What to wear when touring New Zealand, Part 2

2 Rockburn Chasm

As I wrote last week, I have been on a family reunion in New Zealand. I absolutely loved the country and all the fun outdoor activities we enjoyed. It was a trip to remember. We learned a lot about the country’s history and culture – and we also learned to wear the right clothes for whatever came our way.

As I also mentioned in my last column, our adventure trip involved a whole new approach to fashion. Almost every day we were pulling on some kind of gear:

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2 Windy seal coast 2

• Wind shirt. A wind-resistant shirt or windbreaker was just the thing for our excursion in the Wellington area to Terawhiti Station, home to both New Zealand’s most modern wind farm and the dramatic Seal Coast. And I thought El Paso had strong winds in the spring! We had to work hard to stay upright as we viewed the coast and a colony of New Zealand fur seals.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

• Swimsuit, wetsuit, wetsuit booties, warm fleece pullover, heavy parka and life vest. Whoa! On the morning we had to layer all this gear, I was nervous before we even started the day! This was what we needed for our exhilarating jet boat ride up the braided channels of the Dart River. We then transferred to inflatable canoes for exploring Rockburn Chasm and other remote areas.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

• T-shirt and shorts. Our day of sailing with just our family on a big catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park was wonderful. Talk about gorgeous! Our relaxation turned into work, however, when we were launched from the sailboat onto paddleboards. I had to work to paddle and try to keep my balance to avoid falling into the bay.

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board 2

Unfortunately, I didn’t paddle fast enough to get back to the boat when the tide was going out. So somehow the boat – my ride home – and I got separated. As the water receded, it left a very shallow separation between the sailboat and me. My family thought it was hilarious. A rescue boat had to be launched to come get me. My husband told the catamaran captain that a rescue attempt might be useless as I am stubborn and wouldn’t want help. Darn, I hate it that he knows me so well.

• Jeans, jackets and tennis shoes. We wanted to be comfortable when we visited a sheep farm. New Zealand is truly a land of sheep. Did you now that there are six sheep to every one person in New Zealand? Being in the apparel business, I’ve always known of prized merino wool, so I was happy we got to see merino sheep up close. My husband, Sam, ever the outdoor wear enthusiast, purchased a base layer merino tee for skiing made by Icebreaker, a New Zealand performance outdoor apparel company that has quite a presence in the U.S. and globally.

I’ve been told merino wool is breathable in the summer, yet insulating in winter, but I didn’t know how that could be possible. Well, it turns out that merino sheep live in the extremes of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, where it is freezing in the winter and beastly hot in the summer. No wonder the sheep evolved to have very different summer coats and winter coats. I also learned to pay attention to the micron or thickness measurement of merino fibers. Lower numbers are silkiest and finest.

2 Sam and Nan relaxing

• Lounging PJs. Finally in the evenings we would do something for which my fashion career more properly prepared me. I got to relax in my pajamas! Because we had a family group of eight – daughter and son-in-law from Thailand and their two kids; son and daughter-in-law from France, with Sam and me – we chose to go the Airbnb route and rent homes in each locale, instead of pigeon-holing ourselves in separate hotel rooms. Oh, my gosh! It was a very good way to travel. Every home had spectacular views. Hanging out with a glass of wine on the deck or in the living room in the evenings was a great balance to our adventure-filled days.

If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand, be prepared. Who knows what kind of clothes you might need for your own adventures on this beautiful island!

New Zealand adventures call for the right clothes

 On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.


On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.

As I wrote a in my column a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were heading off to a New Zealand family reunion with my son and daughter-in-law from France and my daughter and her husband and two kids from Thailand.

I am now back home – and nearly speechless with happiness and in utter awe of the beauty of New Zealand. It was a dream trip, with sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords, but the most important part of all was being with family.

I’ve always heard from El Pasoans who had visited that New Zealand was beautiful, but it was so far away that I never expected to experience it. Now I am the proselytizing zealot, crazy for this uncrowded, green and peaceful country. I was especially struck by how firmly proud and protective, almost reverent, the people of New Zealand are about their land and natural environment. Their delight and appreciation is contagious.

An isolated Pacific Island nation, New Zealand was settled by humans only recently in the grand scheme of history. Polynesians arrived about 1280, and the ensuing Maori culture continues to be an important part of the nation today. Later Europeans, primarily British people, settled in New Zealand and brought their English language and European ways.

The population of New Zealand is just 4.6 million, which is about the same as the El Paso/Juárez region, scattered across land the size of Colorado. Perhaps it is the small size of their population or the isolation and vulnerability of their island nation that makes the people seem unified in defining their culture. They are cosmopolitan, educated and easygoing and share heightened social and environmental sensibilities.

We visited so many places, including Auckland, Christchurch, Doubtful Sound, Nelson, Milford Sound, Picton, Queenstown, Rotorua, Waitomo and Wellington. We stayed at interesting places, ate well and tried adventurous activities. We saw sights that will stay with us always.

In my last column, I promised to stay on the lookout for fashion insights – and I have some unexpected observations. I soon learned, for instance, that our adventure trip involved a whole new fashion approach. The key was wearing the right outdoor gear for the right activities!

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

• Hard hats with headlights for caving. The Manawhitikau Cave in the Waitomor/Rotorua area was magical. We boarded a small inflatable underground river raft where we silently experienced a glittering display of glow-worms out of the total darkness. This experience was so amazing that even the grandchildren, ages 4 and 6, were awed into complete silence for 20 minutes!

• Sun visor for birding. Birdwatching? Excuse me? I have never thought much about wandering around looking for birds to identify. Birding isn’t athletic, cool or interesting, right? Shame on me! Oh, my gosh, birds in New Zealand are fascinating. First of all, most of the native birds do not fly. New Zealand has more species of flightless birds, both living and extinct, than any other country. They have such fun names: kiwi, kakapo, takahe, penguin, weka and moa. One reason New Zealand has so many flightless birds is that before humans arrived, there were no land mammals that preyed on birds. In evolutionary terms, they just had no need to develop an ability to fly. And I never knew they were so smart!

• Parkas, hats, sunglasses for travel by sea. We bundled up to enjoy the Interislander Ferry cruise from Wellington on the North Island across Cook Strait to the South Island.

• Hiking boots. I may be a designer shoe aficionado from way back, but my husband has always made sure I have up-to-the-minute hiking boots. Our most amazing hike was in Abel Tasman National Park.

As you can imagine, packing for an outdoor trip like this had its challenges. The experience gave me a whole new look at a vacation wardrobe, for sure. This was a far cry from resort wear!

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.

Australia and New Zealand: Fashion Down Under

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As I write this, I am about to go Down Under, which, of course, refers to Australia and New Zealand, half a world away.

The occasion: a Down Under family reunion with my kids.

My daughter, her husband and their two small children will join us from Thailand. My son and his wife will join us from France. We have planned a grand exploration of the nature, beauty and marvels of New Zealand, said to be one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

While I am beyond proud of who my children have become and what they are doing, I must confess that their residing in Thailand and France has its challenges. They are not exactly a Southwest Airlines flight away.

We chose New Zealand as a meeting place because (a) the travel distance from Thailand to New Zealand is manageable for children; (b) New Zealand is famous for its interesting culture and outdoor adventures; and (c) my husband Sam Paredes has been dying to go there!

You may know about the region’s stunning landscapes, but did you know that Australia and New Zealand are becoming a significant force on the international fashion scene?

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

At Tres Mariposas, we have been carrying clothes designed by Camilla, one of Australia’s best-known fashion designers. Her signature pieces are bold caftans capturing Australia’s global yet earthy identity with exuberant colors and prints.

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Camilla Franks first designed flamboyant costumes for the stage, but her entrepreneurial spirit inspired the launch of her own line 10 years ago. Today the beautiful, somewhat unconventional 40-year-old designer travels the world for inspiration and some of her collections reflect motifs from exotic places such as Turkey and Peru.

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When we were in her New York showroom a few weeks ago, she had just returned from an immersion trip in Africa. She has fans around the globe who love her silky fabrics and flowing designs, including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Maria Carey, Sofia Vergara and mother-daughter style setters, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson.

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When we were at the trade shows in New York, we checked out other emerging designers from Australia – and liked what we saw. Modern Australia has a unique fashion style that is clearly distinguished from European or U.S. fashion lines. Australian fashion has a more casual approach.

Many of the region’s top designers have been inspired by the extraordinary range of Australia’s unique cultural influences.

So, yes, when I’m Down Under, I’ll be enjoying our grandchildren, sightseeing, hiking, walking on the beach and eating “shrimp on the barbie.”

But I also plan to keep an eye out for what women are wearing and which designers are up-and-coming. See you when I return

Fun at Market: Good times in NYC and Dallas

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I’ve been on the go lately and have had an unusually fun time seeing what’s new and exciting at market.

Two weeks ago I was in New York, combining pleasure with work. My husband Sammy and I went a couple of days early for a Broadway play, great dining, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and lunch with some El Pasoans transplanted to New York. Nothing beats experiencing all the best of New York.

Then last week, I was in Dallas for a couple of days. I don’t go to every market with our buyers, but I am especially drawn to Dallas because of the information we gather as members of the “prestigious Retail Advisory Board, selected by Dallas Market Center management and exhibitors to provide valuable feedback on the industry and how markets can better serve retailers.”

While some claim this is a “prestigious board,” the real reason for attendance is to reconnect and laugh with longtime industry friends, have a great meal with wine and see what tips we can gather from our retail peers about hot sellers and innovative practices.

Patty and Bobbie

Among those friends from around the Southwest is Patty Hoffpauir, owner of The Garden Room in Austin, who thought it was cute to give me bunny ears in a photo with the dinner’s special guest, Rawlins Gilliland! By the way, when you are in Austin, do stop by The Garden Room, which is a wonderful women’s boutique.

This board meeting didn’t fail to entertain. The Market Center had invited Gilliland to share his insights on this year’s holiday gift items. Gilliland scours the market so he can share his finds with retailers on the wonderful private tours he leads through the various vendors.Nan, Rawlins and devilish Patty

Gilliland is an interesting guy. He started his retail career with Neiman Marcus where he was named top salesperson and eventually earned the title of National Director of Sales and Product. He helped create and direct Neiman’s amazing personal shopping program. Since 1999, he has been a consultant to the wholesale and retail industry, specializing in market buying and sourcing for specialty stores and small businesses.

Nan and Rawlins

Gilliland is also a natural entertainer, humorist, philosopher, poet and National Public Radio commentator.

“Rawlins Gilliland and his stories are one of a kind!” says Jim Gold, president of Neiman Marcus.

Needless to say, Tres Mariposas buyer Bobbie Baldridge and I had a thoroughly fun evening at our Retail Advisory Board meeting.

We did pick up plenty of suggestion of products from Gilliland and other retailers that might be great holiday gift items.

The part of buying trips that I rarely talk about is the products we don’t buy. Part of the joy of being a buyer is the thrill of the hunt. I will go check out just about any tip, even though some explorations lead to groan-worthy products. Even though they may be bestsellers for some, these are items you won’t find at Tres Mariposas this year:

• A birdhouse that looked like a miniature Airstream style RV complete with 1950s decor and porch

• Giant Christmas ornaments made with wishbones

• Lit Coolers, for campers who need their ice chests complete with interior lights

• Bling-A-Go-Go, t-shirts that can be customized

That last one sounded so bad that Bobbie refused to go with me to check it out. Of course, she was right and Bling-A-Go-Go wasn’t for Tres.

A few holiday gifts that you can look forward to seeing:

• Jeweled evening bags in Art Deco patterns

• Limited edition individually hand-crafted fashion jewelry with Egyptian themes.

• Italian Renaissance-style candles with domes

In future columns, I’ll be sharing with you some of our observations about the styles and trends we saw in both New York and Dallas. We’ll also be giving you some ideas that might inspire “the thrill of the hunt” in your own clothes shopping this fall!

European travels, Part III: Fashion and D-Day

Believe it or not, toddlers wear scarves in France.

Believe it or not, toddlers wear scarves in France.

Any trip to Europe has interesting fashion insights. My recent trip to France and Spain was no exception.

This travelogue column is the third about my trip with my husband, Sam Paredes, to visit my son Creed and his wife Naomi in southern France, where Creed is the only American serving at a French Air Force base near Bordeaux. As a U.S. Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, he is stationed there as part of an international military exchange.

I’ve written about the gorgeous scenery, French wineries, a luxurious French spa and the French food – oh, the food! – but this column is about fashion. It ends with a look back to one of the most important places to visit in all of Europe: the beaches of Normandy.

Even my son Creed has joined the French fashion of wearing scarves.

Even my son Creed has joined the French fashion of wearing scarves.

The French and their scarves

The French people are famous for their beautiful scarves, a key ingredient in their recipe for style. In the U.S. we are sustaining a long period of scarf popularity that has had its up and down cycles. In France there is never a down cycle.

When we toured Chateau Bailly in Bordeaux, the oh-so French and adorable vineyard guide had that splash of panache, easy style and, of course “une jolie escharpe.”

When we walked the chilly, breezy boardwalk on Arcachon Bay, I realized even toddlers wear scarves in France. What an adorable delight, and something I’ve never seen elsewhere.

My last surprise was learning that my own son had joined the male French tradition of fending off the chill with a scarf. In the U.S. men wear scarves only if it’s truly freezing outdoors. But, when in France….

Espadrilles at Tres Mariposas

Espadrilles at Tres Mariposas

Spain’s shoe of the season

Our side trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain provided another fashion insight for me. Espadrilles are a classic shoe that are having a new fashion moment this spring and summer. You know these warm-weather shoes made of canvas or cotton or some other kind of fabric: they traditionally have natural colored braided jute soles, sometime wedges.

What I didn’t know is that these casual shoes originated in Basque country. Espadrilles have been made in the Pyrenees since at least the 14th century. Shops have entire sections of inexpensive espadrilles, which were once peasant footwear.

While you can buy basic espadrilles in solid colors, stripes and all kinds of patterns at bargain prices, modern, finely constructed espadrilles have gone high style.

Popular current designers like Tory Burch, Vince and Soludos have taken this classic shoe to a whole new level.

‘Nanas’ by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

‘Nanas’ by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Model turned artist

Have you heard of Niki de Saint Phalle? She is a French-American fashion model who left the runway to become one of Europe’s most influential artists. Raised in upper class New York society, she rebelled against expectations and has created works of art and sculptures like “Nanas,” which revolutionized the representation of women in art.

This spring, the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, is showcasing some of the self-taught artist’s work, which has included experimental films, set designs and costumes for ballet productions.

I was enthralled with the enormous and delightful range of her works in the exhibit.

Honoring our military

Last Monday, on Memorial Day, we remembered the members of our armed forces who gave their lives for our country. Sam and I ended our trip where every day is Memorial Day: the beaches of Normandy, where nearly 160,000 Allied soldiers crossed the English Channel in a single day to storm the Nazi-held beaches.

D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the largest seaborne invasion in history and casualties were extraordinarily high. Thousands of Americans died on Omaha Beach and Utah Beach as they disembarked and walked into the heavily fortified German defenses.

Like everyone who visits these famous World War II sites, I was awed and overwhelmed at seeing the beaches where so many died, the German bunkers, and hearing the stories of paratroopers, French resistance fighters and brave troops.

Reading books like “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, which is on a number of bestseller lists right now, “The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust” by Edith H. Beer, and “The Nightingale” by Kirsten Hannah, has helped me learn more about this tragic chapter in history.

At the huge American cemetery, where the graves and markers stretch far and wide, I was inspired and deeply moved. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said, “The soldiers’ graves are the greatest preachers of peace.”

As we mark the 71stt anniversary of D-Day this Saturday, June 6, let us especially stop to think of those who served our country so bravely that day.

More Food, Wine, No Doggie Bags: My Trip to France Part II

Lunch at Chateau Bailly, where I met helicopter pilot Gilbert Aubrée.

Lunch at Chateau Bailly, where I met helicopter pilot Gilbert Aubrée.

As those of you who follow my column might know, I’ve been visiting my son all over the globe during his career in the U.S. Air Force. Creed, an Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot who’s served in dangerous war zones, is now part of an international military exchange program in the south of France.He is the only American at a French Air Force base in the village of Cazaux, near Bordeaux. My husband Sam Paredes and I jumped at the chance to visit him and Naomi.

And while this is supposed to be a fashion column, I can’t help but share the delights of the French love affair with great food.

In fact, one of my few disappointments was that the French have not adopted the U.S. custom of doggie bags to take home leftovers. We had dishes that were so amazing, I said, “Ooh, we have to have the rest of this for lunch tomorrow.”

But that is a cultural no-no in France because of the emphasis on freshness. My goodness, by the next day, the food would no longer be garden-fresh! In France respectable cooks start anew daily at the amazing food markets.

 Palmieres, Nan's favorite French pastry.

One of my favorite treats is a palmiere, the elephant-ear shaped crispy French pastry. I do love croissants, but the palmiere is crispier and sweeter. It became a sport to find a French bakery with palmieres each morning, and then I played the game of palmiere comparisons, each day assessing if it was the best, most buttery and mouthwatering.

My husband Sam Parades cleaned his plate of frog legs.

Sam, on the other hand, is a big fan of frog legs, a delicacy of French cuisine. They taste a bit like chicken. My son and daughter-in-law indulged him by participating in the sport of locating restaurants that served frog legs. You can see that he cleaned his plate.

My new savory favorite is pan-seared foie gras, made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. I had a negative attitude about foie gras, but the rich, buttery and delicate yet intense taste won me over. My favorite is an entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.

An entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.

An entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.

Ah, the difference in just “cheese” and fabulous French cheeses is enormous. We enjoyed a cheese tasting in a gorgeous outdoor setting at the Arcachon home of friends of my son and daughter-in-law. Christina served eight varieties of cheese with fresh baguettes.

 At Christina and Mark’s cheese tasting in Arcachon.


At Christina and Mark’s cheese tasting in Arcachon.

Comté is a favorite hard cheese in France, with its strong and slightly sweet taste that comes from maturing in cellars in the Franche-Comté region. And I learned to love even more Camembert from Normandy, a soft cheese served warm with a local honey.

Creed helps pick out spices.

Creed helps pick out spices.

Before I went to France, I saw several recipes calling for herbs de Provence. The Roasted Chicken de Provencal recipe that appeared in a New York Times Food Magazine in April intrigued me. I was delighted to discover a spice vendor at the outdoor market in Arcachon who was incredibly knowledgeable, energetic and animated about dozens of herbs. He prepared fresh packets of herbes de Provence and unusual salts for me to bring home as souvenirs for my employees. I have a few left – if you hurry in, I’m happy to give you one.

We made two trips away from the Bordeaux area – to Normandy and to Bilbao in Spain – and we stayed overnight in San Sebastián in Spain’s Basque region. The coastal town touts having one of the highest number of Michelin stars – the international hallmark of fine dining – per square metre, beaten only by Kyoto, Japan, and well ahead of Paris and Lyon.

Tapas in San Sabastian

Tapas in San Sabastian

I knew Spain was famous for its tapas bars, but I wasn’t prepared for the massive arrays of dozens of different kinds of tantalizing tapas.

And all of the above doesn’t even touch the topic of French wines. We had an amazing lunch with wine at Chateau Bailly. Our tour filled my head with fascinating information about wine. We dined with Gilbert Aubrée, a fellow helicopter pilot and friend of my son’s French Air Force base squadron, and one of the most interesting people I have ever met.

Next week, a little about French fashion – I promise!

Greetings from France: Wine, Family, and Relaxation

In front of rows of grapevines at the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

In front of rows of grapevines at the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Oh, my gosh, I knew being with my son and his wife in France would be fabulous, but so far it’s been way over the top. As those of you who follow my column might know, I’ve been visiting my son seemingly all over the globe during his career in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve seen some beautiful locations, but his current posting in the south of France is absolutely amazing.As an Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, Creed has certainly spent his time on the front in dangerous war zones, but now his assignment is with an international military exchange program. He is the only American at a French Air Force base in the village of Cazaux, near Bordeaux, and my husband Sam Paredes and I jumped at the chance to visit him and his wife Naomi this month.

Nan with her son, Creed, at the vineyard outside the Bordeaux airport

When we landed at the Bordeaux airport, we got our first clue that we were in a special place. Instead of seeing the usual bland shrubbery surrounding public buildings and airports, as we exited luggage claim, we saw a beautifully tended vineyard tucked away in a small patch of ground! I knew the Bordeaux region was famous for wine, but I hadn’t quite expected this.

A panoramic view of my son and daughter-in-law’s home along a canal in France.

A panoramic view of my son and daughter-in-law’s home along a canal in France.

From the airport we drove to their home in the village of Cazaux, where Creed’s French Air Force base is located. The village is part of the town of La Teste-de-Buch, about 35 miles southwest of the city of Bordeaux, one of the world’s major wine capitals and home to the international wine fair, Vinexpo.

Creed and Naomi’s home is beautiful and has an indoor-outdoor feeling. It’s nestled in lush green on a canal with a canoe at the ready for recreation. When we arrived, we had an alfresco lunch including a variety of delicious French cheeses and red wine.

Creed’s French squadron has its own wine: Escadron Helicopteres, a Grand Vin de Bordeaux.

What kind of wine exactly? As I mentioned, Creed is attached to a French air base. His helicopter squadron has its own wine! Wine is truly imbedded in the fabric of all parts of French society. I’m hoping to bring home a bottle or two of Escadron Helicopteres 1/67 Pyrenees Gran Vin de Bordeaux.I couldn’t visit the south of France without going to the glorious Caudalie spa. Thanks to an El Paso connection – El Pasoan Jane Hall is the aunt of Caudalie founder Bertrand Thomas – Tres Mariposas has carried the Caudalie skin care line for many years. We were “early adopters” years ago.

Outside the Caudalie Vinetherapie Spa.

Outside the Caudalie Vinetherapie Spa.

What was once a tiny company based on extracts from grape seeds, leaves and vines, Caudalie has become a leader in natural skincare. My current favorite Caudalie skin care items are the Vinoperfect Radiance products, which even skin tone and lighten brown spots.

These lotions and creams were born from a grape harvesters’ tradition. The female vineyard workers always slathered the grape vine sap on their face and hands because of its amazing lightening properties.

Bertrand is married to Mathilde, whose family owned one of the most famous chateaus/vineyards in the area, Smith Haute Lafitte. In 1999, they created their first Vinothérapie Spa in the grounds of Château Smith Haut Lafitte.

You can buy some of the vineyard’s amazing wines, ranked among the best Grands Crus Classé for red wine, at Billy Crew’s restaurant in Santa Teresa – but you have to go to France to experience the luxury of the original Caudalie spa.

Needless to say, I insisted on taking Sammy, Creed and Naomi for an afternoon at the spa at the Smith Haute Lafitte chateau and vineyard.

Oh, my! We were all limp as noodles after massages, facials, body wraps and wine baths, all using the wonderful Caudalie products.

Between treatments we gathered at the spa pool or steam room.

It’s been a memorable trip – and it’s not over yet. Stay tuned for Part 2!

A very relaxed group of Americans enjoying French hospitality: Creed, Naomi, Nan and Sam.

A very relaxed group of Americans enjoying French hospitality: Creed, Naomi, Nan and Sam.

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