Latest Posts

Paris for Dessert

My first planned trip to Paris was in my mid-20’s and I decided to take a vacation with a handful of friends. We drove to JFK Airport and got stuck in between the shuttle bus shifts in long-term parking. By the time we got to the gate, Air France had just closed the flight and gave our seats away. They had two seats left and two of our companions went. Three of us decided to go later and one went solo. Needless to say, this is the second Air France flight in my lifetime where I have “missed” a flight to Paris, but let’s just say this one had a happier ending and I went home with a belly full of food and wine fit for the finest connoisseurs. 😋 

A few weeks ago, Air France had a promotion to give away invitations to a culinary dinner experience curated and prepared by venerable French chef Daniel Boulud and his teams at Feast & FĂȘtes and Restaurant Daniel. Two lucky guests would win a pair of business class tickets to Paris including two nights stay at a Marriott Hotel and a dinner at Michelin restaurant The Saint James.


The contest promotion began with announcements on Instagram and Facebook encouraging interested participants and travel addicts to visit the Air France airline stairway in Union Square in New York City. The day that I visited with my daughter was a whopping 93F/33C heat in the middle of New York City. Festive greeters in chic French attire greeted you upon arriving and fans were escorted up the stairway. Once at the top, you were given a French macaron for each visitor and a chance to win one of the coveted invitations to dinner with Daniel Boulud’s team. Finalists were asked to pack a suitcase and bring it with them to the dinner, in case they were the lucky guests to be chosen to fly to Paris on Air France that evening.

PrĂȘt Ă  Aller

There were four nights of catered dinners for Paris for Dessert in a pop-up location on Mulberry Street in SoHo/Nolita and the first night included many Instagram influencers who were selected in advance to attend the event and one pair, again pre-selected, flown to Paris that evening. Once arrived at the venue, guests were greeted, given a boarding pass, luggage “checked in”, and immediately served effervescent La Caravelle champagne and sumptuous caviar from French purveyor, Caviar Sturia with its mild, medium, and strong varieties. First class all the way! Some guests mixed and mingle, others were busy on Instagram and Snapchatting the night away.

Guests were led downstairs to a makeshift room that looked very much like a set of an interior of a private jet with a long table accommodating 12-14 guests depending on the evening. The menu consisted of some of Chef Boulud masterpiece creations and signature eye on detail by his teams.

A Mise en Bouche, La FĂšve, of Fava Bean with Mint Chive was served with more La Caravelle champagne followed by L’EntrĂ©e of white asparagus, almond oil, chorizo, and a “Hollandaise au Vin Jaune” sauce paired with LĂ©gende Bordeaux Blanc 2016. Luscious white asparagus were rare in New York City until only a few years ago and one wonders where do they find such large and perfectly prepared ones.

Le poisson, a fish course of Cured Lime Yellow Fin Tuna, was next paired with the most refreshing and clear Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru 2015. I am not a typical fan of chablis wine, but this one was refreshing and divine as a cool brook in the woods during time summertime.

La Volaille
As the dinner progressed towards the reveal, guests were served Hudson Valley Duck with Bing and Rainier cherries paired with their choice of Beaune Legende Medoc Rouge 2015 or Joseph Drouhin-Vaudon CĂŽte de Beaune Rouge 2012. I chose the latter and enjoyed its lighter fruity palate immensely with the duck.

Once the evening came to dessert, two lucky winners were announced and off they went, being escorted by the exuberant Air France, La Caravelle, and Gradient Experiential hidden behind the entry curtains for the La Volaille, the reveal. The remaining guests were served and encouraged to share two desserts, CrÚme Brulée and Cherry Tarte with Sicilian Pistachio Griotte Confit. One could not depart from the lovely dinner without the signature Boulud lemon madeleines, which the entertaining and charming staff sent me home with a bundle of them.

Sadly, Chef Boulud was not there that evening, occupied and engaged in projects in London, Provence, and the incredible Red Bull Hangar in Salzburg (future post to come!) but whenever Daniel Boulud is involved with something, you know that you will have a very special occasion and memories.

Les MĂ©moires du Chef
To dine a Daniel Boulud meal is certainly well worth packing a suitcase even if you didn’t get to step foot on a Boeing 747 that evening.

Thank you Paris for Dessert and Air France for a most memorable evening, including the Paris bug where the only cure for la malade is really going to Paris or France. Merci beaucoup!

#TalesOnRail with Rail Europe

“Ring! Ring!” sounds an alarm clock early in the morning. “Today is the day!”

That is what goes through my mind as I eagerly awaken in anticipation of travel days. With each awakening on the first of these days is like opening a book to the first page in a chapter with a ticket in your hand or in these modern times on your mobile app! There is a mystique and a magnetism of train travel as countryside sand towns roll by. Time stands still and the mind can wander, writing a story on its own.

“The train is a small world moving through a larger world.” 


When I am visiting Europe, there is something mystical about train travel where creativity flourishes and ideas pop up randomly from the flurry of activity or in the stillness of inactivity. The desire to document that moment before it escapes again left behind on the piece of track we just left. Time stands still even though you’re not.

Oh look! There’s a beautiful pasture!”

“The sky is about to open up and the clouds have parted. Wait a minute! I can snap a quick photo. I’m not driving!”

“Gotterdamerung. Mother Nature calls.”

Then there is the music. The wonderful tunes and melodies on your playlist that you’ve carefully curated prior to,your trip to listen to on that 5-hour journey. Such bliss to enjoy and pass the time, especially if the wifi connection is spotty. No one can disturb you on your mobile device and you can really absorb your surroundings.

Paris, France

SNCF’s TGV is a wonderful way to travel, especially if you can splurge for that coveted first-class ticket. Views of France’s countryside are gorgeous and with the TGV’s service you feel the luxury of being in your seat and your needs taken care of. For business travelers, it can be a godsend especially if you didn’t have time to grab a bite to eat for the journey like I did below.


Lyon, France

In the countryside oimg_1743f France you can let all of your senses come alive and guide you. It’s a feat of engineering that allows you to start the morning in a big city like Paris and within hours you’re in the south of France and looking at all these amazing landscapes. By nightfall, you will have dined in the succulence of French gourmet cuisine should you choose or relish the aromas and flavors of the variety of French cheeses with a glass of some of the world’s best wine.

Lucerne, Switzerland


Dong! Dong! The church bells toll as swans swim in the river underneath the Kappelbrucke in Lucerne as the mountains watch the activities in town. Busy tourists chatting while they walk and take in the beautiful sites of one of Switzerland’s most stunning views. My time in Lucerne was a short one, only one day and I spent the day walking around the city, writing, and taking photographs enjoying the limited amount of time, a luxury. There is so much more to this beautiful city and its surrounding mountains. It is easy to see why it is a favorite destination for tours and tourists alike.






Geneva, Switzerland


Switzerland’s train system is one of the best in the world. A country that is known for their timepieces, their transportation system is equally as refined and precise on the clock even to let travelers know which track their train will arrive and depart. It is efficiency and convenience at its finest leaving you time to really take in the sites and gems of this glorious city including its famous Jet d’eau in the Lac Leman.


Montreux, Switzerland 

img_1746I have met many people while traveling on trains in Europe. Often, first-time travelers in Europe, conversations on the stories of their journeys, travel tips to be exchanged, and conversations in different languages to eavesdrop upon. Living in the United States I have never taken a consecutive multi-destination trip on the train and it is a dream of mine, especially in Europe where Rail Europe makes it so easy for travelers.

Each destination has its own tale or chapter, but I would love to continue to write a creative visual story of those tales on the rail. So often we make these memories for ourselves, but if we are lucky someone else will read what you have penned on a page. The time stands still and my mind wanders now as another journey is beginning…

 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

To book future travel on Rail Europe you can go to the website at:


This post was written as an entry to Rail Europe’s #TALESONRAIL contest. For more information go to to check out the contest details.








When I travel I like to consult travel guides for tips and destinations as well. Some of my favorite in these particular journeys were:

Lonely Planet Guides:

Rick Steve’s Travel Guides:

The New York Times Travel Show, Jan. 8-10, 2016

The first weekend of January brings travel industry experts and afficionados bitten by the travel bug buzzing to the Javits Center in New York City. With a strong U.S dollar and ongoing political shifts, travel destinations are opening their doors and more enticing to travelers of all ages. The New York Times Travel published their annual 52 Places to Go in 2016 this week highlighting top destinations to visit this year.

At The New York Times Travel Show, travel professionals, industry insiders as well as national tourism offices around the world convened to explore domestic and international hot spots, familiar favorites, and under-the-radar crowd-free escapes. Here are some highlights from this year’s trade show.

Virtual reality

Meet South Africa booth at NYT Travel Show

Before booking a trip, the travel industry is learning that experiential travel using wearable tech is the wave of the future as the internet of things (iOT) is a strong growing industry. The booth to visit this year at NYT Travel Show was Visit South Africa. With its colorful marquis spot, local travel providers ready to speak to trade professionals or regular consumers, the Oculus experience was a win for South African Tourism. Visitors scaled rock faces with expert rock climbers, met an elephant, penguins, and took a different approach to the shark tank by diving with sharks in South African waters. While the imaging of the VR experience was not crisp and crystal clear like the tech trade shows at CES or Mobile World Congress, but it is clear that this is a growing sector and the way to go for the travel industry to entice more visitors and tourism business. People will want to have a taste of what there trip is going to be like before ever leaving their home airports.

National Geographic Expeditions 


NatGeo Expeditions booth at NYT TravelShow

The name National Geographic is ubiquitous with exploration, environmental experts and scientists, world-reknowned, gorgeous, rich photographs, and its expansion into adventure travel is growing stronger than ever. With National Geographic Expeditions adventure travelers can experience nature uninterrupted. Depending on the style of travel, one can select an expedition, active adventure, or journey according to their abilities. The bonus? The priceless landscapes, backdrops, inhabitants, and lighting that only nature can provide for any photographer’s dream shots.


Volunteer Travel

We are living in extraordinary times and travel is illustrating this fact. Volunteer travel in the industry is on the rise, especially with Milennials who are more conscious in their choices and decision-making for meaningful life experiences.  There are many volunteer or responsible tourism providers out there, but make sure to do your research in finding one that work with the people who live in communities that want them there. My personal experience with volunteer travel was with an organization called Pack for a Purpose on a last-minute trip for the new year’s holiday to Bali, Indonesia.

On this trip, I only packed carry-on luggage and dedicated 1/3 of my luggage space for school supplies and books for a local school in Munduk. On New Year’s Day, the hotel that I was staying at arranged a driver and a local photographer for transportation to the local schools in the area and we visited one where I got to meet the teachers and a student. Unfortunately, due to the holiday and the driver miscalculated the school dismissal time and many of the children had already started their walks home. However, I did get to meet the teachers and one student at a school and deliver my items before the 3-hour drive back to Denpasar Airport to catch the first leg of my flight home to Singapore.

Regardless of your time available for a trip, there are many compelling reasons to volunteer or support local organizations during travel. Pack for a Purpose and Karmalaya are ones that I have had personal interactions with and larger organizations such as Pencils of Promise or charity: water are worth taking a deeper look at.

Frommers 2016 Hot Destinations List

Speaking at NYT Travel Show this year was none other than Arthur and Pauline Frommer of Frommers Travel Guides. Both travel industry veterans and wonderful speakers, they shared their hot destinations to visit in 2016 and their reasons why!



Number one on the Frommer’s 2016 Hot Destinations List is Colombia. With its proximity to the United States, coffee plantations, and the home of writer Gabriel GarcĂ­a MĂĄrquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Autumn Patriarch, Love in the Time of Cholera) it is an easy destination for Americans to travel to. Budget Airline Viva Colombia, the first and only low-cost airline to Colombia, offers flights from Miami to BogotĂĄ or MedellĂ­n for as low as $171 round-trip.

Iceland’s Fire and Ice
Most travelers are familiar with Iceland and its tundras. With, hot spots (literally) like the Blue Lagoon, thermal springs, sprawling countrysides, and majestic glaciers, adventurers and travel beginners will be delighted by visiting this “otherworldly place of ice and fire.” The Frommers Guide to Iceland since its initial print has been a bestseller.

Spices of India
Pauline Frommer recommends one of the most populous nations in the world, India, and shared her personal photos and experience with her family vacation with Global Volunteers, a 31 year-old volunteer vacation organization. There were three regions in particular that she recommended, Chennai in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Chennai is India’s fourth largest city that was recently hit by massive rainfall and floods. Despite recent climate conditions, the city is booming. To read more about Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu and Kanchipuram where the city of “a thousand temples”is located, click here.

For travelers who are a little more apprehensive to travel to India, Frommer recommends southern India, like Kerala on the Malabar coast. National Geographic Traveler has rated the Kerala region as one of the world’s 50 must-see destinations and also one of “ten earthly paradises.” Filled with fragrant Indian spices, colorful landscapes, and floating flotillas once reminiscent of merchants trading spices. You can read more about Kerala here.

Caliente Cuba
In more recent history, the restoration of full diplomatic relations with the government of Cuba ordered by the President of the United States Barack Obama opened this once-closed country to American citizens. Many Europeans and Australians have been enjoying travel to Cuba for many years now, but finally its borders are open to U.S. travelers.

Again easy to travel to from the U.S., Havana is the hot city to see. However, due to the shortage in hotel rooms in Havana, Arthur Frommer recommends booking accommodations at casa particulares or even Airbnb for stays. The only caveats for travel to Cuba for Americans is that travel must be non-recreational. So, if you’re looking to travel to sit at the beach, that is a “no-no.” Travel must be for professional, humanitarian, or educational reasons so exercise caution when booking your travel. Wifi as well may also not be readily accessible or quite costly, but you can enjoy the relaxed pace of life offline or spice it up in the scenes of Old Havana.

Canada is the fifth hot destination on the Frommer’s list. With its neighboring borders and favorable exchange rate with the U.S. dollar (1.4oUSD: 1 CAD), it makes sense to travel to Canada.  There are plenty of flights scheduled each day to and from major cities in the U.S. and Canada. With spectacular landscapes and mountains in Vancouver in British Columbia, Lake Louise in Alberta, European charm in Montreal, Quebec, or hopping Toronto, this vast neighbor of the United States is an easy win for many travelers across the globe.

Japan, Land of the Rising Sun
A favorite and once an almost unreachable destination for many travelers due to cost, Japan is more accessible than ever. Now that the yen currency has dropped against the dollar, tourism is on the rise again in the land of the rising sun.

Japan is a country where one photograph in a place can speak a thousand words, even if you cannot speak Japanese. It is a wonderful place to visit for families as well, rich in its history and openness to children in many places and more affordable for family travel.

With culture that spans over a thousand years, temples to see, incredible cuisine to taste, vibrant, sprawling cities, and picturesque landscapes that hold time still, you will find no other place on the planet like Japan and it is no wonder the country is a favorite of many travelers to visit.

With over a thousand years of architecture and design, its sprawling cities are also a sight to behold combining the new with old traditions.


Raise a glass Champagne, France!
The last location on the Frommer’s 2016 Hot Destinations List is Champagne, France. The cathedral in Reims, the largest city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, is where traditionally the kings of France were coronated and once a major city during the period of the Roman Empire.

I recently visited the Champagne this last fall during the champagne harvest season with a friend who is a restauranteur from London. We stayed at a fermette (farmhouse) during the month of September, visiting the champagne capital Épernay, magnificient Reims, and the countryside filled with vines from the wineries and remnants of once-proud tournesols also know as sunflowers.

Angéline Templier of J. Lasalle

We had a chance to visit local champagne winery J. Lasalle in Chigny Les Roses. Both J. Lasalle and Frommer’s pick Pommery have its rich bubbly history with women. At J. Lasalle, the focus is on the tradition of the work and with its third-generation winemaker, Jacqueline LaSalle, the winery is finally seeing the fruits of her labor in her first vintage since she took over as the winery’s master winemaker. Reservations are required to visit the winery so be sure to call to arrange a time before stopping by.

Bucket Lists and Happiness

We closed out NYT Travel Show with Bridge to Bhutan’s Lotay Rinchen who was one of the seminar speakers during the trade show and Pauline Frommer. Bhutan graces the top spot on the World Happiness Index and it has been on the top of my bucket list ever since reading one of my favorite travel books, Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss. 

While travel plans to Bhutan and a story has yet to be written by a visit, the Bhutan tourism is mandatory to be organized by local tourist agencies to book your hotels and restaurants. Lotay was on-hand at NYT Travel Show to speak about the “Last Shangri-La: Bhutan” and offered many tips for travelers. His company Bridge to Bhutan arranges acquiring the necessary travel documents such as a visa to Bhutan, hotel accommodations, guides, restaurants, hikes and excursions for travelers. The recommended allotment of time for a visit is between 12-14 days, but many travelers can only go for 7-8 days. Peak season to travel is in the spring (March-June) and fall (September-November), but according to Rinchen, Bhutan is really a year-round travel destination.

With Frommers Guides Pauline Frommer & Bridge to Butan’s Lotay Rinchen at NYT Travel Show


As a photographer behind the camera, I rarely post as many selfies as I did during the NYT Travel Show, especially in one day, but the trade show is all about connecting with people behind the scenes to inspire us to be happy by making our travel dreams and bucket lists come true. I will leave you in 2016 with this piece of wisdom from the eloquent Pauline Frommer:

You can’t have a thick passport with a narrow mind.
– Pauline Frommer



Full Moon Rise at Stonehenge

On Sunday, 27 September, 2015, 28 amateur and professional astronomers and photographers ranging from ages 5 to 65 descended upon the English countryside in Salisbury, UK, to the Stonehenge monument in Amesbury. The reason for this occasion that has been occurring for the past twelve years was to view the full moon rise amongst the stones.


Autumn Supermoon rise at Stonehenge. Salisbury, UK.

Since 2002, Pete Glastonbury has been organizing this special access event to view the full moon risings for the last 12 years. The first was a special commission for Stonehenge that included renowned archaeoastronomers Professor Gerald Hawkins, Professor Vance Tiede and Professor Hubert Allen. Fast-forward a dozen years and we have English Heritage’s steward Simon Banton as unofficial guide and new generations of astronomers.


Pete Glastonbury

This year wasn’t any regular autumn full moon rise, but a “super moon” coinciding with a blood full moon in combination with a total lunar eclipse later in the evening. This phenomenon has not occurred in more than 30 years, the last occurring in 1982, and the next one expected in 2033. The perigee full moon, when the moon is closest to the earth (approximately 31,000 miles closer), was fully visible rising from the stone circle of Stonehenge and our group of astronomers were ready with their cameras and tripods to capture the moment as the sun was seen setting directly behind them.

Sunset at Stonehenge Circle, 27 September, 2015

Lunar eclipses typically occur about twice a year when the Earth’s shadow blankets the moon from the sun. Modern-day scientists and astronomers can predict eclipses many centuries into the future and the stones at Stonehenge were constructed in a fashion that in ancient times communities were using their own methods to predict such occurrences. This fourth and final eclipse of a lunar tetrad was also called the “blood moon” as the moon appears in a reddish-orange brown during full lunar eclipse.

Supermoon rise at Stonehenge Circle

According to Simon Banton, a steward of English Heritage who led this group into the inner circle of the stones, the builders of Stonehenge were astonishing engineers. “Someone conceived the design of the structure as an architect. There are many hundreds of stone circles in Britain alone. Stonehenge was built with stones designed to fit into other stones. Two uprights and one across the top of the stones.”



English Heritage’s Steward Simon Banton holding a Bronze Age axe head. Stonehenge, Salisbury, United Kingdom.

The winter solstice sunset signifies the end of one cycle and the beginning of another cycle. The only unarguable alignment of Stonehenge in the way it was built in the direction facing the winter solstice with a progression in height: two small, two medium, and one large, increasing in height. Entering the temple is most impressive is what’s facing, framing, or from the heel stone.

Mid-winter sunset. Stonehenge, Salisbury, United Kingdom. Photo credit: Simon Banton, English Heritage.

British-born American archaeoastronomer Gerald Hawkins first proposed that Stonehenge was an an ancient astronomical observatory that was used to predict the movements of the stars and sun. Using an early-model IBM 7090 computer, Hawkins entered the positions of the standing stones and other features of Stonehenge to model the movements and positions of the sun and moon using the positions of 56 holes as markers for the moon and sun to calculate the nodes of lunar orbit twice a day in a 28-day cycle.

One of the 56 Aubrey holes at Stonehenge.

With modern-day technology in archaeoastronomy, science is able to replicate and predict the accuracy of the stones at Stonehenge to measure the lunar orbits and seasons and their relevance even today. As space science outreach and retired teacher Chris Starr, 62, from Somerset said, “The experience of watching the moonrise was once in a lifetime, the sharing of a common experience from today, and what the ancients witnessed. Sharing a sense of wonder and a common thread. Stonehenge is an observatory built by some really smart ancestors. Even emerging from the plains of East Africa. It must have been quite a spectacle for our ancestors.”

Somerset’s Chris Starr at Stonehenge examining Bluestones.

Todd Howard, 40, another Stonehenge participant who was introduced to these outings through SpaceFest channels, pondered on the construction of Stonehenge. “It was built by intelligent people with astronomical awareness. Too many things that don’t line up to be a full observatory, but it had a huge social element to it,” as people traveled as far as Scotland to feast and celebrate the beginning of the new year.

Todd Howard

The furthest participant to travel was astrophotographer Jeanette Lamb, 52, who came all the way from Queensland, Australia, for the first time. She has entered local astronomy competitions and has been awarded prizes for her photographs of the night sky and stars. “I cried when the moon rose over the stones. The history and privilege of being allowed at Stonehenge to view the moon rise is amazing. When you live in a country where there is no astronomical society, online communities bring astronomers and space scientists together. The online community is making our world smaller.” Indeed it is. 

Astrophotographer Jeanette Lamb. Photo credit: Amjad Zaidi.

For more on the documentary Pete Glastonbury and Silent Earth are currently filming, including the work of Professor Gerald Hawkins here.

This full article can also be found on Silent Earth’s website here

The Postcard Project

Do you collect postcards or send them while you are traveling? Far from being obsolete, it is a regular travel ritual for me and I always leave time in a place that I am visiting to roam the streets and search for them, even if I have been to the particular place before.

An article recently published in the Washington Post ponders on the question of whether postcards are now obsolete in the age of digital connectivity, Facebook, and Instagram. At just one moment, many simultaneously can be instantly gratified by seeing or reading your posts in one push of a button. If you are one of the creatively gifted ones or have spent years refining your skills in photography, those images or posts may be even better than a postcard that you can pick up on Canal Street, at the tulip market in Amsterdam, or even next to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.

Pablo Picasso’s “Las Meninas,” Picasso Museum, Barcelona

For me, I still send them on my travels. Perhaps the charm is encapsulated in a scene with the actress Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun where she writes a postcard for the mother of the fellow traveler who later in turn didn’t appreciate what she penned on the postcard intended for her mother. The exercise in creative imagination or writing to support connection in an increasingly disconnected world where often wifi is not readily available or data plans too costly. Perhaps channeling Ernest Hemingway or Gertrude Stein in the confines of Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. 

Storytelling in Amsterdam.

There is something about holding a tangible object that has carried a memory from a foreign place. The choice of the card can reflect the tastes and interests of the sender, something that has inspired him/her, or the postcard’s recipient depending on the degree of the relationship. It is my thing and some of my  family and dearest friends have received them from me in the past letting them know that I thinking of them, they are special, or simple words of comfort that I am safe abroad.

Sometimes it is even handy to have a postcard around just to jot travel notes down.

A good cup of coffee is highly recommended when writing, especially in Italia. Florence, Italy.


National Geographic searched for participants for the #PostcardProject and offered a chance to be featured in National Geographic Traveler magazine in its August/September issue. Even though the issue has already been published, it’s stil worthwhile to give the project a new heartbeat and continue. For more information on the #PostcardProject click link here.

When you receive a postcard, it is one of the rare moments in life when the past meets the present again and whispers, “Wish you were here.”



Preface: Sonophilia

Next week in the hills outside of Salzburg, Austria, Sonophilia will be hosting its inaugural summer retreat in the secluded town of St. Jakob am Thurn in the Hallein district.

Schloss St. Jakob am Thurn is a castle with tower dated back to the 12th or 13th century and part of the Count Plaz. With approximately 600 residents, St. Jakob am Thurn remains as true to its origins as when it was built in the hills of Salzburg.

Kulturzentrum St. Jakob will be the home of the inaugural Sonophilia Retreat. I am looking forward to returning to Salzburg, the visit to St. Jakob am Thurn, and delighted about the invitation to attend Sonophilia. The hills will indeed be alive next week!

ï»żEat Pray Love Made Me Do It đŸ‡«đŸ‡·ï»ż

A short essay from my personal memoirs from Paris in August 2008 for the 10th anniversary of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” anthology. If you would like to join me and be part of her anthology, you can submit an essay here:

On a warm summer’s day six years ago in the Left Bank of Paris, I awoke one morning nestled in a bed in a hotel on Rue Christine. An entire day ahead of me awaited with no particular agenda or tasks as I was on holiday. What a luxury it was as much as the bed in which I had slept in the night before.

Not soon after, I left the hotel after getting dressed in search for a boulangerie on my way towards a FNAC so I could purchase an adapter for my phone which I had inconveniently left at home. I headed to La Poste to mail some postcards back home to friends in the States and a copy of the first-edition book of love letters (“Love Letters of Great Men“) as a gift for a dear friend in San Francisco. To my delight, I had purchased a copy for myself as well.

On my way back I found what I was searching for, a boulangerie called Boulangerie de Papa, near the St. Michel Metro stop. I ordered a petite dĂ©jeuner formulae complĂšt. (Pain au chocolat or croissant, cafĂ© au lait, jus d’orange.) With my small bounty in hand, I went outside in search of a place to sit. What I saw was this:
I had just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” the month prior and her story had haunted me. It was the first book that I had written notes in the margins – songs that I was listening to when reading passages, notes, thoughts, and emotions. At the time, I had never traveled alone before either always with family, friends, or colleagues. It was in the beginning of a transfomative time in my life. I was a mother of a young toddler, still finding my footing on motherhood and life. It was also the first time I traveled by myself and separated from my daughter even though I had travelled to Paris before and speak the language. So seeing this young woman seated at a table with “Eat Pray Love” in her hands was a welcoming and familiar sight with no tables available in the small Parisian patio designated to the restaurant.

I walked over and asked if I could join her and she politely nodded her head. I mentioned that I had just finished reading the book and how much I had enjoyed it. It was a coincidence in the middle of Paris that one would find something that had inspired me to take a risk and venture out to seek answers of my own. I immediately asked her for her permission to take a photograph of her for my writings. With a giggle, the word “yes,” and a smile, I snapped the photograph above of a lovely young woman named Chantal from Canada.

Memories of the anxieties of young motherhood and the emotions swirling about still come back quite vividly, but with the filter of time and separation. The book inspired me to take a risk and encouraged by the knowledge of another, do something for myself that I would have otherwise put off for years. My life has changed so much in the past seven years, similarly on a path not far too different from Elizabeth Gilbert’s. We share a love of food, an adventurous spirit, courage to face our fears, leave the paths that don’t suit us, and find ones that fulfill us, time to be still to meditate and focus within, and an abundance of love.

I travel around the world now building social impact businesses and have joined the thousands on Instagram in photographing and writing about the places that I visit. This would not occur with that first step years ago on a summer’s day in August in Paris. The natural light in the City of Lights is a photographer’s dream regardless if you are an amateur or professional.


To this day, I still have the copy of Eat Pray Love on my bedside table, a little tattered, marked up with tabs, and the highlighted passages faded over the years. I also bring my daughter along with me on some of those travels to share with her life beyond the confines of our daily lives. She is my best traveling companion and is learning also about how to eat, pray, and love.

Places in Paris featured:

Relais Christine
A Relais-Chateaux property
3, Rue Christine
75006, Paris

21, Rue Bonaparte
75006, Paris

La Boulangerie de Papa (now closed)
1, Rue de la Harpe
75006, Paris

Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris
6 parvis Notre-Dame
Place Jean-Paul II
75004 Paris

Restaurant Georges
Le Centre Pompidou
Palais Beaubourg
Places Georges Pompidou
75004, Paris

Le Meurice
A Dorchester Collection Hotel
228, Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris

Les Jardins des Tuileries
Rue de Rivoli
75001, Paris

Signs of Summer

With just a few more days of spring left and the weather in New York City heating up towards summer, I thought it would be a perfect time to introduce a photography website after receiving a note and the honor from the folks at NASA Goddard on my Instagram account. My photograph “Umbrellas of Arashiyama” from a visit to Kyoto, Japan earlier this spring was selected as one of the winners of NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement Mission’s “Signs of Spring” photo contest.

I had visited Kyoto for the first time 15 years ago and did not have the chance to visit Arashiyama or the Sagano Bamboo Forest at that time. Arashiyama is a UNESCO World Heritage site and many photographers have published photos of the bamboo forest. Since I’ve seen others photos, it immediately made to the top of my list of places to visit while back in Kyoto. the light filtering through the bamboo and greens of the forest compelling for anyone to want to visit there. The umbrellas providing shelter from the elements and signs of more weather volatility to come due to climate change.

As it happened, I traveled back to Japan during peak cherry blossom season. But, it was raining that day, a definite sign of springtime. Rain makes flower and blossoms bloom and as it happened, the GPM satellite was launched in Tanegashima, Japan in February 2014 with part of its mission to measure rainfall and precipitation. The visitors with their umbrellas in the bamboo forest became in its own way a rainforest and a reminder in how important it is that rain and forests are protected for the environment and fresh water supplies on our planet. We, as people, depend on fresh water. My photo was originally posted on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, and the NASA hashtag on that day to remind us that there is #NoPlaceLikeHome.

A Japanese H-IIA rocket with the NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory onboard, is seen launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, Japan. Source: NASA/JPL. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

In April 2013, almost exactly a year before I took the photo in Arashiyama, Japan, I was invited to NASA Goddard for the NASA-JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) GPM cherry blossom NASA Social. During that visit, I got to meet the multinational teams  from both NASA and JAXA responsible for the GPM satellite to be launched at the Tanegashima Space Center in February 2014. Seeing the labs and clean rooms where the satellite was being assembled helps with the contextual understanding of how weather affects our planet and the volatility in extreme weather conditions that we are now learning to live with and understand. 

Missions like GPM and the satellites helps us with weather tracking, predictions, data collection on water, etc. The science and technology behind the missions will bring more information in how are planet is responding to global climate change.
As we leave a season and embark on a new one, I can honestly say that I have now come full circle and delighted that I could capture it in a single image.


2015 NASA GPM “Signs of Spring” Photo Contest winners