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Travel notes by-and-for the urban traveller

Berlin Spin

Berlin is happening, and it’s happening now.  Affordable by European standards (and Miami for that matter!) this city is easy to navigate and definitely worth a spin-through. Check it out, get dizzy!

Here are some of our favorite shopping stops.

  • ANDREAS MURKUDIS – this expansive concept store offers one of the most exciting hard-to-get brand selections we’ve seen in a long time and it is definitely one of our favorites. Fashion, jewelry, fragrances and art,  and it’s all here and painstakingly hand-picked. Check out the mind-blowing selection of modern interpretation Nymphemburg porcelain.
    Andreas Murkudis: Postdamer Straße 81E, 10785 Berlin

  • WHEADON COSMETICS – The brain-child of Nicole Wheadon, this minimalist and beautifully designed gem offers a unique selection of organic, eco-friendly beauty products and a carefully selected range of hard-to-find fragrances. But that’s not all – book yourself in for a late-night make-over. The basement salon is open well into the night to primp you up just before you hit the scene. Isn’t that exactly when you need it?
    Wheadon Cosmetics: Steinstraße 17, Berlin, D-10119
  • BREATHE –  Possibly the most elevated perfume presence we visited in Berlin, just a stone’s throw away from the Lux-11, the KBG-office-turned-hotel place where we stayed. With an outstanding selection of niche fragrances and very, very knowledgeable staff it is simply a must.
    Breathe Cosmetics: Rosa-Luxemburg-straße 28, 10178 Berlin
  • QUARTIER 206 – You haven’t experienced deluxe untill you visit Quartier 206. Smack in the middle of the shopping district, it stands way above the rest with an artfully crafted selection of the most desirable griffes in the world. Northern Europe’s answer to Club 21.  Must check the flower shop at ground level.
    Quartier 206:Friederichstraße 71, DE-10117 Berlin Mitte

To cap off an evening finale, head to the Hilton for a drink at the lobby bar, if nothing else only to enjoy the revolving doors’ amazing spinning flower arrangement: we are still recovering from the sheer majesty of it all!

Monies: A Love Affair

Call it beauty, call it love.  Call it a frolic through fossilized mammoth ivory.

Monies one-of-a-kind creations left and right. Gerda Lynggaard and Nikoli Monies, center.

As we descend into Copenhagen direct from Miami on this sunny summer Sunday morning, we know we had been delivered straight to the cradle of Scandinavian artistic talent.

Upon arrival at the Copenhagen airport, we were greeted by none other than dashing jeweler-extraordinaire Nikolai Monies of the husband-and-wife creative dream-team behind the famed Monies jewelry brand.

As we were escorted through this city rich in Scandinavian history, the ride into Copenhagen is brought to life by Nikolai’s explanation of city historical landmarks.  We drove past the Royal castle, approaching the idyllic harbor-front Monies workshop and retail space, located right by the Kastellet fortress –  a stone’s throw from the Little Mermaid.

Monies workshop and retail space in Copenhagen.

We were graciously received with a fragrant breakfast of delicious Danish pastries and hot coffee. Heaven! We’re in the presence of some of the most talented jewelers in the world.

Nikolai’s wife Gerda Lynggaard met us at the workshop and from there we learned more intimate details about this special duo and their long-term and very loyal design team.

Gerda and Nikolai met during studies in 1973 where they trained together as goldsmiths.  For the last 40 years they have created a style completely unique, based on one-of-a-kind pieces and small production collections.

Over the years Monies have created memorable designs for some of the world’s biggest fashion houses like Chanel, Christian Lacroix and frequent collaborations with Donna Karan.  Today they are working entirely on creating and designing for the Monies eponymous brand.

Since the opening of the Monies shop on Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, several more retail boutiques have followed in other cities, including; Istanbul, Milan, Rome, Paris, Brescia and Lille.

Gerda and Nikolai’s work is based on natural materials that they personally gather from around the world, relics of a life lived by kindred, spirited and spontaneous souls. Elegant and avant-garde with a distinct sense of humor, each piece is its own stroke of genius.

Gerda focuses on proportion and form, while Nikolai approaches his work from a more technical point of reference (which helps explain the curious machinery on display in the workshop).

At the end of our time together Nikolai professes, ‘I’m married to the most talented jeweler in the world’.  How more glorious to summarize a lifetime of dedication and romance.

Paolo selects jewelry, left. Natural treasures at the workshop, center. Monies staff at work, right.

Helsinki Hot!

Helsinki: So cool it’s hot

Top of the World Helsinki

It’s with little surprise that Helsinki was named World Design Capital 2012. With brands like Iittala, Marimekko and Artek to name a few of the powerhouses that contributed to the iconic international design movement of the last century, Finnish design remains at the edge of avant-garde contemporary culture with its elevated clean lines and Scandinavian functionality.

During our brief visit to Helsinki we headed straight for the Design District to make some discoveries of our own. Navigating the district was a piece-of-cake, just follow your feet – stenciled sidewalk signs, conveniently placed on the pedestrian path for everyone to follow, guided us around. Starting from the top at the Design Museum we slowly made our way around the quaint “Old Town” where we found a trove of inspirations.

Recycled rotary phone handbags at Edel city, Isabelle at Iittala, recycled Character lamps at Pino.

Some of our favorite stops:

Edel City Eco Luxe – All recycled, made in Finland, unexpected supercool designs. Like the telephone bag we bought for Ali, our Sydney-based friend and owner of the  Arthouse Gallery .

Edel City Eco Luxe – Design District- Fredrikinkatu 33, Helsinki

Pino – Minimalist homewares, recycled signage lamps and designer mustard!

Pino – Design District Fredrikinkatu 22, Helsinki

Save the C  – smartly-designed and practical beach bags made of recycled sails and other sustainable materials. We loved them so much, we brought them over for you! See them in-store at Babalu Miami.

Artek -Eteläesplanadi 18, Helsinki

Iittala – most iconic Finnish brands specializing in glass and definitely one of our favorites! Check their Uber-modern Aarne glassware and their minimalist Kivi candleholders. Available online at Babalu Miami.

Iittala – Pohjoisesplanadi 25, Helsinki

Marimekko – Bold, bright and always cheerful Marimekko prints are possibly the most recognizable export from Finland. From modern clothing to fashion accessories and homewares, one is left spoiled for choice. Check out this season striped city backpack, a total must have. Greg loves his!

Marimekko – Pohjoisesplanadi 33, Helsinki

Carry tote bag by Save the C, Aarno glassware and colorful Kivi tealight holder available at Babalu Miami.


Other popular design events and attractions:

Helsinki Design Week

Design Museum
Design District Korkeavuorenkatu 23, Helsinki

Museum of Finnish Architecture
Kasarmikatu 24, Helsinki

Last but not least (and otherwise totally unrelated to this topic) is the unmissable Market Square.

Chanterelle mushroom vendor, grilled salmon stand and summer berries at the Market Square in central Helsinki.

Located in central downtown Helsinki on the eastern end of Esplanadi Street, a bustling food market boasts freshly caught local seafood prepared right in front of you, Finnish style. Grilled Salmon with potatoes, fried whitefish with blinis and garlic sauce, and crayfish with dill on hot butter toast, yummy! After all this shopping one’s gotta eat. Hyvää ruokahalua!

Lobster and the City – Clawing for More

It’s no secret that Chelsea Market is a favorite stop while visiting NYC’s Chelsea and Meatpacking District. It’s a long-time favorite for NY locals and tourists alike.

Enjoying a wonderfully robust Miami Beach-based life of work and play that includes frequent trips to NY, it’s nevertheless the rarer occasion to return to my deeper Northeastern roots. So, when passing through Chelsea Market recently, I came across The Lobster Place, and it was as if I’d been transported home back to the days we’d catch our own lobsters in Connecticut.

Now that I’d tripped onto the equivalent of a seaside lobster shack in the middle of the New York concrete jungle, I pulled a ticket and waited in line to choose the lobster that was clearly beckoning. Within a few short New York minutes and a check-out line that synchronized itself with bringing a fresh lobster to perfection, I was soon delivered the most glorious steamed red lobster, replete with mountains of sliced lemons, cracked claws and all the melted butter a guy’s heart could desire. Crustacean heaven, and all at $14/95/lb eat-in, $12.95/lb takeaway (prices may fluctuate seasonally but I was assured by the staff that The Lobster Place remains open year-round). Finding a seat was the most challenging part, but persistence prevailed and as I sat down to enjoy my bounty, I knew I was the luckiest guy in New York. Never mind that I almost missed my flight back home, it all worked out – the affable Moroccan cab driver clearly mastered the act of magic carpet hi-speed racing in a previous life. – Greg


Must Go! (The sushi is highly recommended, too)


Chelsea Market
75 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10011


Year Round – 365

Mon-Fri: 9:30am-9pm
Sat: 9:30am-9pm
Sun: 10am-8pm

The ABBA Syndrome

Often referred to as the Paris of Scandinavia, Stockholm’s grand history and beauty open wide upon arrival. Exploring the city for the first time, we checked-in with our long-time friend Yvonne, tastemaker and co-designer of Swedish jewelry brand Yvone Crista to share her insider picks.

Scandinavian modern design has been a definitive cultural influence for the past century and celebrated the world-over through to today, but as revealed through Yvonne’s perspective, the heart of Sweden lies in celebration of its elegant sense of tradition.

Cashmere Mushroom Hunter: Yvonne picking Chanterelles in Saltsjöbaden. Greg cycling along the Stockholm shoreline.


It’s of natural instinct to conjure images of Ingrid Berman holding court in the intimate salon booths upon entering the famed TeaterGrillen (but be not fooled – Ms. Bergman was indeed a regular here). Located near the Royal Theater, history permeates the walls of this historical landmark, now one of Sweden’s favored restaurants. Wonderful tableside service and hearty continental food are guaranteed, but the cozy and intimate interiors set the tone. For a more modern take on a Parisian Cafe Stockholm-style, try the restaurant group’s newer eatery Riche, also centrally located. Crowd: hyper fashionable.

Lydmar Hotel and Restaurant is another step into the depth of European luxury, and it feels like walking into the home of a favorite aunt or uncle. Situated next to the National Museum and on the way to the Moderna Museet (Modern and Architecture Museum), you’ll encounter a high-fashion and hip scene, a great contrast to it’s historic backdrop. Be sure to check out the exquisite summertime water views via the outdoor terrace.

The Lydmar Hotel and Restaurant (left). “Sakuhin” installation by Sadamasa Motonaga at the Modern and Architecture Museum.

Gondolen: This is a visual feast of the senses whether it be in the view, the eye-candy or cuisine by renowned chef Erik Lallerstedt. Once you get past the entrance (avoid the Katarina elevator which takes you to the more touristy section), head directly up to the bar for one of the best views of southern Stockholm. You can go formal a la main dining room, but I usually opt to enjoy the bar scene which has the tempo of a great bistro and casualness of a speak-easy.

In Southern Stockholm, be sure to drop into the friendly Rival Hotel, owned by none other than ABBA member Benny Andersson. Try the delicious local oysters and peel-and-eat smoked prawns. Delish! And the second floor patio offers lovely views of the locals passing through the park below.

For lunch, visit Ostermalms Saluhall, our quintessentially traditional Swedish food hall. The Sushi here is delivered straight from heaven, but if new to Sweden I highly recommend stopping by Melanders, which is all about the freshest seafood. There’s something for every taste, and it’s perfect for eating in or taking home. Welcome to one of our Swedish institutions.

Ostermalms Saluhall, Gondolen by night, Riche.


NK Department Store must be mentioned as it’s truly the jewel in Stockholm’s shopping crown. A multi-department store featuring both local and international brands. The servicing is excellent and I often stop in for a gift simply because the gift wrap is so exquisite. NK offers everything from pencil erasers to sofas, all presented in luxury.

Nordiska Galleriet is a one-stop concept store for modern Scandinavian furniture and accessories. But what I love about their concept is that function is as important as the beautiful forms on display.

Started by Estrid Ericson in the 1924, Svensk Tenn has become one of Sweden’s most iconic shopping destinations for interiors and gifts. Featuring fabric designs by Josef Frank, it’s European prep on a grand scale. Replete with life-size porcelain pooches guarding the shop entrance and available for sale, the influence of Svensk Tenn has made its way to far-reaching destinations from Lake Como to Connecticut.

Design references found in the offering at Bruka Design are at the heart of every Swedish home living. Here you’ll find lobster platters and charming Swedish crockery for every purpose. An easy and enjoyable stop in central Stockholm.

Svensk Tenn, NK Department Store, Nordiska Galleriet.

Yvonne currently resides in the seaside Stockholm suburb of Saltsjöbaden. Yvone Crista’s newest jewelry collections are featured at Babalu Miami.

Stay tuned as we hear from Christina Soderstrom, Yvonne’s design partner at Yvone Crista with Copenhagen hot picks. Coming soon…

The Lock of Love

The secret to everlasting love? Keep it under lock and key! Forever-and-ever is as simple a placing a padlock over a bridge.

Trending now around the world, from Italy to Korea, France or Serbia! Where next? The Brickell Bridge? Be the first…

Love padlocks spotted on the bridge of the Warmemunde seaside resort in Germany during our recent visit.

… or simply follow the Babalu approach. Nothing says “I love you” better than a red silicone padlock designed by Harry Allen, Just make a wish and gift away.  Works best with the keys to your pad attached to it!

D.I.Y. Paradise

Whether in Miami, Maine or Manila, Paradise Found is simple as Home Economics 101.


  • 2 Kiwis
  • 1 Banana
  • 2 Mandarin Oranges
  • Your favorite plate


  • Flood Light (for full effect)
  • Chinese Umbrella

Paradise on a Plate

Follow the very simple visual instructions in the photo.

Try this in your own home and you’ll be in Paradise Realm.

No Sous Chef needed.

Hello sailor!

Sailors and Vodka! The perfect recipe for… Celebration.   St. Petersburg on Navy Day is a sight to behold. Forget the gilded palaces, the show is on the road.  Wear your stripes, wave the flag and swig away. All the sailors are having fun.

Russia celebrates Navy Day on July 31

Bali & Beyond!

Our gallivanting Aussie Brent checks-in and checks-out of Indonesia’s super-luxe Aman Resorts…

Where's Brent Been?

You would know if you read my earlier post “Amankila’s 20th Anniversary” that I have just visited Bali and Indonesia. Primarily I travelled to Bali to attend the celebration at Amankila, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to stay a little longer and explore Indonesia a little further. I travelled to Java for the first time and was lucky enough to experience the mystical enigma that is Amanjiwo.

It was a whirlwind of Amanresorts with their “Bali & Beyond” experience being the best way to explore this fabulous country. You get to experience one of the three Bali properties Amanusa, Amankila or Amandari combined with Amanwana on Moyo Island (a glamorous tented dive resort which I have visited before) or Amanjiwo, the temple of sophistication complete with the killer postcard views of Borobudur itself. Amanjiwo and Amandari were my choice for this trip, Chrissie from Amanresorts and one of my very best buddies had…

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All You Need is Vodka!

When it’s summer in North America, we forget it’s winter in South America! As Miami temperatures hit 90, here’s a refreshing look at a Springtime cruise on the bristling waters of Lake Argentino at El Calafate in Patagonia. That’s in Argentina, btw, gringos. Our adventurous jetsetters Omar and Guillermo traversed the spectacular glacier minitrekking on nail-booted foot (called crampons) for over two hours. Brr-rr-r-r-r-r-r!
It’s way below freezing now; tours ended first week of June. But, you can plan ahead: Bring Malin+Goetz lip balm.

Photo: Omar Hernandez