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Travel

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Great Trips: Colorful Collioure, France

Becky

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I promised you a few more pictures of my wonderful trip to France’s Ruby Coast. We stayed at a wonderful apartment in Collioure, a town so beautiful that it inspired artists like Matisse and Derain to be incredibly prolific when they summered there, and inspired them to create Fauvism. The area continues to inspire artists, who flock there and sell their work in the many galleries and on the streets.

The town is on the Mediterranean Sea and has the usual history of being visited by the Greeks and Romans and having a fort and all that good crazy Euro seaside stuff. This is the Eglise Notre Dame des Anges and you can see it in many paintings, like this Matisse:

There are reproductions of paintings by famous artists right at the vistas that inspired them so many years ago all over the village.

One of the most fun things about this village are unexpected architectural details like this ceramic drainpipe …

… colorful pot attached to a wall …

… and amazing hand-painted ceramic tile details.

You can see here how the amazing colors of this town have always inspired artists.

Also colorful are the locals. One of the coolest things about Collioure is that American visitors are a rarity, so the locals were friendly and somewhat fascinated by us. This street musician sat right down, serenaded us with his friends, then looked into his bag of tricks and gave us each crazy instruments like thumb cymbals so we could join in the music making.

When my friend Heather needed a screwdriver, she popped into a bar (a bar where Picasso used to hang out) and asked if there was somewhere to buy one. One of the patrons ran home to apartment and gave her one to borrow.

A gallery announces itself with bright mosaic pots, petunias and a painted door. While you can drive into the village, most of its narrow streets are pedestrian only.

You can walk the rocky coast along this amazing path.

One end of the bay is the perfect spot for a hotel.

One of the most amazing things about this village is that its a microclimate. Tropical plants thrive, yet you can see the snow-covered mountains of the Pyrenees off in the distance beyond the palm trees. The hillsides leading down to the village are vineyards, best known for Banyuls, a sweet wine.

Collioure is about a 2 hour drive from the Barcelona airport on the highway, about 2.5 to three hours if you opt for the incredible coastline route for the last half of the trip. We visited in late April and while it was windy and we weren’t inspired to jump in the ocean, there were very few crowds. I hear that in the summer it can get more crowded than Edgartown, so I recommend going in the just-off season. Also, prices are lower then. If you have any more questions about a visit, please ask them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to find out the answers for you.

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Friday, June 15th, 2012

The Simple Life

Becky

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Well guys, I am on a sort-of vacation in Maine – that is to say that I am working but from one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s the kind of work week when you have no idea what day of the week it is. Thus, I don’t really have much in terms of links for you this week, because I’m staring out at lobster boats rather than staring out at the internet. However, being up here always makes me want to simplify and opens my eyes to the beauty of simple vernacular architecture. For example, this little dock shack in Port Clyde:

It’s a little hard to see, but the dock was built around a lovely rock that now sticks right up through it.

Then from the side, the simple adornment of a fishing net adds even more charm to the weathered siding and bright white trim. I dream of having blogging to you from  little shack like this.

Speaking of dreaming, my friend Kitty Sheehan posted a photo from The Dartbrook Lodge today that also had me drooling over its rustic simplicity:

The lodge is located in the Adirondacks about 4.5 hours from New York City.

For some reason, this had me thinking about A-frame houses, and wondering if you could rent them. Turns out, you can, all over the place. For example, this place in the Hocking Hills of Ohio, called Old Man’s Caves Chalets. This actually looks like a super-fun place, especially since there aren’t that many destinations in southeast Ohio:

Where are you headed for a little getaway this summer? Are you roughing it with a tent or in a rustic cabin or have you saved for a more luxurious trip? Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section!

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Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

A Trip to Maine, Baby Robins and a Thomas Paul Rug

Becky

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I just picked up a Thomas Paul Robin rug in powder and cream and I could not be more thrilled (I’m also super-psyched about my new plaid Sperry Topsiders, but that’s a whole other story):

While I’ll laugh myself silly over Portlandia‘s “Put a Bird On It,” I still love birds on things. I’m up at our family place in Maine, and upon arrival, we were greeted by a nest full of robin’s eggs (the marine lanterns were my great grandfather’s and we had them turned into the porch lights). You can see the back of the nest cascadng down the side here; I’m too short too get a good shot!

I climbed up on a stepladder to get a peek at the baby birds when I saw that their mom was busy crapping on my parents’ black car again:

Obviously, a robin feeding her baby on a rug was an appropriate choice for the bedroom I use. This is the room the kiddos in the family also use when they are up here, so I originally decorated it around a favorite bright Fairfield Porter poster from The Farnsworth Museum. We’d been needing an area rug for three years now, but I like to wait until I find the perfect thing:

Here’s a peek at some of the little deets, like Mr. Lobster and a fun throw pillow from Mainer Angela Adams:

A wooden boat picked up at an antique store and a Seth Thomas clock that’s been here since before I was born.

A hint at the lobstering harbor view; it’s pretty gray today, but the sea is right beyond that deck railing:

Here’s a little more Maine color eye-candy:

If you’ve never been to mid-coast Maine, I cannot recommend it enough. Just be sure to come with an appetite for lobsters and arm yourself witha lot of bug repellent.

Click here to buy your own Robin rug

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Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I Want To Go To There: How Do You Find Cool Lodging?

Becky

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Reading the New York Times Travel section this weekend, I stumbled across a site I hadn’t visited. Now that I have, it is sure to become a giant time-sucker in my life. It’s called DesignTripper.com, and it’s full of carefully curated, unique vacation roosts (houses, inns, B&Bs, even yurts) and restaurants that aren’t likely to earn you any Starwood rewards points.

This led me to their post about Fair Folks and a Goat, an amazing shotgun house in New Orleans that has a boutique, a coffee parlor, a gallery and one bedroom for guests with a rotating art installation inside (the one above is by local artist t Hannah Chalew), among other things. This spot can’t be summed up in a category or two; what’s so great is the way they support local artists and craftspeople. I also loved seeing local artwork (Time Out chair – so genius – is by Sarah Ashley Longshore), combined with two of my favorite items we carry, the Blu Dot Real Good Chair and Patrick Townsend’s Orbit Light, combined with classic New Orleans shotgun architecture:

UPDATE: Since posting this, I found that Fair Folks is moving their creative action north to Greenwich Village and will be opening a new a retail boutique and design emporium featuring the works of established New York designers and talented young artists in September! Learn more here.

What are some of your favorite ways to find chic vacation spots? Do you browse through Wallpaper*, drool, rip out the pages and then start saving money? Enjoy cruising through sites like airnb and vrbo, sure you’ll find that perfect needle in a haystack while looking out for scammers and the kind of homeowners who take bathroom pictures with the toilet seat up and all of their products all over the sink (I’m not talking in a Todd Selby kind of way)? Hit your local AAA? Let discount sites like Jetsetter do the searching and the discounting for you? Post what you’re looking for on Facebook and see who has good ideas? Are you laid back enough to do the CouchSurfing thing? Have you been doing the travel agent thing since long before the interwebs were invented and swear it’s still the best and only way to go?

There are so many options out there it’s really hard to keep up; while DesignTripper does NOT handle bookings and reservations, they certainly cut down on search time for the cool spots. Please share your favorite travel search methods with us as well as favorite places you’ve stayed in the comments section – I’d love to know about your experiences, good or bad!

Photos via DesignTripper.com

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Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Mad Men Takes a HoJo To Go

Becky

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Did any of you feel a wave of nostalgia for a Howard Johnson’s road trip stop while watching Mad Men last night? I kept thinking of my family driving from Ohio to Cape Cod in the family truckster (a tan Ford station wagon with wood paneling and flip up seats in the way-back) and stopping for a hot dog and an ice cream cone. The bright colors, light fixtures and even the waitress uniforms actually looked retro-fresh in last night’s episode.

Somehow, the combination of pot pies and orange sherbet leads to a devastating fight between Don and Megan, and he abandons her in a HoJo’s parking lot. How could he not, with that fabulous honeysuckle dress with matching chevron coat? It was made for a HoJo’s. Girlfriend even had on matching pink sunglasses. Tory Burch has got nothing on Megan’s costume designer.

Only that devilish cad Don Draper could make the iconic Howard Johnson’s roof look sexy.

Anyway, the wave of nostalgia made me want to look into the history of Howard Johnson’s. Because I’m lazy, most of this information was compiled via Wikipedia, so take it for what it’s worth.

Howard Deering Johnson opened drugstore in 1925, but soon realized that the soda fountain was the most profitable part.  He started tinkering with ice cream and the business changed direction toward becoming a restaurant that became known for fried clams.

In 1932 a second restaurant was opened, one of the first franchise deals in the U.S. The first motor lodge was opened in Savannah Georgia in 1954, and it was designed by architects Rufus Nims and Karl Koch. From there, in a nutshell, the business boomed and the motor lodges became known for their ubiquitous roadside advertisements:

In the 1960s and ’70s, there were over 1,000 HoJos across the United States and Canada.

There is a site completely dedicated to posting pictures of former HoJos, called HoJoLand.com

Then, new owners and more new owners and big changes, bland architecture and a new logo that’s no fun. The End.

Oh, P.S. Also, when you Google “Howard Johnson,” this guy is interspersed between all of the motel pictures. He’s a singer:

Images 1,2, 3 via amctv.com

Image 4 via diet.com

Image 5 from Wikimedia Commons

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