Tinos Countdown

In June, I count the days. The days until I am eating a Greek salad and drinking a glass of rosé at my favorite café at the Port of Rafina, in Athens, awaiting the ferry that will take me to my happy place, the island of Tinos. There, for two weeks, I will enjoy the sand, the sun, the sea, I will swim and read and eat and think and write and sleep.

In addition to counting the days, I relish the weeks leading up to that day and the anticipation by preparing for my trip in very specific ways. Here is my vacation preparation routine.

  1. I like to have 5-10 books to read during this two-week period – both fiction and non-fiction, both what one might consider “trash” and business books. On my list so far are The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Who is Rich, In the Name of Gucci, Off the Clock, The Verdun Affair, Principles, and more.
  2. Bathing suits. New year, new bikini. My collection is slowly but surely growing. I love Volcom, VIX, and Roxy.
  3. Even if I have any left from last summer, I purchase new sunscreen every year (it expires and all that). Of course, daily, the Alchimie Forever Daily Defense SPF23. And in addition to that, LaRoche Posay’s Anthelios Nourishing Oil SPF 50+ and Coola Sport Face SPF50 White Tea Organic Sunscreen Lotion.
  4. Beach body. I strive to eat healthy year-round, but in June I pay particular attention. More water, more vegetables, no carbs or sugars (I make an exception for champagne and wine), less cheese. And hopefully a three-day JRINK juice cleanse…
  5. Beauty appointments. The week before I leave, I make sure to get my eyebrows waxed (thank you Erwin and Karma!), have a pedicure (choosing a particularly exotic nail polish shade), and do a full body polish (this, at home, with Aveda Beautifying Radiance Polish).
  6. Every summer has its own playlist, songs to listen to on the road, at the beach, on the balcony. I have not yet started this summer’s playlist… any recommendations?
  7. Goal list. I head to Tinos with a list of goals, usually involving thinking projects, content creation, strategic planning. It’s amazing what happens to my brain when I let go of the daily tasks and activities and make room for the bigger picture.
  8. Don’t bring to Tinos list. I usually get a couple projects done in June that have been on my gameplan for months – because I refuse to “take them” with me to Tinos. Whether it be a project I have been procrastinating on or a random administrative task I have not yet figured out how to delegate and must take care of, it is getting done before I get on that ferry.

Is it June 29 yet?

Catahoula Hotel, New Orleans

If you have 36 hours in New Orleans… Part Deux

I am fortunate to spend about third of my time in New Orleans, LA, also known as The Big Easy. Three years ago, I shared my favorite places to eat, sightsee, and shop, if you had 36 hours in New Orleans.

Two weekends ago, I experienced my first staycation – in said New Orleans. Which gave me a completely new perspective on this amazing city that is New Orleans, specifically on the emerging neighborhood known as the CBD / South Market District. So here are my recommendations if you have 36 hours in New Orleans – part deux.

Where to stay
At the Catahoula hotel. Granted, I was biased before checking in because my amazing sister-in-law Amy works there. She is the Director of Sales and Guest Experience, and in charge of the hotel’s social media – and does such a great job that the Catahoula was just named as one of the world’s top 9 “most instgrammable hotels” by Vogue.

Where to drink
At the Catahoula hotel – Sally (pictured above) makes amazing cocktails, as delicious as her smile! And the roof-top terrace transports you to another world, filled with Tiki culture and cocktails, and live music.

At The Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel. The scene is completely different from that of the Catahoula. This feels like the beautiful people of NYC, a scene filled with fancy people wearing stiletto heels and logo-d belts.

Where to eat
At Willa Jean, the latest John Besh creation. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this place might be best known for its “F’rose” (frozen rose), but it really should be on your radar for the breakfast cocktails (only in New Orleans do coffee-inspired vodka cocktails sound perfect for breakfast). Or the biscuits (they are square instead of round, and taste like amazingness). Or the Intelligentsia coffee. Or the service (which was impeccable at 7:30 am on a Saturday).

At Company Burger. BYOLT. Bring your own lettuce and tomato. As in these burgers don’t have any. They taste like the best McDonald’s burger, but even better. The double patty might be the secret. Or maybe the secret is the “secret sauce.”

At SeaWorthy. An oyster bar that now rivals Black Salt (in DC) as my favorite oyster bar. Complete with oyster (that comes with cornbread blinis) and champagne. In the most amazing décor, an old townhouse that has been renovate just enough, but not too much.

At Domenica. Yes, another John Besh concept. Named after Sunday (la domenica in Italian), the best day of the week. The pizza is to die for (try the Prosciutto), as is the roasted cauliflower (trust me).

Where to shop
At Hattie Sparks. I couldn’t help but walk in this boutique when I peaked through the window and saw a purple dress. I have been needing a purple dress (more to come on this later this week). As the card says, this store is filled with “cool stuff for you and your home.” The brainchild of Hattie Collins Moll and Kelly Lore Merry, this boutique’s style and its wares are both minimalist and whimsical. Perfect to shop for hostess gifts, girlfriend gifts, and “just for me” gifts. And to find that purple dress you have been wanting.

At Transportation Revolution. But just to window shop. Because the Triumph bikes look really, really good.

What else to do?
Go to a Saints game at the Superdome. Even when they lose, the energy is amazing and the crowd is fun.

Summer 2016 Reading List

As for the past few years, I have the privilege to again spend two weeks on the magical island of Tinos, Greece. There are many pleasures that come with this two-week vacation, and one of them is the pleasure of spending endless hours reading. I have shared my summer reading lists in the past (Summer 2012 Reading List and Summer 2013 Reading List), this is the list for this summer.


The last two Phillip Margolin Dana Cutler books (I have read the first two already, in the context of book club): Capitol Murder and Sleight of Hand. These take place between DC and Oregon, are true page-turners, and the perfect beach read.


Two Mary Higgins Clark books – The Melody Lingers On and As Time Goes By. These are a guilty pleasure, I have read all of her books and realizing there were two “new to me” ones was a wonderful surprise.


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. This novel was recommended to me by my brilliant friend and novelist Karin Tanabe (her book The Gilded Years would be on this list but I read it before leaving). Written by an Italian author, this story of friendship takes place in Naples. I can’t wait to start it.


Four business books that have been on my reading list for many months – I am hoping after some binge fiction reading my brain will be ready to take these on:


An inspiration book recommended to me by Cindy Feldman, one of my mentors: The Dan Sullivan Question. She has gone to his conferences and can’t speak highly enough of them. Reading his book on the beach might be the next best thing.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. With over 3 million copies sold, this book needs no introduction. In a world that leans towards over-consumption, I am and have always been a minimalist – quality over quantity. I can’t wait to read her perspective on downsizing, tidying up, cleaning, organizing closets, and more.


And of course, I had to bring one of my mother’s books. 25 Os + L’astragal. Per the book jacket, this is her 25th published book. I went to her book reading last week (perhaps better called performance, it involved painting a foot blue, and original guitar music and singing), and can’t wait to discover the rest of this text.

Let the days on Tinos be long enough for me to get through this reading list…

The magic of Tinos – a letter to my grandfather

I am in terminal F of the Philadelphia airport, trying (not very successfully!) to ease my way back from paradise to reality. And I am thinking of my maternal grandfather, Yaya, as I called him. He has been gone for over twenty years, yet this past week he was with me every day. Every day I thanked him for finding Tinos, a beautiful island in the Cyclades in Greece. For finding this paradise, for designing and renovating the house we still have there, for making this island a part of my life.

While we used to go there as a family when I was a child, I re-discovered this magical place last year. I loved it so much that I returned this past week – I hope this trip can now become an annual tradition. On the 11 hour flight from Athens to Philly, I could not help but re-live this past week, trying to remember every detail, every moment, every memory.

Tinos is not an easy place to get to – there is no airport on the island, which is part of what keeps it quiet and unpopulated. An eleven hour flight form the Northeast is followed by an hour cab ride to the Rafina port, which is followed by a two-hour ferry (if you take the fast ferry). Paradise awaits when you step off of the ferry. The island is a small mountain, it rises above the water, with patches of white and blue, the various villages visible behind the town of Tinos. Mykonos, Delos, and Syros are the neighboring islands visible in the distance.

Our house is in the village of Triantaros, known for its beautiful views on the town and the sea. Watching the sun rise at 6 am (jetlag…) and set at 9:30 pm from the terrace are two of my favorite things to do. Listening to the sounds of nature (mostly silence, crickets, church bells, and once in a long while a car or Vespa) while enjoying Boutari rosé wine is one of the most peaceful, calming activities. The lack of internet, TV, radio is one of the house’s best features, the ultimate luxury in terms of disconnecting from the modern world.

Our days on Tinos (after jet lag subsides) have a very regular rhythm to them. We wake up around 10:30 am, spend time on the terrace, eat Greek yogurt and have some strong coffee. All outside. Slowly, we make it to the Para Pente Café in town, where the Wi-Fi always works and is really fast (my capacity to disconnect is still quite limited). After making sure the world has not stopped turning while I was enjoying the lack of connectivity of the house, we enjoy an iced coffee while watching the ferries zoom across the sea.

After about two hours at Para Pente, we drive 30 minutes through the windy mountain roads to our favorite beach, Kalivia, near the village of Kardiani. Along the way, we marvel at the Tinos aromas, which range from figs to rosemary to juniper. We count the churches on the way… there are 750 on this island!

We discovered Kalivia beach last year, and we would never dream of going to another beach. The beach bar is owned by Marco, who is from Kardiani and is known as “The German” to his friends (he is Greek, but blond-haired and blue-eyed). Marco is the best host, offering a plethora of beach-side cocktails, all home-made (he also makes his own honey-raki), as well as interesting tidbits about Tinos. The beach is flanked by two hills, which creates the perfect bay to swim in. And swim we do. Back and forth, across and back again. We discuss the wind, the water temperature, the size of the waves, the best technique for rock skipping… We read… We practice our Greek alphabet… We nap on the beach, listening to the Greek conversations around us (vacationers here are mostly Greeks from the mainland) and the sound of the waves… We watch the start of sunset.

Around 8 or 9 pm (sometimes as late as 10 pm), we head to dinner. Our favorite restaurant on the island is Bourou, where the owner Dimitri remembered us from last year. His food is amazing, his wine list surprising, and his attention to the beauty and ambiance of his restaurant, unlike I have ever seen.

Our days usually end around 1 am… although this year we discovered a few of the local bars, which really don’t get going until 1 am… and don’t get really fun until around 3 am….

I have been trying to think of how I can incorporate some of the magic of Tinos in my everyday life. Is it the amount of time spent outdoors? The time spent without connectivity? The quiet? The swimming? The aromas? The Greek salads? Or is it that this trip was a bit like a honeymoon, with Edwin and I by ourselves, spending all of our time together, 24/7? Whatever it is, I wish I could bottle it and bring it back. I am already dreaming about going back next year… and thanking my grandfather…