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Recent Travel Articles

Ediface Complex in India: The Taj Mahal, a Photo Essay

Sunset is a particularly scenic time to visit the Taj Mahal

During my recent visit to India, I got a chance to see the Taj Mahal in Agra. It was one of the most impressive buildings I’ve even seen in person. Built as a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, his beloved 3rd-wife-of-12, It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

Sunset at the Taj Mahal in Agra

The Taj Mahal grounds are larger than I anticipated, with gardens, a mosque, a museum and a guest house all on property with the famed domed marble mausoleum.

The #selfie in front of the Taj Mahal seemed to be the shot everyone was going for

In real life, the marble changes color as the sun goes down. The building appears very strong and delicate at the same time. The details seem to be spun out of lace at times.

The minarets lean in, so as not to destroy the tomb if hit by an earthquake

The building’s marble color shifts during the sunset hours (shot on a Lumia 920)

The line to get into the Taj Mahal was rather long

Since the Taj Mahal is a tomb, you leave your shoes outside

I was struck by the vanity of the building. While I’m sure it started as a labor of love, the Taj Mahal is pure ediface complex– it’s a legacy associated with builder Shah Jahan far more than the dead wife it’s for. It’s a really, really good vanity project.

I loved seeing this super-fierce dude taking a selfie in front of the Taj. He made my day rocking that man purse!

Best Taj Mahal Selfie Ever.

The Taj Mahal (shot with my Fuji X10)

The Taj Mahal is open everyday (except Friday) from sunrise to sunset.
The Taj Mahal is open at night Night, 8:30 PM to 12:30 AM (On Full Moon Night,  and two days before and two days after)

Travel Tip: It’s worth it to pay for a private guide.

Day Fee: Rs 750 (Foreigners)
Rs 510 (Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries)
Rs 20 (Indian)
Entry Free for children below 15 years of age

Night Fee: Rs 750 (Adult, Foreign)
Rs 510 (Adult, Indian)
Rs 500 (Child 3-15 Years, Indian & Foreign)
Entry free for child below 3 years of age

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Cure Your February Blues with this Big Sur Time Lapse at the Post Ranch Inn

Hazy Shade of Winter? Not so much. The view of sunset from the deck of room 137 at the Post Ranch Inn.

While so much of the country is covered in snow right now or prepping for another brutal winter storm, Big Sur is reminding me of the many reasons why California is called the Golden State. Don’t get me wrong– we desperately need rain here in Cali. But views like these remind me of just how lucky I am to live in California.

I spend yesterday driving along the Pacific Coast Highway before checking into the Post Ranch Inn.

I made this Time lapse on my iPhone 5s using the TimeLapse app.

Hope this virtual vitamin D helps cure your mid-winter blues. If it doesn’t, hop on a plane and come visit.

Magic Hour Time Lapse at the Post Ranch Inn Big Sur, California

People who live in glass houses… should enjoy the view ( Post Ranch Inn, room 137)

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A Stay at Le Relais Christine on the Left Bank of Paris

Blue Skies over Relais Christine

On my recent trip to Paris, I split my time between the Saint James Paris and Relais Christine, and for me it was a winning combination. But it’s Relais Christine that felt most like home. It’s an ideal spot for a weekend in Paris.

The left bank chic lobby at Relais Christine

Located in a converted mansion on a quiet street in the 6th arrondissement,  Relais Christine is the heart of all the action in  St-Germain-des-Pres (my Parisian neighborhood of choice).

Seating areas in the common areas at Relais Christine

The hotel is small, chic and charming, with only 51 rooms and suites, each of them a bit different. The property has the same owners as the Saint James Paris, so this intimate left bank property has the same relaxed yet refined service standards.

I loved the slanted roof  of my junior suite at Relais Christine

I stayed in a lovely junior suite with étoile fabric on the walls. I liked the separation of space between the bedroom and living area and non-cookie cutter vibe. When I toured the property and saw other rooms, some were more modern in design. All had been outfitted with modern bathrooms, although the styles varied from room to room. I found the variety appealing.

The welcome amenity was this lovely fruit bowl

There isn’t a traditional hotel bar at Relais Christine, but it’s not really required because of the hotel’s location– there are so many bars and restaurants a few steps away.  The common area featured strong wifi, and an Honor Bar where guests can help themselves to a tipple or glass of wine.

The bedroom of my junior suite at Relais Christine

The bedroom was both cozy and chic, with ample closet space. I felt like I was living in a real Parisian apartment, only with a great concierge to help me make dinner reservations.

Left: Argan bath amenities Right: the cozy but modern bathroom in my junior suite

My bathroom wasn’t large, but it had dual sinks and a great showerhead.

The suites at Relais Christine would work well for a family

All my Paris faves were within walking distance from Relais Chrisine. There’s a Mariage Frères tea salon literally around the corner and a Ladurée a few blocks away on Rue Bonaparte. I walked to both Notre Dame and Musée d’Orsay after enjoying breakfast at the hotel.

Left: peeking into a few different rooms Right: some bathrooms have more modern styling

A whimsical room with a pop of color at Relais Christine

Relais Christine has suites that would work for families and couples, but also had great non-suite rooms that would work for solo travelers.

Left: a modern bathroom at Relais Christine Right: dual sinks in a junior suite

It may be intimate, but Relais Christine has everything you need, including a very nicely equipped gym and spa in the basement.

Work off those carbs in the Relais Christine gym

The breakfast spread (included in the room rate) was lovely, and had made to order hot items as well as a variety of meats, cheeses, and gorgeous pastries.

Breakfast at Relais Christine

Breakfast at Relais Christine is served in this cozy and atmospheric cellar

the breakfast buffet at Relais Christine

There will be carbs, this is Paris!

I didn’t try the apple tarte tatin, but it sure looked delicious

All guests are welcome to use the Relais Christine loaner bikes, which is nice. A few of the suites had patios with courtyard gardens, which would be really nice if you’re staying more than a few days.

A night view of one of the garden suites at Relais Christine

Relais Christine is a gem of luxury hotel on the left bank.

Blue Skies above St. Germain at Relais Christine

Room rates at Relais Christine start at $459

Relais Christine

3, rue Christine – 75006 Paris
Phone: +33 (0)1 40 51 60 80
Fax: +33 (0)1 40 51 60 81



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Where to Eat In Paris: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile

L’Atelier is all about the  open kitchen and bar seating

Joël Robuchon is the most Michelin-starred chef in history. And while he’s technically retired, his L’Atelier restaurant empire is going strong. On my trip to Paris earlier this month, I checked out the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile location.

The signature glossy red and black interiors at L’Atelier are glamorous without being overly fussy

My visit to Paris overlapped with a bank holiday and many restaurants were closed. The concierge at the Saint James Paris hooked me up with reservation at the L’Atelier’s Etoile location, right on the Champs-Elysees just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe, and open for business as usual and helmed by executive chefs David Alves and Filippos Chronopoulos.

Wine with dinner at L’Atelier

The Etoile location is located on the lower level of the hipster shopping emporium Publicis Drugstore, and features the small signature read and black color palette and open kitchen with bar seating around it. I’m a big fan of eating at the bar in general, and the friendly staff makes the fine dining experience fun and more relaxed. The layout of the Etoile location is a bit tricky– I think the L’Atelier on the Left Bank has better sight lines.

Lobster skewers to share

Left: flavorful winter vegtables Right: the Iberian ham is not to be missed

Steak au poivre is spot on

Left:Black cod with yuzu in a velvet daikon puree Right: Rich and creamy mashed potatoes

You can go for the tasting menu at L’Atelier, or make your own by combining from the selections of small plates, starts and mains. It makes for a fun and interactive dinner. Because of the bar-centric layout, I think L’Atelier is a better option for couples or single diners than large groups. There were a few larger tables for groups, but not sitting at the bar kind of misses the point.

The chocolate cage dome  is a whimsical dessert with fantastic presentation.

133 Champs-Élysées,
75008 Paris, France
Phone:+33 1 47 23 75 75
Opening hours:
Lunch : 11:30 am – 3:30 pm
Dinner : 6:30 pm – 00:00 pm

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Luxury and Whimsy Meet at the Saint James Paris

The Saint James is the only hotel in Paris with official Chateau status

What could make a trip to Paris more magical? Staying at the Saint James, the only hotel in Paris that has official “chateau” status. Located in the upscale 16th arrondissement, the Saint James is unlike any place else I’ve stayed in Paris… and I really, really liked it.

Visually stunning staircase at the Saint James Paris

With bold yet whimsical interiors by Bambi Sloan, the Saint James is a stunner, but not at all stuffy. There is a hot air balloon motif through the property that pays homage to days when the grounds were used as an air field.

Left: Hot air Balloon Lamps Right: Zebra taxidermy is so Paris

The rooms and suites are very large by Parisian (or any major European city standards) which more than makes up for the property’s location in the upscale residential 16th  (it’s a 10 minute taxi ride to L’Arc de Triomphe and right near the the Porte Dauphine metro stop).

The timeless dining room at the Saint James

The location wasn’t an issue for me, because my stay was over a bank holiday in January and the property was so fabulous, my husband and I did not want to leave. With a restaurant and bar on the property, there wasn’t a need to when the weather got nasty.

Classically elegant details at the Saint James: a chandelier and an antique clock

The Saint James is part private club, part hotel, which gives the place a nice, understated buzz in the communal areas like the dining room and the bar.

The bedroom of suite 311 at the Saint James was carpeted with a hardwood design

The Saint James is a great choice for a sophisticated romantic getaway, or for those who love luxury and value for money (the basic rooms here are half the price as some of Paris’ most famous hotels).

Left: Nespresso Still Life Right: Fabulous bathroom with great tile & tub

While the Saint James is visually stunning, it’s also functional and comfortable and has a great staff. They are helpful and not overly formal. The concierge helped with dinner reservations and arranging transportation. Wifi is free and works throughout the property.

I loved this particularly bold room inspired by the Last King of Scotland

With only 48 rooms (20 of them suites), the Saint James makes you want to return to have a different experience in another room. So it’s not much of a shocker that the fashion crowd loves this boutique hotel property.

Some flamboyant touches at the Saint James

The bathrooms are definite stand outs both for design and practicality. Suite 311 had a claw foot tub that filled quickly and a separate shower with excellent water pressure that didn’t soak the entire bathroom. The amenities were Lanvin (so not mad at that)!

crazy good bathtub

Room rates include an impressive breakfast spread complete with Mariage Freres tea (my personal favorite).

The beds are comfortable at the Saint James

There is an outdoor garden with a terrace bar shaped like a hot air balloon that I’d like to visit again when the weather is pleasant.

A comfortable seating area in a suite at the Saint James

My stay at the Saint James Paris was a top notch boutique hotel experience.

Left: Hot air balloon wallpaper Right: a lighting fixture shaped like a hot air balloon

There is a fitness room and spa on the property, as well as loaner bikes if you’d like to explore Paris on two wheels.

The Spa Pavilion

The Saint James is a member of Relais & Chateaux.

Left: Love these striped pillows


Leopard carpet makes the classic dining room feel modern

The breakfast bread basket at the Saint James

The impressive breakfast spread

The Library Bar had a Hogwarts like charm

Room rates at the Saint James start at about $400 USD.

Saint James Paris

Address: 43 Avenue Bugeaud, 75116 Paris, France
Phone:+33 1 44 05 81 81

Much thanks to Jon Makmaltchi of  JMak Hospitality, Nicolas Egloff and the staff at the Saint James for arranging my stay and hosting me at the Saint James. Without them this post would not be possible.

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