Christmas in Munich

I just returned from a couple of days in Munich, after a German National Tourist Board summit. I rediscovered how much I loved this city (it has lately been all about Berlin for me) - it feels like a large village and is especially charming at Christmas. 

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Clockwise, from top left: 

1. The Mandarin Oriental Munich is perfect – best location, fireplace in the cozy little bar where they do afternoon tea, fantastic seafood at Nobu’s Matsuhisa – how many schnitzels before you need a break (for me, it's one)? This is the VIEW from my room. 

2. I am completely obsessed with stollen, a traditional Christmas cake originally from Dresden. I thought that it was a brick-like hunk of glorified fruit cake, something best suited for playing catch. No. It’s fantastic – soft, crumbly, sugary, chewy. It lasts about three months (!) – the Christmas markets sell the original 100-year-old+ Dresden recipe version, but also check out the Kreutzkramm bakery in the center.

3. This is the Seehaus in the Englischer Garten, Munich's Central Park – you can grab beer and a wurst outside, or enjoy “real food” inside. It’s wonderful, it’s packed, it’s fun. The park is the perhaps the best city park I’ve been to – pretty little rivers, a hillside temple, a Japanese teahouse, the Chinese Tower, and watching the surfers on the Eisbach. Pro tip: portions of the park are an “urban naked zone.”

4. My amazing guide from Culture Trip Germany suggested Lehel when I asked for a “real” neighborhood to explore near the center.This is where I stumbled upon Patisserie Dukatz, a perfect little bakery where they sell addictive stollenkonfekt – bite-sized stollen (can you tell stollen is a theme here?). Get coffee or breakfast and watch all the locals line up.

Christmas Markets: Skip Marienplatz but don’t miss these - The Residenz, the Middle Ages market on Wittelsbachplatz and the most romantic one surrounding the Chinese Tower in the Englischer Garten. 

This Magical Place Called Melchsee-Frutt

Chances are if you've been to Switzerland, you have never been to or heard of Melchsee-Frutt, a tiny ski resort 45 minutes from Lucerne. You dream of Gstaad or St. Moritz or Zermatt. But part of the joy of getting to know Switzerland better has been discovering tiny little villages - ones I had no idea existed. For the Swiss, especially those who live in or around Lucerne, Melchsee-Frutt is pretty well-known.

There isn't a lot up here. I think 100 people live here year-round. If you want a buzzing restaurant scene, people decked out in Canada Goose and Prada ski clothes, Chanel storefronts, and glossy magazines breathlessly covering the society of the ski town (hello Aspen - I love you too), this isn't the alpine village for you. 

But. BUT. If you want to truly disconnect (but yes, there is free, fast WiFi), finish that book you've been meaning to finish for months, actually talk to your partner (really talk, about life and plans, and solve long-stewing debates), spend time in a wonderful spa, hike in gorgeous Alpine scenery followed by a hot bowl of soup, and feel your shoulders relax for the first time in months, this is the place for you. 

We stayed at the WONDERFUL Frutt Lodge, where the food is delicious (including the breakfast buffet), and the rooms are sink-into-your-bed worthy. The main lodge is separated from the family-friendly lodge by an underground tunnel.  

Day one was rainy and gross and I still loved it because it meant we didn't really leave Frutt Lodge. We still did a 45-minute walk around the lake in the cold fog. I got a massage, swam in the gorgeous spa pool, read my book at the bar (with Swiss cow bells adorning it), and read some more in the super cozy lobby lounge with a crackling fireplace. 

Day two the sun shone brilliantly and we hiked again, past the picture-perfect church, next to the clear, glassy lake, breathing in that crisp, perfect Alpine air.  

I love so many places in Switzerland, but this feels like a secret. I can't wait to go back. 

  • Tip: You need a car to get here. You can drive all the way up to Melchsee-Frutt and park it in the lot (and you won't use it for the rest of your trip as you can't drive in the village) or park it at the base of the mountain and take the gondola up with your luggage. 
Driving down the mountain, back to Lucerne

Driving down the mountain, back to Lucerne

Happy Halloween

Anyone else obsessed with Me Before You - first the book, then the movie? #bumblebeetights 

“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to
live it as
fully as possible.”

Hotel Photos: Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna - lobby lounge

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna - lobby lounge

I just returned from a trip to Austria, which always feels nostalgic. Vienna is where I chose to spend time in college - I couldn't believe how grand and stunning the city was. Plus, I have always loved the German language, coffee and cake breaks, and classical music. Vienna was made for me. Today, it isn't trying to be the next Berlin or Brooklyn - there is great innovation and a young spirit, but it really leans into that imperial court feel and coffeehouse culture. I love that. 

The first hotel I stayed in was the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna, in one of the Hansen Suites. The hotel is whimsical and has a hint of French flair - the lobby lounge has pops of color and a huge low-hanging chandelier, while my room was masculine and muted. It's a great choice for Vienna, ever so slightly removed from the city center, but an easy walk to everything you need.

Tiny, Beautiful Things

I became a travel writer/editor because I wanted to live a million different lives. My favorite part of my job is that it lets me step into someone else's shoes for an hour, a day, a week - to spend moments in their ordinary lives that are extraordinary to me. And it makes me think - what are paths they and I didn't take? Cheryl Strayed called these paths the "ghost ships that didn't carry us." 

I am a huge reader but can count very few books as LIFE-CHANGING - "Tiny, Beautiful Things" is one of them. Written by Cheryl Strayed (of "Wild" fame), the book is a series of advice columns that she originally answered anonymously as "Sugar." She answers the most difficult, personal questions of life with endless compassion and complete honesty - and doesn't let you off the hook. 

I read it in the aftermath of what it looks like to take divergent roads when you thought you'd be with someone forever. It completely slayed me, while holding me up. I cannot tell you what this book means to me - and what it has meant to so many friends of mine, as well. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, that you might need to read today: 

  • "Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are....."
  • “Who would I have met if I had bicycled across Iceland and hiked across Mongolia and what would I have experienced and where would that have taken me? I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” 
  • “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you'll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
  • "She offers what we wish every mother would: enough compassion to make us feel safe within our broken need, and enough wisdom to hold on to hope." 
  • "Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep."
  • "The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”
  • “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” 
  • "Fear of being alone is not a good reason to stay. Leaving this man you've been with for six years won't be easy, but you'll be okay and so will he. The end of your relationship with him will likely also mark the end of an era of your life. In moving into this next era there are going to be things you lose and things you gain." 
  • "And 'if your Nerve deny you--,' as Emily Dickinson wrote, "go above your Nerve."
  • "Some people will judge and condemn you, but most won't. Our minds are small, but our hearts are big. Just about every one of us has fucked up at one point or another." 
  • "In spite of my fears, I didn't regret having a baby. My son's body against mine was the clarity I never had. The first few weeks of his life, I felt honestly rattled by the knowledge of how close I'd come to opting to live my life without him. It was a penetrating, relentless, unalterable thing, to be his mother, my life ending and beginning at once."