was told there are no plans for additional sizes currently.

All that said, a system like this might just be the ticket to easy, less stressful travel. It’s very very tempting . . .

gift guide 2017

Objects of DesireWho wouldn’t want one of these beauties adorning their desk?  The Glass House Snow Globe $75 and the 14K Gold Plated Slinky $150, both from the Glass House Design Store. The rubber band ball gets a make over in designer black & white $9 from The Line.

BAH Humbug!Let’s face it, it’s been a tough year and sometimes, you just have to celebrate the bad times. The snow globe that says it all $60 from Artware Editions. A dram a day Advent Calendar, available with a range of alcoholic pleasures from Whiskey to Tequila or customize your own mix. $110 – $308 from Master of Malt. And for the naughty ones. . . shiny coal all wrapped up in a beautiful Tiffany Blue box  $12,95 at Amazon.com.

My Favorite ThingsI’m pretty particular about the objects I let into my life these days but these items are most definitely worthy! The new space saving cookware by Calphalon — why didn’t somebody think of this years ago?  Available in both non-stick (pictured) and stainless steel it’s a bargain at just $381 for the 10 piece set at Macy’s. It’s a splurge to spend $125 on a candle but it’s also a beautiful reproduction bust from a 1777 sculpture by a French candle company that has been producing since 1624. Pretty special if you ask me. And lastly, the most ingenious teapot I have ever seen. I used this at my hotel in Lisbon and ordered one to be delivered to my house before I even arrived home thanks to the internet. Made by MENU of heat-resistant glass, when the tea reaches your desired strength simply pull on the silicone string to lift the infuser out of the water — no dripping, no mess. Keep tea warm over a tealight candle with the add on porcelain and silicone studded base. Apprx. $120 for the two pieces (candles not included).

The One Thing We Should All Have Rarely do we spend the money on something like this ourselves. Exactly why this makes the perfect gift! The most comprehensive survival kit on the market, with everything you may need to stay alive for 72 hours after an emergency. From Uncharted Supply Company $350

these shoes were made for walking

When i was 18 years old, I came home from Paris with two fashion trends firmly in my grasp 1) the white t-shirt layered under v-neck sweaters and 2) Stan Smith sneakers. Fast forward a million years, and i have rediscovered that the Stan Smith sneaker is awesome. Not only is it a classic fashion statement perfect for ripped jeans but super comfortable and just made for walking. Hello new travel shoes!  Recently tried and tested on the hills and cobblestones of Lisbon — not a slip, blister or achy foot in sight.

Even better, you can now customize your Stan Smiths to nearly any combination that appeals to you. (Although classic court green still has a certain cache if you ask me)

$60 for the classic version, $110  customized. Available here.

let’s talk lisbon

An absolutely beautiful city — Lisboa, Portugal. That is without doubt. Viewpoints galore overlooking red roofed buildings, the Tagus River — a river so wide it feels more like a lake or even the sea — hills and more hills, ancient architecture, cobblestone streets, tiled buildings, old fashion street cars . . . everything you would expect from a picturesque European city. And it’s small — just 800,000 population (similar to San Francisco) in it’s city center so easy to absorb. It’s for now, affordable as far as European cities go which makes it a hot destination. And that is where the city lost me just a bit. Even in late October, it was full of tourists. And when i say full — I mean everywhere, tourists walking without regard, back pack laden, down every street, every alley, speaking every language. I began to wonder if it was possible to have an authentic Lisboan experience. And I wondered even more what it must be like at the height of summer tourism season — my guess is a place i wouldn’t enjoy very much.

Not to say that I didn’t partake in tourist activities. Of course I did. The first thing I did after a quick shower was hop a Tuk Tuk for a tour around the old part of the city to get acclimated to the area where I was staying. Tuk Tuks are an easy way to get around the most hilly parts of the city and the drivers are well versed in history. So a quick hour or two gives you the basics. I did learn from my driver that what started as a single company with 9 Tuk Tuks a few years back, is now a competitive business of hundreds of Tuks Tuks vying for parking spots at all the best viewpoints and jamming the narrow streets all over the city. I even witnessed a Tuk Tuk robbery where a motorcycle wizzed between lanes of stopped traffic reaching into Tuk Tuks taking driver’s money as they went. When tourism is high so, unfortunately, is theft.

I also scheduled a food tour for my first afternoon. Often one of my favorite type of tours in any city, this one did not disappoint. And to be honest, I would never have known where to go in this city for authentic food just walking up and down the streets. To me, everything looked touristy in Alfama, a neighborhood where throngs of tourists were wandering the streets, souvenir shops abound and little old ladies sell low quality Cherry Liqueur (Ginja) off card tables down every alley. But Ruthy (pictured above) and her husband, guides extraordinaire, took our small group of six to a series of tiny little, family owned businesses tucked away in places I never would have found where we tasted cod delights, sardines, olive oils, cheese, sausage, desserts, coffee, beer, wine, quality cherry liqueur — I was happy, full and drunk for most of the afternoon. I promised Ruthy I wouldn’t share her secrets but I will say this — take the tour and indulge your inner tourist in a good way. You’ll also get a healthy dose of sights and history along the way.

I was in Lisbon for a conference and so happened upon my most favorite of places by happenstance — The Foundation Champalimaud. I liken it to the Portuguese Salk Institute. A biomedical research facility, housed in a modern architectural setting along the river at the far end of Belem where most tourists don’t venture. Not only is the building beautiful, with a stunning central water feature, there is a nearly hidden, small amphitheater overlooking the river that is as spiritual a space as I have come across in quite some time. I could have sat in that amphitheater for hours (and very nearly did), soaking up the sun, taking in the view and contemplating life. Bring a picnic or enjoy lunch next door on the balcony of the center’s cafeteria which is open to the public.

From here you are well poised to take in the Belem sights with the rest of the tourists — a jaunty walk along the river back towards town and away from the sun thankfully, takes you past the Belem Tower, The Monument to the Discoveries, The Maat (another stunning piece of modern architecture with a roof viewpoint not to be missed), The 25th of April Bridge, The Jerónimos Monastery. Then cross over the roadway to the center of Belem where there is an odd collection of museums on various subjects and the famous Pasteis de Belem — the original home of  Portuguese egg tarts which are honestly, worth the hype and the wait in line!

And you never know when you might look down an alley along the way and see a fun, modern take on tile art.

If only the sun weren’t cutting the artwork in half for better viewing. But if you like what you see, these tiles are part of a collection available for sale at a little family run shop whose grandfather bought out stock of closing tile factories in the 1960’s giving them a collection of locally made tiles that are simply beautiful and a far cry from the typical reproductions sold in every souvenir and antique shop in the city.

Like always, I try to find the things that are a bit more unique in a city as I am not a good or typical tourist by nature. I don’t know if I succeeded in Lisbon or if it’s even possible. But I’m happy to share more about my finds in this beautiful city here and in subsequent posts.

Helpful Links:

Eco Tuck Tours, Lisboa
Several standard 2-3 hour tours available or custom tours for $60/hr
Easy to book online in advance (recommended) or hire a Tuk Tuk in any major tourist venue

Treasures of Lisboa, Food Tours
Book through Ruthy’s website directly (link above) or on Air BnB Experiences
Twice Daily, Mon-Sat $67 US

Champalimaud Foundation/Center for the Unknown
Avenida Brasília,1400-038 Belem, Lisbon

MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology)
Av. Brasília, Central Tejo 1300-598 Belém, Lisboa
11-7 PM except Tuesday

Cortico & Netos, Tile Store
Calçada de Santo André 66, 1100-022 Alfama, Lisboa,
Monday to Saturday from 10h-13h / 14h-19h

Tile Rooster Artwork: Down a little alley about a block east of Pasteis De Belem

Pasteis De Belem
Rua de Belém, 1300 – 085 Belem, Lisboa
Open Daily from 8-11

worthwhile investment

I never thought i could love a machine quite so much. And worth every bit of that $450 price tag it is!  I make smoothies every morning for breakfast — have for years. But after going through a slew of bar blenders in just the past year, it was time to upgrade. And now I get up every morning excited to take my Rolls Royce of blenders for a spin. Fast, easy, efficient and self-cleaning. That is my favorite part — just fill half way with warm water, add a couple drops of soap and blend for 30 seconds. Done and ready for the next morning when I might indulge in one of my favorite smoothie recipes:

1 cup unsweetened chocolate  almond milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 small avocado
1T almond butter
1-2T ground chia seeds
agave syrup to taste
Ice

Place ingredients in blender jar in the order listed. Turn blender on low and slowly ramp up speed to high. Blend for 30 seconds on high. Pour and enjoy!

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how do you hydrate?

The latest fashion accessory is a good looking water bottle. Here are some favorites:

1. The classic Swell bottle comes in multiple sizes (go big!) and more designs than you can imagine. The fashionable choice: monochromatic solids and metallics  2. Corksicle’s non-slip, easy grab shape makes it unique  3. This BPA free plastic number, is easy to use with a flip top/carry ring, one hand operation and comfortable wide mouth is a winner in the functionality department. Plus, it’s dishwasher safe. From Contigo  4.  Easy to look at perhaps hard to use, the notebook style water bottle fits easy in a pocket or purse.  5. Boho chic, the good old fashioned canning jar gets a new life with screw in beverage top.  6. If you’re going to have a small opening water bottle you gotta have one of these.

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graduation goodie

When I graduated from college, I sent my high school girlfriends all graduation gifts:  my favorite cheap pens wrapped beautifully, as if they cost a fortune. This was after all, a momentous occasion to be celebrated — even if only by a token gift. I recently came across these pens and was reminded how something so simple can be spiffed up and made special . . .

pensKate Spade Pens:  box of 6 gold pens, cheap and cheerful $25/set  |  boxed ballpoint pens with gold foil imprinted box interior from top to bottom:  she wears her thoughts on her sleeve; she writes to do lists for her to do lists; she personalizes her business cards with hand written notes  $36/each.

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just add rain

51knilawculNo mistaking these eyes. How fabulous to have Audrey looking out for you on a rainy day. Umbrella by Kate Spade  $38

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