Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Dress in Rome During Summer - Travel with Style (Girl in Italy)

How to Dress in Rome During Summer

Dress Light - It's Hot!

Summer days in Rome tend to be very hot; daytime temperatures during July and August can reach over 100°F (38°C). Even if you are used to high temperatures back home, Rome heat may be worse to deal with, because air conditioning in public transportation and many old buildings isn’t that great. Some restaurants don’t have air conditioning at all. This means that the less you wear, the better. At the same time, you don’t want to reveal too much because a major part of sightseeing in Rome is visiting churches. That's why, for your summer trip to Rome, you should choose light dresses and skirts instead of tiny shorts and mini skirts. The key to dressing light on hot days without revealing too much is to choose breathable materials like cotton or linen. Another great idea is to carry a light shawl to cover up with if required. A hat, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen are must-haves when visiting the Eternal City in the summer.

Vatican Dress Cod

While covering up in some places is simply respectful, Vatican imposes a special dress code for the Holy City. According to the Vatican Museums' website, “Access to Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Gardens and Saint Peter's Basilica is permitted only to visitors dressed appropriately (no sleeveless blouses, no miniskirts, no shorts, no hats allowed).”

Comfortable Footwear Without Sacrificing Style

You will do a lot of walking in Rome, so you will need comfortable walking shoes. Strappy walking sandals are ideal for long walks around the city in summer. Flip-flops or shoes with flat soles will not work, because Roman streets have a lot of uneven bricks, so it is better to choose padded shoes that provide some support.

"When in Rome, Do as The Romans Do”

Italy is often called the fashion capital of the world. Italians, on average, dress really well, but not over the top—I would call it casual chic. When packing for your trip, keep in mind that Rome is a good place to style your outfits a bit. However, if you worry about looking like a tourist, guess what? Italians already know you are a tourist, so wear what you feel best in.

Fore more tips on how to dress when you’re on vacation in Italy – see my blog post at touristsbychance.com.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

7 Days in Riviera Maya, Mexico (Grand Bahia Principe Tulum) - Travel Guide

Mexico is one of the world’s greatest travel destinations, that some people single out for crime. Despite, crime along parts of the U.S. border and in the areas along major trafficking routes, the majority of Mexico’s tourism destinations are very safe. In fact, Caribbean Coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula has one of the safest ancient ruins and white-sand beaches in the world. Nevertheless, when traveling abroad it is always a good idea to take precautions and research your destination in advance to have hassle-free vacation.

There are many travel guides, blogs, along with YouTube channels that will help you prepare for your travel. Here are few sites that I found very helpful when I was planning my 7 day trip to Mexico: Pause The MomentWoltersWorld, and TripAdvisor.

Even though in Mexico most service staff speak communicative English, it’s polite to start a conversation in Spanish. Here are few simple phrases:

Hola (Hello)

Buenos días (Good Morning)
Buenas tardes (Good Afternoon; used until after sundown)
Buenas noches (Good Evening)
Habla usted inglés? (Do you speak English?)
No hablo Español (I don’t speak Spanish).
Gracias! (Thank you!)
Como estas (How are you?)
Muy bien, gracias (Very good, thank you)
Así (Yes)
No (No)
Adios (Goodbye)
Por favor (Please)

Travel Tips
  • Most tourist regions in Mexico are quite safe, but research you destination in advance to have hassle-free vacation. 
  • Confirm all reservations before your leave, including flights, hotels, and cars.
  • If possible, make room requests (e.g. beach view) and book restaurants in advance (Grand Bahia Principe Tulum offers 3 dinners in A La Carte Restaurants per week of stay).
  • Aprenda un poco de español.

DAY 1 - Cancun Airport & Driving to the Resort

The way from Cancun International Airport to Riviera Maya is fairly easy. There is basically one highway with all main resorts on both sites of the road. A ride takes about 1.5 h, depending on the location of your resort.

From the first steps into a spectacular main lobby of Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, I felt fresh breeze from the Caribbean Sea. A high roof lobby with stone columns and water falls had very calming, SPA like feeling. We were welcomed with margaritas by professional front desk staff. The only down site was that our room wasn't ready yet. While waiting for our keys, we were offered a lunch at a buffet. 

On the Way to the Main Buffet

Our room in Villa 31 was nice and a good size, but a bit old. On the bright side, we had an amazing sea view. Unfortunately, the room was a little humid, but what you can expect when at the beach.

After unpacking we picked up pool towels and headed to the main pool. The rest of the day we spent at La Plaza Mayor Terrace (a bar with life music and dance shows).

Dolphinarium Room View 

Our Friendly Neighbor is Saying Hello!

Travel Tips
  • If you are booking a car don’t forget to bring an official letter from your credit card, stating that you have international car insurance, to avoid extra fees.
  • Don't waste your time on the "Privilege Club." It is a third-party run "club" promising extra benefits to people who pay up front and return to hotels associated with the club. They my use different tactics like free gifts, warnings that there are just few memberships left at this price, etc. They give the impression that the Privilege Club is somehow a part of the hotel chain or a car rental company, but it is not!

DAY 2 - Getting Around the Resort & Beach Activities

On day two we had the best time ever swimming in the pool, laying on the beach, kayaking, drinking margaritas and just chatting.

 Small Trains that Run for Easy Transport Between Main Lobby and Hotel Amenities

What about a massage at the beach?

Relaxing at the Beach

On the afternoon of that day we tried parasailing ($100 per person). Even though I felt sick after a few minutes in the air (I get airsick on a plain as well), it was one of the best experiences of my life. It literally felt like "floating on air," and a panoramic view of the resort area was spectacular. 


In the evening we had a reservation at Le Gourmet French Restaurant (Formal, Coba Restaurant, men have to be in long pants, but sandals and flip flops are ok). The restaurant has beautiful interior, very welcoming staff, and delicious food. It is my favorite restaurant at Bahia Principe, and I highly recommend it to everyone (especially Avocado Salmon Salad).

On the Way to  Le Gourmet French Restaurant 

Travel Tips
  • Take some time to familiarize yourself with the resort. Grand Bahia Principe property is right at the beach and you can’t get bored there. You can enjoy unlimited food and free drinks, pools, gym, water aerobic, casino, SPA, golf, life music, shows, and much more. 
  • Le Gourmet French Restaurant is a must go to when staying at the Bahia Principe.

DAY 3 - Coba Maya Encounter

Since we rented a car for our whole stay in Mexico, we could easily drive to Coba Ruins ourselves, but the reason we booked a guided group tour was to take advantage of the whole package Coba Maya Encounter offered ($125 per person). The encounter started with the Coba Ruins where we climbed the pyramid. Later we were taken by a van to a jungle for a short ritual, repelling into a cenote, 2 zip lines, and paddling through a laguna. The day ended with a tasty lunch prepared by the locals and shots of tequila. Excursion was filled with attractions that it would be difficult to fit into one day if we did it ourselves. We had fantastic time and we met amazing people, including our tour guide Anna that looked after us throughout the day. She gave us a lot of interesting information about Maya Civilization and even tough us some Mayan Language. I really appreciated her help when it came to repelling.

Nohoch Mul, the Tallest Mayan Pyramid in the Yucatan, Which Rises 140 Feet (42 Meters) Above the Rainforest Floor

Travel Tips

  • Riviera Maya is one of these places where you want to take with you a GoPro or a waterproof camera. Guided tours often offer photographs, but they are low quality and cost money (about $60/CD).
  • Repelling is fun and easier than you think. 
  • Going on an excursion could be a great way to meet new people. 

Day 4 - Playa Del Carmen & Hacienda Doña Isabel

This morning we were tired after Coba Expedition, so we stayed in the bed longer than we planned. Around noon we decided to drive to Playa Del Carmen, a small tourist city about a 20 min ride from the Bahia Principe (If you don't have a car you can take a colectivo). At Playa Del Carmen we spent some time on the beach watching boats leaving to Cozumel, a popular cruise ship port famed for its scuba diving. After a walk through La Quinta Avenida, a busy promenade lined with handcraft stores,  we headed to the town to buy100% agave tequila, rum, and vanilla extract.

On our way back to the resort we got off the main road to see how the “Real Mexico” looks like. We saw kids playing on the streets and a man in Bahia Principe uniform biking back home from work. Regular houses in Mexico are very small, colorful, and seem unfinished, but they have their own charm. I was super excited to photograph authentic Mexico, but my husband didn't let me leave the car. He thought that locals may not like me putting my lens in their private lives. 

We got back to the hotel just in time to have last few rays of the sun and swim in the sea. The evening we spent at La Fiesta at Hacienda Doña Isabel ($16 fee to enter). They offered games, photo booths, drinks, and finger food like grilled corn and popcorn. The show was picking up very slowly, but the Maya part was very authentic. I highly recommend going to La Fiesta for everyone staying at the Bahia Resort.

Hacienda Doña Isabel

Travel Tips
  • Buy tequila and souvenirs off the expensive resort shops, perhaps at Playa Del Carmen.
  • Vendors may use different tricks to stop you by their shops. For example, they may pretend to know you, or say “almost free” just to get your attention.
  • Don’t be afraid to get off the main track, but don’t forget that you are a tourist.

DAY 5 - Chichen Itza, IK KIL Cenote, & Valladolid

Chichen Itza, a large city built by the Maya people in about 600 AD, is located in the eastern portion of Yucatán (about 2-hour ride from Tulum). We got there around 10AM, right before crowds from tour buses, thus it is one of the most visited archeological sites of Mexico (entrance fee is about $20). It was fascinating to see pre-Columbian city, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t touch or climb any of the buildings. However, we found Chichen Itza to be the best place to buy folklore souvenirs. Some tourists complain about vendors being too pushy, but we liked that everyone was willing to bargain. In a result we got hand made wooden mask worth $100 for $35.

Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, dominates the center of the Chichen Itza

On our way back we stopped by the Ik Kil Cenote, one of the largest sinkholes in the Yucatan (about 80 pesos to enter the Ik Kill Archaeological Park). This is unfortunately also one of the most busy cenotes in this area, so if you are interested in more natural experience, Cenote Samula or Zací Mayan Sinkhole are perhaps better choices.

Another attraction of the day was driving trough Valladolid, a small city with many colorful colonial style buildings, and narrow one-way streets full of activity. I wish we would have had more time to explore the city on foot.

Travel Tips

  • If you are interested in buying souvenirs at Chichen Itza know how much you are willing to spend, thus almost everyone is willing to bargain.
  • If you do make your way toward eastern portion of Yucatán, be sure to stop by Valladolid.
  • Consider choosing less commercialized Ek Balam and Cenote Zaci over crowded Chichen Itza and  Cenote IK KIL.
  • The Yucatan has quite good highways, you just need to pay attention to bumps.

DAY 6 - Valentines Day at Tulum Beach

Tulum, ancient Maya City built on cliffs overlooking the beach is a perfect place for a romantic day. Paradise Tulum Beach with turquoise, calm water was the most beautiful site we visited in Riviera Maya. 

Tulum was One of the Last Cities Built by the Mayas

Tulum - Pre-Columbian Maya Walled City Served as a Major Port for Coba

Iguana is a Moderate Sized Lizard Endemic to Mexico

Tulum Beach is One of the Most Beautiful I've Seen

We finished the day at the Cenote Dos Ojos (250 pesos fee), a flooded cave system located north of Tulum. Dos Ojos (from Spanish "Two Eyes") is an attractive cenote for scuba diving and snorkeling. My advice on visiting Dos Ojos is to take with you just towels, and leave all belongings, including clothes, in the car. A tour guy that came with a bus full of tourists from Europe moved our clothes, thus he thought that they belonged to his group. Luckily I saw the whole occurrence and everything ended up well, but you don’t want to worry about your stuff when you are relaxing in the crystal clear water of Dos Ojos. 

Refreshing Water of Cenote Dos Ojos

Dinner at Don Pablo Restaurant (Tulum, formal) was’t as good as I expected. The waiter was stressing on purchasing non house wine and dinner special for an extra cost. Food was just average and we had to wait very long time for our meal. In fact, three course dinner took over two hours. We would rather eat at the main buffer, especially that on our way to the restaurant we saw Mariachis playing life music to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Travel Tips
  • If you are going to visit Tulum archeological site, make sure to take advantage of the magnificent beach. Bring with you a towel, water, and sunscreen!
  • On your way to Tulum Ruins some locals may try to stop you and offer you a tour. You don’t need a guide for this one, so just keep going and pay the fee by the entrance.
  • When going to a Cenote don’t take anything with you beside swimming gear, flip flaps and possibly a towel.

DAY 7 - Enjoying All-Inclusive Hotel

On our final day we decided to have a lazy day at the all-inclusive hotel, enjoying palm trees, hammocks at the beach, barbecue by the pool, and free drinks.

Barbecue by the Pool

Snack Turned to be a Serious Meal

Happy Feet :)

In the evening we had at reservation at Gran Tortuga Restaurant (Tulum, Brazilian, not formal). To be honest, I think that this place is overrated. Salad bar is limited, and meet cuts are nothing special.

Mexican state of Quintana Roo has much more to offer, like Xel-Ha Natural Water Park (from Mayan language “where the water is born”). Once an inner port, trading center, and shelter for sailors, today is a place where you can swim and snorkel among hundreds of multicolored fish in the river and the lagoon. Xel-Há is a true paradise, but it's quite expensive, so you need to bring lots of $$$ to experience its flora and fauna. For this reason we decided to skip this unique attraction; however, we plan to visit this amazing place during our next trip to Mexico! On our list are also islands of Islap Mujeres and Isla Cozumel, both easy to reach by ferry.

Travel Tips
  • Having a rental car gives you the freedom to explore on your own and experience the “Real Mexico!” We were able to see some of smaller towns, and stop off the road whenever we saw something interesting.
  • In Riviera Maya most places accept US$,  but you will be better off if paying with pesos, especially at gas stations. 

If you have any questions please let me know in the comments bellow.  I hope you will have as much fun in Mexico as we did :) XOXO

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Boyfriend Trend - My Favorite Oxfords

Mango Military Coat | Lucky Brand Jeans | Clarks Oxfords | Foley & Corinna Wallet on a String

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bold Birds Pattern and a Pop of Yellow

Yellow, freesia, tropical, and floral-inspired patterns are present in many spring collections. Although yellow can be worn from head to toe, accessories are a great way to incorporate this vibrant color into an outfit. Birds inspired pattern is incredible, and it's one of my favorite new fashion trends this spring.

Zendaya Maree is Mixing High Fashion With Urban Fashion at NYFW

Zendaya Maree likes mixing high fashion with urban fashion. At New York Fashion Week Maree wore Christina Dior Coat, Rag & Bone Sweatpants, Saint Laurent Boots, Basic White Tank, and a Baseball Cap.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Street Style: New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter

During NY Fashion Week many people worn their coats wide open despite freezing temperatures. Fashion Blogger Zina Charkoplia matched salmon Zara coat with Celine bag, Nike sneakers, and completed the look with a long grey scarf.

Fashion lovers worn camel, grey, pastel, or even white, or pink coats as opposed to black very characteristic to NYC.
Another distinct trend seen in street style is that destroyed boyfriend denim cuts take over skinny jeans.

Folk style is going global. All around the world fashion houses like Tory Burch, Oscar de la Renta, and Burberry presented collections that were folk inspired and rich in knitting patterns. I am looking forward to seeing more folk inspired clothes in chain stores!

Another noticeable trend on the streets of NY was Chinese plaid pattern, whether on coats, scarfs, or whole suits.

Chriselle Lim rocked Tommy Hilfiger plaid suit.

During Fashion Week most of the days were very cold, so I wasn't surprised to see at Lincoln Center a parade of colorful furs. To my satisfaction most fashion lovers chose faux furs.

While some people dressed for the slushy weather, many continued to dress up for fashion shows.

A unique artist Martha Napier promoted her Marnani Design Studio on hard sidewalk outside Lincoln Center by illustrating street style with paint. In spite of cold wind and frozen paint, her proved skill to print fashion quickly draw attention of the press.