Category Archives: Gum Tree Travels

Gum Tree Guide to Marrakech, Morocco…

Hey Everyone,

Well, I finally did it.  I took my dream trip to Morocco with a great group of friends.  It was everything I hoped it would be and more, and all I can do now is dream about going back!

Marrakech was absolutely magical.  The warmth of the people, the colors, the scents and sounds, it was all so overwhelming and wonderful.

I hope this Gum Tree Guide to Marrakech inspires you to take a trip you’ve been dreaming of.

I became obsessed with visiting Morocco probably 15 years ago.  Then a couple of years ago I began following the beautiful Riad El Fenn on Instagram, and through that feed found others that brought the ancient city to life for me.  I can honestly say that Instagram helped me plan my entire trip, where to eat and shop, what to look for, it’s a great tool in so many ways.

To Stay…

There are hundreds of Riads in the Medina (the old city) of Marrakech, but I knew I would stay at El Fenn on this trip.  It’s a collection of many centuries old family homes gathered together over the years by Vanessa Branson, sister to Sir Richard, and her longtime friend Howell James.

Everywhere you look you’ll find a beautiful scene.  The color and light and sound of chirping birds envelope you, and the three pools provide welcome respite to the desert heat after a long day in the Souks.

The floors of our room were patched camel leather, covered in the softest rugs, and lead outside the room to tiled corridors.  The walls were painted in rich hues using the tadelakt, or lime plaster technique, high ceilings, comfortable beds and beautiful artwork abound in each room.

You’ll find a different color scheme in every room, with unique textiles, lighting and carved plaster details.  A welcome bottle of wine greats you on your first day and a pot of coffee, and hot water for tea are left outside your room each morning.

As beautiful as the rooms were, the staff was even lovelier.  Bell was our go to guy in the reception area, helping us find a guide on the first day for a tour of the souks, booking our Hammam appointments, dinner reservations, calling taxis, even sending someone to collect us when we got lost in the Medina.

Breakfast every morning on the beautiful rooftop was the perfect way to start the day.

Homemade granola, fresh baked bread and croissants, and mint tea or strong coffee served on turquoise tiled tables, I could have stayed up on that rooftop all day everyday.

We also had dinner up on the roof, and lunch, and each time the service and food were excellent.

A couple of other Riad recommendations from my Instagram research include…
Riad Yasmine
Riad Jardin Secret

But I’d have a hard time ever skipping a stay at El Fenn.

Shopping…

I could have spent weeks in the Souks exploring every aisle, touching every textile and haggling with the friendly merchants.  This is what I came for and it did not disappoint.

There’s so much color at every turn.  If you have time, I would recommend walking the souks for a day before deciding on anything, there’s just so much to see.

You can fall in love with something different at every turn.  That said, you may never find that shop you loved a second time, so if you’re totally in love with something, just buy it.

My girlfriend BJ outside one of our favorite shops.

Haggling is part of the culture, so be prepared to use your best bargaining skills.  Some say that you should pay about a 1/3 of the original asking price, but I say that if you’re happy with a number just purchase it and move on.  A couple of dollars might not mean much to you buy could make someone else’s day.

In negotiating a fair price, as in life, I believe being nice goes a long way. There’s no need to turn into the ugly tourist, a smile and politeness will almost always get you your desired result.

As much as I loved all of the pottery, I knew I did not want to deal with the complication of shipping it back home, so I stuck with soft goods that could be wrapped up easily and wouldn’t break.


Like pom pom blankets, pillow covers, rugs and caftans!

And spices…

One of my favorite areas to explore was the Place des Epices, or the spice market square.

I bought perfume bricks for our Gum Tree team in amber, rose and cedar, spicy harissa and Moroccan curry for my husband, indigo for a friend, and colorful little crochet covered pumice stones for the shops.

I could have bought a million baskets…but shipping can get expensive and since we’re going into winter I passed on most of them.  Something to look forward to for my next trip!

Another thing you’ll find a lot of are the kitties.  They are everywhere in the Medina, some are shop cats, but most are street cats getting by on what they can.  I did see many of the merchants feeding them, and this little guy was super friendly and so beautiful.  It’s a wonder I made it home without sneaking a couple of the kittens I saw in my bag.

All that shopping and I haven’t even mentioned the rugs!

Rug shopping is an experience in itself.  It’s time consuming, there’s mint tea, and many strong guys who pull giant heavy rugs out of pile upon pile so that you can find just the right thing.

We hit the jackpot at this place, look how fancy!

And here’s a rug in progress…

I’m crossing my fingers that all of my purchases for the shops arrive by the end of this week.  I was thrilled to find so many soft beautiful rugs in shades of blue, perfect for our beach lifestyle.  Don’t worry, I picked up some of the classic black and white Beni Ourain style as well, they already arrived and are at Gum Tree Hermosa!

Talk about haggling, this takes patience, time and energy.  We must have been here at least 2, probably 3 hours.  And I went back again the last day for more.  When you’re negotiating the price remember all those strong guys who helped to pull down the rugs for you will need to be tipped in cash at the end.

Here I am with a lovely gentleman and most of my purchases heading to the shipper!  This is everything but the 14 rugs of course…

Culture…

We hired a guide recommended by El Fenn, the fabulous Mustapha Chouquir, to take us into the ancient Medina on our first day.  What a wonderful gentleman he was, warm, friendly and very knowledgeable.  His website tagline is “your Marrakech GPS” and that’s the perfect description for him.

He took us through the famous Jemaa el Fnaa square past all of the carts selling fresh squeezed orange juice, snake charmers, food stalls, and then into the maze of the Souks.

We headed first toward the Ben Youssef Madrasa, a religious college founded in the 14th century, the largest college in Morocco and a dazzling example of Moorish architecture.

The courtyard is stunning, covered in the most beautiful zellige tile, with carved wooden doors and intricate plaster work, it’s a sight to behold.  The college closed in 1960, underwent a major renovation and reopened to the public as a historical sight in 1982.

On another day we explored the beautiful Majorelle Gardens, Yves Saint Laurent brought these gardens back to life as a gift to the city he loved.

We wandered through the gardens, past all the cacti, palm trees, ponds, and fountains, and marveled at the unreal “Majorelle” blue color of the walls and walkways.

If you go to the gardens, don’t miss the tiny Love Gallery, a room full of Saint Laurent Love Posters.  Yves created one of these posters as a new year greeting every year from 1970 to 2000, and sent them to his best friends and clients.  They are quite collectible now, I’m adding one to the list of things I might need for Christmas this year.  Perhaps I’ll locate the year I was born?

There is a cafe and a boutique as well here, and they were both lovely.  We were advised that early morning was the best time to visit the gardens to avoid the tourist buses that descend on the place midday.

I spent a lot of time in the souks, the trip was a combo of business and pleasure for me, but others in our group took the opportunity to see a couple of other things.  These are on my list for next time.

Maison de la Photographie…a collection of original photographs of Morocco in a Saadian townhouse.  Rooftop cafe for lunch too.

Bahia Palace…built in the 19th century on the edge of the Medina it showcases two centuries of Moroccan architecture and artisanship.

The Desert Trip…

In my instagram research I had probably seen hundreds of photographs of very glamorous looking people enjoying themselves at Scarabeo Camp.  Scarabeo is a glamping site in the nearby Stone Desert, just 45 minutes outside Marrakech, so we wanted to give it a try for a night.

It was beautiful, no doubt, but also very very hot.  “Duh” you might say, it’s the desert, but seriously, we arrived about 3:00 on the hottest day of our trip at 105 degrees.  Inside the tents had to have been at least 20 degrees hotter.

It was beautiful, and stark, and did I mention hot?

Once the sun went down everything took a turn for the better, the dinner was absolutely delicious, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more stars in my life than I did that night.  I’m talking the whole milky way on display, it was really lovely.

The camels were darling, and I wish I could say that we rode them, but to be honest while the sun was up we literally sat in the tent trying to not be overcome by heat stroke, with nothing but hot mint tea until the truck with wine and ice arrived near dinner time!

It was an experience, and I’m glad we had it, but I’m not going to lie to you, we high tailed it back to our El Fenn oasis first thing in the morning, it was already 100 degrees at 9am.

I would do it again if it was cooler than 85 degrees, or as a trip out for sunset, dinner, stargazing, and then the quick drive back to town.  My husband and children are going to make fun of me forever for admitting to being such a princess, but they weren’t there to read the pamphlet about the bugs that can make a home in your luggage or shoes, or to pump the tiny camp toilet.   I guess I’m just not cut out for this special kind of adventure.

Back to civilization…and a trip to the spa!

We decided on the Spa at La Mamounia for the traditional Hammam treatment followed by a massage.

La Mamounia is a former palace turned hotel, set among acres of beautiful gardens just outside the old city.  It is one of the great hotels of the world, and absolutely spectacular in every direction you look.

Ahh, the Hammam treatment, an application of black soap, followed by a vigorous scrub with a loofah glove, a eucalyptus body mask, a shower under the loveliest rain shower head, then a massage with orange flower oil.   It was a dreamy experience in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen.

We stayed and sipped rose at the pool’s edge after our treatments.  I’ve heard high tea here is an incredible experience as well.  It was a magical place and when I get back to Marrakech I will make more time to get dressed up in my best caftan, explore the grounds, and have a proper cocktail in the fancy lobby bar while listening to the tuxedo clad musicians playing old time jazz standards.

Food and Drink…

We had some fantastic meals on this trip, Moroccan food is delicious!  Here were the places we loved.

Cafe Arabe

My beautiful mama in this incredible booth.

This was our first lunch in the Medina, and it was delicious.  Cafe Arabe serves Moroccan and Italian dishes, but we all stuck to Moroccan.  Couscous, chicken prepared in a tagine with lemon and olives, lamb with figs, a selection of the freshest salads, it was all great.  The courtyard was beautiful and the service was lovely.

Nomad

This is a modern Moroccan restaurant near the Place des Epices with 5 levels of dining rooms, we sat on the highest of the two roof decks.  Make sure to book a table here for 7pm, that way you can be up there and see the light change over all of the red rooftops of Marrakech.  And most importantly you can be there for the call to prayer just before sundown.  It’s magic.

The food was delicious, the lentil salad with beets and goat cheese, the pastilla, a traditional filo pastry dish filled with chicken and herbs, and the spiced green beans come to mind.  Just an FYI, there is no alcohol served at this restaurant.  But there are delicious fresh juices and tart fresh squeezed mint lemonade.  I’m sure this would make a wonderful stop for lunch as well.

Le Salama

This was an experience I will never forget, and it started before we even got there.  The restaurant sent a horse and carriage to collect us at the Riad, and we rode in style right through the bustling Jemaa el Fnaa square, past the thousands of people, groups of musicians, lantern sellers, snake charmers, and street food vendors.

When we arrived we were ushered up 4 flight of stairs, past some of the most beautiful colonial style bars and dining rooms, to the glass enclosed roof deck.

We all ordered the tasting menu, and were treated to the most incredible array of 15 different fresh salads, carrots done two ways, beets, tomatoes, eggplant and more.  Then on to the pastillas stuffed with lamb, seafood, chicken and vegetables, followed by tagines and couscous galore.

We drank a french red with dinner, and enjoyed every second of it.  At the end we hopped back onto our horse and carriage and were whisked away home.


Jemaa El Fnaa at midnight.

Dar Yacout

Another incredible experience like no other.  A taxi wove through the tiny streets of the medina and stopped in a non descript alley, where a very tall gentelman in a white robe greeted us and walked us through a little alley to a non descript door.  This is the thing about Marrakech, you never know what’s behind that plain old door!  Inside the setting was absolutely beautiful.  This time we were led up to the roof top terrace for a cocktail first and treated to a couple of musicians seated on the ground playing traditional music and spinning the tassels round and round on the tops of their Fez’s.

Then we were ushered back downstairs into a beautiful courtyard and seated next to a glowing fountain.  In fact the whole place glowed with the most beautiful candlelight everywhere you looked.

This is a set menu at a set price, with all wine included.  The lovely local Rose was served out of the most incredible cut crystal, hand painted carafes.  The service was friendly and attentive, and there was enough traditional Moroccan food in the 5 courses to feed an army.

I would recommend this experience to anyone traveling to Marrakech, it was magic.

We didn’t end up having time for a food tour or cooking class, and this was really high on my list.  So when I go back I will not miss out.  This cooking class looks like an incredible experience…  La Maison Arabe

And this is the food tour I was hoping to take.

A couple of tips for your trip…

Nothing happens fast in Marrakech, so just slow down and enjoy the time you have here.  Internet is spotty at best, and there are no TV’s at El Fenn, so you’ll need to try to relax and enjoy a different pace of life.

You are in a Muslim country, so ladies be respectful and dress appropriately.  Cover your shoulders and your knees when you go out in the Medina.  A loose fitting, longer caftan works every time.

If you ask a stranger for directions in the souk be prepared to pay for the information.  Better to pop into a restaurant or bank, or to ask one of the merchants you’ve already been buying from.  Also good to keep the card for your Riad in your purse in case you need it to get back there.

If you don’t like snakes then walk quickly through the Jemaa El Fnaa.

Hiring a guide for our first day was essential.  This way you’ll get your bearings, no one will bother you, you’ll see some sights and learn some history…and when you purchase 12 heavy pom pom blankets and don’t want to carry them, your guide will insure that they are safely delivered to your hotel.  Best to hire Mustapha, literally everyone we passed knew him, and he promised me that if the dozens of rugs I purchased didn’t make it to the USA that he would come deliver them himself, and I believe he would.  Thank you Mustapha for your time, guidance and generosity.

A note about the food on this trip…It was fantastic, but how can I say this delicately?  Our tummies may not have been quite prepared for the difference.  Some of us had it worse that others, but we all had issues to some degree.  All I can say is thank goodness for those that were smart enough to bring the Immodium.  Probably best to stick to bottled water too.

I could go on and on here, this trip was one of the best I’ve ever taken, and magical Marrakech is definitely on the top 3 of the “favorite places I’ve ever been” list.

I’d like to thank my fantastic traveling partners, Ed, Mom, Reuben, Nicole, and BJ, you made everything even better, what a stellar group.   Wish I had even one photo where we’re all in focus, how did I end up without one!

Did I mention that we stopped in Lisbon, Portugal for 2 1/2 days on our way home?  That’s another post in itself, coming soon.

Think Globally, Shop and Eat Locally!
Lori Ford

2016 Gum Tree Guide to Paris…

Happy Monday Everyone,

It’s finally here…our 2016 Gum Tree Guide to Paris!

I know, I know, why did this take so long?!

Well, the container full of everything I purchased in Paris is arriving this week!  I promise, I’ll Instagram as soon as it all hits the shelves, but for now, please read along…so exciting…

As soon as I got back from our trip to Paris, the editor of Southbay Magazine, Darren Elms, sent me an email.  He asked me if I would like to write an article, specifically a travel journal detailing my Paris trip from a design perspective, for the April issue of Southbay Home.

So of course I typed “absolutely, no problem”, hit send, and then immediately had a panic attack… because, oh my god I am not a writer, I own a couple of boutiques!  Sure I have a blog, but holy smokes this will be published in a real life magazine that I love.


See, I even made it onto the Contributor page, and under my name it says Writer…  It’s hard to describe the feeling I got when I opened up the mag and saw this.  Very exciting stuff.  Big Thank You to Southbay Magazine for this opportunity.  You can click on the link here to see the article on their website, oursouthbay.com, or grab a copy of Southbay Home today.

But, I also want this guide to live on our Gum Tree Blog forever, with lots of photos and easy links to everywhere we loved.  So here goes, hope you like it!

Paris by Design…

Let me start by saying, I love my job.  It’s been just over 7 years since I took a chance on a lifelong dream of opening my own shop.   Gum Tree is a Home and Gift shop and Aussie café here in Hermosa Beach.   The “Aussie” is my husband Will, he grew up down under, and he runs our café.

With two small kids and a new puppy, our life is full.  On top of that, small business is not for the faint of heart, it can feel like you never have a minute off, let alone a day.  But, it is also incredibly rewarding, and now, finally, it allows us to travel for work!

After all, it is my job to bring fabulous things to my shop.  The mix of things we carry and how we display them is what keeps our customers coming in, and consequently, I’m on a never ending hunt for inspiration.  Remember when I said I love my job?  The hunt is the reason, it never gets old.

Which brings me to Paris.  Every January Europe’s premiere home and gift trade show, Maison Objet, takes place.  I usually hit the shows on my own, but this seemed like a great opportunity to bring my husband along for the ride, what better café inspiration is there in the world, right?

I should mention that I’ve been to Paris a few times, but Will hadn’t.  He’s been all over the world, he is an Aussie after all, that’s what they do, but Southeast Asia is more his jam.  He says he just never felt the desire to go to Paris.  Who doesn’t want to go to Paris?  I was hoping to change his tune.

Day 1…Saint-Germain-des-Pres
We took a direct flight overnight to Paris on Air France, easy peasy.  We are big fans of good public transport, and Paris has one of the very best systems in the world.  We hopped on the RER train at the airport, and 25 minutes later got off right in the heart of the city, in my favorite neighborhood, Saint-Germain-des-Pres.

I booked us an apartment through AirBnB, a sweet little one bedroom on the top floor of a 200 year old building with a teeny tiny elevator, and views of the rooftops of Paris and the church of Saint-Sulpice.   We met the owner, dropped our bags and hit the streets to find a cup of coffee and something to do to keep us up till bedtime.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5853515

It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, and only 35 degrees outside.  January in Paris is chillier that I had imagined, but no less beautiful.  We decided to stroll our neighborhood to get our bearings, starting with a quick cappuccino and a quiche Lorraine, then it was all about shopping.  This is not my husband’s favorite activity, but this trip he was really game for seeing what my life is like on my work adventures, so he tolerated it, and dare I say, even began to enjoy it toward the end of the trip.


There are two darling shops I love on Rue Mabillon, Sandra Seraf for womens clothing, and Laurette for the kids.  The tiny handmade dream catchers at Laurette were my favorite find, and I always love the curated jewelry selection at Sandra Seraf. Then on to Rue St. Sulpice for more dreamy women’s clothing shops including Antik Batik for boho embroidered pieces, Vanessa Bruno for that sleek French girl look, American Vintage for great basic tees and sweaters, and Mes Demoiselles for over the top feminine bohemian fashion.

By this point Will was getting antsy, so I spared him any more clothing stores and took him someplace I knew he would love, Le Grande Epicerie.  Whenever we travel we make it a point to seek out a really good grocery store; food is key to understanding another culture.  Le Grande Epicerie is like no other grocery store you’ve ever seen.  It’s located on the first floor of the famous Le Bon Marche, the world’s first department store, opened in 1852.


The cheese section of this food emporium is larger than our house, and smells like heaven.  There were aisles of foie gras, charcuterie, fresh seafood, and chocolate-among other things.  In the center sits a beautiful fresh fruit and veggie section, and just down the steps you’ll find an entire basement full of French wine and Champagne!

We headed home with 4 different cheeses, 2 different types of charcuterie, some grapes, a box of crackers and a bottle of wine.   And that, my friends, makes for a perfect first night in Paris.

Day 2…Le Marais

The jet lag got to us and we slept a bit late today, or was it the wine?  Anyway, around noon we headed out to another favorite neighborhood, Le Marais.   We took the metro, and exited at Filles du Calvaire, which is a very short walk to one of my favorite stores in the world, Merci.

Merci is a mix of housewares, fashion, art supplies, décor, and excellent coffee!  It is basically everything you want under one roof.  Speaking of the roof, a giant skylight in the center bathes the whole place in amazing light. There are also 3 different cafes inside, and the Used Book Cafe is where we sat for a lunch of creamy pureed vegetable soup, a salad of burata, tomato confit, and prosciutto and some perfectly chewy/crunchy baguette.


My favorites of the store include a section of bedding in a rainbows worth of washed linen, the perfectly Frenchy women’s clothing section, the kitchen section full of beautiful black and white enamel, and the art supply section (I am always a sucker for tiny notebooks, colored pencils, and washi tape).


If there were a kids version of Merci, it would be Bon Ton just up the block.  It’s 3 floors of gorgeous, from décor, to toys, to clothing, there’s even a vintage photo booth on the main floor.   We had a few favorites here, the pops of neon on neutrals in clothing and décor, the golden stars and neon sign on the wall downstairs, and the whimsical party goods section.  All of these inspired plenty of new arrivals to Gum Tree Kids for spring.


The rest of the day was spent wandering the tiny, charming streets of the Marais on our way to dinner with a friend at L’Indochine.  We popped in and out of many little jewelry stores on Rue Ville du Temple, wondered how there could be so many quaint little shops full of only sunglasses or tea, and bought my mom jars of tapenade and mustard in a gorgeous epicerie, Premiere Pression Provence.  She’s a fantastic cook, and she was home with our kiddos, so we picked up gifts for her and our beloved sitter Rianna all along the way.


If we had more time in the day I would have loved to explore the Picasso Museum.  This is also a wonderful neighborhood to walk on a Sunday, as it’s one of the only neighborhoods where shops stay open.

After a delicious dinner at L’Indochine (French Vietnamese) we walked home in the chilly night, passing the glowing pyramid at the Louvre.  We crossed the river Seine on the Pont Louvre and stopped to gaze at the Eiffel Tower and pinch ourselves that we were really here.  Finally we hit the Boulevard Saint-Germain, where we made a stop for a nightcap at the famous Café De Flore.  Hot chocolate for me, and a glass of Moet for Will.  We sat amongst some beautiful people and wished we spoke French so we could properly eavesdrop.

Day 3…Maison Objet

This is the reason I came, to walk the Maison Objet show. We started with a quick and supremely delicious quiche with goat cheese, a pain au chocolate, and a couple of capuccinos at the beautiful little bakery Gerard Mulot. Sitting in the window, we watched everyone from chic Parisian grandmothers to construction workers pop in to grab a baguette wrapped in paper for breakfast. How do they all stay so thin?

IMG_6793

Maison Objet takes place in a large convention center complex near the airport on the outskirts of town. It’s about a 25 minute train ride, which I always love because of the opportunity to gaze out the windows at some incredible graffiti. It lines the tunnels and train tracks the entire way, and the riot of color makes me happy and hopeful. On the train back I catch up with my journaling, it’s refreshing not to have to think about traffic, or driving at all for that matter.

This is a trade show, so it’s not open to the public, but rather designers and shop owners like me who go there to place orders. These vendors are always ahead of the trends here in the states, it’s endlessly inspiring to see how they set up their booths, and to get a sneak peak of what’s to come in Home Décor.

maison mutedI was struck by all of the beautiful natural materials we saw, a lot of wicker in furniture and lighting, my favorite treatment being the multitude of hanging basket lamps. Black and white, mixed with natural wood and marble, was beautiful as well. It felt so clean and fresh, and would work well for our casual lifestyle in the South Bay. For color direction I loved the range of blues from indigo to aqua, a bit of fresh mint green, and the pale peachy pink of the sky during sunrise.

maison brightI placed orders for rugs, storage trunks, pillows, ceramics, baskets, beach towels and more. I only regret not ordering any of the hanging lamps, they are exactly what I want for our newly renovated shop, and I assumed after seeing literally hundreds of them that I would find at least one the following week in New York, but it was not to be. In the entire NY show there were two hanging basket lamps, and neither was the correct dimension. This is a product I’m going to obsess over until next spring when the trend finally arrives in the states, fingers crossed! Until then I may have to make my own.

After a long day walking the show, we high tailed it back into the city for a dinner that was without a doubt the most memorable of the trip. We landed at Chez Julien in the Marais after a lovely walk across Ile Saint-Louie, a charming island in the middle of the Seine. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better Steak Frites in my life, Will had the lamb, and we topped that off with plenty of Cotes Du Rhone and a superb cheese plate. This restaurant was the perfect mix of charming Parisian decor, excellent friendly service, great modern music, a fashionable crowd, and perfectly prepared food.

I should mention that this place had the most striking bathroom of the trip. I have a thing about bathrooms in restaurants. I don’t understand why many restaurateurs in the South Bay ignore the opportunity to bring their aesthetic into the bathroom, it’s such an easy thing to do and can make such an impact. This one was perfection, black lacquered walls, a clean white pedestal sink, excellent lighting and a single white rose in a glass vase. I didn’t know I needed a black and white bathroom until I saw this one, now I know.

chez julien

Day 4…Montmartre

I began this day early and on my own at another trade show called Premiere Classe. This show focuses on jewelry and accessories and was an absolute treasure. A Perrier Jouet champagne lounge was perched right in the middle of the show floor… Vive la France! Here I placed orders for some gorgeous scarves from Denmark, embroidered clutches for the upcoming spring season made in Bali, and lots of new jewelry from a selection of French designers.

premiere classeAround noon I popped on the Metro and headed off to meet Will in a neighborhood I’ve never explored before: Montmartre.   This was an absolute treat, I think next time I’ll stay in this gorgeous area so that I can more fully explore it. We began at the Metro stop Julles Joffrin and walked up the back way to the famous Sacre-Couer- the giant white basilica on top of the hill, with the very best views of the city below.

But first, lunch. We lucked out with a classic French bistro, Café Francoeur, chosen when I was stopped in my tracks at the sight of their exquisite bistro chairs and red awnings outside. I have a thing for French café chairs too. Inside was even better, all white subway tiles, old mirrors and a comforting onion soup and stuffed mussels perfect for a winter’s day.

cafe francoeurDid I mention the stairs yet? After lunch we traipsed up what felt like thousands of stairs, past immaculate white stone buildings with black railings and their classic blue tin house numbers. Finally at the top, we came upon the back of the Sacre-Couer, and I think this was key to our experience, as we were able to wander through a gorgeous quiet neighborhood before entering the plaza full of touts peddling selfie sticks. If we had come up the magnificent front steps with its fountains, gardens and hundreds of visitors my husband may have turned around and left. He has an aversion to anything even slightly touristy, despite being a tourist himself, but that’s another story.

montmartre stepsDon’t let this stop you from seeing this magnificent cathedral, Sacre-Couer is stunningly beautiful. The brilliant blue in the mosaic on the interior dome must be how the name French Blue came about. Wander down the front steps toward the heart of the village, and glance back up at the basilica’s grandeur. You’ll find a gorgeous carousel at the base of the steps, turn right here and onto Rue De Abbesses for a walk down a charming street full of exquisite independent shops, be they fashion, décor or food.

sacre coeurWe lucked out big time here, it turns out that there was an oyster festival going on this evening, and vendors set up tents on the street in front of the lovely cafes where they shucked fresh oysters and served them up on paper plates with slices of lemon. Will was in heaven. By the way, the bathroom in the cafe we chose, La Mascotte, was sublime, all pale green and grey tile, a mix of mosaic for the walls and ceramic on the floor, so pretty.

montmartre oystersBelieve it or not, the oysters and Sancerre were only an appetizer. I was determined to be standing under the Eiffel tower at the stroke of 9pm when the lights begin to twinkle. So again, we hopped on the metro and alighted at Ecole Millitaire.   This allowed us to walk the whole length of the Champ de Mars, the large public green space that fronts the beautiful Tour Eiffel. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you’re standing in the cold with the love of your life and that tower starts to twinkle. Incredibly lucky, yep, that pretty much sums it up.

IMG_6983

And we hadn’t even had dinner yet! Tonight was a splurge at the fantastic La Fontaine de Mars, a short walk from the tower, it’s a classic bistro featuring traditional southwestern French cuisine. Every detail, right down to the incredible bouquet of roses on a shelf nearby that matched the traditional coral checked tablecloths made us feel as if we were dropped into the movie version of Paris. I have no idea what else was in that leek appetizer, but I will never forget the flavor.   Roasted chicken with mushrooms, scallops, decadent foie gras, a bottle of Rose and a perfect crème brule capped off a wonderful day.

Day 5…The Flea Market

Whenever I plan a Paris trip I make sure to include a Sunday stay. My experience would not be complete without a trip to my favorite little Flea Market at the Porte de Vanves. Just a quick metro ride away from the city center, this is a small market full of little treasures. There are many markets in Paris, selling gorgeous big fancy antiques, but I can’t fit these in my suitcase. So I come to this little market in search of beautiful artwork and unique bits and pieces that will remind me of Paris when I sit them on my nightstand at home.

This time we struck gold at my favorite art vendor. We were captivated by the work of Raymond Debieve and came home with 3 of his pieces, I’m in a black and white mood these days, I cannot wait to frame these.   We also just had to have 12 turquoise handled knives, circa 1980, yep that’s antique now, and would have come home with a vintage motorcycle helmet if it had fit my husband’s head. I’m a bit sad we didn’t bring it back, it would have looked great on a shelf in our son’s room. Here’s my flea market tip to you… just buy it, I’m still thinking about that silly helmet.

flea marketAfter the market we hit another Trade show, this one for kids, called Playtime Paris. The color inspiration here was fantastic. It’s no wonder all the children you see on the streets of Paris look more fashionable than me on my best day, the clothes were stunning. We placed orders for some amazing rugs, sweet handmade mobiles, fine knit baby blankets, and more.

playtimeAfter 4 straight days of French food, we decided on Indian for dinner. A friend recommended a place in our neighborhood called Ravi, and it was such a treat.   It was tiny, all of 10 tables, with one jovial server, beautiful carved wood walls, and absolutely delicious food. We even skipped the wine in favor of a crisp cold Kingfisher beer.

Day 6…Au Revoir

We wandered down charming Rue De Buci in search of our last Parisian breakfast and found it at The Smiths. The name is the only thing that’s not French about this little place, and we sat outside, just as we did this whole trip, under heaters, in 40 degree weather with everyone else.

the smithsAfter plenty of espresso, a baguette with salmon and cucumber for Will, and a chicken curry quiche for me, we headed to the cathedral of Notre-Dame, because if you are in Paris, please just go. If French Blue didn’t originate from the mosaic on the ceiling of Sacre-Coeur, then it came from the stunning color in the stained glass windows of Notre-Dame. Take some time in here to marvel at the way they must have built this incredible structure hundreds of years before bulldozers, cranes, or electricity were invented.

We walked back to Le Marais in search of what we heard was the best Falafel in Paris and we were not disappointed at L’As du Falafel. But, perhaps even better than this sublime falafel from the decidedly no frills walk up counter, was the tiny macaroon shop next door, Damyel. Not just the best macaroons we’ve ever had, but the prettiest space I think I’ve ever seen. Every detail, from the aqua in the floor tiles to the exposed beams, soft white paint, graphic wallpaper, and the aged bent wood chairs, was just beautiful.

damyelWe took our time strolling back to the apartment, savoring every last minute of our time together in the City of Lights. This time we hopped in an Uber to the airport, because our luggage had somehow grown far too heavy to drag into the Metro.

Until next time Paris, J’adore.
Lori Ford

A Gum Tree Guide to NYC…

Hi Everyone,
Recently Megan and I hit the Big Apple for the NY Now Gift show.  Many of you told me that you loved my Paris Guide, so I thought I’d give you my notes on New York City!

Here it is…The Gum Tree Guide to NYC.

Stay…
We stayed at my favorite hotel this time, the Dream Downtown.  It’s just on the outskirts of the Meatpacking District, across the street from the amazing Chelsea Market and a close walk to the West Village and Chelsea neighborhoods.


The lobby is fabulous… This hotel is amazing in the summertime too, as it has a pool!  Will and the kids and I stayed here last summer, the rooms are super stylish, not big, but this is NYC, and you cannot beat the location.

For reference I’ve also stayed at the Gem Hotels in both Chelsea and Soho, as well as theWyndham Chelsea Garden.  These are all cheaper, less frills, less style, but work well for a business trip, with great locations.

Disclaimer…I am a downtown girl and very rarely venture above 23rd street on my trips.  But if you have questions about the park, or midtown, or what to do with kids, email me and I’ll give you suggestions.  Keep in mind this is what we did in 4 1/2 days, with 3 full days of walking the gift show from 9am-6pm, and in freezing cold temps with snow…but we pack it in as best we can!

Eat and Drink…
I start planning each meal in NYC at least a month before I head out, there are so many options, it would be tragic to waste any time on a bad meal!

We landed late and headed out into the cold for some fantastic Malaysian at the Fatty Crab.  We are still dreaming of the Pork Buns.  This is a tiny spot, no reservations, so you just have to go early or late, or suck it up and wait.  We sat at the tiny bar with a full view of the tiny kitchen, and the cocktails are as good as the food.

A big reason I love to stay at the dream is that Chelsea Market is across the street…this means that every morning we can grab a quick and delicious breakfast and coffee.  It’s especially wonderful in Winter as it’s all indoors.  It takes up a whole city block, you can stay warm and cozy and wander in here all day.  There are tons of options for food and drink in here, it’s even better for lunch and dinner than breakfast, and there’s shopping too, but we’ll get to that later…


The crepes from Bar Suzette are crazy good, right next door to some incredible tiny little doughnuts and a meat pie stand.  And it’s not a NY trip without a bagel, there’s a great traditional deli in here, and the coffee at 9th Street Espresso is ridiculous.

We only had one free day to shop and do lunch…so we hit one of my favorites, ABC Kitchen.  It’s on the first floor of my favorite store in the world, ABC Carpet and Home…but more on that later.

ABC Kitchen is a Jean-Georges restaurant, the food is delicious, the atmosphere is breathtaking, you definitely need a reservation.  I think the dinner menu is a little more interesting, but our lunch was fab too.

Dinner that night was at a new spot, Bar Primi on the Bowery.  The chef is one of my favorites, Andrew Carmellini and this was some of the most delicious pasta I have ever tasted.  Two of his other restaurants are on my favorites list…The Dutch in Soho and Locanda Verde in Tribeca.

We didn’t get any pics of the place or food, because we were lucky enough to have the best dinner dates, our friends Bryce and Andrew, of Curious… the inimitable gift shop just down the street from us on Pier Ave.  There was too much talking and eating and drinking and suddenly we were in a taxi to my favorite late night bar ever, Marie’s Crisis Cafe in the West Village.  It’s a basement gay piano bar with musical sing-a-longs.  Please trust me, just go. And then when you stumble out of here very late, head down the block to Papaya Dog.  There are many versions of the original Gray’s Papaya Dog around the city, and they are all good, especially after 1am:)


Needless to say that next show day was a little rough, but we braved it and even made it to another amazing dinner at Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina.  This place is known for their fresh made pastas, which I have tried on previous occasions, and it is delicious.  This time I had the classic roast chicken and mashed potatoes, which I’m sure helped my exhausted hungover state.

And our last dinner of the trip was at another new spot Bar Bolonat in the Village.  I love chef Einat Admony’s first restaurant Balaboosta in Nolita, so we had to try this new one.  It was just as delicious.  These are more casual spots with the most amazing modern Israeli cuisine.  If you love the Plenty cookbook that we carry, then you will love the food at these two gems.

Some other favorites…
Balthazar for champagne and oysters and everything French in Soho.
Mole for delicious Mexican.
Katz’s Deli, best Jewish Deli in town.
The Strip House for the steakhouse experience, get the creamed spinach.
Tartine for great steak frites in a tiny charming west village corner spot.
L’Artusi small plates Italian in a beautiful space.
Cafe Habana to eat Mexican corn and watch the cool people.
Prune for anytime, so good.
Nyona is my husband’s happy place, authentic Malaysian, be prepared to wait in line.

Shop…

I always take one shopping day in the city before I start the show to get inspired.

ABC Carpet and Home
The biggest and best home and gift store in the world, in my opinion.  It’s 8 floors of amazing.  I could stay in here a whole day, but if your time is limited hit the main floor, basement, 3rd floor kids area and 7th floor just to see the rugs.  My dream rug under my boots in the photo below was only $25,000.  Sigh.


If you’re in this neighborhood, known as the Flatiron, then pop across the street to Fish’s Eddyfor dishes and housewares, then up the street to Eataly for an incredible Italian food emporium experience, into Madison Square park for a Shake Shack burger, and back down to 5th Ave between 16th and 23rd for all the major chains like Madewell, Anthropologie, Intermix, Zara, JCrew, Kate Spade, etc.  If you time it right you can walk down to the Union Square Green Market too.

It’s increasingly hard to find small business in the city, but I always do my best to try.
The Nolita neighborhood is filled with little shops, some chains, but many independents too. 

Love Adorned on Elizabeth Street is a beautiful jewelry shop, very directional, with other well curated bits and pieces and gorgeous displays. On this block you’ll also find Rag and Bone,Clare VSteven AlanTen Thousand Things and Figue.  Turn right at the corner of Prince Street and pop into Ina for a great curated designer consignment shop.  Cross the street for the shoes and boots at Sigerson Morrison, you will not be disappointed.


Head to Lafayette and turn left and you’ll find Matta.  I have loved this line and their pom pom scarves for as long as I can remember, and now we’re carrying them at Gum Tree!  Follow Lafayette down to Broome street and turn right.  Here you’ll find Calypso Home, Calypso Womens and a little further down, the Calypso Outlet!

Keep walking west and you’ll hit Broadway and the heart of Soho.  There’s a Madewell on this corner, because let’s face it, I look and dream in all the above mentioned shops and then purchase things for my real life here.  On this trip I found my new favorite $19 T-shirt.  On Broadway you’ll find all the big chains again, including a Bloomingdale’s, but there are some treasures on this street too.  Uniqlo is the Japanese Gap with the very best inexpensive packable puffer coats for the whole family.  Aritzia is a Canadian chain where Megan and I both scored the same amazing faux fur coat, see photo below.  We just couldn’t resist!  At Muji you’ll find more subdued Japanese fashion and housewares, and Pearl River Mart is an incredible Chinese emporium, you’ll find everything from chopsticks to rugs to slippers and lighting in here, it’s 3 floors, the kids love it too for the tiny tchotchkes and Hello Kitty everything.

Of course you could keep walking west and wander up and down all the streets of Soho, but we were out of time.


Silly selfie in the fabulous new faux fur coat, heading into the very cold night.

Chelsea Market
Remember I mentioned there is shopping in here too?  It’s fun and eclectic, my favorite place to grab things for the family to bring home.  At the West End sits Artists and Fleas which is filled with stalls run by small independent designers.  Posman Books is a great traditional bookstore,Chelsea Market Baskets has everything from candy to stuffed animals and everything in between.  Bowery Kitchen Supply is a great place for kitchen gadgets, Spices and Tease is where we picked up the Za’atar blend that works in all those Israeli recipes, and Eleni’s is the spot for decorated sugar cookies in the shapes of Taxi’s to bring home for the kids.  They’re noSugar Dayne, but let’s face it, no one does it like Katie:)

One more stretch of independent shops sits on 9th Avenue between 16th and 22nd.  My favorite indie kids shop in the city is here, My Little Sunshine.  And across the street you’ll find Maison 140 and Nest Interiors, two beautiful little home decor shops with strong points of view.

It turns out we needed a slice of real NY Pizza before we grabbed our Uber to the airport, and we found ours in between these cute shops on 9th Ave at Stella’s.

NY Now
The show is huge, I think it’s bigger than the Maison Objet show I walked in Paris, but less intimidating for me now, as I do it twice a year, so I know where I’m going.

We found so many beautiful things, look for a lot of color for Spring at Gum Tree and Gum Tree Kids, and a lot of black and white too.  We’re bringing in a couple more solid gold delicate jewelry lines to wear every day, and to layer with longer fun tassels, and some beautiful decor for the Kids shop.  We found darling kids stuff to fill those Easter baskets, beautiful options for Mother’s Day gifts, and amazing teacher and graduation gifts too.  And we’re expanding our outdoor section with more Indoor Outdoor rugs and poofs, little BBQ’s for your glamping trips, and some fabulous tunics, hats and beach bags for our South Bay beach lifestyle.

I hope you enjoyed our little Gum Tree Guide to NYC.  It will live on our blog for eternity here.

We’ll see you soon,

Think Globally, Shop and Eat Locally!
Lori Ford

A Gum Tree Guide to Paris…

Bonjour Everyone,

I’m back from an amazing trip to Paris, it couldn’t have been better.  I’m feeling energized and inspired, and I think you’ll see that at Gum Tree in the coming months.

I often have people ask where I’ve stayed, shopped, and eaten…so I thought I’d put together a Gum Tree Guide to Paris for you.  I’ve also posted it to our Gum Tree Blog!  It will live there forever so you can reference it whenever you’re planning your next trip to the City of Lights.

I should start by telling you that I was not alone on my adventure, my dear friend, shopping partner, and trusted mentor, BJ Gedney was my partner in crime.  I worked for BJ and her husband Bill for 7 years at their wonderful company, Hat Attack, and in that time we did quite a few of these trips for inspiration.  It is thanks to her planning and prodding that I took this trip, so thank you BJ!  It was a quick one, 5 days including travel time…but we fit a whole lot in…

Stay…
We stayed in a little one bedroom apartment, with the world’s most comfortable pull out bed, right on the banks of the River Seine just opposite the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Here’s the view from our apartment window…

You can check out the AirBnB listing here…
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/52550?euid=f3ffe222-d4da-950f-f0c0-9c43e57a6834

It’s location was amazing, just between the Pont Neuf and Pont St. Michel.  Key to why we picked this location was the St. Michel Metro/RER station that sits just outside the apartment door.
I took the RER train directly from the airport to the St. Michele stop, an easy 30 minute trip that you can’t beat for 9 Euros!  St. Michel is a big metro hub as well, so you can get anywhere you need to go from here.  The place would comfortably fit 4 people, I would even consider it for my family, it had a little tiny elevator for luggage too!

The apartment sits between the two key neighborhoods that we love to shop and eat in…The Marais and St. Germain.

A couple of other hotel options we’ve stayed at in the past that we loved…both in the beautiful St. Germain neighborhood on our favorite street, Rue St. Sulpice.
Hotel Louis 2
Hotel Odeon St. Germain

Shopping…
Day 1…The Marais
I landed around noon and got to the apartment about 2:30…dazed and confused from very little sleep on the flight.  We headed straight out toward The Marais neighborhood.  Just across the Pont St. Michele we walked toward Rue de Rivoli and took a right.  Rue de Rivoli has many of the great french fast fashion chain stores including my new favorite Oysho.  It’s like a combination activewear/loungewear/sleepwear/lingere store.  It’s where I found the adorable kitty cat slippers you’ll see in the photos below.

We took a left on Rue du Temple and wandered around all the great little streets on our way to our ultimate destination… Merci.  Merci has been featured on every design blog I follow, and I was dying to see it.  It’s a beautiful shop full of everything from clothing and accessories to housewares, and amazing jewelry.  Incredibly well edited, it did not disappoint.  The little red car sits near the entrance to the shop in a beautiful courtyard.


Other notable shops we popped into were Gag & Lou, a darling little jewelry shop andL’Eclaireur, a high end fashion concept shop worth taking a look at just for their wild decor.  If you have kids to shop for, you must stop into a Bonton.  It’s a gorgeous kids lifestyle store that carries everything from clothing to toys to bedding, just beautiful.

Now remember, we started at 2:30 and shops close at 7…I’m sure we could have spent another 2 days in The Marais, and in fact BJ did while I was at the show… a couple of her favorite clothing stores that I missed are Shine and Surface to Air.  You can also find all the big fashion houses in the neighborhood, and it’s always fun to dream in Chloe and Valentino!

BJ also made it to the world famous Colette.  Not in the Marais, but on Rue de Honore.  I can’t believe I missed it this trip, but there was just not enough time.

Shopping…
Day 2…St. Germain
This is our old favorite shopping neighborhood, we shopped here for years before the Marais even became a destination, and it felt as fresh as ever!

Start at the intersection of Rue St. Sulpice and Rue de Seine and walk toward the Cathedral of St. Sulpice.  It took us about 3 hours to get down this two block stretch!  Vanessa Bruno has a beautiful 2 level shop, (why didn’t I buy that jumper?).  There’s an outpost of my favorite Japanese shop Muji which sells everything from tiny staplers and pens, to really well priced basic but cool clothing.  Antik Batik is always a favorite for bohemian beaded and embroidered looks, (why didn’t I buy that bag?) along with American Vintage, classics with a french twist that are well priced, and a beautiful little jewelry store Claire Naa.  Claire’s lovely mom helped us, I’m working on bringing her line to Gum Tree, stay tuned.

I was blown away by one store in particular called Mes Demoiselles.  The merchandising was incredible, the colors were just so beautiful, the 4 rugs layered on the floor were to die for.  It was fabulous.  Here are some pics…

Oh, how I wish it would get chilly, so I could throw on one of those pale grey sweaters…

Swing a right on Rue Mabillon for another two amazing shops right next to each other.  Sandra Seraf is one of the most well edited women’s clothing stores ever, absolutely beautiful, well priced jewelry and higher priced clothing, lots of beautiful Isabel Marant here, along with some lesser known French brands.  The children’s shop just next door, Laurette, is full of modern yet whimsical decor, and great gifts.

Head to Rue du Four, swing a left, and stop into Patrick Gerard, another spot-on clothing store.  Then swing another left onto Rue des Canettes and hop into Aridza Bross, which looks a little wacky and disheveled, but has great affordable finds.  These last two streets are also littered with inexpensive shoe stores, where you can find really well priced classic leather sandals, ballet flats and boots.

It was a productive day for me…here’s the evidence…

Sunday Morning trip to the Flea Market
I never take a trip to Paris without stopping at the quaint little flea market at Porte de Vanves. It’s a bit outside the center of town, but still an easy 15-20 minute metro ride.  It’s small and manageable and you can find so many wonderful little treasures.   For me it would be torture to walk one of those big famous markets, with all that antique furniture that I would never be able to get home…I prefer to collect tiny treasures and artwork at this little market that easily fits in my suitcase.

Some of the Treasures of the day…

Eat and Drink…and Drink…
There’s nothing like a good baguette with butter and jam to start your day, or a pain au chocolate for that matter!  When in France I do not deprive myself of bread in all it’s forms, just go with it.  There are endless beautiful bakeries in Paris, but when in doubt you can always stop at Paul, a french bakery chain that’s been operating since 1889, with lots of locations and delicious quiche too.  And don’t forget about the crepes!

We did start one day with a true sit down breakfast at an old classic Le Danton.  It’s on the way to our St. Sulpice shopping destination, on Boulevard St. Germain, and the Croque Madame, fresh squeezed orange juice and espresso hit the spot.

Same goes for the end of the day, no holding back, we drink lots and lots of French wine…this trip was all about the Cotes du Rhone.

We had some wonderful dinners on this trip…
Le Caveau du Palais
At 17 Place Dauphine on the Ile de la Cite, this restaurant sits on a quiet 17th century courtyard.  The lettuce in our Cesar salad was finely shredded and served with little tiny croutons that melted in your mouth.  God only knows how long they soak those little croutons in butter, or duck fat, or whatever to make them taste like that!  Again, try not to think about it.  Dinner was the classic Steak Frites and it did not disappoint.  Apple tart for dinner, we went traditional this evening and it was wonderful.

La Palette
This evening we went the charcuterie and wine route, with lots of crusty french bread of course.  Tucked on a tiny street near our apartment at 43 Rue de Seine, we were surrounded by locals puffing cigarettes (yuck, but this is Paris and everyone smokes) and the food was divine.

Au Bon Accueil
This is a tiny restaurant situated on a quiet little side street, with a killer view of the Eiffel Tower.  The food is impeccable, it’s  said to be the favorite Parisian restaurant of Ina Garten, you know, the Barefoot Contessa?  Well we loved it, in fact this is the second time I’ve been to this restaurant and it was fantastic.  Those tiny croutons showed up again, this time in a cold cauliflower soup, delicious.  Sitting outside we were treated to the twinking light show on the Eiffel Tower that takes place every evening at 9pm…magic.

Another one of our favorite restaurants that we missed this time is Le Machon d’Henri.  It’s always casual and packed and loud and delicious.

The Show-Maison & Objet…
Well I’m here to tell you that I have seen a lot of shows, but nothing I’ve ever seen compares to this.  It was huge, gigantic, completely overwhelming.  Also absolutely beautiful and totally inspiring.

Here’s a shot of a tiny part of one of the 8 halls…see those big letters hanging down, well this one hall had rows A-Z…

There were clear themes that stood out for me as I walked and walked for 3 straight days…It turns out that I love everything Danish, who knew?

Stars are on everything!  From leather goods, to baby bedding, to jewelry, to housewares, it was really fresh and fun.  

Lots of natural wood mixed with copper and brass and white stood out in the home decor section.

This photo just about sums it up…what a beautiful display!

I ordered everything I loved…and we’ll just have to see if my new European friends decide to ship me!  I got a lot of “not really sure how to ship the the US” comments, but fingers crossed we will have boxes and boxes of beautiful things arriving in a couple of short weeks!

So that’s it, my Paris guide for you.  I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you get to take a trip to this magical city soon.

Merci to you for reading it!

We’ll see you all at Gum Tree,

Think Globally, Shop and Eat Locally!
Lori Ford

Australia and Fiji!

Hey Everyone,

We’re just back from a wonderful vacation filled with family, adventure, fun and even some relaxation.  Here’s a little overview of the trip and a handy guide for Sydney in case you’re headed there soon.

After three flights and 24 hours we arrived in Whyalla, South Australia!  This is home base for the fabulous Ford family and we had 5 days of really fun family time.  Here we are trying to have a family portrait done, hopefully the photographer got one shot where we’re all looking at her?

After Whyalla we hit Sydney.  I have to say that Sydney could be one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to, I could live here easily.  It’s a beautiful mix of city and beach culture, amazing food and even better shopping.  I returned with a big stack of Australian home magazines, they are so well done.

We stayed in the Woollahra neighborhood at The Hughenden Boutique Hotel on Queen Street.

This was the perfect home base for us, the neighborhood was amazing.  Tons of shops and cafes in walking distance and very easy access to public busses that took us everywhere we wanted to go.  And their restaurant was fantastic!

While in Sydney I attended a gift show called Life in Style.  I’ve always wanted to carry more Aussie product in the shop and this was an exploration into that.

It was a beautiful show, very well curated.  I wish I could have ordered more, but with the Aussie dollar almost even with the US dollar, and the exhorbinant cost of shipping and customs I was a bit limited.   Never fear though, there will be some amazing pieces in soon!

One of my favorite Aussie artists is Samantha Robinson.  Her ceramics are so beautiful, every piece hand made.  Look for these to arrive at Gum Tree in time for Spring…

 

The window of her shop in beautiful Double Bay,  and a wall full of her signature teacups…We’ll be carrying these, plus her vases, some incredible votive holders called Illuminators and her famous Watermelon bowls.

http://samantharobinson.com.au/

Do not miss the Double Bay neighborhood for shopping.   They also had a wonderful little Farmer’s Market on Friday mornings with a petting zoo, pony rides and a bounce house.  It was a highlight for Lily for sure.

Back to the Woollahra/Paddington neighborhood…

Shopping and Dining—

Donna Hay is the Aussie version of Martha Stewart and her magazines Delicious and Donna Hay are incredible resources.  Here’s a peak inside her new General Store.

We’ll be carrying a selection of her new cookbooks soon.

Along Queen Street there are some beautiful little shops…

Body by Dainy Sawatsky , I bought my new favorite dress here.

http://www.body.com.au/look-book

Terrace Outdoor Living

Best outdoor furniture, dinnerware, hanging planters, umbrellas.  It was very inspiring.

Seed, This is a darling shop for both women and kids.  Their kids clothes are to die for and I snapped up some adorable shorts for myself.  It’s a small chain so you can find them throughout Sydney.

 

A couple of our favorite eateries…

Bill’s Woollahra….Bill Grainger is a fab Aussie chef and the food was delicious, open for breakfast and lunch only.

Spicer Street Cafe…. this was Will’s favorite, so simple with perfect coffee.

In fact we had perfect coffee everywhere we went.  It was uncanny, those Aussies really know their coffee and not a Starbucks in sight.

Big Mamma”s… a wonderful Italian restaurant we accidentally wandered into for dinner one night.  Probably the best authentic Italian food I’ve had since living in Florence in 1996.

On Oxford street in Paddington…

A couple of iconic Aussie brands have shops here, this used to be a great shopping neighborhood but is now a little dated.  Having said that, it’s still worth it to check out these spots…

Country Road carries clothing and homewares, I wish I could have brought back the salad bowls and glassware and rugs, simple and clean and cool.

Dinosaur Designs carries resin jewelry and housewares.  They have a shop in New York and I always loved to window shop there too.

Paddington Market…Saturdays from 10-4…you’ll find lots of cute inexpensive clothing and a smattering of real gems.  I bought a pillowcover  made out of a vintage tea towel for baby Will’s room, and a gorgeous leather clutch handmade in Sydney, fingers crossed we’ll have these in the shop soon.   The little food market toward the back is so so good.  Juices and pressed sandwiches, thai food and a cute hipster girl playing the yukelele while you sip your perfect flat white.

Love Supreme…this is a pizza place with some of the yummiest Pizza I’ve ever had, perfect thin crust, great wine and fun atmosphere too.

Westfield Bondi Junction…this is one of the best shopping malls I have ever been in.  It was raining so that was my excuse for being in a shopping mall while on vacation!

If you’re in this mall don’t miss Kikki K.  I love this paper store, i’ve never seen anything quite like it and I wish we had one here in LA.  Check out www.kikki-k.com.

Family Fun—

Do not miss the Taronga Zoo!  Take the ferry from Circular Quay and make sure you go early as you could easily stay there all day.

You catch the aerial tram up to the top of the hill and then work your way back down to the water.  And the views of Sydney Harbor cannot be beat!

Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens…We walked through here in the late afternoon and just at dusk the fruit bats come out in full force.  Lily is still talking about the fruit bats, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Bondi Beach…fun to hit this iconic spot.

I’m sure there are more mellow beaches to go to, but when in Rome…  The kids loved it.  The water was warm and the people watching was great!

Now I know this is not the insiders guide to Sydney..but with 2 kiddos and only 5 days it’s a quick guide to work from and we had a blast…

And now onto Fiji…A quick 3.5 hour flight from Sydney we loved Fiji!  Thank you to everyone at Treasure Island for making our vacation absolute perfection.  I don’t think we’ll take a family vacation without a Kids Club again until they’re teenagers!   We had 6 days on this perfect tiny island and could have easily stayed for 6 more.

http://www.treasureisland-fiji.com/

And that’s it for now.  Hope you all have a wonderful day.

Think Globally, Shop and Eat Locally!

Lori

Recent NY Trip Notes…

Hi Everyone,
Just back from my latest trip to the gift show in NYC. Wow, was it cold!!! But a fantastic trip, I do love the city.
I thought I would give you all a little recap of the amazing shops and restaurants I hit this time…
Restaurants…
Sorella—95 Allen Street (lower east side)
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What a tiny hidden gem of an italian restaurant. Looks like nothing from the outside, as is the case in so many NY restaurants but wait till you get inside. Specializing in small plates italian food. Gorgeous back room with a completely glass ceiling. Make sure to save room for their home made gelato, it was incredible!
DBGB—Bowery between Houston and 1st
Big beautiful space, noisy and hectic, what a scene! Thanks to my fantastic friends for braving the freezing cold to try this new spot with me:) Try the sausages, incredible variety. Don’t miss the pork sausage with cheddar cheese served on a hashbrown with creme fraiche…ridiculous.
Standard Grill—meatpacking district
Very chic space, under the new Standard hotel that straddles the highline. Love the waiters’ plaid uniforms, love the french painted tile floor, loved the chicken paillard with arugula and tomato salad for lunch. Can’t beat the people watching here, endless outfit inspiration.
Travertine—19 Kenmare Street (lower Nolita)
Gorgeous space, incredible house made pasta, so fresh. I had dinner but heard that the brunch is so fun, dj, amazing cocktails, etc.
Worth Noting—not a single big screen television in any of these places….and the decor extended right into the bathrooms.

I absolutely love a well designed restaurant bathroom. When you go to such trouble to make the place great and then forget about the bathroom, well that just makes me nuts!
Shopping—
Food Emporium under the 59th Street bridge—this is hands down the most incredible grocery store space you will ever see…

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Literally located under the 59th Street bridge…check out the ceilings…

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There was a coffee bar, incredible cheese selection, and here’s the chocolate counter….

i mean, are you kidding me?
ABC home—19th and Broadway
Always a can’t miss spot for me. The most inspiring shop in the city. Beautiful housewares, accessories, rugs, jewelry, paper goods, and that’s just on the first floor…

Madewell—Broome and Broadway in Soho
Here’s what i want to look like for spring…
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Lucky for us they have a location in Century City…of course i haven’t been there yet…putting it on my to do list.

Have to give a big thank you to my wonderful girlfriend Nicole who let me crash in her incredible pad in Tribeca…
the most talented, creative, artistic woman i know who works in finance!
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I mean, look at this wall in her apartment. unbelieveable!
Hope this posts inspires you to hit the big city. Email me if you want any more reccomendations.
Have a great day!

NYC Inspiration

Hi there,
I’m back from my latest trip to NYC, and a really successful one it was.

As always the city provides endless inspiration. My latest obsession was the incredible Highline. An old elevated train track running up the west side of Manhattan has been transformed into the coolest park/public space that I have ever seen.

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That building straddling it is the new Standard hotel.

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The beginning of the path, starting at Gansevort Street in the Meatpacking district walking north.  They did an incredible job of reminding you what the place used to be…see the old rails on the left.

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Love this.

How amazing would it be to spend an afternoon on one of these lounge chairs…

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looking out at this view…

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It never ceases to amaze me how creative people can be.

I love this space and will make a point to take a walk there on every visit back to the city.  Can’t wait to see it in the winter.

Stay tuned for lots of new products in the shop found on my trip.  So excited to show you all the cool stuff!