Travel Season is Upon Us: Tips for Trips

lTravel brings some of life’s most wonderful moments and most memorable adventures. Travel can also dish out some of the most frustrating experiences ever.

I recently had an amazing trip to France and Italy. Thank goodness, it’s the amazing part that I am remembering now. I’ve nearly forgotten that British Airways told us that my husband could get on the overseas flight out of Chicago, but that I could not. Of course, it eventually worked out. The same bad karma must be the reason our luggage did not arrive in Nice, France.

It is so interesting that no matter how many times my luggage has been lost or delayed, I am still surprised and crestfallen when it happens. Ah… to be a member of the super-rich with private jets. It’s surely the way to go.

I was discussing travel challenges with the staff at Tres Mariposas recently and asked if they had gleaned any travel advice from our customers. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Pack light. This is such a common bit of advice that it’s tiresome — and it’s so hard to follow. Yet it remains true. Just yesterday a client at Tres Mariposas shared that she returned from a fabulous river cruise. She said she took plenty of clothes, but ended up wearing two black and white outfits over and over, leaving much of what she took untouched. All of us who have over packed can relate to that story. Several of the tips below are how-to’s for “packing light.”

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  • Fool-proof plan. One customer recommends this clever method to balance what you are taking. 1) Lay everything you plan to take out on the bed. 2) Go to the bank for your trip money. 3) Go home and eliminate half of what is on the bed. 4) Go back to the bank and get more money. Get it? Take half the clothes and twice the money!
  • Limit your jewelry. Everyone seems to agree that the best thing to do is wear your favorite pieces of classic jewelry on departure, and simply do not take any additional fine jewelry with you. It’s just too much hassle and risk to worry about leaving good jewelry in hotel safes or having to carry it with you everywhere you go.
  • Shoes make the trip. What’s the crucial item around which to build your travel wardrobe? Shoes. Take one pair of your most comfortable shoes that will go with virtually everything, and one pair of “going-out” shoes. Take the right pair of comfortable shoes and your trip will be heavenly. Take the wrong pair and you’ll live to regret it. At Tres Mariposas, we carry a funky little line of shoes called Fly London. It has almost a cult following because the shoes are so comfy for travel.
  • Mix it up with scarves. Carmen, one of our fine jewelry mavens, recommends packing lots of different scarves. Keep wearing your favorite travel outfit, but change the scarf so you won’t get bored – and you’ll look different in the photos!
  • Be prepared. You may need to survive without luggage for a day or two or more. My disappointment of arriving in Nice without luggage was mitigated by the fact that, for once, I had the right back-up items in my carry-on. I had a change of clothes, extra underwear, basic toiletries and a bit of makeup.
  • Lighten your load as you go. A few customers say they set aside old underwear all year for trips and then just toss it as they travel, adding space in their suitcase for new purchases. When packing for Europe this last trip, I couldn’t decide about taking an extra pair of pants and a few extra t-shirts. So I took ones that were almost ready for Goodwill with the thought that I could leave them behind if space was tight. I did leave them, and told the hotel maid not to put them in Lost and Found.
  • Scent your clothes. Did you see this tip in the July InStyle magazine? Put a couple of scented mini candles in your luggage so your clothes don’t have that metallic cargo hold smell when you arrive. I haven’t tried it, but I’m going to.
  • Enroll in Global Entry. Global Entry participants speed through international customs and are automatically approved to use the fast TSA precheck security lanes in the States. Here, after you apply online, you have to go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the Zaragoza International Bridge for an interview and fingerprinting. k

Frankly, I dreaded making the trek to Zaragoza Bridge and having to wait in bureaucratic lines. However, after my husband received his Global Entry card, I had no choice. I could just imagine him whisking through customs and me stuck in line! Turns out I had no need to worry: the process was super-fast and easy.

Fine Jewelry: Fasion Accessory or True Art?

 NewsletterOn my recent return flight from Italy, where we had vacationed after visiting my son in France, I was reading the international edition of the New York Times (May 15). An entire section of the issue was devoted to jewelry, which completely captured my attention for a chunk of that long trip.

One writer asked a good question: “Is jewelry art or accessory?”

“Throughout history, jewelry has been called personal adornment, a fancy way of saying it’s wearable,” was one answer. Yet the question remained: “is it art?”

When — or whether — fine jewelry will ever qualify as fine art remains hotly debated. Apparently some in the art world are reluctant to call jewelry art; maybe jewelry is too much of a commercial commodity for them.

Another theme in the Times section focused on the 21st-century trend of more and more successful women buying high-end jewelry for themselves. Women are not waiting for a man to buy them jewelry. Duh, I could have told them that. Or maybe, El Paso just has more successful women who are ahead of the curve.

With these thoughts fresh in mind, last weekend I attended a huge jewelry trade industry show in Las Vegas. The entire world of jewelry was in Vegas, with over 2,500 exhibitors from more than 22 countries, ranging from high-end to flea market.

The smaller, upper-end “Couture” show is always at the Wynn hotel. The giant JCK show is always at the Mandalay Bay convention hall, billed as “the jewelry industry’s premiere event.”  Believe me, for a portion of the sprawling JCK show, “flea market” is not an exaggeration.

Over two days we saw the latest awe-inspiring domestic and international designers and most sought-after trends. I can answer with a resounding yes, that some jewelry designers are truly artists in the highest sense of the word.

One of the greatest examples of art in the fine jewelry world is Carrera y Carrera from Spain, a company whose origin dates back to 1880. Carrera y Carrera’s identity is tied to sculpture and strong symbolic components related to the natural world. Each collection has a unique theme and each piece of jewelry tells a tale different that that what you expect at first glance. The newest collection, debuted in Las Vegas, is called, “Seda Imperial” – imperial silk.

An Eastern legend has it that 46 centuries ago, a Chinese princess named Liu-Tsu was forced, at age 14, to marry a barbaric Khan against her will for political reasons. In revenge, Liu-Tsu, who knew her shawl held the secret of Imperial Silk embroidery – the best guarded mystery of the Far East, unknown to other countries – threw it into the depths of the ocean. Amazingly, according to legend, the shawl made its way to Spain, along with the secret of Imperial Silk embroidery.

Over time, the shawl that Liu-Tsu was said to throw in the ocean became known as the Manila shawl, considered an adaptation between ancient Chinese tradition and Spanish emblems, thanks to the fusion of Eastern and Western culture.

The sculptor-jewelry artisans of Carrera y Carrera were inspired by the beautiful legend and struck by the similarity of embroidery and jewelry design. The creation of a Manila shawl requires the expert hands of an embroiderer who dedicates months of work to create a garment and adornment of incalculable value. Similarly, many months of meticulous work by master sculptors, gemologists, and goldsmiths are required to create Carrera y Carrera jewelry.

Carrera y Carrera has adapted the most characteristic images of the Manila shawl to the rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings in the Seda Imperial collection. Floral motifs inspired intricately detailed pieces that honor flowers with special meanings. The rose meant secrets, the lily denoted purity, the cherry blossom signified bravery, and the peony symbolized the empress.

The heron, or garza, is another motif of the Manila shawl. According to the ancient art of Feng Shui, the image of a heron is used to ward off negative energy. Carrera y Carrera artisans have depicted this powerful bird in rings, earrings, and pendants in yellow gold with diamonds and prasiolites, fancy stones in many shades of green.

Are these intricate, hand-crafted creations mere fashion accessories to accent an outfit – or are they art? You be the judge!imagephotoimage2

Gucci Museum in Florence Offers Look into Luxury

Gucci MuseoRegular readers of my column know that my life aside from Tres Mariposas is largely made up of chasing my adult children around the globe.

My son Creed will be in the south of France for two years, as an Air Force instructor for French pilots. I guess he deserves this cushy assignment after several hazardous deployments in Afghanistan. As soon as he announced his new destination, my husband booked flights and said,  “Yahoo, now we have an excuse to go to Europe!”

Creed was scheduled to be there February 1. Due to an Air Force glitch, he didn’t arrive in France until a few days before we landed on May 1. He and his wife were overwhelmed trying to find a place to live, being sent off to French aircraft training, and drowning in an all-French language environment. They were hardly in a position to play host.

Bottom line, we only saw Creed and his wife one delightful day. Not to worry, we decided to scoot on over to Italy to explore Tuscany. We will save the South of France for next year.

Tuscany, as many of you have experienced, was divine. While I had previously been to Italy, I had never spent time in the Tuscan hill towns and vineyards, nor hiked from village to village in Cinque Terre. It was truly heaven. The people, the scenery, and the food all exceeded my expectations.

While we made this primarily a countryside excursion, we did go into Florence for a day. Thank goodness for a fashion digression – Museo Gucci! The Gucci museum especially appealed to me because it was not a heavy, tedious museum experience. Opened in 2011, and housed in a 14th-century building in the Piazza della Signoria, the museum is fun and educational.

Gucci Mumeum 1

As a teenager, Guccio Gucci worked as a lift boy at the Savoy Hotel in London where he was fascinated by the elegance of the upper class guests. In1902 he returned to his hometown of Florence with an international vision and opened a workshop specializing in travel ware and accessories. In time Gucci products became a global fashion symbol for “Made in Italy.” It was fun to see Gucci suitcases and trunks with signature red and green stripes from the 1930s, Gucci picnic hampers, golf clubs, and a customized Gucci Cadillac for midcentury jet setters.

Gucci Cadillac

Today the Gucci brand encompasses the ultimate in style, including red-carpet dresses and elegant gowns such as the ones on exhibit at the museum. For example, an ostrich-feather number worn at the Academy Awards by Hilary Swank just oozes Gucci glam.

Gucci, Hilary Swank

Gucci was a pioneer in brand recognition, creating the GG symbol, the forerunner of the logo world we live in today. I recommend the museum to any Florence visitors – or just visit www.guccimuseo.com for an overview.