Thursday, April 29, 2010

Luxury Link & Island Spotlight! Tahiti & Moorea

Travelers! Do you guys know about Luxury Link? Luxury Link is a really awesome travel website. As you can infer from the name, they feature luxury properties on their site, and often times these featured properties are small boutique hotels (which you know I love). The thing about this site is that you can usually find really amazing deals for these luxury type hotels. Often times the package will include dinner or all excursions or an ocean view suite or all transfers... many different little perks. You can search by destination, interests, or property types.

The coolest thing, I think, about Luxury Link is the auction feature. This feature is a seriously good way to take advantage of a well-priced luxury trip. Many times you are the only bidder and you can buy the package for a seriously cheap price! What I do is go to the actual hotel's website and make sure that what I am getting is a really amazing deal (9 times out of 10 there is a ridiculous discount that you get by booking it through luxury link). I also go to TripAdvisor (one of my biggest tools in planning a trip) and check out the traveler reviews for the hotel.

I know sometimes using an auction site can be scary, but its not - its actually really easy, and if you take advantage of it, you can send yourself on an otherwise unaffordable vacation.

And seriously, guys, I am really not all about luxury but the one type of destination I DO like to luxury-it-up are beach destinations. To me, a beach destination is the one type of vacation where the type of hotel you stay in really matters. Thats why when we went to French Polynesia, we needed to make sure we stayed at a prime location!

This morning I received this email from Luxury Link and as someone who has done this vacation, I know that this is a seriously great deal for French Polynesia.

Just the fact that daily breakfast is included is a huge saving, because food in French Polynesia is not cheap (but there are ways to make it cheaper and if you are interested I will share all my tricks!)

The items this featured trip includes really make this a fabulous deal (catamaran ride from Tahiti to Moorea... which we did... all transfers... breakfast daily... flights... rooms... this is a DEAL guys!). The little *asteriks specified that this is for low season, but for high season you only need to add $200 per person.

I know a lot of people want to go to French Polynesia and when I saw this amazing deal, I knew I had to share!


And without further adieu, I thought I'd share pictures from my trip to Tahiti and Moorea. All of the following pictures are my personal pictures. WARNING: VERY IMAGE HEAVY!

In Tahiti we stayed at the Intercontinental, which was gorgeous, had an amazing location and view, and the pool was just ridiculous.

Our first morning there, the view from our room

This image hasn't been altered... this is really the gorgeous blue of French Polynesia's waters!

The island in the distance are the jagged peaks of beautiful Moorea

After we took the catamaran from Tahiti to Moorea, we were picked up at the docks and whisked away to our gorgeous hotel, which is in absolute prime location - the Sheraton Moorea. We stayed in a garden room for a few nights and then an overwater bungalow for the remainder... would have loved to the entire time, but we're not made of money... hah. If you go, an overwater bungalow is a MUST even if its just for 1 or 2 nights.

The amazing thing about the Sheraton Moorea is that its on a reef... it has the best snorkeling in all of Moorea! There were moray eels and even black tip reef sharks right there!

Snorkeling right off our balcony

The inside of the room... look below the coffee table... yup, you can watch the fishies swimming from right inside your room!

And what makes Moorea so interesting (as opposed to somewhere like Bora Bora, which is amazing, don't get me wrong) ... is that it has more to it than just the water... we went on Jeep 4x4 tours of the interior, saw pineapples being grown, drank Moorea-made rum...

There were a ton of mosquitos here (at the inland location in the pic below), which I was actually more afraid of than swimming with 7 foot sharks in the wild... Thats where you can really see a little bit of my personality... more afraid of Dengue fever-carrying bugs than big scary, potentially man-eating sharks... LOL AND LOOK! LOOK! I am TAN!!! I TOLD YOU I am not usually so darn pale!!

And I can't stop myself from taking pictures of cute puppies wherever we go..

And the sharks... I have pictures of us actually in the water with them, and a really funny picture of a huge sting ray on my shoulder and my freaked out expression... but, alas, its packed. It was taken with an underwater camera so its not digital.

And goodnight, beautiful Moorea!

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!! I sure enjoyed reminiscing! I can't wait to go back to French Polynesia one day.

I know French Polynesia is a place many people want to go and may have questions about... if you have any feel free to ask!

What is your dream destination?


*BTW this is all just my personal opinion. I'm not a French Polynesia expert and I haven't been everywhere or stayed at all the hotels on these islands, but I did a lot of research beforehand, and then I took my trip, and these are the impressions I am left with.

My Zara Purchases

These two items are actually my first ever purchases from Zara... what can I say, I've never lived by a Zara before! Luckily Beijing has several, because I really liked this store. It has really affordable clothes, I am guessing the quality is about the same as the best quality item at H&M? Either way, I was really impressed with the cute styles they had in the store.

I tried on a ton of stuff and I liked a lot, but I only left with these two items.

The first is this really cute tunic/top... omg, love this top!! Earlier that day I went to Anthropologie and the sales girl at Anthro was actually wearing this top. As soon as I saw her in it I knew I had to have it! so I asked her if it was from Anthro and she told me she bought it at Zara. I was surprised that they are allowed to wear items from other stores! but, to me it looked like something you could find at Anthro, so maybe thats why.

Even though I've been told not to bring white to Beijing... I couldn't resist this top! Its just too cute.

The pretty eyelet trims the sleeves as well as the bottom hem.

Here it is on me, I took this at the last minute to give you some idea of the fit... its very gauzy, somewhat sheer, I'll wear a cami underneath when I wear it out. I love the light guazy material! Its so summery! It can also double as a cute bathing suit cover up.

Also, the sleeves have a tie and it sort of ruches them up a little bit - cute detail. The bottom has a tie also so you can wear it more tunic like, or more blousey if you like, longer or shorter.. etc. I love it! I can't wait to wear it.

My second Zara purchase is an adorable dress.

The dress I chose is made of a silky-feeling material... I think its actually rayon... it feels very silky, smooth, and is very light and comfortable. I love the ruffles! And even though there are ruffles on the sleeves (I tend to avoid that), they actually don't draw attention to my shoulders at all (I have broad shoulders and I tend to get self-conscious about them). It is also smocked at the waist... its just a flattering detail that adds a little to the dress! My husband loves me in this shade of green... our circle of friends always make Marine jokes (because its Marine Corps green!) and joke about how his favorite color is this shade of green.

And a detail shot... pretty!

Zara has a ton of really cute summery dresses right now! It was hard to choose just one! Some were as cheap as $30 and were super cute. If you are looking for affordable cotton-y-ish dresses for summer, definitely stop by Zara.

Once this CT/NY weather warms up a little bit... (what the HECK Connecticut!!! all my cold weather clothes are packed...) you will be seeing these items in an outfit of the day.

What's the weather like where you are? I checked the forecast for Beijing and its looking good! An average of 70 degrees & mostly sunny for the next 10 days (hmm, I wonder if that takes into account the pollution!)

Anyway, I stopped in J. Crew today... check back tomorrow for what I found!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Anthro fitting room reviews - mostly a fail for me!

Well, after the gym today, my mom had to run an errand that happened to be right next door to Anthropologie, so I decided to do an unplanned Anthro fitting room review session... luckily I had my camera in my huge purse! The quality of these pics is not really good at all... I have to try to cover the flash, which doesn't allow for a good pose... (I would be really embarrassed, I can just imagine people giving the side-eye to the dressing room with all the camera clicks and huge flashes... LOL). Do any of you guys feel silly sitting in there taking pics? I feel like the sales people think I'm nuts. But, I know most people use cellphones and I'm just not that advanced, hahaha.

Anyway a few months ago I bought the Foliage Fancy tee, and while I loved it for a cute everyday tee, it was too fragile and already had a little hole in it after just 1 wear.. so back to the store it went! love Anthro's return policy! Its really one of the best I have ever seen.

OK so onto the reviews. The two items I REALLY wanted to try on were not at my store! There is another store nearby which I will definitely check out later this week. The two items I weren't able to try on were the Ipanema dress and the Banderole tank.

Other than those two items, I had nothing I was really looking for so everything was grabbed at random!

First thing I tried on was the Drawing Parallels Dress. You know I love stripes! But, alas... this dress was not meant to be. First... I think its really over priced for what it is. $178 - which I wouldn't have paid so I guess its a good thing I didn't like it! I just didn't find it flattering, though I do have to say it is very nice quality, the dress is crazy comfortable, and it just felt nice to wear.

Anyway - all in all I felt like it just was pretty blah. I actually think it might be a lot cuter without the stripes on the very bottom. Its a big pass for me! It did run true to Anthro sizing.

Next I tried on the Decanted Dress. And, again, I wasn't crazy about it, though I guess its sort of cute. Maybe if it went on super sale. I felt like it made me look "hippy" (not to be confused with "hippie"... lol). Here it is belted.

And unbelted... woah look at the intense scary look on my face... lol

This next one was from the sale rack and was just gorgeous! Its a really poor picture - I'm sorry! The lighting is awful because of my trying to block out the flash! This was the last one my store had, and it was a size 0. It was way too short on me... but wow, what a pretty top!! If you are looking for this top in a size 0, the Greenwich, CT store has it! Its Odille's Striped Pursuit Top (no longer on the website, though it is on Anthro's European website for super expensive, ha ha!)

Here it is from the site so you can see it a little better

I really loved this top, its 100% silk and the draping was so pretty.

My favorite things from this trip to Anthro were two of Velvet's basic tees. I just loved these tees! They were so cute & flattering.

First one is Velvet's Soft Edges Tee.

I know its just a tee but it was so flattering, light, & soft! I tried it on in the dark grey, (which was not see through) Again sorry the picture is soo dark.

Here it is on the model so you can see the pretty details

And finally, the only thing I took home with me from Anthro today... the Yardarm Tee.

I love it! Again, I know its just a tee... but its so cute for summer ~ and sometimes, these sort of tees are what you end up wearing again & again! I love the little pocket and the buttons on the top, by the shoulder.

The last tee is the only thing I bought from Anthro today.

But the really exciting stuff for me happened at ZARA.... I bought a dress and a top from there, and they are awesome - I am so excited to show them to you guys in my next post!

**If you haven't already, don't forget to enter my giveaway! Deadline to enter is April 30!!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Loving: Shades of blue! A (sort of) OOTD post

Sorry I've been MIA (2 days! hah). I had to drive from my in-laws' house in Orlando to my hometown of Ft. Lauderdale so I could leave my car with my brother while I am in China. Then, my dad and I flew back to Connecticut yesterday morning so I can spend 2 weeks with my mom and dad!

So yesterday as we are 30-something thousand feet above Maryland somewhere, my dad asked me what class we are flying to China. "Duh, dad. Coach. Its the government - you think they are going to spring for us and pay for First?!" Well - my dad told me he has MILES and will use them to UPGRADE US!! Yesterday I called our airline to inquire... gave the customer service rep our confirmation number, asked if there were upgrades available for our flight and asked how many miles we would need. We were just 5,000 miles short for the both of us, so I hung up to decide what to do. We could easily purchase the missing miles for about $200 and I wouldn't hesitate to do that.... except two minutes later when I called the airline again, this person told me the last lady I spoke with gave me incorrect information and right now there are no upgrades available. The first lady totally got my hopes up!! Trust me I was fine traveling coach because we are going no matter what.... but she made me think I was thisclose to flying first, so when I called back my hopes were crushed! Haha.

Apparently I can get on the wait list - the airlines like to sometimes hold out on the upgrades until the very last day - you know, to see if any PAYING customers (pfft!) want to pay for first class tickets, and when no one does, they release the upgrades. I'm deciding whether I should risk paying $200 for the missing miles, then getting on the waiting list and hoping like heck that an upgrade becomes available! If one doesn't, then its like wasting $200. What would you do? What should I do?

OK so onto my OOTD! Sort of - I didn't take any full body shots! but I'm wearing dark skinnies, as usual, and gold sandals.

Anyway I love the rich blue of this Ann Taylor top! I bought it a few years ago and its proven to be a good investment. And, I love the shade of blue especially against the pretty turquoise of my earrings. :) Different shades of blue look so pretty against each other. Next time I'll get a full body shot for you guys - I am trying to finish this post and get out of the house!

My mom and I are going to run down to Greenwich Avenue so I can bring my pants into Lululemon to get them hemmed. I also want to check out Madewell... I have a feeling they have cute summery clothes. OH and my mom read in the NY Times about a store called Fox's - apparently its a store that gets designer surplus, so they sell designer clothes at huge discounts! Hopefully I have something good to report back!!

Anyway I REALLY want your advice about getting on the waiting list .... what do you think? Remember if I DON'T get upgraded, I will have wasted $200. Opinions?!! THANKS!

Oh, also my mom and I are definitely planning to see a show in NYC... the last few times we have seen Wicked, Avenue Q, Rock of Ages, and my mom has seen Jersey Boys. Any recommendations for us?

Talk soon!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Loving: Boutique Hotels

so I'm big traveler and one of my favorite things about traveling is all the preparation for the trip. I usually (with the exception of an unfortunately-canceled-thank-God-for-trip-insurance-trip to South Africa) plan and book the entire trip myself - from airline tickets to hotels to car rentals to excursions. Its one of the things about travel I love most! When I get a trip in my head, I can literally spend hours searching web page after web page, reading review after review... all in the name of planning the best trip I can possibly plan. I fret over and over about whether or not the hotel is the right choice... did I get the best deal I could get... I literally dream about my trip when I am in trip-planning mode. I love it. Its part of the fun of travel.

When I travel, while where I stay is not necessarily the most important thing... (I travel to SEE... to understand... to experience! and you do all that outside of the hotel) ... but, I do have a certain type of criteria I use in choosing an accommodation, and I tend to be drawn to small, non-chain, unique hotels. Somewhat recently this class of hotel has emerged and has become known as boutique hotels. Boutique hotels are usually privately run, small hotels that are stylishly, luxuriously, or uniquely decorated. No boutique hotel is the same! and that is part of the fun. I'm also a sucker for aesthetically pleasing accommodations, so boutique hotels are right up my alley. Additionally, I have found that the service at boutique hotels is one of a kind - its personalized, you feel special... catered to.

Originally our friends in China had us booked at the Hilton for our first week in Beijing, but, me being me, I had to be different and hunt down the most modern, hip, unique hotel that I could find in China's capital city. And I found a hotel that seems to more than fit my requirements!

So, for the same nightly rate as we would pay at the Hilton, for our first week in Beijing we will be staying at one of Beijing's newest boutique hotels, Hotel G.

Why would I want to stay at a Hilton, when I can stay at a small boutique hotel that can't be found in any other city except Beijing?!

Hotel G is also rated #1 out of 3000+ hotels on Tripadvisor Beijing!

During our travels in China, we definitely won't be staying in places as nice as this everywhere we go. My husband has some pretty rugged things planned for me, trust me! It should be an adventure.... but, for my first week in the city, I'm entitled to some pampering, if I do say so myself. :)

When you guys travel, what sort of hotels do you like to stay in?

To me, the hotel isn't always so important because I'd rather spend my money on seeing the sights, but sometimes, I like to splurge on my accommodations as well. For Europe, we love small bed and breakfasts.


OOTD! Antro's Chantico Tank and Sam Edelman's Daria sandals from Lori's Shoes

A couple weeks ago, beautiful Andi at Saltwater Dreams did an OOTD post wearing Anthropologie's pretty Chantico Tank (which has recently been restocked online and is now available in black as well!). I told her I had this top and she wondered how it looked on me, considering our body types are different and we both bought the tank in the same size. Well, this is for you Andi!

I love this top. Its so pretty. It reminds me of a Greek Goddess, and as Andi pointed out, its very forgiving due to all the draping, so if you are having one of those days, this is the top to wear that will make you feel like a million bucks again. :)

I tried it on in both grey and pink. I loved the pink on me, it brought out the rosy tint (haha) to my cheeks and was very flattering to my skin tone... but, I ultimately went with the grey because I thought 1. its a little more sophisticated and 2. it will hide dirt better than the pink (I hear Beijing is sort of dirty, and I know its really polluted!)

Not the best pic, but you get the idea of me in the pink..

And in the grey I bought

Strike a pose! (where do I come up with these poses? lol!)

Again I am wearing my destroyed J. Crew skinnies, and also my new Daria sandals by Sam Edelman, available here at Lori's Shoes (code: TOUTIE for 20% off). (I originally thought these sandals might be way too much with all the rhinestones... but I love them. I think they are perfect in an edgy way to spice up an otherwise plain outfit!)

* BTW, I love Lori's Shoes. If you have never shopped there, you need to start! They have a great selection, awesome customer service & good store policies. Check them out! (Plus you can often find a coupon code!)

And I just love the zip-up back... its a really cute detail, and it makes these sandals so easy to put on!

Two things:

1. the outfit can definitely use some more accessories - maybe a couple bracelets - which are packed.

And 2. the shirt is super wrinkly from being packed in a suitcase! Its dry clean only - does anyone have any tips for getting out the wrinkles? I was thinking of hanging it up in the bathroom while I take a shower and letting the steam maybe work them out.