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465 West 23rd Street, Suite 9B
New York, NY, 10011
United States

(917) 664-2293

JOURNAL

CAN I TELL YOU ... TAKE A TRIP AROUND THE WORLD AND SEE THE CULTURES THAT INSPIRE MY DESIGNS.

Can I tell you about ... Provincetown

Rafe Totengco

Quintessential Cape Cod. 

Quintessential Cape Cod. 

Provincetown is where light, water and art meet. This sea side destination has been a source of inspiration for so many artists who for decades have come to paint the pastoral and seaside scenes.

My room with a view. 

My room with a view. 

I remember when I first visited over 15 years ago I was struck at how magical the light was at the break of dawn and at dusk. Those images are forever ingrained in my memory. I've always wanted to come back to see the light again.

Cotton candy sunrise.  

Cotton candy sunrise.  

But how many times have you fallen in love with a place, swear you'll come back and then years go by.  A few months ago when my best friend, fashion designer Peter Som suggested we join them for the 4th of July weekend I couldn't pass it up. It is the busiest time of the year to go but we lucked out thanks to AirBnB. We found a beach front apartment on the East end of town. The location was perfect because it was a stones throw away from a scrumptious breakfast spot called Yolk and strong coffee at Wired Puppy. 

So quaint. So picturesque.  

So quaint. So picturesque.  

Provincetown is famously eccentric and gay friendly. All year long you see gay and lesbian couples holding hands in the streets, bars, restaurants and beaches. Rainbow flags are proudly hung near the American flags at numerous homes, establishments and boats. 

Somewhere over the rainbow.  

Somewhere over the rainbow.  

Proud sailor. 

Proud sailor. 

Where there are artists there are dealers. There are so many art galleries dotted along Commercial street you can easily spend an afternoon gallery hopping. We heard of a highly recommended group show inspired by Edward Hopper aptly titled , "After Hopper" at the Addison Art Gallery. We braved the weekend traffic and drove out to the town of Orleans to check it out. 

Gorgeous seascape.  

Gorgeous seascape.  

It was well worth the drive to see different artists paint their impressions of Cape Cod.  We stopped by the quaint town of Wellfleet for a juicy lobster roll at Mac's Shack.

Mac's Shack serves the best lobster roll in Wellfleet.  

Mac's Shack serves the best lobster roll in Wellfleet.  

Should I stay or should I go? Uncle Tim's Bridge in Wellfleet.  

Should I stay or should I go? Uncle Tim's Bridge in Wellfleet.  

The 4th of July parade was short and sweet. Drag queens, firefighters and a preppy school boys choir all joined in for the fun. The best part was that it was over just in time for brunch.

Ladies, start your engines. 

Ladies, start your engines. 

They should have auditioned for Glee.  

They should have auditioned for Glee.  

No parade is complete without a few drag queens.  

No parade is complete without a few drag queens.  

On the eve of the 4th my friends threw a casual dinner at Captain Jack's Wharf where they were staying. It is in my opinion the best spot to stay in Ptown. These former seamen's cottages are all decorated individually with a shabby chic aesthetic. 

Sunset by the wharf.  

Sunset by the wharf.  

Peter and I have this thing for stripes.  

Peter and I have this thing for stripes.  

Sunset cocktails at Captain Jack's Wharf

Sunset cocktails at Captain Jack's Wharf

On our last day I woke up to the most incredible sunrise. Cotton candy pink morphing into violet like a Rothko painting. I just sat there in awe and snapped away trying my best to capture the moment and the light. 

Save the best for last.  

Save the best for last.  

Can I tell you about ... VANCOUVER

Tesa Totengco

STAY

Downtown is where all the action is and The Loden Hotel couldn’t be more ideally located. Ranked first in the top 10 hotels in Vancouver, this luxury boutique hotel’s design is chic, warm and contemporary. Aside from the usual hotel amenities they also provide complimentary cruiser bikes and a local car service. 

DO

 I wanted to see the famous aquarium but to get there we decided to walk along the Seawall in Stanley Park. It is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path and one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist spots. The path stretches over 17 miles and is busy with walkers, joggers, cyclists and inline skaters. The scenic views of the water and Lion’s Gate bridge were spectacular. The Aquarium is the largest in Canada and a draw for both children and adults. My favorite section were the jellyfish tanks. Watching these creatures constantly moving like they were dancing under water was mesmerizing. I could have watched them for hours. 

EAT 

Annelena was recommended to me via Instagram when one of my followers posted a comment that I should eat there and then tagged sous chef Mark Singson. Within minutes I had a reservation confirmation from Mark himself. Upon arrival we were told that we were having the tasting menu along with the wine pairing. Jeff Parr who is the general manager and sommelier chose all the wines to go superbly with the dishes. From beginning to end Chef Mike Robbins and Mark Singson pulled out all the stops wowing us with gorgeous plating and delicious dishes influenced by a mix of cultures, flavors and local ingredients. I couldn’t resist taking photos of each and every plate. 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

 Museum of Anthropology I’ve always been fascinated with Native American and First Nation’s culture so a visit to the Museum of Anthropology was at the top of my list. The architecture of the building itself, designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson was inspired by structures of First Nations people. Situated on the cliffs of Point Grey the museum offers spectacular vistas of the mountains and the sea. The great hall is awe inspiring filled with towering totem poles, carved figures and canoes from different tribes. The high glass walls brings the light in as well as a view of the outdoor space that includes two Haida structures and more totem poles.

Can I tell you about ... Berlin

Rafe Totengco

STAY

I stayed at Hotel De Rome because the location was ideal with surrounding historic buildings and I love Rocco Forte properties. Set in Berlin's former Dresdner bank, the hotel has been beautifully furnished by Tommaso Ziffer in shades of grey and black with accents of red. They offer a lavish spread for breakfast and the former bank vault is now a fabulous spa to retire to at the end of the day. 
 

DO

The East Side Gallery is one of the most visited landmarks in Berlin because it is a memorial for freedom containing the last remaining section of the Berlin Wall. The site is the longest and largest open air art gallery in the world consisting of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world. I wanted to see Dmitri Vrubel's "My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love" based on a famous photo of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing each other. Seeing The Wall and all the murals depicting images of freedom made me realize how lucky I am to be living my life the way I want.
 

EAT

Walking into Berlin's hottest restaurant Pauly Saal, a former Jewish girls' school, is like passing through history from the 1920's bar lounge to the elegant dining room that used to be the school's gymnasium. On the opposite side of the restaurant is a Kosher Deli. The main dining room has a more contemporary feel with four gorgeous Murano chandeliers from Pauly et Cie (hence the name) and a gigantic rocket hanging over the open window to the kitchen. 
 

MUST SEE

The Boros Bunker. The bunker has been used for many purposes. It was originally built as air raid shelter against Allied bombing during World War II, then for fruit storage in the 50s, then in the early 90s for techno-rave parties and today as contemporary art gallery and private residence. A part of the private collection belongs to advertising entrepreneur Christian Boros and his wife Karen.On display currently are installations by Ai Wei Wei, Klara Liden, Michael Sailstorfer and photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans and Thomas Ruff. 
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Ever since the Wall came down in 1989, I have been itching to see Berlin. Over the past ten years the city has generated a lot of buzz in the fashion industry with the help of Bread and Butter, a trade fair featuring contemporary clothing and accessory brands from all over the world. I would definitely return to Berlin, because there is so much more than meets the eye.

Can I tell you about ... Mallorca

Rafe Totengco

STAY

The Can Cera Hotel. I love history especially grand structures converted into boutique hotels. This building dates back 700 years to when Jaume 1 conquered Mallorca form the Catalan and Aragonese troops. It's in the old part of Palma between two major plazas and a stone's throw away from the Cathedral. 

DO

Drive around and discover all the little towns. Valldemossa is a quintessential Majorcan town that's a short and scenic drive from Palma. The town is famous because this is where Frederic Chopin lived and composed some of his romantic symphonies. Santanyi is another town worth visiting. During the weekends there is a farmers' market selling local produce as well as bohemian beach clothes and Moroccan towels.

EAT

Sitting on the edge of a cliff on a rocky peninsula that protrudes out into the Mediterranean is the best paella restaurant in Mallorca. It's called Sa Foradada, and Lidia Fernandez runs the restaurant with her father Emilio, who has been cooking paella and other delicacies for four decades. Squid, cuttlefish, mussels, prawns, clams, crab legs and sea bream are all thrown into the mix using traditional techniques to create dishes that are mouth watering and unforgettable.

MUST SEE

The Drach Caves or Cuevas del Drach (Dragon Caves). The caves are a spectacular attraction that are comprised of approximately 12 miles of four interconnected caves and one of the largest underground lakes in the world. The stalagmites and stalactites are beautifully lit to great dramatic effect making it irresistible not to take photos even though it's prohibited. 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Mallorca has become one of my favorite destinations to visit in the summer. There is so much to do, and yet the island is so relaxed that after a few days you'll feel like you've been relaxing for a week. From discovering the different towns on the island to taking in the rolling landscape dotted with olive and almond tree farms, it's easy to fall under Mallorca's spell.

Can I tell you about ... Prague

Rafe Totengco

STAY

The Augustine Hotel is a 13th century monastery converted into a luxury five-star hotel and spa. Rumor has it several friars still live on the property and brew their own beer.
 

DO

No visit to Prague is complete without a night at the State Opera House. Originally named the German Theatre when in it opened in 1888, the opera house was neglected during the communist years but has been transformed into a beautiful landmark.
 

EAT

U Modre Kachnicky or the "blue duckling" is known for their updated takes on traditional recipes and, of course, for their duck dishes. The menu is loaded with an array of wild game and other Czech favorites. It's tucked away on a quiet street in Lesser Town, making it the perfect location for an intimate dinner.
 

MUST SEE

I loved wandering the narrow cobbled streets around the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. The area is filled with synagogues, churches and buildings that were erected over the centuries and are a stunning collage of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural styles.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

The beauty of Prague. Prague was one of the few European cities that wasn't bombed during World War II, and it was under communist rule from 1945 until 1989. Because it's been trapped behind the Soviet's Iron Curtain, much of its old-world charm has remained largely intact and undiscovered until these last 20 years.

Can I tell you about ... Venice

Rafe Totengco

STAY

Palazzo Stern in the Dorsoduro area. Our room had a fabulous view and it was such a luxury to have breakfast and early evening cocktails on the terrace facing the Palazzo Grassi across the Grand Canal. Not to mention, the location couldn't have been more ideal being a hop and skip away from the Accademia and Saint Mark's square.
 

DO

A visit to the Ghetto. Established in 1516, it was the first Ghetto in the world. Napoleon Bonaparte is credited for freeing the Jews back in 1797 when he opened the gates and allowed them to live outside of the Ghetto. To this day, the Ghetto is still the epicenter of Jewish life in the city and has a beautiful kosher hotel.
 

EAT

Osteria da Fiore is a cozy Michelin star rated restaurant that well deserves it. Mara Martin, the chef, is known for combining traditional Italian cooking with a contemporary twist. Both the cuttlefish risotto and the steamed sea bass with aged balsamic vinegar are worth returning for.
 

MUST SEE

The Punta della Dogana museum. Designed by Tadao Ando and commissioned by Francois Pinault, the museum opened during the Venice Art Biennale after 14 months of restoration. The former customs house was meticulously restored to showcase a selection of Pinault's massive contemporary art collection. Only 141 out of 2,500 pieces made the cut to be permanently exhibited here.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

I love to meander and get lost in a city and Venice is perfect for that. There are so many tiny ancient streets that end abruptly or at a canal, and to make matters even more confusing, street names are repeated in different neighborhoods and house numbers seem to be allocated at random. But then, in Venice, getting lost is part of the fun.

Can I tell you about ... Jodhpur

Rafe Totengco

STAY

Live like Indian royalty for a few days and stay at the Umaid Bhawan. This Art Deco style golden-yellow sandstone palace is one of the most majestic and largest private residences in the world. The Maharajah and his family still reside in a section of the palace while the majority of this 26 acre property has been turned into a luxury hotel. The variety of activities range from watching a polo match on the palace grounds, taking an evening dip in the subterranean pool or having high tea by the veranda while enjoying an unobstructed view of the Mehrangarh Fort in the distance.
 

DO

Go shopping at the Sojati Gate Market. This bazaar is lined with shops selling everything from bright and embellished saris, mirrored jewelry, jodhpur trousers, traditional mojaris (Rajasthani footwear) and colorful tie-dyed clothing called Bandhani. Each store is packed with merchandise and the shopkeepers expect to haggle.
 

EAT

Have cocktails and dinner at Indique, a hot spot resto-lounge at the rooftop of the Pal Haveli hotel. The terrace boasts the best views of the blue city; the lit-up Mehrangarh Fort, the Umaid Bhawan Palace and the Clock Tower.
 

MUST SEE

Perched 400 feet above Jodhpur city is the Meharangah Fort, one of the best-preserved forts in Rajasthan. Once inside you can imagine a different world filled with magnificent rooms, screened balconies, colored glass windows, intricately detailed elephant howdahs (seats) and royal palanquins.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

As you drive up to the Mehrangarh Fort you'll see why Jodhpur is also called the "Blue City". The blue-painted houses all clustered together span the horizon and are a breathtaking view to behold. I found Jodhpur inspiring and magical, rich with history, tradition, craft and splendor.

Can I tell you about ... Capri

Rafe Totengco

STAY

J.K. Place Capri is the chicest boutique hotel in Capri, bar none. It's away from the hustle and bustle of the Marina Grande and Piazza Umberto. It's like staying at a private villa complete with a spa and a pool. All the rooms are elegantly furnished with antiques and art, plus have sweeping views of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius.
 

DO

Rent a private boat to take you around the island, go through the Faraglioni then Marina Piccola and Marina Grande. If the sea isn't rough, go in the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). You'll have to transfer to a smaller boat because the entrance is so miniscule that you'll have to lie down in the boat just to get in. You'll never forget the color of the turquoise waters once you're inside. It's surreal!
 

EAT

Paolino! This Caprese institution lives up to its reputation for traditional Italian cuisine infused with hints of lemon. I love dining al fresco under an arbor of lemon trees. Everything is simply prepared and molto molto buono!
 

MUST SEE

See a quieter side of Capri, head to Anacapri on the other side of the island. It's quaint, relaxed and down to earth. If you're lucky you can flag the only red vintage Fiat Cabrio taxi driving around the island. You'll feel like you're really living La Dolce Vita!
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Capri is a contradiction of high octane glamour and rustic charm at the same time. There is so much to do and see; from hiking down perilous limestone cliffs to having lunch overlooking the spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea. It's such an inspirational destination. It's no wonder why stylish women like Jackie O and Sophia Loren kept coming back for years.

Can I tell you about ... Lisbon

Rafe Totengco

STAY

Bairro Alto Hotel, a chic boutique hotel located in the heart of Barrio Alto. Sip sunset cocktails on their rooftop terrace and mingle with the locals.
 

DO

Get lost in Alfama. This postcard perfect neighborhood has a trapped-in-time quality and is said to be the inspiration of Fado songs and poetry alike. Work your way up the castle and catch a spectacular sunset.
 

EAT

Antiqu Confeitaria de Belem. This 171 year old bakery makes the best Pasteis de Belem (egg custard) in the city. Be prepared to wait in line, they're worth it!
 

MUST SEE

Igreja de Sao Roque, from the outside it seems unassuming but upon entry you'll instantly realize what a Baroque masterpiece this place of worship is. Ivory, lapis lazuli, gold and silver were used to adorn its' interiors.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Lisbon is so picturesque that almost every corner and side street is a photo shoot waiting to happen. It is a city filled with bold color, decaying Art Deco and Art Nouveau reliefs found on buildings rich with history and character. You can feel the energy of this emerging city just by walking the streets of Barrio Alto and Chiado.

Can I tell you about ... Bali

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I go to Bali to recharge, reflect and relax. Every time I go I find something new to do and my friends there always bring me to their favorite spots. It's the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
 

STAY

The Alila Villas in Uluwatu is a must if you're in Bali. The view, the service, the location and the design of the property...you almost never want to leave.
 

DO

Take a hike up Mt. Batur at dawn. The view is spectacular especially as the sun rises. Just be careful not to feed the monkeys! Spend the night at Lakeview Hotel they will arrange a guide to take you up the mountain. So worth the trek.
 

EAT

I love suckling pig and one of the best places to have it is from Ibu Oka in Ubud. Order the Babi Guling special, a coconut, sit down cross-legged on a straw mat and pig-out!
 

MUST SEE

A temple festival. Because there you can see the entire gamut of Balinese culture in action: the art, architecture (both permanent and temporary), music, dance, theatre, as well as communal bonding, life and the economy. And you have to see how the Balinese mix their prints!
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

What I love most about Bali is that it's a total package; the people, the varieties of activities, the temples, and the food! You have the beaches, the mountains, the lakes all within driving distance from each other. That's why I keep coming back.

Can I tell you about ... Block Island

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I live for weekend getaways especially during the summer. On a recent holiday weekend my boyfriend and I decided to go to Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. Block Island is full of sandy beaches and rocky cliffs that dot the shoreline.
 

STAY

The Atlantic Inn, a former boarding house built in 1879, is a quaint Victorian style bed and breakfast with a wraparound veranda offering spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean
 

DO

Rent a bike and take in the scenic views while pedaling around the island. 
 

EAT

The Oar, in New Harbor, is named after the hundreds of painted oars that hang from the ceiling and walls. It's a local favorite!
 

MUST SEE

Mohegan Bluffs. You must descend down 141 steep steps to reach the beach, where you will find a secluded spot for swimming, a favorite among surfers. You'll also find people engaging in DIY mud treatments using the damp clay within the beach's perimeter.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

The laid back atmosphere. I could only imagine that if we stayed a bit longer we would get to know the locals by first name and they would know ours. We enjoyed our weekend so much we've decided to come back the same time next year!

Can I tell you about ... Amsterdam

Rafe Totengco

Last Thanksgiving I decided to treat myself and go Dutch. I hopped on a plane and flew to the Venice of the North, Amsterdam.

STAY

Hotel Pulitzer offers stunning views of the canals and is in The Nine Streets, which is the most picturesque and charming part of the city. 

DO

Visit the Van Gogh museum. There are over 800 works by the artist. Seeing his paintings made me want to go to Provence. That's on my list for this year.

EAT

Amsterdam is a city for foodies. My favorite restaurant is De Kas; located about twenty minutes outside the city center in Frankendael Park. The restaurant grows their own vegetables, herbs and edible flowers which they grow in an old greenhouse that used to belong to the Municipal Nursery.

MUST SEE

Stroll through the streets in The Nine Streets area. There's a diverse selection of small boutiques, cafes and bars.

WHAT I LOVED MOST

The shopping. If you didn't already know this, I'm slightly addicted to vintage clothing and accessories. Fortunately, The Nine Streets neighborhood has a handful of unique shops that stock amazing pieces from the 50's to the 80's.

Can I Tell You about ... Sintra

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After my first trip to Portugal several years ago I knew it wouldn't be long before I returned. Every local I had met in Lisbon said I must go to Sintra, so who was I to disagree. "Going to Sintra is like stepping into a fairy-tale!" my concierge exclaimed.
 

STAY

I stayed in a rented home on the outskirts of Sintra in a small town called Colares.
 

DO

The Pena Palace is definitely on top of my list. It's a fabulous pastiche of nineteenth century neo-moorish and neo-medieval styles; a great example of Portugese architecture during the Romantic period.
 

EAT

Buy food from the local farmers who set up roadside stalls selling produce fresh from their gardens. Everything tastes so good!
 

MUST SEE

Check out Boca do Inferno (literally Hell's Mouth). During high tide view the spectacle of the violent waves crashing on the rocks, you can see why this spot earned its name.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

The collection of magnificent palaces, grand homes and gardens coupled with the narrow and winding streets which lives up to Sintra's mysterious, fairytale reputation.

Can I Tell You About ... Manila

Rafe Totengco

STAY

I had the pleasure of staying at Shangri-La Makati. It is literally in the center of everything you could possibly want to get to, right in the heart of Makati. It's a hop and a skip to Rustan's Department Store (where they have a Rafe corner) and a few blocks away from Greenbelt 5 Mall where all the best boutiques, luxury labels and restaurants are.
 

DO

I love Carlos Celdran's Walk This Way walking tour of Intramuros (old Manila). He's funny, factual and flamboyant. I've learned more about our history in just a few hours with him than I ever did reading about it in school. He puts everything in context and doesn't mince words about our colorful colonial past. Next time I come back I'm going to take his Imelda Tour. I've heard it's hilarious and full of outrageous stories!
 

EAT

M Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants in Manila. You can't go wrong with their take on traditional Filipino cuisine, whether you're there for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Some of my favorites include Pansit Buko (coconut strip 'noodles'), Pansit Tinta (rice vermicelli with squid ink sauce), Halaan (clam soup) and desserts like Leche Flan Turon (fried banana spring rolls with custard filling) and Jackfruit Sans Rival. If M Cafe is too full, just go to their adjoining restaurant, Kabila, which literally means "other side".
 

MUST SEE

The Ayala Museum is a must if you're already in Manila. When I was a child I used to love going to see the dioramas they have depicting the history of the Philippines. One of the most inspiring exhibits I've seen at the museum was Gold of Ancestors: A staggering collection of pre-colonial gold objects and jewelry.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Manila is my second home! As soon as I land and text a friend, it turns into a domino effect! Before I know it my schedule is completely filled for breakfast, lunch and dinner with all of my friends. Every occasion revolves around food, especially all of the comfort food I can't seem to get enough of whenever I'm back - you'd think I was a starving orphan!

Can I Tell You about ... Honolulu

Rafe Totengco

STAY

We chose Hotel Renew, a chic and modern alternative half a block away from the beach with windows facing the sea. The hotel staff was friendly and helpful. They offer complimentary beach towels, folding chairs and boogie boards to borrow so you can hit the beach fully equipped. What we liked most was the location. It's within walking distance of all the designer stores, restaurants and souvenir shops but they are far enough away to allow peace and quiet at night.
 

DO

A trip to Honolulu would not be complete without seeing Pearl Harbor. Seventy-two years ago, World War II began for the USA when the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at the harbor, as well as other military outposts. The USS Arizona Memorial is an unforgettable and solemn reminder of the 1,117 crewmen who lost their lives that fateful day. It is only accessible by a short boat ride from the visitor center, allowing approximately 15-20 minutes per visit. The deck of the USS Arizona is still visible below the surface with parts of the wreckage still leaking oil, some 70 plus years after she sank. They call this layer of oil the "tears of Arizona".
 

EAT

Eating by the beach is one of my favorite things to do.Queen's Surf Cafe and Lanai came highly recommended and I'm glad we went. It's a popular spot; there was a very long line when we arrived! The food was unpretentious and tasty. For less than $10, you get a plate of Kalua pulled pork with rice, a side salad and a cold bottle of beer. What more could you ask for?
 

MUST SEE

At the top of my must-see list was Doris Duke's Islamic-style Shangri La mansion. Nestled in a residential subdivision near Diamond Head and on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it is filled with treasures and artifacts from the Islamic world. I would call it my dream home! It is an eclectic mix of Syrian, Indian and Moroccan decorative elements as well as actual rooms constructed from torn down palaces and assembled in Hawaii. It was luxurious, yet fittingly relaxed for a summer home.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Crashing waves, white sand beaches, Hula dancers and Hawaiian shirts will forever be ingrained in my memory, thanks to a childhood spent watching Jack Lord in Hawaii Five-O and Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. Ever since, I've been drawn to Polynesian inspired prints and have collected my own stash of vintage Hawaiian shirts. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Laird Hamilton in action but I had no such luck. When I come back, maybe I'll even learn how to surf. Aloha!

Can I Tell You about ... Paris

Rafe Totengco

STAY

The Notre Dame Hotel is a boutique property, boasting interiors designed by Christian Lacroix - I'm a huge fan of his sense of color and pattern mixing. The interiors paid homage to his haute couture collections with their bold colors and unexpected mélange of prints. The location was perfect, right along the banks of the Seine. Second hand bookstores, sidewalk cafes, the Luxembourg Gardens, Isle de la Cite and the trendy Le Marais district were all within walking distance. My room had a beautiful view of the famous Notre Dame cathedral, which was quite a sight to behold at sunrise and sunset. 
 

EAT

I crave Moroccan food whenever I'm in Paris. I'm not sure why, but fortunately there are plenty of establishments to choose from! Chez Omar is an old standby and conveniently located in the north end of Le Marais. It's easy to miss because the façade is quite unassuming, so keep your eyes peeled. The menu is limited to the classics, but if you're not sure what to get, the waiters will happily decide for you. Be ready with cash because they don't take credit cards. Nor do they take reservations so try to arrive early since the restaurant is always packed.
 

SHOP

At the edge of Le Marais, set in an old converted factory is a fabulous store called Merci. You can buy flowers, read a second hand book in their café, shop for home furnishings, children's clothing and exclusive items from the chicest fashion labels. The best part about patronizing Merci is that the owners are using all profits after breaking even to operate a co-op for young women in Madagascar. Who doesn't love charitable shopping? 
 

MUST SEE

The Musee D'Orsay is one of my favorite museums. It's not as overwhelming or exhausting as the Louvre; you can fully explore it in a few hours. I usually prefer to go in the late morning so that by lunchtime I can head to the restaurant that has the most incredible painted ceilings and grandiose crystal chandeliers. It's very Belle Epoque, quite glamorous. 
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Paris is the one city I never tire of coming back to year after year, season after season. It first captivated my imagination during my formative years when I first saw Brassai's evocative photos of cafe society. Now I come twice a year for work to observe trends, do a little shopping, and of course, to be inspired. There's always a new store to visit, an exhibit to see, a bistro to try. It's a wonderful walking city; I love how you can wander aimlessly for hours from one neighborhood to another. And of course there's that certain "je ne sais quoi" about Parisians that makes people watching at cafes a sport!

Can I Tell You About ... Aigues-Mortes

Rafe Totengco

STAY

Villa Mazarin is situated in the heart of the fortified city of Aigues-Mortes. The structure was built in the 15th century and furnished with Provencal antiques. There's a heated indoor pool and Jacuzzi that come in handy, perfect after a full day of walking and sightseeing.
 

EAT

The restaurant Le "S" is a quaint spot located on a narrow little street off of the main square. The proprietress was charming, self-deprecating and hilarious. She was a one-woman show! When we told her where we were from, she reminisced about her trip to New York and how much she enjoyed it. She offered three different types of prix fixe menus and everything we chose was delicious, truly authentic Camarguaise cuisine. For after dinner drinks we crawled across the street to Bar Le Tac Tac. It is the tiniest and most well stocked bar I have ever been to. Glasses and people were on top of each other, but it was wonderful. You have to see it to believe it!
 

DO

You must walk around the city walls and up the towers. From there you can see the pink salt marshes and the rooftops of the houses within this medieval city. You can almost imagine what it must have been like in the 13th century during Louis IX. The town's rectilinear streets have stayed intact and are considered one of the best examples of 13th century military architecture.
 

MUST SEE

The Parc Ornithologique in Pont de Gau is a vast bird sanctuary filled with their famous pink flamingoes. The trails are marked with hidden observation posts so you can witness the birds in their natural habitat and take photos without scaring them away.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Aigues-Mortes (meaning dead water) is a quaint medieval town with a fascinating history marked by the crusades and the Templar Knights. This medieval city sits on the flat marshes of the Petite Camargue and was a small hamlet for salt gatherers and fishermen. To the south of the town you can see the rose colored salt marshes where they produce beautiful salt, Aigues-Mortes' most famous export. I love that you can see everything in a day and visit other towns within the vicinity.

Can I Tell You about ... Hudson Valley

Rafe Totengco

STAY

The Glenmere Mansion A luxurious Tuscan-style boutique hotel located in the town of Chester. Built in 1911, the mansion overlooks the idyllic Glenmere Lake and was real estate mogul Robert Goelet's country home outside of New York City. He commissioned architects Carrere and Hastings, who also designed The New York Public Library. The new proprietors, Alan Stenberg and Daniel DeSimone, have restored it back to its former glory with state-of-the art technology. Interior Designer Scott Snyder decorated the rooms with Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Motherwell contemporary art, custom-designed Italian linens and Carrara marble baths with heated floors. 
 

EAT

Dining at Local 111 in Philmont was unforgettable. This farm-to-table restaurant used to be an auto service station and boasts tall glass garage doors that open during the summer months. It's a chic and contemporary dining space with a relaxed atmosphere. All the ingredients come direct from local farmers, including the award winning Old Chatham Sheepherding Company's delectable goat cheese. Needless to say, the food was incredible and alone worth the trip!
 

DO

For years I've heard friends rave about the inspiring Dia Art Foundation in the town of Beacon, so I decided it was a must. Once a Nabisco box printing factory, it was transformed to an exhibition space in 2003. The museum is the ideal location for showcasing Minimalist, Conceptual and Post-Minimalist art, sculpture and installations. Richard Serra's steel sculptures and Louise Bourgeois' Spider, located in the museum's attic, completely transfixed me. 
 

MUST SEE

The Rockefeller Estate, also known as Kykuit, is situated at the highest point in Pocantico Hills with a breathtaking view of the Hudson River. This 40-room home filled with paintings, sculpture and history, is one of America's most famous private residences. The extensive art collection includes works from Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, David Smith and Pablo Picasso. The former basement turned art gallery houses a rare Picasso tapestry of "Guernica" in tonal shades of brown. 
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

A trip to the Hudson would not be complete without indulging in a little antiquing! Conveniently, all the stores line Warren Street in the center of town, which makes for a lovely leisurely stroll and one stop shopping! Some of my favorites were Neven & Neven Moderne, Historical Materialism and Hudson Home.

Can I Tell You About ... Santa Fe, New Mexico

Rafe Totengco

STAY

We stayed at La Posada de Santa Fe, a luxury hotel and spa. Originally built in 1882 as a Victorian mansion, the hotel was later renovated to resemble Santa Fe's historic adobe architecture. It is conveniently located just 3 blocks from the main square and has free shuttle service to anywhere in the city.
 

EAT

The most charming spot for breakfast is Cafe Pasquals located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. The boisterous, festive restaurant is adorned with murals by renowned painter Leovigildo Martinez, Mexican tiles and paper banners. I had the trout hash and it was by far the best breakfast I've enjoyed this year!
 

MUST SEE

The Girard wing of the Museum of International Folk Art, named after architect and textile designer Alexander Girard, holds the long-term exhibit Multiple Visions: A Common Bond. The room is a cornucopia of more than one hundred thousand toys, figurines and dioramas collected from over a hundred countries on six continents by Alexander and Susan Girard. Each vignette tells a different story with intricate, awe-inspiring dioramas. The exhibit is absorbing and fascinating for both young and old, and certainly brought out the child in me. Be sure to watch for my personal favorite, The Vision of Heaven and Hell.
 

SHOP

I was eager to stroll along the Palace of the Governors. The area is lined with boutiques, art galleries and the Santa Fe Indian Market, which is a highly acclaimed Native American arts show dedicated to the preservation and understanding of the American Indian culture. I saw artists from nearby pueblos showcasing their silver and turquoise jewelry, hand-woven blankets and pottery. I was especially drawn to the black on black pottery of Marvin Martinez. He learned the craft from his great grandmother Maria Martinez, a famed potter from the San Ildefonso pueblo, where Marvin and his wife still live and work on their historical craft.
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

Centinela Traditional Arts is the result of seven generations of northern New Mexican Hispanic folk art/fiber weaving passed down within the Trujillo family. Irvin and Lisa are both celebrated and award-winning master weavers with work on display at the Smithsonian and various other museums all over the world. What sets them apart from other weavers is their ability to blend traditional patterns with modern themes and elements creating a new vocabulary of design and jaw dropping works of art. I was very touched and inspired by their designs.

Can I Tell You about ... Arles, France

Rafe Totengco

STAY

We initially booked rooms at L'Oustau de Baumaniere, famed for its discreet location and chic interiors as well a Michelin-starred restaurant. But when we checked in, we were informed that we had been upgraded to stay instead at their sister property, La Cabro d'Or. Upon arriving at our new accommodations we immediately felt at home. The proprietors, Jean-Andre and Genevieve Charial, have turned a former 18th century stone farmhouse into an elegant and comfortable boutique hotel with sprawling lavender gardens, a swimming pool, tennis court and a lavish spa. Genevieve handles all the interiors while Jean-Andre runs the hotel and restaurants. Our suite was luxurious and inviting, complete with a living room filled with books and a balcony overlooking the garden.  
 

EAT

Prix-fixe menus are very popular in France and this is definitely true when it comes to Michelin-starred restaurants. A friend who was in Provence recently was raving about L'atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel so I made reservations. It was a wonderful long, leisurely lunch. Every dish was presented so creatively I couldn't help but take photos of every plate! Chef Rabanel is known for using fresh ingredients including flowers from his own garden and concocting them into complex, delicious combinations. 
 

MUST SEE

The Arles Amphitheatre goes back as early as 90 AD when it was built by the Romans, and is still in use today. Over the years it has been used as a theatre, fortress and even as housing for over 200 families. Today the arena is used for plays, concerts and bull fights during the summer months. Climbing to the top you are rewarded with sweeping views of Arles and you can almost imagine what it must have been like during Roman times.
 

SHOP

I always say, "I haven't met a print I didn't like", and at Souleiado I fell in love with every single one I saw. This company has a strong history and is known for prints that evoke Provencal motifs and color combinations. In fact, the name is Provencal for "sun shining through the clouds after the rain". The store even houses a photo of Pablo Picasso wearing one of their shirts. Despite my meager attempt at self-control, I walked out with enough printed shirts to make a quilt!
 

DO

Follow the Vincent Van Gogh Trail. He painted and drew over 300 images depicting his impressions of scenes and landscapes during his time in Arles. The trail has 21 stops, each marked with a reproduction of the art he painted there. These allow you to enjoy the vantage point of where the artist set up his easel. 
 

WHAT I LOVED MOST

While walking along the narrow streets one afternoon we chanced upon Musee Reattu. The museum was a former Grand Priory of the Order of Malta and owns a sizable collection of 17th-19th century old masters as well as drawings and paintings donated by Picasso. Coincidentally, the museum was holding a costume exhibit curated by Christian Lacroix. The exhibition showcased Lacroix's work as a costume designer for the opera. I was enthralled to be able to view the garments up close and see the craftsmanship that went into each piece. The setting was like a costume party for  Scheherazade and was fabulously extravagant! Before leaving I stepped into the museum shop where they were selling limited edition lithographs of fashion illustrations by Christian Lacroix. Naturally, I had to have one!