Fernweh

Chill Chicago

Meditation | Massage Studio

Last week I was in Chicago for a design conference and stumbled upon this place. What a gem, a respite in the city for busy minds and busy people. I needed it, too. I just left Neocon at the Mart, and if you’ve ever been to any of the Marts for a show, you know what kind of sensory overload it can be. Not to mention, I had a full day of classes and learning, while trying to cram all the products, displays and vendors in between. The elevator lines were ridiculous, so I walked all the way up to the 14th floor, via the stairs, for my first class and worked my way down each floor (again, via the stairs), stopping on the floors I had classes and circling the showrooms and products. Ugh. They were setting up for the block party as I was leaving, and I really felt like I should be there to network and meet more people, but the older (and wiser) I get, the more I realize running myself completely into the ground is counterproductive. I needed some downtime.

A Chicago friend suggested Gilt Bar for dinner and drinks, so I left the Mart and started walking that way to meet my husband, who was still about an hour and a half away. As I was walking, I found this beautiful black storefront, peeked in the window and saw someone swinging in these chairs below. Such a neat space. The manager was outside, saw me looking in the window and invited me in. It was as if the universe knew exactly what I needed at that moment. Calm. Chill is a modern meditation and massage studio with a small retail area and juice bar. It is free of the typical iconography one expects in a yoga/mediation studio. No Buddhas, eastern symbols, ancient pictures or signs. Instead, it is a blank space, free of color and/or anything else that might be a visual distraction. If you know me, you know how much I love white for it’s visual silence and this place is just that, visually silent. A little visit to their website shows exactly how simple and easily approachable their concept is. It’s straight forward. And thank goodness they don’t burn incense, because the only thing that makes me feel like I’m choking more thank incense is an actual cigarette. Aside from the smoke itself, I must be the only person on the planet that finds incense stinky. Their concept, taken from their site is: No incense. No chakras. No dogmas. No gurus.

Just good old fashion sitting. And that is what meditation is, which truthfully is hard enough in itself.

 

 

There are two main rooms for yoga and mediation, one larger room, and the one I loved was the smaller private room. After years in the fitness industry teaching aerobics, spin and yoga, sharing a large group room doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Meditation, like prayer can be more powerful when done with others, but my practice is so personal, I prefer to be alone without any distractions.

 

There are sectioned off chair massage stations behind white curtains, which makes it so easy to not have to get undressed. Such a great concept for popping in, get a neck and back massage without the big production of getting undressed, putting a robe on, putting slippers on, getting under the covers, waiting for the therapist to come in, and then getting dressed again. Sitting down in the chair and having her work on my back for 30 mins was perfect. I love the spa style treatment you get at many places, but sometimes you just need the simplicity of someone working out the kinks without all the fuss.

 

There were thoughtful quotes on the walls, and my favorite line is the last one below. Calm is productive. So often we forget if we aren’t feverishly running around tackling our to-do list and conquering the world, we aren’t being productive. In fact, sitting in meditation is probably the most productive thing you can do for yourself, mentally and physically. It takes us humans a long time to get that, and as much I love my daily meditation, there are still times when I’m tempted to skip it, because it seems there is something more pressing, more “productive,” I could be doing.

 

So next time you’re in Chicago, check out Chill. I promise you’ll be thankful you gave your mind and body the rest. Website here.

xo,

Cassandra

P.S. I highly recommend Gilt Bar and Bavette’s which are next door. on either side just a couple storefronts down. Both are very highly rated in the city and are simple romantic and elegant.

Key West

Shop Galleries

When you tire of bongs, thongs and the Duval Crawl…

Yes, I said it: bongs and thongs. Because let’s face it, you don’t have to look far to see them in store windows, on mannequins, or sitting on carts with all the other smoking paraphernalia. There’s no shortage of tacky, shiny objects and cheap, fluorescent t-shirts on racks pushed out by storefronts in hopes of catching the eyes of those doing the well-known Duval Crawl. The first time you go, it’s sensory overload. Lower Duval has a bit of a stale alcohol smell early in the morning, because that’s where the majority of the historic, iconic, party bars are located. Gypsy chickens scurry around in the streets where their loud crowing can be heard all over town, and a little further up Duval in the evening, you will most definitely pass by the stars of the local drag show hanging out on the street in front of their venue inviting you in to see them perform. Key West is not for modest types, but this is part of the eclectic mixture that makes the island. I have written about the island before and most definitely will again and again. There are rare finds and creative, captivating people all over the island, and one day, I hope to write about a trip from Key West to Havana, Cuba. Until then, I’m collecting stories and pictures.

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Cargotecture | Arkitainer

Cargo Container + Architecture

In a world of portmanteaus (Bennifer, Brangelina, Kimye, etc), Cargotecture or Arkitainer (architecture + container) is the combination of two very different words to create a specific type of upcycled, cutting edge architecture, and it’s trending all over the world.

These intermodal containers, aka shipping containers, conex boxes, and freight containers, are standardized containers meant to be shipped across all modes of transportation (truck, rail and sea) in the globalized shipping system. They are designed to be loaded, stacked and shipped based on a system created after WWII in an effort to minimize transportation cost. They are tracked via computer, each having its own number, and moved by cranes and lifts. There are an estimated 20 million containers in use around the globe today.

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Believeland

Cleveland: Reinvention, Redevelopment and Adaptive Reuse.

I’m sure when you hear Cleveland not much comes to mind other than cold weather and a gray, dreary, industrial city that lacks arts and culture, but Cleveland has done so much in the last three years. The downtown in particular has come a long way. So much so that it is even becoming difficult to find an apartment in downtown. This city is full of architectural beauties, old industrial buildings, trendy restaurants, and with all the sports venues and a casino within walking distance of the central downtown area, this makes getting around on foot so easy. Cleveland is a model for adaptive reuse, and you can see examples of it all over the city.

Clevelanders are more proud of their town than any group of people I’ve ever encountered. They are loyal fans, strong supporters of their city’s progress and future, and have a great deal of civic pride, hence the nickname, Believeland. Forget your preconceived notions about Cleveland, and check out how this comeback city is drawing people back with the downtown’s current revival. By conserving and converting historic buildings and warehouses into mixed use developments, the city is reinventing itself and urban life by integrating its industrial past into present day cultural experiences.

Giants like I.M. Pei (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building), Frank Gehry (Peter B Lewis building) and others have left their architectural mark on the city, and looking up holds many rewards for those who are aware (as you’ll see below). There are some highly detailed ceilings in many of the old buildings, and the first place we stumbled upon was the 5th Street Arcades. While stopping for coffee at Pour Cleveland, which just so happens to be conveniently located next to the 5th Street Arcade, I found this masterpiece below. The ceilings, tile work in the entrance, and full arcade with shops and restaurants is a little like stepping back in time. These historic arcades (there are two in Cleveland) have played an important roll in social life in Cleveland, both past and present.  Places like this inform my work and make me a better designer. It’s a reminder to me to always consider every possible aspect and detail of a space.

 

Next door to The Cleveland Public Library is the Howard Metzenbaum Courthouse building. This classic Beaux-Arts style building was inspired by the Place de la Corde in Paris and is situated on Cleveland’s Civic Mall and Public Square. Although we didn’t go in, I couldn’t help but take pictures of the statues, railings and sconces on the exterior.

The Cleveland Public Library, also Beaux-Arts style, has incredibly elaborate interiors, including the ceilings. One of my favorite things was how the rug design mimicked the ceiling design. The globe pendant light hangs in the main entrance, and the allegory of art (the painting on the ceiling in a cross pattern) depicts the four major arts: musical arts, graphical arts, industrial arts and theatrical arts. The blue birds on the front pedestals are part of an art installation by Cracking Art Italian art collective. Even the smallest details are beautiful, like the marble floor indicator dial with brass arrow and star, again, another little reward for those who pay attention. These are things that make a place truly special. Unfortunately, technology has replaced so many of these original treasures. A library worker told me the ceiling work was painted on a canvas in the basement and applied on the ceiling.

 

The Cleveland Museum of Art holds its own with many of the finer museums I’ve visited. Again, I was completely blown away to find an art museum of this caliber in Cleveland. With a $650 million dollar endowment, it’s one of the wealthiest museums in the country, and it’s also free. The Neoclassical building, again in the Beaux-Arts style, with Georgian Marble (yes, Pickens County, Georgia for the local readers) is worth a visit on its own. The museum has undergone many additions and renovations and most notably, the North Wing was designed by famous Modernist architect and furniture designer, Marcel Breuer. Several important works and pieces I fell in love with are below, including two pieces by Tiffany & Co.

 

Withing walking distance of the 5th Street Arcades is East 4th Street. This pedestrian only, little side street with restaurants and patios opening out European style, is simply a must. You really need a week in Cleveland to try  all the good restaurants on this street. String lights and flowers line the walk and patio fences, and it’s such a great place to meander and people watch. Micheal Symon is Cleveland’s culinary claim to fame. Every city has their chef that invests in their town and opens one or more really hot dining spots and he is their guy. Two of his restaurants, Mable’s and Lola’s, are on East 4th. We did our own hopping around to try a few places and went to Mabel’s (pics below), Butcher and the Brewer and Erie Island Coffee. I have to say, even though it wasn’t Southern BBQ, it was still pretty good. Red is also a great restaurant right in downtown, and for non-steak eaters like myself, the sides alone were worth the trip.

 

There were so many other beautiful details all around the city. The ceilings below were from inside Jack Casino, also located right in downtown. Hessler Street was another gem I stumbled upon leaving the Frank Gehry building headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art. This historic and charming street on the National Register is located in University Circle and has an annual art fundraiser to help maintain the houses, which unfortunately, looked like they could use a lot of TLC. One of the rarest finds was Hessler Court which runs perpendicular to Hessler St and still maintains the old Nicolson Pavement, or wood block pavement. This is one of the few streets in the U.S. to still have this type of paving material. The Hessler community has kept the wood block for its historical value, and you can see the detail in the pictures below. From a distance, the street looks like a regular cobblestone street. Many streets were paved with wood, because at the time, it was easier to find than stone. Horse hooves were much quieter on wood streets, too. I even loved the trash cans in this district. Cleveland is using every opportunity as a canvas for art. Also surprising, Cleveland claims the second largest theater district in the U.S., outside of New York City. Playhouse Square shines like a beacon down the street with several brightly lit marquees and the largest outdoor chandelier in the world.

 

Cleveland is full of art, history, culture and food. It’s experiencing its own little renaissance and there are many other cultural and dining areas around the city like The Flats and Westside Market, but I’ll save those for the next blog. Hope this inspires you to cast off those old images and ideas of Cleveland and give it a chance. Before I left I had a friend say, Cleveland is the new city of brotherly love, and I couldn’t agree more.  The people are equally wonderful.

Thanks for reading!! XO

Cassandra

The Pineapple Island, Briland and Pink Sand Beaches

Eleuthera and Harbour Island, aka Briland

A narrow, ancient coral outcropping, flanked by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, dotted with pineapple fields and pink sand beaches-that is Eleuthera. Earlier this year, Delta began non-stop service to Eleuthera from Atlanta two days a week, making it much easier to visit, by eliminating the stop in Grand Bahama. The airport’s size hasn’t caught up to the new service yet and landing in a big jet there feels a bit like landing at a highway truck stop. Since the airport is so small and doesn’t have a gate, you wait across the street at the restaurant/gift shop before boarding, which by the way, is a gold mine waiting for someone to put a decent bar and restaurant there for travelers to wait for their flight. Once through security, you wait outside until its time to board, because there is simply no room in the airport for passengers.

 

Eleuthera was the world’s largest pineapple exporter until the industry collapsed in the early 1900s. Prior to that, Eleuthera shipped pineapples to both the US and England, and the island was the first to produce pineapples on a commercial scale. While researching for the trip before we left, I found this quote from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1874 about the locals on Harbour Island discovering…

“a livelihood cultivating pineapples on Eleuthera. A fleet of 200 boats is owned in the settlement. Every morning at sunrise this little fleet spreads its wings to the tradewind, and wafts 800 men and boys, black and white, to the lovely beach and cocoa-nut groves on Eleuthera, two miles away. Every night they return. The pineapples begin to ripen in April, and only grow to advantage on a peculiar red soil that is always thin, and is found in but few districts. The plantations are on undulating ground, the highest in the Bahamas, and are skirted by mahogany, logwood, and cocoa-nut groves, overgrown with the brown love vine, and abounding in scarlet-flowered hop, clitoria or wild pea, and various other flowers, while the song of the brown thrush resounds in every thicket. A pine field when the pines are ripe looks as if it were on fire, the scarlet of the spiked leaves forming a flame-colour with the vivid orange-yellow of the fruit. There are two principal varieties of the pineapples, the scarlet and the sugarloaf, the latter of which is the best.”

One of Eleuthera’s most well-known sites is Glass Window Bridge. When Winslow Homer visited the island and painted the natural bridge, he named the painting Glass Window. The name stuck and as the natural bridge eroded away, the man-made bridge was built. The one lane bridge at the tiny isthmus connects North Eleuthera with the rest of the island. The bridge is often in need of repair from crashing waves, and during a bad storm, known as a rage by the locals, waves have been known to wash up and sweep cars and people off the bridge. For that reason, during a rage, the bridge is closed.

The Cove Resort

Not too far south of the bridge lies The Cove resort. This stunning, all white, luxury resort is the perfect getaway. Everything from the suite, to the food and service, and the design, were top-notch. It’s secluded, quiet, situated on two private beaches and well-appointed in every way. The sushi was excellent and the staff did everything for us, even down to putting our towels on the beach chairs for us. Gregory Town is down the road, as are a couple local places, so if you are looking to get out, I would recommend taking a cab. If you are looking to be worlds away from everything, which was my mission for this trip, then this is the perfect spot. Although we did see a couple of kids and they do have a game room, I think the Cove is geared more towards quiet couples. After coming off a very busy time at work, this was just what the doctor ordered. Peace and quiet. We stayed in a beach front suite and I practiced yoga every morning on the front porch overlooking the ocean. I even had a local resident join me on the mat one day. Achoooo! 😉

 

Harbour Island, aka Briland

While there are pink sand beaches on Eleuthera, Harbour Island is known for its pink sand beaches. The colorful, vernacular, candy colored, island architecture lines the streets and golf carts are the mode of travel around the island. A water taxi takes you from Eleuthera to Harbour Island and you can rent a golf cart once there to venture out on a self-guided tour around the island. Maps are available from the golf cart rental vendors, and the entire island can be driven around in a day.

 

There are so many cute places on Harbour Island to shop, eat, and explore. Here are a few of my favorites from this trip.

Sip Sip

Legendary on the island are Sip Sip’s lobster quesadillas. For some reason, this really hopping place is not located on the map and the signage is difficult to see from the street. After getting lost twice and asking everyone we passed, “where is Sip Sip” or “how do we get to Sip Sip from here” laughing at ourselves, we almost gave up.  The passion fruit sangria was so refreshing after that hot drive around the island and the lobster quesadillas totally lived up to the hype. The portion is large enough to share and rich enough to make you thankful you didn’t order a single one for yourself. The place is tight but not uncomfortably so. The view is to die for and the shop is adorable too. After overhearing ladies complaining about cost of things, it’s worth noting, most things cost more on an island because of the process it takes to get it there. Buyers pay an import tax for items to be shipped to the US and then must pay for the them to be brought into the Bahamas (or wherever the island may be). Some places in Asia can ship directly to the Bahamas, but most must go through the US first, then they are shipped to the smaller islands, like Harbour Island. All this shipping overseas via container, local shipping and transporting, import taxes, etc drives prices up. There are things I know I can find stateside cheaper if I look, but I buy local anyway just to support these small island businesses.

Ocean View Club

Directly adjacent to Sip Sip is Ocean View Club.  It was like walking into an Anthropologie store with dogs lying on the floor, stacks of books, an old gramophone, and furniture that looked mixed and matched but somehow worked perfectly together. Art was certainly a main feature of this place and all the objects made you just want to linger longer. Next time we visit, we will definitely plan to stay here a couple of nights, because the tub alone makes me want to book a room. During an interview for an article I read, the owner was quoted as saying, if you don’t like dogs, this is not the place for you, which makes me love it even more. You have to peruse the images on their site.

 

Blue Rooster

The hospitality in this traditional Bahamian style, gingerbread house couldn’t have been better. I bought the most beautiful white linen dress from the shopkeeper, who was just as friendly as could be. Blue Rooster has relaxed, casually elegant, resort wear and jewelry. Easy, breezy dresses in solids and colorful patterns made of lightweight breathable fabrics in a darling little setting. I must have said, “oh my gosh, this is so cute” at least 50 times in this quaint little shop. I had such a great time chatting with the girl inside I forgot to take pictures of the shop, but I did capture this one as I was leaving. You can also check them out on instagram.

 

 

Shine

First, can I just say, I love the name! It just sounds like a happy place run by a happy person, because of course we all want to sell and buy things that make us shine, so I just knew I was going to love this spot. Shine has two locations situated across the street from one another. One shop has more decorative interior pieces, and the one across the street has jewelry and other small items that the owner makes herself. Notice the heart on the outside of the building? Such a cheerful island store that shines! Check them out here.

 

Ocean Tally

This Mediterranean inspired jewel is probably one of the most special places I have been in a long time. Down a long, winding dirt road, secretly perched high on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Whale Point, this small, intimate hotel and restuarant captures the imagination and senses. The Atlantic Dining room upstairs has an extrodinary view and the bar downstairs, as well as the exterior courtyard, has some beautiful tile details. The ocean front cottages overlook the Atlantic Ocean, and the fire pit area serves as a front row seat to watch the waves crash up into the tidal pool below. Nothing short of spectacular and something that needs to be experienced in person. Until then, visit their website and be mesmerized.

While I love the beautiful colors of the islands, texture is always my favorite. Below is a collage of my favorite textures I captured at The Cove. Be sure to click the small thumbnail below to see the full collage.

And two more illustrations I did while there.

Thanks for reading. Hope you loved it!

xo

Cassandra

Charming Mackinac Island

Somewhere In Time

Colorful, Victorian dollhouses, horses and carriages, flowers and butterflies, clear blue water, and a charming, historic island crowned by one of America’s oldest resorts. Mackinac Island is literally a storybook fairy tale come to life. The first thing you should know before going though is, it’s not pronounced like it’s spelled; it’s pronounced makuh-naw.

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Key West: A Melange of Characters, Cats, and Chickens.

The Conch Republic

The self proclaimed micronation that seems to have succeeded in happily and intentionally isolating itself (not only due to the geography, but attitude, as well) from anything that resembles the real world, has people from all over (including myself) wishing they could do as this author suggests, quit their day job and move to Key West.

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An Evening in the Private Apartment of Joe Patten at the Fox Theatre

The Phantom of the Fox

A few weeks ago, thanks to dear friend Ron Carter, House Organist at both the Strand Theatre in Marietta, Ga and Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Decatur, Ga, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Atlanta Theatre Organ Society. The meeting was held in the private apartment of Joe Patten. Patten is the man responsible for saving the Fox Theatre here in Atlanta and has lived in the apartment since 1979. Patten is lovingly known as The Phantom of the Fox and is the only person to ever live inside the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

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Bangkok, Thailand: The Grand Palace, Chatuchak Market, and The Jim Thompson House

Having been to nearly every island in the Caribbean, it was time for a new experience. Some place completely different and seemingly exotic, a place where the homogenization of islands and culture, due to the cruise ship industry and easy travel from the US, had not yet had its affects. Crossing off sailing destinations in the book, 50 Places to Sail Before You Die by Chris Santella (I’ve completed several, thanks mostly to having owned a catamaran in BVI), Thailand was next on the list.

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Sharon Springs, NY

Ruins. Restoration. Revitalization.

Last weekend, we stayed in Sharon Springs, NY. What an intriguing town for me as a designer. Much like at Christmastime when visions of sugar plums are dancing in children’s’ heads, visions of redesigning an entire town danced in mine. Historic properties, both residential and commercial, just crying out for love, care and restoration can be found at every turn. Sharon Springs is a mostly abandoned historic, resort and spa town (only about 500 people are full-time residents), that has been left partially decaying, with hauntingly, beautiful Victorian architecture sprinkled around a few restored properties from a slow grass-roots restoration effort sweeping the village. It’s part scary movie, part romantic love story. Driving through, it’s as if a bomb went off or some sort of plague hit, wiped everyone out, and the buildings were left to rot, and not just any buildings, gorgeous 19th century homes, mansions, inns, hotels and commercial buildings full of opportunity.  It’s a historic preservationist’s (and a designer’s) dream running wild. While there are a small number of buildings that have recently been restored, many sit next to buildings that look like they could fall down at any minute. The potential for it to be spectacular is already there, and at one time, it was just that.  If all proposed plans go through, it is a town on the verge of a major comeback, and as many of us travelers are looking for unique experiences away from the city, this is poised to be the perfect long weekend respite.

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