A peak inside the Gem of Zanzibar – Stone Town!

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A peak inside the Gem of Zanzibar – Stone Town!

Stone Town is not just any town – it’s a delight for the senses not to be found anywhere else in the world!

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Stone Town is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili for “old town”), it is located in the old part of Zanzibar City, which is the main city of Zanzibar, in Tanzania.

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Its architecture, which mostly dates back to the 19th century, has STORIES to tell, as it reflects the diverse influences of Swahili culture – yet also giving a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements.

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The buildings are honestly a feast for the eyes, despite their deteriorating condition. That only adds charm and character to the entire painting! Stone town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 due to it’s distinct archetecture.

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The most well-known feature of Zanzibari houses are the finely decorated wooden doors.

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You won’t find these giant wooden masterpieces anywhere else in the world! Elaborately carved with astonishing detail, the heavy doors in Stone Town are quintessentially ‘Zanzibar’, and served as a valuable glimpse into the homeowner’s place of origin, profession and economic status.

For example, the Indian doors were crafted by skilled tradesmen out of imported teak. The large brass studs have their origins in India, where they were once used as a defense against charging war elephants. In Stone Town, however, they were used only as decorative pieces and symbolic markers of wealth.

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Arab doors have intricately crafted frames with Arabic inscriptions at the top. The chain, lotus and pineapple are common and culturally significant motifs.

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The heart of Stone Town consists of a maze of narrow alleys lined by houses, shops, bazaars and mosques. The streets bustle along with bicycles and motorbikes as they are too narrow for cars. Stone Town can easily be explored on foot.

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Of course, the beaches in Zanzibar are RAVISHING, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely worth a stroll at some point during your holiday in which you feel like exploring. Trust me, it’s worth it – It is utterly captivating!

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I hope this has given you a good glimpse of a little town you may never have even heard of! Stone Town has an interesting history. Everything about this place will make you feel alive – from the melting pot of African, Arab, Indian and European cultures; the vivid shades of every color imaginable; the textures; the vibrant energy of the seafront and markets; and the locals who greet you with a “jambo!” (hello) and “karibu” (welcome) everyday!

To add to your itinerary, if you have been following me for a while, almost a year ago I wrote about the most unusual and amazing place to check out on the Indian Ocean off Zanzibar (which got a lot of buzz, thank you muah!). You can check that here:

https://karenskaleidoscope.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/the-rock-a-luxurious-fairytale-in-the-indian-ocean/

And OF COURSE I’m sure the main reason for your holiday would be for the astonishing beaches, with a day or so excursion to Stone Town, so I don’t want you to forget what that beautiful pond looks like 😁 —–>

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-Karen Bahri

 

 

 

 

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The Coolest Accomodations near the Northern Lights

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The Coolest Accomodations near the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are definitely something one must experience in life. What an incredible experience to witness with your own eyes! To get the best of it, you would want to stay at a an equally incredible hotel, but of course! Nature’s most spectacular light show, the Aurora Borealis, can be viewed in a range of purpose-built spaces, from glass igloos to luxury suites. Some fun ways to experience the Northern Lights, if you can take on the cold, are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling as well as a dog sled tour. If you are not so adventurous though, and hate the cold, here’s a list of places you really wouldn’t have to leave the comfort of to experience the Northern Lights. I broke it down to Finland, Iceland and a bonus track from Sweden, because otherwise we would be here forever!

 

FINNISH LAPLAND

Arctic TreeHouse Hotel

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Located on the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Lapland, this resort has individual Arctic TreeHouse suites. They are housed in exclusive Scandinavian wooden design, which combines local tradition and Lappish heritage. With one side comprised of a panoramic window you get spectacular views over the treetops! The units rest on short stilts and overlook a shallow valley, with a clear view of the Northern Lights.

https://santaparkarcticworld.com/arctic-treehouse-hotel

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

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This igloo village contains igloos made of glass, which have been designed so that windows don’t frost over or steam up. During the coldest part of the season, the accommodation range extends to traditional snow igloos, providing the option of a more authentic Lapland experience! Also, this hotel has ski-to-door access and ski equipment, bike rental and car rental are available as well as lots of other activities!

http://www.kakslauttanen.fi 

Levin Iglut

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This Lapland hotel also offers glass igloos from which to observe the Arctic skies in comfort. It also offers a part-subterranean Northern Lights House – complete with large windows enabling you to watch the lights play. Guests can also choose to enjoy the kaleidoscope above from the house’s private terrace, where a hot tub provides comfort from the cold winter evenings.

ICELAND

5 Million Star Hotel

When I give my five million dollar advice to people, I often say not to live life in a bubble – but this time, I’m telling you to please live life in a bubble!!

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About 1.5 to 2 hours east of Reykjavik by car, the 5 Million Star Hotel offers five individual bubble rooms to watch as the Northern Lights dance over the night sky! Each bubble—named Una, Asta, Thorunn, Valdis, and Maria—is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system that also prevents humidity. They also include heating elements with a thermostat so the bubble stays warm all winter. That’s key, given the remote location of all the bubbles and the fact average daily temperatures dip to 28 degrees Fahrenheit in January. The bubbles are totally transparent, but privacy is maintained by ensuring that no other rooms ever overlook a guest’s space – also to maintain privacy, the company does not provide the exact address of the pods until after they have been booked and secured with a down payment. What an out of this world experience to be resting in your bubble as the Northern lights shine directly above you! INSANEEE!!!!

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https://www.buubble.com/

ION Luxury Adventure

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An abandoned inn turned boutique, eco-friendly hotel in Iceland, the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel’s concrete and glass facade rises from the Icelandic landscape like a set piece in a science fiction fantasy! This amazingness is where modern design meets Iceland’s incomparable natural landscape. The hotel provides a peaceful and remote escape with stunning architecture, access to spectacular natural sights like glaciers, volcanoes, and lakes as well as amazing views of the Northern Lights.

http://ioniceland.is/

Hotel Ranga

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This hotel is in a geographical region that has very favorable conditions for viewing the Northern Lights. Built log-cabin style, the traditional design of this countryside hotel (two hours from Reykjavik) offers cozy and intimate interiors. Guests are met in reception by the sight of a polar bear statue towering more than 10ft-high! Upstairs, a balcony wraps around the hotel’s bar, at night providing a backdrop of twinkling stars and, if you’re lucky, the green shimmer of the Northern Lights.

https://www.hotelranga.is/

Northern Lights Inn

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Visitors to the Northern Lights Inn are provided with detailed aurora forecasts and enjoy impressive views from the panoramic windows of the hotel’s restaurant. The inn is just a short walk from the hot-springs of the island’s famous Blue Lagoon. If you’re lucky, you can bathe in the waters of the spring and watch as solar winds trail ribbons of green light through the thermosphere!

http://www.nli.is/welcome

SWEDEN

Icehotel

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I am pretty sure I posted about this a while ago if you follow my Instagram (karenskaleidoscope – followwww). Icehotel is a world famous hotel and an art exhibition made entirely of ice and snow. Annually constructed, The Icehotel offers the ultimate cool accommodation! Guests can nap wrapped in thermal sleeping bags atop beds of reindeer skins, as the temperature inside hovers between -5C and -8C. There are more traditional rooms and chalets for the less adventurous. The hotel offers overnight excursions in search of the Northern Lights, and guests can choose between a snowmobile or their very own howling dog sled team! The Icehotel is famous for creating incredible sculptures of art out of the ice! Definitely something you HAVE to check out!!

https://www.icehotel.com/

This is just a small list of accommodations to consider so you can lie back, open your eyes and get lost in the intricacies of the zodiac and if possible, the kaleidoscope of the Northern Lights! The Northern Lights should be on anyone’s bucket-list who enjoy exploring the phenomenal mystery of mother nature!

-Karen Bahri

Best places to catch the Most Beautiful Sunsets in the World

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Best places to catch the Most Beautiful Sunsets in the World

 

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I love sunsets! I love taking pics of sunsets! I love sunrises! I love taking pics of sunrises! Basically, I love a pretty sky. Read on for your guide to where in the world you are guaranteed to catch a colorful, beautiful, picturesque and awe-inspiring sunset.

OIA, SANTORINI, GREECE

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Well if this wasn’t a given! Santorini, known for its distinctive white and blue architecture, is one of the most beautiful places in the world! The sunset can be captured perfectly as the village of Oia is set on a rugged Cliffside giving onlookers the perfect spot to watch the sun as it reflects on the crisp white buildings and then sets into the Aegean Sea.

IPANEMA BEACH, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

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The sunset is so stunning in Ipanema because it sets behind the rocky hillsides that border the coast. One of the best places in Rio to watch the sunset is Arpoador Rock which is located between Copacabana and Ipanema. Arpoador juts out into the ocean giving you an unobstructed view to the west along Ipanema beach. You will be in awe as the sun dips into the Gulf of Mexico in a magnificent array of pink and orange!

NORTH CAPE, FINNMARK, NORWAY

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North Cape, Norway is so far north it’s nearly in the Arctic Circle! Therefore during the summer, the sun hardly ever sets. Visitors can take in the midnight sun (the sun that sets just to the horizon, but never fully sets. OMG huge on my bucketlist!!!!) Seeing this strange sunset phenomenon can be a once in a lifetime experience!

AO KAO BEACH, KOH MAK, THAILAND

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Located in Trat Province in Thailand, Koh Mak is world famous for its stunning sunsets. Koh Mak features idyllic, serene nature with no skyscrapers or cityscape to obscure the sky, making the nightly setting sun into the horizon an unforgettable experience!

BAGAN, MYANMAR

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If you’re looking to snap a few dramatic sunset photos, head to Bagan, Myanmar’s Valley of Temples. Each night as the sun drops low in the sky, it lights up the outlines of more than 2000 ancient temples, pagodas, and monasteries that have sat in the Valley for a thousand years! There are so many locations throughout Bagan to capture stunning sunset views. You may also wish to snap photos of the sacred Buddhist and Hindu temples at dusk, but for a birds-eye view book a hot air balloon ride over the Valley.

ULURU, AUSTRALIA

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Uluru, or as some call it Ayers Rock, undergoes a dramatic transformation each night when the sun sets over the Australian outback. The rock cuts a striking silhouette across the sky as the sun paints it golden, deep red, orange and other hues before it turns black under the cover of night. Hike to the top of the dunes for a stunning view of Uluru and the nearby ancient rock formations known as Kata Tjuta.

THE AZORES, PORTUGAL

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The lovely islands that make up the Azores archipelago sit off the coast of Portugal in a nearly empty stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that allows for unobstructed views of the water, sky, and brilliant sunsets! Spread across 374 miles, this autonomous region of Portugal offers endless opportunities for soaking up the last rays of the sun.

MILOVAIG, ISLE OF SKYE, UK

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The Isle of Skye is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. While the entire island offers a stunning view of the sun setting, one of the best spots to catch it is the pier at Milovaig, which offers onlookers a multi-colored, breathtaking scene.

DIAMOND HEAD, HONOLULU, HAWAII

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Nearly anywhere on Oahu is a great place to catch a sunset, but climb up Diamond Head, which is a volcano and state monument, and you’ll be able to catch the gorgeous setting sun over legendary Waikiki beach.

TAJ MAHAL, AGRA, INDIA

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I love my India! It is incredible. Everything about the Taj Mahal is beautiful – everything. It has become an international destination to visit at dusk, because of the beautiful sunsets that occur behind it and the stunning colors that reflect around the building. hashtag colorful india #colorfulindia #colourtheworld #sunsets

 

-Karen Bahri

Kazan, Russia’s Temple of All Religions:

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Kazan, Russia’s Temple of All Religions:

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The Temple of All Religions, or the “Universal Temple”, is an architectural complex in the Staroye Arakchino Microdistrict of Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia.

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As one reviewer on tripadvisor stated:

How much longer are we going to be divided by different religions? God equals Good. Here is one creation in the name of Greater Good.

Clustered tightly on a small plot of land, the complex consists of several cupolas, minarets and spires representing the religious architecture of 12 major religions of the world. There is a Christian cross, the Muslim crescent, the Star of David and the Chinese dome.

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Because it is not a functioning temple, no ceremonies are actually performed inside. The building is basically a cultural center which also serves as the residence of its owner – Ildar Khanov, and his assistants. Khanov is a local artist and philanthropist who practices spiritual healing upon willing subjects. Khanov is known for his efforts in the treatment of alcoholism, drug addiction, and various other diseases. His former and current patients help him to maintain and develop the Temple, either by direct involvement in the construction work or through sponsorship.

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Khanov believed that all religions are equal, and the Temple of All Religions was his way to bring them all under one roof. It was started in 1992 and still currently under construction.

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As the story goes, Ildar Khanov, a graduate from Kazan Art School, was an eccentric individual who claimed he met Jesus when he was just three years old. It was during the difficult years of the Great Patriotic War. Khanov almost died of starvation when Jesus saved him and showed him heaven and hell. According to him, it was then that he embarked on his journey as an artist and healer.

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The Temple has become a popular landmark in the city of Kazan, which takes pride in the peaceful combination of different cultures including Islamic Tatar, Orthodox Russian, and others. Khanov describes its mission, a “temple of culture and truth”. The Temple is visited both by tourists and by people seeking Khanov’s healing touch.

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-Karen Bahri

 

Edivo Vina – Croatia’s first underwater winery!

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Edivo Vina – Croatia’s first underwater winery!

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Ivo and Anto Šegović and Edi Bajurin are the proud owners of the very first underwater winery in Croatia! Recently opened in Drače on the Pelješac Peninsula, travellers can join experienced divers to explore the hidden underwater world of the Edivo Vina winery. You’ll get an up-close look at the wine-making process and swim by an old sunken boat that is located at the bottom of the Mali Ston Bay.

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The wines are aged for three months, then stored in clay jugs known as amphorae under the sea for one to two years. The amphorae gives the wine a specific pinewood aroma, which makes it very unique! Once removed from the sea, the amphorae are covered in sea flora and fauna, including corals and shells, and this makes them unique gifts!

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The bottles are arranged in cages and secured with padlocks to prevent theft. They have also taken multiple precautions to avoid contamination. In addition to a cork, all the bottles have two layers of rubber to prevent saltwater from seeping in.

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The above mentioned sunken boat is used as an underwater cellar and it keeps the amphorae for 700 days at a temperature of 15 to 17 degrees. According to Edivo Vina’s owners, they decided to age their wine underwater because “the sea provides natural cooling in ideal conditions and the perfect silence underwater improves the quality.” It’s also a really, really cool experience to add to your Croatian itinerary!EdivO10040_srcset-large

 

-Karen Bahri

New York Bridal Fashion Week – The Knot Couture Show

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New York Bridal Fashion Week – The Knot Couture Show

The New York Bridal Fashion Week was held last week from Thursday, October 5 – Monday, October 9. I had the honor of attending The Knot Couture show, which was held from Saturday, October 7th until Monday the 9th. This year, they added a second venue, which was really exciting! In addition to the Metropolitan Pavillion (125 west 18th street) they also selected designers to appear at Metropolitan West (639 west 46th street).

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There was a shuttle that kindly shuffled people from one venue to another, with complimentary champagne to help one not lose energy through schlepping through the traffic!

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Both venues were unique and special in their own way! Metropolitan Pavillion was four floors full of designers, gowns, jewelry, and they also had a number of fashion shows; so there was a lot going on! Lots of people, crowds, high energy!

 

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Metropolitan West on the other hand was smaller, with two floors filled with gorgeous gowns, models, designers. A more intimate setting and you had a more personal experience. They also had a champagne happy hour, snacks and a fun cotton candy stall!

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It was a great experience and an honor to attend the event this year! I met so many amazing designers and models and learned a lot about the bridal fashion world!

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Behind me on my right – Designer Jude Jowilson and his partner

 

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Designer Mimi Tran

 

I write about travel, beauty and fashion, as you (should) know. I was approached to collab with a photographer to work on a new projected based on bridal fashion, and as much as I know nothing about bridal fashion, especially western bridal fashion, I am so grateful for the opportunity! Yes, I am looking at this with a blind eye but an excited blind eye haha! I am taking it as a new challenge and learning as I go. From the past weekend alone I learned so much and met so many amazing people!  Look out for my upcoming interviews with some of the amazing designer, models, photographers and more that I had the pleasure of meeting! I will most likely be posting on a new site for bridal fashion but will link it on here once that is all set up! I look forward to attending again in April!

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-Karen Bahri

The most Beautiful Small towns in France

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The most Beautiful Small towns in France

Paris, the city the world is in love with! A beauty indeed, but there is plenty more to see in France than just the capital. From wine country to the Alps, there are thousands of beautiful villages and small towns in the country, and each region has its own special qualities. Travelling around some of the small towns in France means travel between hilltops, rocky coastal towns and breathtaking scenery while enjoying the local lifestyles of the people.

Among the thousands, here is a short list of small French towns with such beauty, they can rival any major city in the world:

Annecy

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Sometimes called “the Venice of Savoie,” this lakeside Alpine town is treasured for its sloping hillsides and the small canals that wander their way through the streets.

Pourquerolles

Fort Sainte AgatheÎle de Porquerolles is a Côte d’Azur gem which is an island paradise that’s also a small town. The best thing about this place is that after all these years, the car-free island is still a blissful, peaceful paradise!

Bayeux

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Tapestry is the highlight for most tourists to the town. Bayeux has an appeal of a mix of the classic (the Norman-Gothic Bayeux Cathedral dominates the skyline) and the more contemporary (a somber, minimalist World War II cemetery).

Eguisheim

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Eguisheim is very unique with its concentric layout of streets unlike other towns and villages in France. It is a magnet for tourism because of its flower-filled villages and colorful houses, which give it a fairy tale ambiance. One of my favorites on this list!

Dinan

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The prettiest town in Brittany! Set on a hilltop, this medieval town oversees the river of Rance. Dinan is surrounded with long ramparts or walls, Tudor type houses, port, cobbled streets, art galleries, and shops.

Perouges

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Perouges is a medieval walled town in the northeast of Lyon. The town is so romantic, homey and old-fashioned that it is often used in many films.

Lourmarin

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Lourmarin is poetry in motion. It has numerous cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and ivy-covered streets full of a lavender scent which will give you an exquisite taste of its locality.

Chamonix

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Although Chamonix’s proximity to Mont Blanc has made it a legendary skiing and climbing center. The town, with panoramic mountain views and rows of slant-roofed buildings, is lovely all year round.

Ars-en-Ré

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A charming town of bicycles! With its white-washed houses and traditional green shutters, hollyhocks, salt pans, and relaxing but sleepy beach town vibe, it is a pleasure to explore this tiny seaside village.

Eze

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For a more subdued Riviera experience, bypass Nice and Cannes for Eze, whose rocky hillside location 1,400 feet above the sea makes for stunning views of the Mediterranean.

Etretat

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Etretat is best known for its three natural arches and pointed needle. It attracts tourists and even celebrities because of its peaceful scenery.

And last, but definitely not least:

Colmar

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Picturesque Colmar has a section also known as “Little Venice,” thanks to the small canals that cut elegant lines past candy-colored houses. And locals aren’t the only ones inspired by Colmar’s beauty: some people believe the town was the model for Belle’s village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast!

~Karen Bahri

 

 

18 of the World’s Strangest town names

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18 of the World’s Strangest town names

Whenever I travel to England, my flight typically goes over Ireland (I’m the type to always have the map on to see where I am traveling over) and I always notice this one town name that makes me laugh – Kilkenny, Ireland. LOL! What a name! I recently met someone from Ireland and asked him if he’s ever been to Kilkenny. He told me it’s actually a very beautiful place! I couldn’t agree more.

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Here is a list of more odd city/town names around the world:

1. Rest and Be Thankful, Argyll and Butte, Scotland

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2. Moron, Mongolia

Fine. it’s actually “Mörön”

3. Silly, Belgium

The name of this town derives from its stream called the Sille (French) or Zulle (Dutch) and has no relation to the English world (But tell that to an American!)

4. Hot Coffee, Mississippi

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5. Egg, Austria

6. Eek, Alaska

7. Gogogogo, Madagascar

8. Disappointment Islands, French Polynesia

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Sparsely populated group of coral islands which are arid, and not especially conductive to human habitation.

9. Drama, Greece

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Dramatically stunning!

10. Monster, Netherlands

11. Christmas Pie, Surrey, England

12. Come By Chance, Canada

13. Chicken, Alaska

Chicken, Alaska is a community founded on gold mining and is one of the few surviving gold rush towns in Alaska.

14. Gofuku, Japan

15. Crapstone, UK

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16. China, Japan

Not to be confused with China, China 😛

17. Butthole Road, Doncaster, England

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Do you know anyone from there?!

and finally…

18. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales

Yes. A small village in Wales calls itself by a name with more letters than residents…

 

~Karen Bahri

 

 

 

 

Sultan Cave Suites – Cappadocia, Turkey

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Sultan Cave Suites – Cappadocia, Turkey

Set on a hill with breathtaking views, experience Cappadocia cave living in modern-day luxury!

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Terraced above the village of Goreme, this exotic hotel offers the modern traveler a unique cave hotel experience. Relax & enjoy breathtaking views from the many stone terraces. The most picturesque experience is taken place in the early morning at sunrise, where one can bask at the sight of hot air balloons adoring the sky! You may also enjoy the panoramic view overlooking the village and surrounding valleys, mountains and the Erciyes volcano in the background. Heavenly!

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Aside from the view, the hotel itself is a visual delight with each room, corner and terrace charmingly decorated with simple artifacts showing the unique history of the area.  Built over the ancient cave dwellings used for centuries by locals, all the original cave walls have been preserved and integrated harmoniously into the room designs.

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In addition to preserving local architecture, Mehmet Dasdeler (of Sultan Cave Suites) opened the Cappadocia Cultural Center in the hotel. The three gallery rooms showcase antiques from across the ages. The Cultural Center also supports local and international artists by offering classical concerts, local traditional music concerts and art exhibits by local and international artists.

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I highly recommend staying here if you are looking for a non-traditional, adventurous accommodation!

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Location: 50180 Göreme Belediyesi/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey

-Karen Bahri

Maarkah New York Fashion Week Show

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Maarkah New York Fashion Week Show

New York Fashion week was last week and I had the pleasure of attending a few shows. One of my favorites – if not my favorite – was the Maarkah New York Fashion Week Show, by Runway Prestige. Maarkah is an Arabic word for Brand – which makes it the perfect name for this show as it is aimed to show off amazingly talented designers from the Middle East and Africa!

Runway Prestige is ran by Rabab Abdalla – who is an extraordinarily talented, sweet, amazing woman!

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I came to the show to see Houda El Fechka Eddiouane – who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Couture shows last year. I also wrote an article about her work from last years show: http://www.hautedvie.com/houda-el-fechka-eddiouanes-debut-couture-fashion-week-new-yorks-25th-season/

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She showcased two of her collections at the show. I would describe her 1st collection as modern and elegant.

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I would describe the 2nd collection as traditional and dazzling!

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She is an amazing Moroccan designer from the Netherlands. She is definitely one to follow on social media. Her Instagram is houdaee and her facebook is https://www.facebook.com/houda.elfechka

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The show lasted about 2.5 hours and there were designers from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America! The entire show was amazingly captivating! I could keep talking but the pics speak for themselves! Also, if I were to post all the pics from all the designers – we would be here forever! Also, I ran out of storage space!! (LOL) So here are juust a few of my favorites (before I ran out of space on my phone!!)

It would be tough for me to decide because ALL the outfits and models were stunning, but the first 3 are my top 3 favorites! For more (photos and videos) – go to my Instagram: karenskaleidoscope and lastly please follow Maarkah & Runway Prestige on Instagram, FB and Twitter (Runway Prestige only on twitter)! This was the first of MANY shows, so stay tuned for lots more from Runway Prestige!!

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The Queen of the Night!! #arabiannights ❤

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~Hi My name is Ms. Fabulous but you may call me “Ms. Fierce”~

 

-Karen Bahri