Tag Archives: Travel

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

 

 

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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

The Prettiest Pools in the world!

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The Prettiest Pools in the world!

Check out a small fraction of the most beautiful pools in the world!

 

AMIRANDES GRECOTEL EXCLUSIVE RESORT, GREECE

This Olympic-sized seawater pool is ideal for lazing in the Mediterranean sunshine!

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HUVAFEN FUSHI, MALDIVES

With over-water dining and studded with glowing lights, this infinity pool creates the ultimate romantic atmosphere.

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JADE MOUNTAIN RESORT, SAINT LUCIA

Jade Mountain has four infinity pools which were carefully designed as pieces of art to accent the theme of the resort. Each pool is unique in color as well as shape; ranging in sizes and accurately named based on their categories: GALAXY, SUN, MOON & STAR.

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MARDAN PALACE, TURKEY

This 5 acre pool with a gondola is Turkish royalty at it’s finest.  It was actually voted “the largest swimming pool in Europe” by the World Tourism Awards.

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SAN ALFONSO DEL MAR, CHILE

This, my friends, is THE WORLD’S LARGEST MAN-MADE SWIMMING POOL! Set along the coastline, it is larger than 20 olympic-sized pools and holds 66 MILLION gallons of water!

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ALILA VILLAS, BALI

Elegant villas. Private Pools. Ocean View. Bali. MORE THAN ENOUGH SAID!

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AQUARIA GRANDE RESIDENTIAL TOWER, MUMBAI, INDIA

O-M-G!! Imagine walking out to your balcony for a SWIM!!! Can I live here PLEASSSEEE???? INSANE!!! This is definitely my personal favorite! ❤  #floatingbalconypools #incredibleindia

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THE LIBRARY, KOH SAMUI, THAILAND

Don’t get scared, it’s not a blood bath! The hue from the reflective walls and tiles create a blood red glow!

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CHEDI SWIMMING POOL, MUSCAT, OMAN

Arabic chic at it’s finest!

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FRIEDVOLLES LUXUS VILLA RESORT, LAUCALA ISLAND, FIJI

Luxury villas with your very own private plunge pool in an exotic atmosphere!

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THE NATURAL SWIMMING POOL, SANTORINI, GREECE

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Karen Bahri

 

BANANA ISLAND RESORT DOHA BY ANANTARA

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BANANA ISLAND RESORT DOHA BY ANANTARA

An island paradise of natural exclusivity

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Welcome to Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara – an paradise sanctuary which respects local culture by offering an alcohol-free environment with world class facilities and limitless activities providing relaxation and adventure, wellness and pure indulgence.

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Twenty minutes from the heart of Qatar’s vibrant capital, a luxury catamaran ferry crosses crystal clear water to reach a breathtaking island that feels a world away, while a private helicopter pad offers an exclusive arrival with a bird’s eye coastal view. Now, you are in paradise!

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The elegant 5-star accommodation is decorated with Arabic design and features a view of the Arabian Sea.  There are 141 rooms, suites, pool villas and over water villas setting the mood for romance and unforgettable holidays. One can take a dip into the private 800 meter beach or the 100 meter long lagoon pool. There’s even a surf pool! There are actually quite a wide range of water sports to enjoy. Leisure and entertainment also spoil you for choice, from bowling, golf and beach games by day, to VIP cinema at night.

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A golf course and a tennis court are available near the property. To keep the younger guests entertained, Cool Mint Children’s Club and Peppermint Teens’ Club have a wide range of toys and interactive games. The resort also boasts 9 dining options including a contemporary Italian restaurant that serves delectable fresh seafood and meat dishes in a trattoria setting. Al Nahham serves aromatic Arabic-Mediterranean cuisine with panoramic view over Doha skyline! Exotic mocktails and shisha are served by the pool bar.

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Each day at Anantara comes with an invitation to do it all or absolutely nothing at all. If you opt for the latter, experience how health and beauty go hand in hand with expert care, from delightful journeys in over water spa suites to holistic lifestyle programs at the dedicated wellness centre.

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This property is one of the top-rated locations in Doha! Guests are happier about it compared to other properties in the area. With world class facilities and limitless activities providing relaxation and adventure, wellness and pure indulgence, at the Banana Island resort one can escape into true Arabian luxury!

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~Karen Bahri 

 

 

 

Three undiscovered Caribbean islands to discover now!

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Three undiscovered Caribbean islands to discover now!

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Aruba, Jamaica and The Dominican Republic are a few amazing islands commonly thought about as one tries to figure out which island to explore when planning an escape to the Caribbean. The choice is limitless and you may become confused trying to figure out where to go. I have provided for you three islands under the radar that are less touristy and offer experiences that will appeal to those looking for seclusion, adventure or both; which means you will get the ultimate Caribbean vibe!

The old Caribbean; safe, friendly and charming with exquisite natural beauty both above and below her waterline.

Montserrat

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Montserrat is one of a handful of Caribbean islands still relatively untouched by mass tourism. Known as the “Emerald Isle,” Montserrat has a rich Irish heritage and is the only country outside Ireland that recognizes St. Patrick’s Day as an official holiday. Visitors even get a shamrock stamp in their passports.

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Volcano tourism is the island’s most unique draw. Lookout spots including Jack Point Hill and Montserrat Volcano Observatory offer views of the eruption’s brute impact. The Exclusion Zone, which is the southern part of the island where eerie remains of the former capital city of Plymouth lie buried under a lunarscape of volcanic ash, looks like a modern-day Pompeii. One may become drawn by the slow rhythm, the friendly locals, the fabulous hiking and birdwatching, and the blessedly tranquil ambience.

Saba

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The mountainous island of Saba delivers a remote escape known for ecotourism, including hikes, climbs and spectacular dives.

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The smallest island (five square miles) in the Netherlands Antilles, Saba is primarily a dormant volcano covered in rain forest. A single road (aptly named “The Road”) takes visitors to quaint cottage filled villages, where you can purchase the traditional Saba lace. Saba is ringed by coral reef, it rises sharply from the sea, with the aptly named Mount Scenery — the highest point in the Netherlands — as its misty peak.

Statia/St. Eustatius

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The quietest corner of the Dutch Caribbean, St. Eustatius, or “Statia”, is known as the Caribbean’s hidden treasure. Today, Statia’s few visitors are intrepid scuba divers, and hikers exploring its rugged, volcanic terrain.

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Divers may discover dazzling reefs, gorgeous marine life, rusting wrecks, anchors and cannons are a few examples of what mysteries one may uncover under the sea!

Hiking is also popular on the island. Visitors can take a half-day hike to the 2,000 foot Quill National Park, a classically shaped volcano with a forest-filled crater. Orchids, fruit trees and ferns thrive in this unique environment.

A serene, old-Caribbean pace is highly felt as the sleepy island has a population of around 4,000 inhabitants!

 

-Karen Bahri

 

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My Favorite dessert spots in New York!

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My Favorite dessert spots in New York!

In an effort to be more healthy, let’s talk about what’s so unhealthy that most people love – SUGAR. I have decided to try cutting out sugar from my diet. I like sweets, but I definitely can say my sweet tooth is not crazy; and I definitely know how to control myself. If I crave sweet, I either will allow myself to have whatever sweet I am craving – because I usually know I will be satisfied after a small portion. Sometimes though, I am mean to myself and say no!

I’m not sure how deleting sugar from my diet will make me feel or how it will change me or if I even will want to or whatever, but people usually save eventually you get to a point where you don’t want sweets anymore. I am hoping this becomes my result because diabetes seems to run in my family all of the sudden (meaning all of the sudden all these older relatives of mine are telling me they have it out of like nowhere and it’s like one after another!) and I see what they go through and it’s a life I want to avoid.

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Anyways, I’m ready to experiment! This week I am going to go strict and consciously try to avoid all or as much as possible sugar I can, and then see how I feel. From there I will see if I can continue on like that (obviously with a cheat day here and there – I’m human after all!) or at least I hope I can still continue on with as much reduced sugar as possible especially during weekdays.

With that in mind, I thought let me get one last weekend of really bad sweet binging out of the way! It’s funny though because like I said, I don’t have a crazy sweet tooth, so I was almost not going to get the 1st item on my list below! But I did it for the blog 😛

Here is my list of “the best of” sweets edition in NYC!

BEST COOKIE: City Cakes

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I’m sooooo sorry all you Levain Bakery lovers. No, no & no. Levain is sooo yesterday!! Who wants to go allllll the way to the Upper West Side to stand on line for an hour for a cookie that will go hard if you leave it for the next day?

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City Cakes cookie are thick and soft! Sooo perfect and if you save some for the next day or two  (they are so freakin big, they usually take me 3 days to finish!) they still stay chewy and delicious! The bakery is so cute too! Saturday I bought the peanut butter and a chocolate chip. The peanut butter was good, but very peanut buttery. I thought there would be more chocolate in it, since it has m&m’s inside. I have tried the red velvet, peanut butter and I think the Nutella stuffed, which are all good, but their chocolate chip is my absolute favorite! Their classic chocolate chip is THE BEST IN THE CITY HANDS DOWN!

BEST ICE CREAM: Davey’s Ice Cream

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This funky ice cream parlor is right in the heart of the east village. They have really funky flavors as well, such as ‘Strong Coffee’, ‘Speculoos Chocolate Chip’ and ‘Mexican Vanilla’, which of course they let you sample, on their regular menu, but they also have seasonal/monthly flavors which are really creative and funky like ‘Black Sesame’, ‘Red Velvet Oreo’ which I tried and it was amazing, ‘Matcha’, ‘Peppermint Chip’, once they had a ‘Star Wars’ flavor, everything!

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The thing is, Davey’s Ice Cream is made on-site from raw ingredients, and you really can taste the difference! Each batch requires a four-day-long production schedule. They also sell birch house coffee, cakes, milkshakes, sundaes, home made marsh mellows (huggeee marsh mellows!) pies, cookies, ice cream sandwiches, like everything!! They have everything!! Ohh, and artisan style cones decorated with cereal and cookies! See! Everything! And all this everything that they offer is homemade and delicious! My go-to is the cookies and cream with the salted caramel sauce – omg! It’s like crack lol.

BEST (CHEESE)CAKE: Martha’s Country Bakery

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Sorry Manhattanites, you gotta come to Queens for this slice of heaven! Martha’s Bakery is located in Astoria as well as Forest Hills, Bayside and they also have a location or two in Williamburg, which is in Brooklyn. THE best cakes & desserts. It has a European touch and they have a full coffee bar. They sell cupcakes, cakes, cookies, brownies, tarts, macaroon, gelato and cake cake cake cake cake – a variety of sorts of cakes and cheesecakes, you name it! Have you ever heard of a blue velvet cake??? They got it!

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My favorite is the apple crumb cheesecake. The bottom half is filled with apple pie filling, the middle with creamy, amazing cheesecake, and it’s topped off with cinammony crumble. I’m so glad the location in my neighborhood is on the complete other side, making it difficult for me to run on over whenever I crave that cheesecake! I must add the desserts are so pretty and the space has a very Euro vibe. It’s also very cozy and clean.

If coming out to the boroughs is such a thang for you, the best alternative in Manhattan I would say is Juniors for cheesecake. There IS another place located in Soho called Eileen’s Special Cheesecake, but I have not been there yet. It’s on my list though!

BEST DOUGHNUTS: Dough

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Yum! These are so delicious! I have tried the cafe au lait and one I really love – mocha almond crunch. The doughnuts here are big and fluffy. They have cake doughnuts and regular with loads of flavors.

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The hibiscus flavor seems to be really popular. I don’t know how I feel about that and I’m not sure if I’m willing to risk it unless they were giving out free samples. Maybe I’m missing out? Maybe one day I’ll decide to try it. Maybe that day I’ll be angry I wasted $5 on a doughnut that was weird.

BEST POPSICLE: La Newyorkina

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Wepaaa!! This place is soooo cute!!! As a non-Latina, the first time I walked in here I was so overwhelmed and confused. So I came back with a Latina and had her translate 😛 They have Mexican ice cream flavors, popsicles, frozen yogurts, ect.  We both got the mango chili palettes (Mango ice pops).

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They have these tubs of chili randomly left around that you can sprinkle on your ice pop. I HIGHLY recommend trying this. I HIGHLY recommend trying this. I am tempted to type that sentence again, but I think you get the picture 🙂

BEST HOT CHOCOLATE: Jacques Torres

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Back in January I was at City Bakery and tried their hot chocolate, although it was similar, it got cold quick and lost its je ne said quoi. So Jacque Torres, to me, is still the best.

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Honestly, I am not a hot chocolate fan. I was introduced to JT in 2010 when I was working down in Tribeca and a coworker was raving about it so much. It was a block or two down from our office, so one day she took me and I had never tried hot chocolate like this before! It’s literally thick, melted chocolate! You can choose regular, or ‘Wicked’. I prefer the regular. They have handmade, artisan chocolates, which make perfect gifts! There several locations throughout the city and Mr. Torres has even recently opened a museum!

BEST LATTE: Coffeecake Corner

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Only Because they have a peanut butter mocha and although it’s pretty small inside, the few times I came here I could always find a seat! I usually don’t drink latte’s either. If I get a latte it’s usually some type of soy mocha and I usually end up throwing it out after a few sips.

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This though, is definitely a treat! As far as coffee goes, I am not sure. I cannot find my absolute favorite when it comes to actual coffee. I do enjoy illy coffee but a lot of coffee shops are just decent. I hate to admit it but lately my go-to has been cart coffee on weekday mornings. I actually enjoy it more than any other independent coffee shop or you know, Starbucks.

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These are my top favorite desserts and my top favorite places FOR those desserts in the city. Sorry I gotta say sayonara to them for now! I do believe in cheating here and there, with control, but my goal is to make those cheat cravings become less often than before. But if you are not watching your sugar (something I am not encouraging but you are an adult!) or you do come to New York on holiday (holidays = excuse to cheat on your diet!), definitely try out these places! I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

-Karen Bahri

 

La Fête du Citron – a dose of Vitamin C in the French Riviera!

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La Fête du Citron – a dose of Vitamin C in the French Riviera!

Created in Menton, France in 1934, La Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival), is an extremely bright and unique event which attracts more than 160,000 visitors every year!

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This vivid event consists of designs up to 10 meters tall, incredible decorations, and floats requiring over 140 tons of oranges and lemons! For three weeks, the Jardins Biovès [Biovès Gardens] and the streets are given over to these bright, sunny citrus giants!!

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Floral processions are organized on the Promenade du Soleil, with a mixture of citrus-themed floats, confetti, dancers and folk groups. Displayed in giant floats, Citrus Limonia is saluted by entertainers, brass bands and other creatures full of divine charm. During the festival, the Biovès Gardens are clad with citrus fruit, forming temporary sculptures in dazzling yellow and orange shades. At nightfall, the orange and lemon monuments sparkle in their flamboyant colors, and night-time events are sometimes held.

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La Fête du Citron is the second most important event on the French Riviera – after Nice Carnival – and is just ahead of the Monaco Formula 1. More than 300 professionals work on the project and 145 tons of citrus fruits are used.

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This festival is held from mid-February for three weeks, the perfect time of year to get your dose of vitamin C!

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-Karen Bahri

Italy’s most Underrated destinations

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Italy’s most Underrated destinations

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Ahhh Italy!!! Italy is such an amazing and beautiful country where there are sooo many famous cities/towns you have to check out. It’s like you have to take a couple months off so you can see everything! All the major cities – Venice, Milan, Tuscany, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, oh my god!! Italy just doesn’t stop!!

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I’m about to make your Italian itinerary a bit more complicated (insert evil smile emoji) Forget the major cities…okay maybe not, but try for a moment. Wouldn’t it be nice to explore REAL Italy?! Outside the major tourist destinations? Wouldn’t it be cool to get lost and see what Italy is REALLY like? Of course it would!! Just brush up on some Italiano and follow my list of destinations in Italy that are a little less “well known” but you get away from the crowds and actually see Italy for what it REALLY is!

MODENA

The ancient town of Modena boasts to have the best restaurant in ALL OF EUROPE (Osteria Francescana) as well as it is the hub of Italian auto making.

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RAVELLO

Amalfi Coast – be damned! The cliffside town of Ravello also offers breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea!

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SIRACUSA

Settlements in this Sicilian archeological wonderland date back as far as 734 BC! Siracusa was once the largest city in the ancient world! It is best known for its Ancient Greek ruins as well as amazing food.

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PARMA

Home of …you guessed it! Parmesan Cheese! Parma is a foodie’s paradise as it is the first Italian city to win the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy award! It is also home of one of the oldest universities in the world – Parma University.

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MATERA

This ancient city is carved into a canyon believe it or not! It is one of the oldest still-inhabited places on earth and extremely exotic to visit!

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TRIESTE

Visiting Trieste is like pretending like you are actually in Slovenia, but actually you are not! This place is filled with Viennese coffee houses and Slavic restaurants. Uncommon for Italy, Trieste is kind of a melting pot of Italian, Latin, German, Jewish and Slavic people.

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So now which one or ones of these places do you think you want to include on your bucket list next time you are in Italy?? Let me know! 🙂

 

-Karen Bahri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switzerland’s Earth Shattering Secret Wonderland!

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Switzerland’s Earth Shattering Secret Wonderland!

If you have ever wondered what it’s like to live in a home blanketed inside earth, start packing your bags and head over to Dietikon, Switzerland and find out what it actually feels like to be at one with nature!

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Earth House Estate Lattenstrasse is located in Dietikon, Switzerland. These homes are ACTUALLY tucked within mounds of earth. You will totally get the feeling as if you have stumbled upon a secret society! “Earth Houses” are so called because they’re designed to reside within their environment, blending into the natural contours of the land rather than merely set down on top of it. These homes appear like small cozy huts to live in, but are actually quite spacious inside. They also have a balance of the best of modern design and energy-efficient living. The estate includes 9 separate homes, featuring three 3 bedroom, a 4 bedroom, a 5 bedroom, three 6 bedroom and a 7 bedroom house. There is even an artificial lake in the center, a subterranean parking lot, and room to grow vegetation on the property.

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The aim of building an earth house is not to live under or in the ground; but with it. The earth house concept uses the ground as an insulating blanket that efficiently protects the homes from rain, low temperatures, wind and natural abrasion.

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Being that the homes are protected by a layer of earth, they have natural insulation during the winter that allows them to use only a third of the energy a normal home would consume. During the summer, the homes stay cool, making air conditioners and fans unnecessary.

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The earth house concept uses its surroundings as an advantage – the surroundings are not adapted to the building, rather, but the house is shaped in order to preserve the natural environment. Modern earth-house architecture incorporates the latest interior finishing, such as contemporary kitchens, bathrooms and house-control systems. Furthermore, every house is newly designed in accordance with the wishes of its owners.

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This amazing little community definitely will make you feel like you have stepped into a hobbit hole from the Lord of The Rings trilogy or something!

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~Karen Bahri