Paris mini-guide

top image from the Helmut Newton exhibit at the Grand Palais

I could not possibly tackle a full Paris city guide, so I am going to give a little taste of some of my favorite things I saw while I was in the City of Lights for work last month!  I was there for a quick week of unusually sunny weather– it’s true, Paris in the springtime is something special– all the cool kids were out on their bikes, looking tres chic in a wonderfully understated way.  Skinny jeans, a leather jacket, and sexy ankle boots– a lot of the girls were make-up free with perfectly disheveled locks.  It’s true that French women have a certain, how do you say it? Je ne c’est quoi…

I say bring a little and return with a lot! Shopping wise, there are so many good spots to check out, get lost in the city, be inspired! There is great vintage too! I was tempted by so many delicious vintage furs– short ones, long ones, caramel cuties, and rainbow ones (if you are into that sort of thing), leather shorts, boots, great summer dresses– big time temptation.  My bank account is happy I only had one free afternoon to do some shopping cuz the Euro is strong y’all!  I stayed in Le Marais so most of the spots I visited were in that neighborhood.

And oh yeah! I went to see the Helmut Newton exhibit at the Grand Palais. I started my post with that pic because I think this show really suited Paris– sexy, iconic, a bit tough, and a lot glamorous!!

From top left clockwise: Dries Van Noten store, La Duree shop window, Goyard luggage, Goyard shop window

from top left clockwise: street art, poster detail, Alaia shop window, courtyard

my shopping highlights

My fav store that I really wish had a sister in New York was Merci. It was like a tiny, airy department store with home goods, books, a coffee shop, and a very well edited collection of new designers (clothing and accessories).  It had a super wearable and feminine vibe– great shoes and jewelry too!

I was also super smitten with Colette.  I love the ground floor– Cool tennis shoes, music, glamour gadgets (think fur headphones, mega expensive shades, crazy cool iPhone covers).  I feel like they are at the center of Parisian pop culture- there is something for all of your senses.  I got some sneaks for my guy, a couple sweet cds, a radical t-shirt with Kurt Cobain’s name hand-stitched over the heart (should have gotten the Chet Baker one too- damn!), and some funny phone accessories for our house.  More time would have yielded more booty, but alas, it was a rushed trip.  There is a street art meets fashion vibe and it’s quite fun- they definitely have their fingers on the pulse of the latest and greatest and they do a lot of collaborations with up and comers.  If you can’t make it there in person, check out their website– there is a lot of tangible inspiration there.

Another good one for home goods was SImrane. It is all hand wood-blocked cotton and silk from India.  I got some gorgeous linens for our home and a couple little gifts.

Other highlights were the Isabel Marant, Dries Van Noten, and Christophe Lemaire shops.  You can find these designers in the U.S. as well, but the stores there have a different sense of architecture and merchandise their products in a more intimate, artful way…


L-R: Chez Janou and the lovely Michelle Buswell at La Perle in her beguiling black hat

Where to begin? My first night we went to a magic place called Derriere. It was a hidden spot, through a courtyard, and they had a ping pong table but the patrons all looked like they had just left a show during New York Fashion week– good lighting, good music, good people watching.  They even have an upstairs fumoir (smoking room) that you enter secretly through a wardrobe (so fun!!!). Make a reservation as they only seat at 8pm or 11pm.  Then as I was leaving, I saw Kristen Wiig and she looked really cool in a short leather jacket, and we made eye contact, so it was for sure an enchanted evening- haha!

The next night we did Robert et Louise- an un-fussy, cozy, stone joint with an open grill.  This place is definitely all about the carne, so don’t go if you are exclusively a veggie person.  BUT if you like an occasional T-Bone served on a rustic wooden cutting board dusted with sea salt, this is a good spot.  Simple hearty fare, good ambiance.

I also loved Chez Janou.  It is a typical Bistrot Provencal– warm decor and good food. Cute young clientele and fun people watching. I had a very tasty duck (recommended by our terribly stylish waitress), and at the end of our meal, they brought out the most giant bowl of chilled chocolate pudding I have ever seen– to be held with both arms!  You serve yourself from this obscenely large bowl and you feel about five years old.  It’s so fun and a satisfying end to a great meal.

I also had fun drinks a couple nights at La Perle and had a full on, all night, disco dance-athon at Le Baron. It was a Sunday and it wasn’t too crowded– all I know is there was a dance circle (you know, like in Soul Train) where everybody has a turn and everyone cheers you on– there was some breakdancing to disco and it was seriously one of the most fun, laugh-y, dance-y nights I’ve had in forever.

One last note: Look at these girls!!

Swedish girls on holiday

Aren’t they dreamy?  I saw them two different days in two different neighborhoods.  Such cutie style!  They were from Sweden on holiday with their moms and they were killing me with their looks.  They were kinda punk in a way, kinda 80s schoolgirl, kinda quirky nurses. I like.





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Snapshot: Ollantaytambo, Peru

Photo taken in Ollantaytambo

This is a sneak peek of an upcoming post on Peru– I’ve been meaning to do it for a while but I had to go on a fact finding mission and contact my peeps in Peru-  There is so much info, but I’ll try to fill you in on the must-dos if you go to Cusco.  It’s worth the trip- Peru is an incredible country full of so much color and history!  Stay tuned… xo


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Snapshot: Nayarit, Mexico

all images by me and my wonderful, talented guy Trevor Smith

I travel often for work, but it’s not quite the same as quality time with your dude in the jungle! No computers, no phones, no traffic… These are some images from a recent adventure down to the Pacific coast of Mexico.  We surfed every day, sea kayaked, grilled fresh seafood, and made fires on the beach with our adopted dog family. Simple pleasures, inexpensive, and perfect for a mid-winter re-charge…

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Tulum, Mexico


Tulum ruins, image from Mara Hoffman‘s swim collection shot by Olivia Malone, beach near Zamas

what to pack

1. your favorite easy breezy t-shirt/ shorts combo  2. tribal jewels  3. a scarf/ sarong for day and night  4. the perfect white dress  5. ethnic beach bag  6. a gang of gold bangles  7. your fav bikini 8. classic leather sandals

Tulum is a sleepy beach town on the edge of the Yucatan’s Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.  Once called Zama or “City of the Dawn” the Mayans may have originally built Tulum as a place to worship the sun.  Not much has changed over the years– today aside from bikini bootcamps, yoga retreats, diving, and bike riding to a lazy reggae soundtrack, it is perfectly acceptable to simply  swim in the crystal blue water and worship the sun.

Over the last ten years,  some great boutique hotels have sprung up as well as a variety of top notch restaurants.  There is one main road that stretches between the jungle and ocean where you can find pretty much everything.  A far cry from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Tulum still feels remote and quiet– a rustic retreat perfect for families, lovers, and singles interested in a more eco-friendly kind of getaway.

Don’t bring too much– you don’t need it here! Sandals, maybe some sneakers for exploring, and some sun goddess wear– bathing suits, cover-ups, sarongs, and some breezy bohemian looks for night time– that’s it.  Oh, and of course killer shades and a good beach hat!  Feel good, be natural!


There are a couple treasures to be found here, but Tulum isn’t really about shopping.  The best places to get authentic Mexican crafts and textiles are the boutiques at Posada del Sol and Mixik (two locations- one in town and one near beach).  All the hotels have sweet little gift shops with sandals, beach bags, and cover-ups, but I always look for harder to find antique huipiles and natural copal incense.

One noteworthy and much blogged about spot to check out is the gift shop at Coqui Coqui.  It features divine perfumes and candles made from local plants and scents.  I also got my guy some amazing agave massage oil that will be impossible to replace.  Oh well, guess we will have to go back to Tulum to get another bottle! They also have super chic leather sandals and accessories from their house line Hacienda Montaecristo and re-purposed beach bags by worldly Merida local Ariane Dutzi.

food/ drink

There is so much good food in Tulum– a surprising amount!  Lots of world travelers have decided to make Tulum their permanent residence so there is amazing variety and quality.  All the restaurants are outside on patios, on the beaches, or in gardens and a lot of the food is cooked in outdoor ovens- so yummy!

One of my fav spots is El Tabano.  It is located in a lush garden with the most enormously healthy agave plant you can find.  They have modern takes on local Yucatan dishes as well as traditional Mexican.  They have great appetizers and are always happy to recommend a tasty bottle of wine to complement your meal.  I had a chicken roasted in a local red chile sauce that was perfectly tender and just the right amount of spicy.

Another good spot for simple, hearty Mexican fare is the beachside restaurant at Zamas.  During the day, I had fresh lemonade mixed with Chia seeds and Chaya (a local spinach type green).  Super healthy and delicious.  And at night I had world class micheladas and margaritas before sauntering (stumbling) off to my jungle hut.  They have delicious tacos de pollo and a jumbo prawn app that is to die for.

Another much blogged about spot is the fashionable Hartwood.  NYC expats opened this jungle joint last year and it is always full.  All of the ingredients are locally sourced and cooked in their wood burning oven.  Everything came out in small cast iron dishes with adorable knit mitts on the handles.  This is a great place to have a lazy meal and people watch by the light of the oven’s fire in the back of the restaurant.

Another crowd pleaser is Posada Margarita.  Owned and run by Italian expats, Posada features fresh homemade pasta and breads made from organic ingredients.  It offers a nice atmosphere and a break from Mexican food if you need it (I never need a break from Mexican food).  They also have good salads and a great wine selection.

One lesser known gem is the restaurant at the hippie boutique hotel Dos Ceibas.  This is a great spot for breakfast and lunch in a jungle-y garden just off the beach.  I had some amazing fresh fruit and salads here, as well as some kick ass guac.  Word to the wise- the beach in front of their bungalows is absolutely gorgeous– pristine white sand and good body surfing!

Where to stay

Most recently I have been to Tulum for work and we stayed at Zamas.  It is very rustic and simple but the restaurant is great, the staff is very friendly and helpful, and it’s in a good location to ride your bike in either direction up and down Beach Road.

I’ve heard great things about Casa Violeta, Dos Ceibas, La Zebra, and the more upscale Coqui Coqui.

One special spot is Azulik–  we shot there a couple days the last time I was in Tulum.  It definitely has a honeymooner vibe as there is NO electricity– that’s right, no phone, no computer folks.  Just quality time with you and your lover— complete with a sweet, carved, wooden dipping pool overlooking the beach, a sexy white bed with a mosquito net, a swinging day bed on the terrace, and some curious iguanas. That’s it.  And the ocean of course.  You even put up a little flag for room service.  All the huts are connected by raised wooden planks in the jungle and everything looks like it is held together by rope made from palm fibers.  It’s a Robinson Crusoe kind of spot.

I’m sure there are lots of other good places to stay in Tulum, but these are the ones I’ve had first hand contact with or my friends have stayed at…. A little research will probably yield a lot more hidden gems…


I know there is a lot to check out in the biosphere, and if you are a diver there are nearby reefs that you explore.  There are also the ruins of Tulum itself as well as ruins at nearby Coba and a little further at Chichen Itza. 

ruins at Coba

Aside from Mayan ruins, the Yucatan is known for cenotes which you can swim or dive in.  They are deep natural pits or sinkholes in limestone filled with fresh turquoise water.  They often have caves and channels that lead out to sea and were once used by the Mayans for human sacrifice to the rain gods.  Some of them are quite magical, others a bit spooky.  If you have time, definitely check them out. They are particular to the region and a geological wonder.

Dos Ojos



I am going to go reggae heavy on this one because the Tulum vibe is so chill.  It’s nice to listen to the waves and the wind in the palms but if you need a little beat in the background to bump it up a notch I would recommend Studio One’s Rockers and Studio One’s Women.  Both harken back to the golden age of Jamaica’s famous record label and music studio and are the perfect soundtrack for lazing in your hammock while squeezing a slice of lime into your cerveza.

If you have access to wi-fi, you can stream the “Carribbean” playlists on Be warned! There you will be exposed to things you’ve never heard before, really good things– then you will scour the internet trying to find them to add to your own music collection and they will be so obscure that they are surely out of print and un-downloadable. Blast! Luckily they are neatly catalogued and listenable on this site curated by the very knowledgable connoisseur of tune-age, Charles Pates.

One last curve ball.  How about the first three tracks on the Drive soundtrack?  I listened to “Under Your Spell” by Desire every morning as the sun was rising over the sea on my last trip to Tulum and it worked.  Post modern electro chant while looking at waves made orange by the sun… Kind of ecstatic!


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Snapshot: San Miguel de Allende

All photos from a quick trip to San Miguel de Allende last week.  Need to go back when I have more time to explore!


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Reykjavik, Iceland

Clockwise from top left: Icelandic ponies, photo of girl on beach by Saga Sig, Gull Falls, stones from Vik

what to pack

1. Fur trapper hat 2. “Life Blanket” jacket 3. mittens 4. Cozy oversize sweater 5. Faux leather jeans  6. All weather boots 7.  Traditional Icelandic sweater 8. Boots for a night out 9. some ethereal sparkle

Iceland is insanely beautiful!! It’s the land of geysers, volcanoes, black sand beaches, ponies, and glaciers!  Reykjavik is the worlds’s northernmost capital city and is a perfect jumping off point for numerous day trips into untouched, rocky wilderness. The city itself is easy to explore on foot, but I would highly recommend having a car to investigate what lies beyond the edge of Iceland’s most populated urban area.  I have been there for work numerous times, but if I were to head there for vacation, I would plan on bringing all of my favorite albums and have a music-a-thon while driving the Ring Road, the highway that circles this island country.

Before we get outside of Reykjavik, let’s talk about the city itself.  It’s quaint nordic vibe and relaxed modernity make it a very user-friendly place.  The main street, Laugavegur, and it’s side streets are full of cool shops and restaurants and the locals are friendly and helpful.  Reykjavik has a super creative vibe and there are a lot of artists and musicians.  While I was there, I happened upon an art show by the Icelandic artist “Shoplifter” who’s main materials are synthetic hair and other fibers. You may recognize her work from some of Bjork’s album covers. I also was lucky to check out an outdoor music festival in the countryside that was headlined by the electro band Gus Gus.  It was in July, so at midnight the sun was still up– that makes it a little too easy to party all night!!

Fashion-wise, there’s definitely a look in Iceland.  For example, at the concert, it was a sea of lopis, the traditional Icelandic sweater– it’s a take on the fair isle and ALL the kids were sporting them! The lopis are made from the wool of the Icelandic sheep, which is known for it’s softness, sturdiness, and water resistance. Iceland is so sparsely populated that these special sheep out number people three to one!  Beyond the casual “lopi and jeans” look, there is a Euro/Scandinavian sensibility.  The women wear modern shapes, bright colors, and have a sense of whimsy- like they aren’t taking themselves too seriously.  At night, I saw sequins, capes, and fur hats. The weather, of course, adds a practical edge to their look– people are warm, cozy, and ready for whatever is on the radar– but all the girls still manage to look uber stylish.

You can dress for the city and going out at night, but it’s good to be more practical for outings to the countryside.  On that note, let’s talk about what you might find in Reykjavik.



Jet Korine This stylish shop became known for its chic winter coats made from “life blankets”, the blankets used in emergency rescues when someone has been stranded in  extreme weather.  You can see one in the “what to pack” section above.  She is also known for dying amazing cottons with tea and coffee.  Everything has a a very touchable vibe, and feels hand-made, yet sophisticated.  The designer is often in shop and will be happy to tell you what looks good on you– what works for your color, body type, your vibe– she is an artist!

Geysir Geysir is Reykjavik’s answer to a tourist shop but it’s still totally cool.  You can find modern takes on the traditional lopi, fur hats, amazing jackets, and Fjallraven backpacks.  It’s a great place for gifts and keepsakes, but don’t be fooled– these are not throw away pieces.  Geysir is stocked with stylish, quality winter staples that you will wear season after season.

KronKron Kron Kron is Iceland’s answer to Barney’s COOP.  If you need a quick fix of Marc by Marc, See by Chloe, or Acne, you’ve found your spot!

Kisan Kisan is a cool shop in Reykjavik that has a sister store in NYC’s Soho.  It carries Isabel Marant (buy her tax free in Iceland- word to the wise), Vanessa Bruno, and Tsumori Chisato.  There are also great gifts and spendy kids clothes.  I always pop in there to see if there are any deals to be had.  It has a soft, colorful, feminine sensibility and there is always something to covet.

Best Musical Instrument Store Ever– I can’t link to this place because I can find no evidence of it on the internet. I do not know it’s name but it surely has eighteen letters.  Every time I go to Reykjavik, I spend some time in this shop. If you ask around, you will find it– it’s in the center of town on a side street off of Laugavegur.  It is full of gorgeous, hand made instruments– from sitars and xylophones, to hand drums and ukeleles, to you name it.  There are also these amazing architectural, hand-carved wood seats that are stringed.  One person sits in the chair and the other person strums the harp strings near the sitter’s ears.  It apparently is used in sound therapy for people recovering from trauma.  If you are a music nerd like me, you will not be disappointed.  I bought a beautiful thumb piano mounted on a hand drum and it makes the most resonant, dreamy sound.  I also bought a mini steel drum that I plan on using to make some earthy, tropical jams in the near future.  This is a pic of the interior….

If you know the name of this place, please email me!!!

Food/ Drink


Saegreifinn This was one of my fav spots in Reykjavik.  It is basically a shack in the shipping harbor– it’s name translates to “the Sea Baron”.  I am a big fan of salty, buttery seafood soups and this is “that kind of stuff” heaven.  You can try local delicacies like shark and puffin, but I stuck to good old, rich, creamy, buttery lobster stew— ughhhhh— divine. After a cold day, it will put you right.

Fish and Chips  This is another good spot near the harbor.  It’s simple comfort food– basically fried fish with different dipping sauces and a salad.  Basic and good, you can’t go wrong, but you have to like fish, obviously.

Hotel 101  This is the best place to stay in Reykjavik.  It is modern, comfortable, and stylish and has a great lounge with art books and good wine.  The restaurant is also recommended. They mix up the menu so when you tire of fish, fish, and more fish, you might find a curry chicken dish or a great burger on their menu.

Kaffibarinn and Boston are both fun places to have a drink in Reykjavik.  In the summer, the sun never really sets and the locals stay out all night.  They definitely like to get rowdy and often drink this black, licorice tasting liquor (among other things).  The locals usually start the festivities at home and head out later in the evening for drinks…

There are lots of good restaurants– sushi, argentine, thai, etc. If you ask around, you will be surprised by the quality and variety, but to me the best things were the local, authentic Icelandic spots.



I really cannot begin to explain ALL of the noteworthy things to do near Reykjavik.  I can’t even scratch the surface.  Maybe this should be Reykjavik Post 1, which will be followed by 2, and then 3.  There is SO much to see and do– it is an outdoorsman/ outdoorswoman’s paradise.

There is Budir, Hotel Ranga, Vik, the glaciers, the geysers, volcanos, the northern lights, Icelandic ponies, whale watching, snowmobiling, hiking, camping, music, etc.  I really recommend watching the band, Sigur Ros’ film Heima.  See it before you go and it will give you a glimpse of the landscape, the people, the country’s sensibility…. Put it on in the background if you have a party, give it as a gift.  It’s a meditative pleasure.

mýrdalsjökull glacier

One thing that the locals would call a tourist trap is the geothermal Blue Lagoon.  Yeah, yeah, scoff all you like Icelanders, but it’s pretty special.  Just the color of the water alone is sensational.  Every Icelandic city has hot springs where the locals hang to unwind, catch up, and even do business– we visited some and they are like public pools in the U.S., but they are piping hot and warmed by the earth’s thermal energy.  Either way, visit the lagoon or a pool, it’s a part of the local culture and it’s soooooo relaxing….

The Blue Lagoon

patron saint

The visionary Bjork, proving that she had the chops even at the tender age of 7.


Where to begin?  As I mentioned earlier, this is a real music place.  It’s not just that there are lots of musicians and people passionate about music. It’s that there are so many beautiful places to drive long stretches and listen to yr fav songs.  Why does driving in beautiful places make music sound even better?

A couple suggestions: let’s start with the appropriate Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ros (maybe overplayed in some circles, but a classic nonetheless.  It came from this landscape!). Atlas Sound’s Parallax (echo-y pop with a nostalgic edge), Led Zeppelin III (for the viking in you), Bjork’s Vespertine (genius album, warm and feminine and liquid-y– she will make more sense to you when you see where she’s from).  Let’s throw in Holy Ghost’s Holy Ghost (to keep the party rolling into the wee hours).

Check out locals Gus Gus, Legend, and Hjalmar.

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Snapshot: Machu Picchu

How did human beings build this on top of a mountain in the jungle in the 15th century? Breathtaking!  I will talk more about my time in Peru in an upcoming post here at Wax + Cruz soon!

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Snapshot: Ibiza

This was one of my favorite beaches in Ibiza last fall.  Benniras is famous for impromptu drum circles and full moon parties.  A perfect spot to swim until the sun goes down and hang on the beach with all the bohemian families until the moon comes up…

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Santa Cruz, California

Images clockwise from top left: Background image by Lydia Burkhalter, Bing “Dear and Yonder” surfboards, girl in jeans (unknown), print by artist Thomas Campbell, photo by Ryan Tater, photo of Ashley Lloyd by Tiffany Campbell

what to pack

1.Post-surf beanie 2.Your fave cozy sweater and jeans 3.borrow a bike and cruz! 4. Your 4/3 suit for cold water  5. surfboard 6. Comfy shoes for long walks in the woods 7. Backpack 8. A step up from yr tennis shoes 9. Vest to keep the chill off

Do you guys remember “The Lost Boys”?  Yeah, that movie about moto-punk vampires that lived in a cave in coastal California?  My eight year old mind was completely and totally fascinated by that film when it came out.  The gypsy rocker style of “Star”, the half-vamp love interest, the carnival on the coast, the weird California ranch where “Grandpa” lived– and Jason Patric! Oh yeah, that film captured my eight year old imagination to the fullest. Does this seem like a tangent? But wait!

Well, it was filmed in Santa Cruz.  While there is no evidence there are gypsy punk vamps in SC (sad face), I do feel there is something otherworldly and magical about it.  It is a college town of surfers, organic farms, and activists. There are gorgeous cliffs that overlook the misty Pacific, world class waves, and coastal Redwoods.  It’s pretty gorgeous.

I’m not really going to talk about shopping or great food in SC– just the vibe.  Who cares about shopping when you can cruise the whole town on bikes, go to a full moon dance party on an organic farm, and surf some of the best waves in the country?  The couple times I have been there, I felt really relaxed, happy, healthy, –connected (to nature!).

We visited our buddy, Jordy, who works at Free Wheelin’ Farm– this place supplies restaurants and groceries from SC to San Francisco with organic fruits and veggies.  They even bike their produce into town– hence the name! Yep, they practice what they preach. “Beyond simply growing fresh, healthy food, Freewheelin’ Farm is also at the forefront of the growing movement towards community renewal, addressing issues of environment, health, and social equity in a simple and delicious way!”

For example, you might enjoy some of their produce if you dine at Ristorante Avanti– a restaurant who’s motto is “supporting community through sustainability”.  You get the idea! People here care about the environment.  I had a fantastic meal there– a brussel sprout salad to die for, local grilled trout, a crazy chocolate pot de creme that everyone at our table talked about the next day.

We also spent a lot of time at the beach. If you are a big dog surfer you can paddle out at Three Mile, Four Mile, or even the sharky Ano Nuevo.  If you are a small fry like me, Cowells is a great long boarding wave… get there early because it’s crowded!  Like any good spot in the world, there is a sense of localism, so if you paddle out, know your place in the line-up and be polite. There are some toughies in the water and they are more than happy to let you know that you might be in their way.

After some good beach time, we cruised on our bikes to a BBQ, and went to a local berry farm where we met some rad Canadian girls who were biking from Vancouver to Mexico!

We were also very lucky to be hosted by the dynamic, creative duo of Thomas and Tiffany Campbell.  They are both artists and filmmakers– Thomas made the surf trio “The Seedling”, “Sprout” and “The Present”.  Tiffany made “Dear and Yonder” about some incredible women in the surf and skate world.  Their house up in the redwoods was a dream spot full of art and good cooking.  Really cool, inspiring people– can’t wait to see what they get up to next…

On our last night, we hiked up from the beach during a supernatural sunset.  The bright orange and lavender light was shining through spindrift and my guy was buzzing from scoring great surf.  We looked at each other–hmmmm, “maybe just one more night here?”  Unfortunately, we had to move on up the coast to get to a wedding north of San Francisco, but yeah we are already planning our next trip back….


The Mystery Spot is located up in the redwoods just outside Santa Cruz. The beauty of the forest-y hills alone is worth a visit.  Beyond that, you can take a guided tour of a supposed “gravitational anomaly” where “you will be stunned as your perceptions of the laws of physics are questioned”.  While I was not stunned, I was stumped and amused and it was a fun way to spend a couple hours in the woods.  Below Elle Fanning rocks a sweatshirt from the Mystery Spot souvenir shop in a recent editorial shot by Bill Owens.  Seeing how adorable she looks, I feel slightly bummed that I didn’t shell out the twenty bucks for this quirky keepsake from my time in SC.


Patron Saint

 Surf pioneer and founder of O’Neill Wetsuits, Jack O’Neill and his first surf shop


For driving up the coast out of town on Highway 1: Girls’ Album (sincerity, heartbreak, dreams!!), Peaking Lights’ 936 (ethereal quirky dub from Madison, Wisconson), David Axelrod’s Song of Innocence (visionary! late 60’s, cinematic, sprawling surf symphonies)
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Austin, Texas

Clockwise from top left: image from JM Drygoods, Erin Wassen in Elle Italia, Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits, Heritage Boots sign, Hotel Saint Cecilia

what to pack

1. tie-dye dress 2. sexy t-shirts 3. tribal cuff 4. printed denim 5. ikat jacket 6. sweet slip-ons
7. fringed clutch 8. the perfect bootie 9. weekend bag 10. turquoise jewels

I have a very special place in my heart for Austin, Texas.  It is a laid back southern city of rockers, college students, and cowboys. I have never been there and not had a great time. Highlights include amazing food, good swim sessions at the local watering holes, and treasure hunting in the city’s many stylish boutiques and vintage shops. Austin has grown up a lot since I went to the University of Texas there 10 years ago.  There is more of everything– shopping, restaurants, people, stylish hotels, etc. — yet it still has the charm of a small town.  The community is warm and hospitable. There are still honky tonks where you can go two-stepping on a Saturday night (The Broken Spoke), or you can frequent one of the city’s many venues to check out a local band that may just be the next big thing.

Austin is a pretty casual place. The people here are stylish, but understated.  The city has an earthy, textural sensibility and you can pretty much get away with cut-offs (high waisted for the Dazed and Confused effect), cute sandals, and t-shirt in the summer. There is definitely a southern twist, so if you want to break out the cowboy boots you never wear, this is the time! This city can handle a little fringe and flash of course– just ask these guys.  At night you can go all out if you’re feeling it, but denim is big and always appropriate.


As a person that lives in New York, I often believe that I have everything at my fingertips.  My last trip to Austin proved me wrong! I saw so many new things– great designers, awesome, well-priced vintage, and highly curated shops that would give any NY boutique a run for it’s money.  Here are some of the highlights…

Spartan/ Bows and Arrows These two stores are connected (Spartan is more jewelry and home goods while Bows and Arrows is more clothing- men’s and women’s).  I bought a beautiful little Santa Fe Stoneworks pocket knife for my dad, a men’s APC sweatshirt for myself, and some Dream Collective earrings for my sis.  I heavily coveted all of the Bellocq teas, gorgeous glasses, and a tablecloth for my home.  I also had my eyes on some vintage turquoise cuffs, some Erin Considine jewelry, and the dreamiest baby blue Loup Charmant cotton dress.  Beware: you will be tempted to part with copious amounts of your hard earned dough!!

Feathers Vintage Boutique  This is usually my first stop in Austin.  I am such a sucker for the color-coordinated racks full of awesomely-priced, stylish pieces. It is one of the most curated vintage shops I have been to, so you really feel like the girls that own the shop are presenting you with the cream of the crop. On my last trip I found some fantastic rocker T’s by local designer Alchemy.  I got a dreamy handcrafted black fringed vest that pretty much made my New Years outfit perfectly over the top. Look for fur vests, moroccan sun dresses, vintage ZZ Top t-shirts, and great leather boots…

Uncommon Objects  Another dreamy spot! Uncommon Objects is a famous Austin antique store on South Congress that rents booths out to different vendors. The owners have great taste so each booth is like its own little museum– everything curated and in its place.  The jewelry bays will keep all you magpies busy for hours– American Indian turquoise, Victorian glass, art deco gems.  On my last trip, I bought a set of gorgeous Thai teak carved lamps from the 60s-  functional and in perfect condtion.  I also got an African thumb piano for my collection and a ruby horseshoe lapel pin.  Something I passed up on that still haunts me was an original framed Victor Vasarely print– surely hanging over some design maven’s couch by now…

While you are on South Congress hit up the famous Heritage Boots for a pair of artisanal cowboy boots in any color, skin, or style you can dream of…

JM Drygoods Finding this spot was a real thrill– I got a tip off from my go-to stylish ladyfriend in A-town, Gabriella Ainslie (holla!).  Housed in a small house north of W. 6th street, this store is not to be missed.  Look for a more in depth profile of these stylish peeps here at Wax + Cruz soon.  In the meantime I can just tell you that I was in poncho heaven.  The owner travels to Oaxaca to source amazing textiles and homegoods.  I purchased a hot pink poncho that I will be rocking with cut-offs all summer.  There were also vintage blankets and cowboy boots, beautiful handmade leather furniture, and great little gifts for everyone in your life.

Kickpleat  For the modern big-city girl in a medium sized city.  This place is full of style.  They carry everything from ACNE and Humanoid to Lizzie Fortunato and Rachel Comey.  When I went, there happened to be a juicy sale going on, so I cleaned up on labels like IRO, Ace & Jig, and Boyfriend/Girlfriend.  Tastemakers they are– you won’t be dispappointed.

food/ drink

Polvos This is another first stop when I get to Austin.  There is a lot of great Mexican food in A-town, but for some reason the gravitational pull of Polvo’s is really strong.  You can start your experience with a giant top shelf margarita and a trip to the salsa bar where you will see a myriad of colors and textures.  My fav is the dark red, smoky one– unlimited quantities y’all!  Then I usually gorge myself on chile con queso and an order of the chile relleno con pollo complete with refried beans and rice.  To me this place is Tex Mex at its best, super indulgent and saucy.  If you want something slightly less- ahem- hefty, my mom always gets the shrimp fajitas with fresh veggies– those are good too!

Justines Justine’s is a relatively new French joint that has pioneered the outer eastern neighborhood of the city.  The best thing about this place is its home-y outdoor patio and the lively soundtrack that keeps this crowded restaurant feeling like a party until late night.  I like Justine’s for drinks and dessert.  It’s a great place to end the night with friends.

Lamberts Lambert’s specializes in modern Texas cuisine and “inventive BBQ”.  There is usually live music and the food is fantastic. One time I had a smoked quail (one of my favorite things in the world), wrapped in bacon, stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese, served over cheese grits and it somehow managed to taste light, elegant, and delicate.  Impossible but true!

Jo’s Coffee Worth mentioning because of its location alone… A friendly spot connected to the San Jose Hotel on South Congress.  Grab a strong cup of coffee and a breakfast taco, sit on the patio, and watch the world go by… Hippies, street folks, students, shoppers, musicians, etc.  Austin is full of beautiful people!

Uchiko When you get tired of all the Mexican food and BBQ, hit up fancy Uchi or the more relaxed Uchiko for some world class, modern Japanese fare.  Everything I had here was exceptional– a really fun place to have a meal with friends and share lots of small plates.

Saltlick BBQ For some real deal, authentic, saucy, smoky goodness head out FM 1826 to the outskirts of town to Saltlick BBQ.  This will satisfy all of your carnivorous cravings in a good ol’ boy setting.  It’s not fancy– just really good.  Everything is smoked outside over fiery pits, so as you approach your mouth starts watering involuntarily.  Cash only and BYOB.

Where to stay

The Hotel San Jose and Hotel Saint Cecilia are owned by the same person and are both totally cool and stylish. They are located in the South Congress neighborhood so walking to the strip is easy.  Also notable is the beautiful patio at the San Jose– I have spent many a night there among the agave plants, drinking the best micheladas money can buy.  They always play really good music too! Book ahead, they fill up.

Noteworthy: Barton springs

One last very important thing worth mentioning is Barton Springs– the jewel of Austin. It’s a natural cold spring right in the middle of the city, just south of Town Lake.  In the summer, it is populated with the entire town trying to escape the 100 degree temps in the 68 degree water.  In the winter, you can still take a refreshingly icy dip without the crowds. I had a really lovely, meditative moment floating in the water this past December when I took this pic. This only shows one half of the spring– it is huge and the bottom is all natural so there is plant life and fish!  If you are passing through the capitol city, don’t miss out on this gorgeous piece of local culture!

Patron saints

Soulful rockers: Willy Nelson, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top


Willie Nelson’s Teatro (for a lazy morning or a beer on the porch at dusk), ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres (for the rocker in you– the one that wears fringe), 13th Floor Elevators’ The Very Best of: Going Up (for your “rock and roll roots” as my mama would say), and for sheer nostalgia for my college years, Built to Spill’s There’s Nothing Wrong with Love and Perfect from Now On

Also, check out Austin locals: Soft Healer, Boyfriend, and Love Inks.  All share a dreamy, languid quality but manage to keep it modern.

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