Behind-the-Scenes Filming for National Geographic Travel

Just me hanging out by myself on a picnic...

Just me hanging out by myself on a picnic...

This summer, I filmed a short video on Quebec City for National Geographic Travel. It is less than three minutes long, but it took two 16-hour days to film. Here's the final video.

I really like how it turned out, and it's mostly thanks to my videographer, Hai-Lam Phan. We worked really well together, and he understood what was important to me (therefore, I was super comfortable with him), while knowing what would work best on camera.

I'd wake up at 6:30am, attempt hair & make-up, then meet Hai and our local assistant Annabelle in the lobby. Most of all, I was obsessed with showing only really great places - places that a visitor would love.

I eat a lot in the video. No human can eat that much food, no matter how delicious. We'd film a bite or two for camera. We filmed at this super popular local bar - you have to find engaging, fun people to talk to and show on camera. A lot of people (more than I thought!) absolutely do NOT want to be on camera. We found a great group of guys-hockey players!-and then an amazing group of women, students at the local university.

What I love most about filming is it gives you greater access to people. My favorite moment of the video is when the mother kisses her son at Cafe St-Malo and says "My son" - I tear up every time! She started the restaurant and he has been working there since he was a toddler.

Canadian hockey players!

Canadian hockey players!

Green Beans, Brown Rice, & Feta

I miss my kitchen so much when I travel. I am leaving for Texas tomorrow and am making lemon chicken and a salad as my "last meal." But this simple little dish is what I crave the most when I'm gone. I've had it three times this week. 

All you do is cook some brown rice, swirl the rice with olive oil in a non-stick pan (garlic olive oil is nice too), add some chopped green beans, a big handful of feta cheese, and a sprinkling of sea salt (but not too much, as feta is salty). Sometimes I'll throw on some Italian or Greek seasonings. This is the most comforting bowl. It's also perfect to bring on the plane. 

Here's another one of my favorite travel salads with quinoa, cranberries & pecans.

Early Morning Sidecar Tour of Saigon

An early morning sidecar tour of Saigon is a total assault on the senses. You're moving too fast to absorb any one thing but yet you're breathing in everything - the motorcycle exhaust, the smell of the river and the humid air, Asian food cooking early in the morning, the restaurants named Cat Cafe and Texas Chicken.

I loved the early morning markets with chickens in cages and old women balancing giant baskets filled with fruit and hundreds of bananas piled up. And of course people were all staring at us - tourists zipping through town on expensive sidecar motorcycles.

Our group enjoyed stopping for sweet Vietnamese coffee at a local park, where the men come to chat and show off their birds.

Men (and a couple women) show off their birds during a morning chat

Men (and a couple women) show off their birds during a morning chat

It was the best thing I did in Saigon. I've been getting a lot of e-mails about how to book it, so I wanted to post the info here. My hotel, The Reverie Saigon, booked it for me through Indochina Heritage Travel. You don't have to do it super early (we left at 6:30am), but I loved zooming through the city as it woke up. A four-hour tour for one person on a sidecar is $215. If you have two people in the sidecar, the cost is reduced to $135 per person (as of October 2015).

Waiting at The Reverie Saigon to leave

Waiting at The Reverie Saigon to leave

The Dolder Grand in Zurich

I started this blog years ago because of an obsessive love I had for great hotels. The Dolder Grand, located in the hills above Zurich, Switzerland, is one of the GREAT ones. It reopened in 2008 after no Swiss franc was spared for its renovation and restoration. Famed architect Norman Foster designed two wings surrounding the historic main building.

The artwork is provocative...and FAMOUS - don't miss the Warhol above the check-in desk. The award-winning spa (most recently Virtuoso's Best Spa winner) is enormous and stunning. Basically, this place is another world. It's an easy "Dolderbahn" ride into the center of Zurich but you won't want to leave once you're here.

Flytographer Shoot in Berlin!

I don't buy much when I travel, but I've always taken hundreds of photos. But when you're traveling with a group, the photos end up being of some of you, or weird, blurry selfies.

My siblings and I rented an apartment in Berlin last weekend - the first time we had done this without parents. I wanted to get some great photos of us and a friend recommended Flytographer. They connect you to local photographers in over 150 destinations around the world. It's SO EASY and fun! We chose the one-hour package, which included 1-2 locations, and 30 digital photos. All I said was that I wanted the photos to feel "very Berlin." These were snapped on the most gorgeous August evening, at the Oberbaumbrücke, near the East Side Gallery.

I can't recommend this company highly enough and can't wait to use them again. Thank you, Nina Reinsdorf, for taking our photos!

Here are some of my favorite shots.