Interiors

The Dalmar, Ft Lauderdale

A  Midcentury South Florida Lifestyle Hotel

 

I felt as if I was transported into a Slim Aarons photo at The Dalmar complete with midcentury breeze blocks, references from both Florida and California during the Golden Age of Travel, and of course, a champagne vending machine giving me these vibes….

Getty Images: Leisure and Fashion. Slim Aarons, 1961

 

Several restaurants were closed while we were there due to COVID, but I wanted to share what was open and the spectacular design details, so you can add it to your Ft Lauderdale list.

Lobby and check-in

The open, lattice work work behind the check-in mimics a large scale breeze block pattern tying it to the adjoining lobby bar and seating area. The gold linework detail in the terrazzo and mother of pearl floor creates runway affect, which subconsciously adds to the wayfinding, drawing you to the desk. It also helps define the two seating areas on either side and adds another beautiful, subtle material to the mix. Check out this muted teal slab wall, and they lined the seam up with the doors. So beautiful.

Lobby Bar

This material nesting we see on the corner edge, built up countertop with contrasting piping, and the lowered server station make this an outstanding bar design. This material looks like it might be an onyx and a view of the front (without barstools) shows downlight washing a beautiful book matching of the material. Lovely details.

 

Lobby Bar Seating

An excellent, one-size-does-not-fit-all, approach was taken here, as we see multiple seating options for varying types of bodies, sizes, functions, and needs. An array of conversational areas and communal tables means creating social areas for people to meet or smaller tables for private discussions. An overall orange and blue (and shades of a minty teal) guides the palette, rich woods warm up the space, white breeze blocks take us back to a specific era, and a casual collection of images creates a sense of place and sparks memory.

 

Rose’s Coffee Bar

One the ground floor as you enter, this outdoor space off the coffee bar with geometric tile and living wall feel like a garden in the middle of the city. Perfect spot for coffee with a little buffer from street noise. Love the coffee bar lighting, too.

 

When I share a blog, I consider three readers: The person who knows nothing about design but is interested in beautiful spaces, places and travel. My fellow designers, to show ideas and how other designers have treated each space and situation, and lastly the potential future client who reads this to educate themselves, because maybe, they are thinking about a project of their own someday. I tell you this because you might fit into one of these categories, and while the next pictures may be of little interest to you, they might be for someone else in this group.

 

Transition spaces

While these seem unimportant, corridors, vestibules and other transition spaces support the experience. I find in some projects, clients want to spend less on these spaces, and I understand that, but these spaces are important to continue the vibe. They also receive a lot of abuse with high traffic and things like careless people in a rush or weary travelers with suitcases. The vertical, stack bond, blue tile is like a gorgeous ocean blue in varying shades highlighted by indirect lighting originating from the ceiling cloud above and uplighting from the floor. Lighting is absolutely everything for mood. Don’t skimp on it. These 3-diminesional tiles in the second photo add a graphic detail and play tricks on the eyes making you question if they are in fact 2-D or 3-D. I love tactile materials that begged to be touched, and a mirror in a vestibule at a hotel is a necessity. We need one last look before we dash out.

 

Although I couldn’t get great shots of the rooftop pool overlooking downtown, I wanted to share these two images from their Instagram page. And because I have this little obsession with carts.

Oh, and that vending machine I mentioned. We all love full service, but sometimes grab and go is just easier when we want a little more speed and less interaction with folks.

 

 

Hope you loved this destination!! Looking forward to everything being back open!

XO,

Cassandra

 

 

 

 

1 Hotel Miami Beach

Material Matters

I have been wanting to share the interior of this hotel since we returned last month. If you were to ask me what my style is, this would be it. I’m becoming more and more minimal as I age and have decided I need less and less around me to make me happy.

 

I always enjoy it when people go to my website and see the projects I have worked on and say, “I see you really like color.” For me, that means I’m doing my job. My projects are a reflection of my client’s homes and businesses, design aesthetics, tastes, styles, colors, products, and demographic we are trying to capture. Not mine. Working with clients gives me the opportunity to explore a variety of design aesthetics, color and styles different from my own personal tastes. I like to say,” I love coloring with all the crayons in the box, but I want to come home to something visually quiet.” This hotel is the silence and texture I crave.

Designed with eco-friendly principles in mind, the hotel is LEED certified and built with reclaimed materials throughout. Both the hotel and operations are designed and run on the best sustainability practices by focusing on environmental impact, recycled building materials, local food sourcing, and things like water and air filtration systems. Even the hangers are made from 100% post consumer recycled materials. This philosophy touches every detail in the hotel like no plastic keys to enter your room and all natural bath products. They even use recycled chalkboards in the room for notes and doodles to cut down on paper waste.

Not only is the mindful approach practiced in the the physical nature of the building and daily practices of sustainability, but also in the spiritual. The hotel hosts full moon celebrations every month to celebrate the changing of the tides, cosmos and energy with the rise of the full moon, as well as, once a month observing something called Dark Sky. That evening, they dim the lights in the lobby and illuminate the area with candles to raise awareness of global brightening and consumption. Reminds me of Bali’s full moon celebrations and day of silence and darkness offering respect to our planet.

The colorless interior, white upholstery, organic and textural materials, concrete, stone, and wood provide visual silence and a place to rest the busy mind. One of the other spectacular things about this hotel is the lighting.

Little nooks and niches for chatting in hotels are a favorite of mine. It allows us to somewhat hide out yet still be somewhat in the middle of things. You get to decide who you want to chat with and how social you want to be. These are spaces that allow us opportunities to chat with those passing by but also discourages them from chatting with us, if we don’t want them to. Often people respect those in a niche or off by themselves, as if they are having a private, not-to-be-disturbed conversation. For me, it’s a non-committal space in a public environment, meaning, I can be around the action and hear the buzz of the lobby and see people, but not be forced into a social setting, if I choose not to be. Sometimes we just want to be a spectator and not a participant. Maybe we’ll be a participant the next night. 😉

The restaurant was closed while we were there, which wasn’t a bad thing for these photos. 😉 Notice all the lighting in the shelves, the cocktail tables, and that custom light fixture over the bar. Can’t wait to go back during the Dark Sky night and have dinner and drinks here by candlelight.

Little details everywhere: barnacles growing on the corners of walls, the heart shape engraved in the door, the weathered wood halls and doors to the rooms, candles and branches everywhere, and the entry to the gym which is incredible itself. As both a residential and commercial designer, it’s always interesting to see how other designers try to conceal or divert the eye away from mechanicals in commercial interiors. *rolls eyes* They are a necessary evil in our projects and seeing how they visually blocked them here with the candles and branches, yet kept it open for proper air flow, is probably something no one else would have noticed but another commercial designer.

The art installations on site also raise awareness and conversation about the philosophy the hotel carries and highlights what we are doing to our planet. These are all recycled items from the ocean. Recycled tv and computer monitors depict animals living inside, as if one day, that might be the only way we will see and remember some of them, because of the destruction we have caused. If it weren’t so sad, this whale might actually be beautiful. A closer look shows the random trash that went into making it. We must do better.

So I don’t leave you on a sad note, I’ll leave you with the best part, the roof!!! Aren’t these cabanas are glorious??

Hope you enjoyed it!! Have you stayed at a 1 Hotel before? Now I have to put the others on my list.

XO,

Cassandra

 

 

A Cure for the Design Sweet Tooth

Valentine’s Day Design Inspiration

Grand pink architecture and interiors, romantic fashion, and an adorable pink Figaro that leave us high on sugary sweet design and perfect shades of pink.

Schloss Benrath

Schloss Benrath Palace located in Dusseldorf was designed by French architect Nicolas de Pigage. The pink Baroque style building proves that pink is an appropriate and acceptable color for the grandest and oldest of buildings and is simply gorgeous. You can actually rent out a few of the halls for your private event.

Craigievar Castle

Craigievar Castle, completed in 1626, is a pink harled castle in Scotland. If those turrets spark fairy tale images for you, well they did for Disney also, and it’s reported to be the inspiration for the Disney castle.

Photo Bei.Bei.Wei

 

Peggy Porschen

Peggy Porschen Cakes has been on my radar lately, as much for the design and their Instagram account, as for their sweets. They are topping A-list celebrity events for people such as Kate Moss, Elton John and Stella McCartney to name a few. Their pink building, floral installations and adorable pastry creations are truly one-of-a-kind. I always admire, and try to incorporate, a creative concept that runs throughout, and you can see that here with the mushroom pastries and the mushroom installation. Just look at the different floral arrangements they install on their building below via their Instagram page.

Photos: Peggy Porschen Instagram

Sketch London

Part gallery, part restaurant, this 18th century townhouse tea room turns into a cocktail lounge in the evening, and I’m pretty sure it’s the place to be on Valentine’s Day. I love the mix of the glamorous, Hollywood interiors with the graphic, line drawing art.

Photos: Civilian Global

Elie Saab

When it comes to romantic, elegant and feminine fashion, Ellie Saab always get it right with the most beautiful lace, beading, embroidery and the extraordinary details expressed throughout the garments. Every sleeve is perfection and it’s hard to imagine that many options. The dusty pink, white, and nude colors are so soft and romantic. I need one of these gowns from the Haute Couture Spring Summer 2020 Show to wear while I roam around Benrath palace above.

Photos: Elie Saab World Instagram

Le Pink Figaro

And what better way to arrive than a pink Figaro. Did you know this car was made by Nissan? I had no idea. And if you love this little car, you can follow all of its adventures on Instagram below.

Photos: Le Pink Figaro Instagram

Hope you have a sweet and romantic Valentine’s Day full of love.

xo,

Cassandra

Design Destination ~The Eliza Jane, Nola

Not Too Pretty | Not Too Gritty

Design lovers headed to New Orleans have to make a stop at newly opened The Eliza Jane. Easily one of my new favorites. Located away from Bourbon St. in the Central Business District, for those who prefer a little something other than that scene, yet it’s still walking distance to the French Quarter. The hotel takes up several historic renovated warehouses and occupies what was previously Gulf Baking Soda, Paychaud Bitters Factory, and The Daily Picayune, and takes its namesake from the previous publisher of the newspaper, Eliza Jane. Jane was the country’s first female publisher, turning a small newspaper into a nationally recognized one. Next door you’ll find this old architectural treasure sharing similar round details on the columns as the the hotel itself but remains as just a facade today.

Original historic details were preserved when possible, exposing and restoring much of the brick archways and metal structural components, while opening up the multiple, adjacent warehouse spaces as much as possible. Upon arrival guests are greeted with red doors, mosaic tile floors and an original fireplace that remains behind the front desk painted the perfect blue with a calming seafoam color on the walls.

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Holiday Travels 2019

Christmastime in The Crescent City and The Conch Republic

There is nothing more I love than hotels and traveling around Christmastime. I love hotel Christmas decorations, because they usually have larger floral and decorative budgets than any of us, along with a full staff to make Christmas magic truly something special.  I love huge Christmas buffets (because who doesn’t like options), formal Christmas dinners, and special Christmas treats that trained pastry chefs take years learning to perfect. I love the sound of a piano playing Christmas music in the marble lobby of a grand hotel with a tree three times what I can fit in my house and hotels with the most memorable Christmas traditions, as you’ll see below. It reminds me of the little girl inside me who remembers going to the mall as a child and thinking how big and beautiful all the decorations were and wishing we could have that at home.

This year we spent Christmastime in New Orleans, St Pete (more on that in a different post) and Key West.  If you’ve always done the traditional thing at Christmas, I hope these images and places inspire you to try something different for Christmas in 2020, like take a trip with your family during the holidays, to create new memories and experiences. One day, I hope to visit some of the world’s most well-known Christmas markets. I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to survive the cold to get there. 😉

New Orleans, AKA The Crescent City

Roosevelt Hotel

So for the grandest of places, the Roosevelt ranks high on the list, and their beautiful trees and florals do not disappoint. The lighting of their decorations is almost as historic as the building itself and draws people annually to the event.

The interior lobby without the decorations is still nothing short of fabulous. The ceiling, moulding, mosaics, and lighting are a course of study in interior design alone. After a closing due to hurricane Katrina and reopening in 2009, the carpet that had previously covered the lobby was removed, everything was restored, and everything brought back to its original grandeur. I’ll save more of the details of that for a design details focused blog post later, but because I can’t resist, here are a few.

The Ritz Carlton

Another grand favorite going over the top is the Ritz. Their gingerbread display is probably the best I’ve seen so far, which includes a streetcar and a tugboat. The tugboat is a new addition this year and both are all made from gingerbread. A work of culinary art indeed and truly a labor of love. If you’ve ever built one from a kit, you know the amount of patience they take.

 

 

Step right outside the Ritz for these windows. Who doesn’t love a beautiful Christmas window to inspire child-like wonder?

The Hotel Monteleone

The Monteleone is always a must, especially if you’ve never seen the Carousel Bar. They also offer a Reveillion dinners throughout the month of December. Don’t know about this New Orleans tradition? Click here for an explanation.

The Royal Sonesta

This is probably one of the most photographed street corners in New Orleans, thanks to their quintessential New Orleans style architecture, iron balconies and their showstopping hanging planters. It’s a corner I often see used in tourism promotional photos. Pop in for a coffee at PJ’s and walk through their hall of trees. Oh, and here is their balcony with ferns, sweet potato vine and fig vine just pouring out of their planters.

Key West AKA The Conch Republic

Old Town

Mid-December we headed to Key West for the remainder of the year. The entire town was decorated, so I didn’t feel like I missed out on not having a tree or decorations this year. This little conch cottage is so classic Key West Christmas and who doesn’t love lighted palm trees? The lighted chicken is absolutely perfect considering the amount of gypsy chickens roaming the town. The big Victorian house did a blue, snowy theme with giant snowflakes hanging, and makes my favorite list just for carrying a concept throughout.  They did an outstanding job on it. The city must have a Christmas light competition, because we saw signs in yards saying, “vote for this house.” The tree below at the marina was all buoys and the lighted boats were always fun to see from shore.

America 2.0 Schooner

We sailed on an classic schooner for brunch on Christmas Day and saw Santa boarding his yacht for vacation after making all his deliveries. Haha. Just kidding. I’m sure he was paying the very lucky kids on board a visit to hand deliver their gifts.

This sweet little bakery, just a block away from our rental, was absolutely adorable and yummy, so we were there frequently. I think my husband walked there every single day for coffee, even if we didn’t get food from there. My favorite shop in Key West, Grace on Frances, did an all minimal, organic theme with their decorations, which I love. They used a Mexican straw garland seen above the windows, which I had to buy, and natural ornaments on their tree. I have blogged about them before and tell people all the time, you have to get off Duval St. for some of the best places in Key West.

And when you live on a tiny island with quirky houses, eclectic people, and chickens running loose, your mode of transportation should be anything but ordinary. This Moke wins my heart.

Hope you enjoyed reading and if you’ve never traveled during the holidays, I hope you’ll consider it this year.

Xo,

Cass

1960s Ranch Kitchen

This 1960s ranch had low ceilings, limited light, and a poorly designed, inefficient floor plan.

Space planning:

The main problem with the design of this kitchen was the peninsula. Peninsula kitchens almost always make a kitchen smaller, and I only use this design configuration as a last resort. In this scenario, the peninsula and raised bar (a thing of the past), cut the kitchen off physically and visually from the breakfast room, limited contiguous countertop space, and in the below pictures you can see how it’s dividing the room in half.

Several other problems existed:

  1. Bar seating wasn’t possible due to the limited space on the breakfast room side and conflicted with the breakfast room chairs, making the bar useless anyway.
  2. The refrigerator was too far out of the work triangle guidelines for kitchen design, making it very inefficient and creating more steps than necessary.
  3. The refrigerator was on the other side of the entry, crossing the circulation path from the laundry room, powder room, and garage studio/workshop.
  4. The wall next to the refrigerator further fragmented this section from the kitchen as a whole.

 Design is not just trying to make spaces beautiful that are Pinterest or Instgram-worthy. Design is about making them more solution-oriented, so life is life easier, and one of those ways is by eliminating problem areas in the built environment.

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Pineapple Porch

Space Planning | Designing the Floor Plan

In its last iteration, this space was a Palm Beach Tan chopped into about 25 small rooms for individual tanning beds. There were two ADA compliant restrooms in the back corner of the space and a small storage room running along the back wall, both we knew we wanted to keep.  In the case of the storage room, we would need to possibly expand it to accommodate larger items like furniture being temporarily stored. Everything else needed to be gutted.

Below is a copy the landlord gave us of the as-built plans from the tanning salon. This was the space we walked into. You can see the individual rooms where the tanning beds were, along with key spaces I’ve notated. The pictures below were taken prior to construction from the front of the store at the point of sale where you paid for your tan.  You can see from the plan and pictures, there were two hallways on either side of the point of sale running almost the length of the space that met at the back of the space and created a small back hallway.

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Alys Beach

Those unmistakable Bermuda butteries form the entrance gates and visual markers to Alys Beach. Rooted in architecture from Bermuda, Antigua, and Central America, Alys Beach adheres to strict design guidelines and construction principles, which gives it a cohesive, distinctive look and design vocabulary throughout.

Originally, butteries in Bermuda were constructed to store perishable food like butter and milk. Made completely of stone, with a wooden door, these structures were detached from the main house, just a few stone steps away. The stepped minaret roof shape was made of limestone and many have found new use on the island as studios, tool sheds, etc. Since Bermuda has no fresh water source, the stepped roof had other functional reasons, too, like collecting rain water. Below is a picture of one from Bermuda and the ones at Alys Beach.

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Key West

Island Heart

Vernacular architecture, charming colorful cottages, narrow streets, warm weather, tropical flora and fauna and tough people who deal with mother nature’s constant threat by land or sea, my favorite places are islands.

This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about Key West, there is just so much to love on this tiny island.

And so many historic homes desperately needing to be restored. I need one of these to restore and preserve, either as a personal home or as a design project. The ceramic star on the outside of homes and businesses in Key West is given to properties that have displayed excellence in restoration and preservation. The designer, architect, contractors and craftsman who’ve worked on the project are given a certificate showing their involvement in the success of the project. Hoping one day to have a star myself.

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The Island of the Gods

Hanging Gardens Bali

The road to our hotel was as black as the night sky. There were no lights, no streets signs, no nothing. Just thick palm leaves, greenery on all sides and a canopy of hanging vines and flowers hitting the windshield from time to time. With just a few feet in front of the car visible by the headlights, and the constant, grinding, engine sound, indicating our bus might not make it up the next hill, this was turning out to be more of an adventure than I had expected or desired after such a long flight.

When our guide said, “They don’t send drivers to your hotel alone at night because of the road,” that made the limited visibility even worse. None of us said anything out loud, but by the look on our faces, it was obvious we all thought the same thing. What? What do you mean? Why not? “It’s too dangerous,” he replied. Instantly my mind flashed to all the stories I’d heard of tourists being carjacked, taken off back roads, robbed, raped and murdered, or their bus falling off a steep cliff on a single lane road, high in the jungle mountains at night. And since I have such a vivid imagination, I took that story a step further by envisioning we would be stuck at the bottom of a ravine in the jungle all night, possibly hurt, no lights, with the sound of jungle animals all around, and either no one would know we were there, or no one could get to us until morning.

I have friends who have visited Bali and raved about it, but that didn’t stop my mind from going to the darkest possible places. Every now and then, the trees broke, and with what little light illuminated the night sky and the thick, lush landscape, you could see the road dropped off on either side of the car. Exactly how far down it dropped off we couldn’t see, but we knew we were going higher and higher up into the jungle with every turn. We nervously laughed and joked to ease the silence. The first time I saw car lights coming at us on the road, I felt relieved we weren’t alone. I thought, “Oh good, there are other people out here.” And then the following conversation ran in my head:

Were they dropping off tourists they had murdered or were going to murder? Surely they were coming from our hotel. It’s fine. You’re being silly. You’ve checked out the hotel, all the reviews, all the pictures, read every blog post written about it. You’re overacting. Maybe so, but do you really know where you’re going?

The answer to that was, no. I had no idea where we were going. So much of travel is trusting reputable companies in foreign countries to help you get around, and that’s what we were doing now.

Then I realized the road at its widest part was at most, only one and a half lane widths wide, and we’d have to make room for the oncoming car. I went into a complete panic. There was no room for them to pass, and the road dropped off on the side we were on. Once I realized they were barely even going to slow down, and instead, planned on passing us at full speed, I ducked my head down in my arms, and almost as if we were in unison, we yelled out some sort of curse word together as they passed. Once again we all nervously (and thankfully) laughed, realizing we were still alive and somehow managed not to get knocked off the road and fall off the cliff, and questioned why the hell they didn’t slow down. It was a long, tense, nerve wracking drive up the mountain in the jungle that night, and each time a car passed there were audible gasps followed by heavy sighs of relief and nervous laughter. I thought we’d never get there.

As we came to a clearing in the trees, we could see lights flickering up and down the mountainside across a deep valley from the mountain we were on. “OMG, what’s that over there?” we said. That’s your hotel, our guide said. Eyes widened, jaws dropped and we knew then, we weren’t going to become dead tourist statistics. Instead, we were headed to the jungle paradise I had seen in the pictures. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the hotel from that vantage point, but there was no way we were stopping on that road. We would find out later, the hotel puts candles around the pool and property every night, and that’s what we saw lit up across the valley.

We saw our first sign for the hotel and turned, drove through a very small, very poor village, and then the lobby appeared. Bathed in a soft glow of light, with no walls, the lobby was visible from all sides and the car drove right under the roof. We all looked around in amazement at the integrated design of the driveway and the lobby. Lightly scented hand towels, refreshing lemongrass drinks, beautiful flowers and candles were everywhere. Bali smells like a combination of sandalwood incense, lemongrass and sweet frangipani flower. If I ever go back, I hope I arrive at night again. It was sensory paradise. The two story, centrally located, nautilus shell chandelier in the restaurant lit up at night was a stunning sight as we descended in the cable car from the lobby.

To get up and down the mountainside, there are a series of cable cars, starting at the top of the mountain where the lobby is, then another one down to the restaurant and bar, followed by a final one to get to the villas.

The main dining room and bar overlook the jungle and pool, and similar to other parts of Asia, flowers are everywhere. These orange ones reminded me of hollowed out pine cones.

The walkways to our villa were lined with moss covered everything: vases, statues, and walls and monkeys roam freely around the property.

Our room was the traditional Balinese style design with wood trim and details, thatch roof, and a private infinity pool overlooking the jungle. I could have stayed in our villa for the duration of our stay, but I knew I’d miss so much if I did that. The air in the jungle was soft, moist and cool. I needed a light scarf or something on my shoulders in the morning at breakfast, but by midday the weather was perfect. August is the best time to visit Bali weather wise, but for that very reason, it is also the busiest. Thankfully, there are sarongs everywhere in Bali, so if you get out and get chilly, there is always a sarong nearby. Each room has it’s own temple outside the front door with a statue of a Hindu god, and the staff make offerings and decorate them with marigolds each day, another flower commonly seen in Bali. Every detail in the architecture and design of the villas and hotel was thoroughly considered.

Treatment rooms, massage rooms and massage tables are all over the property. If you don’t like one room, just keep looking. There are several to choose from. All are open air and many massage tables are situated under open-air pavilions near the river that flows down through the valley. There are small outdoor platforms for yoga, and the entire property is about resting, relaxing and being away from everything. Now I know why it was so hard to get here. All the fears I had on the nighttime drive getting here about falling off the cliff and no one finding me, were all put to rest, because the no one finding me part was a huge plus at this point. The frangipani flower is all over Bali. It grows in parts of the Caribbean, too, but something about being in a new place makes us aware of things we never noticed before. Maybe it was the abundance of these flowers that brought them to the forefront, but I’ve never noticed or smelled them in the Caribbean like I did in Bali. Not only are the trees everywhere, but the Balinese use them to decorate everything. They also spread them out to dry in the sun, grind them into a fine powder and make a massage oil (among many other things) with them.

Across the valley and over the river is the temple. This Hindu temple has a relationship with the hotel and offers guests the opportunity to dine at the temple after a private Hindu blessing with the priest. We all sat on the ground in the temple with the priest and were led through the Hindu ritual. Each person has an individual ceremonial offerings basket, which contains flowers of different significance, rice, and other organic items. Some you put your head, behind your ears or hold in the tip of your fingers while you pray. Incense are used to cleanse you spiritually and burn all around in the ceremony. They are believed to send our prayers up to God and remove harmful spirits. Bali is the most culturally rich place I have ever been, and I learned so much that it’s hard to put to words. After the prayer, we had a candlelight dinner at the temple, under the light of the Moon, surrounded by flowers.

A gecko decided to join us at dinner (somewhere in the thatched roof above), and if you’ve been to Bali or Southeast Asia, you know how loud that critter can be. I swear they are nocturnal, too. The gecko is all over Bali, and I think his favorite pastime is to make as much noise as possible. Even the littlest ones are insanely loud for their size. If you ever wondered why they are called geckos, YouTube a gecko sound and you’ll understand. It sounds like they are saying GEC-KO or UH-OH repeatedly! Our first morning in Bali, I heard a strange noise outside our villa and went to breakfast and asked the staff what that noise was in the wee hours. They said, “It’s probably a gecko.” Thankfully, their second favorite pastime is eating mosquitoes, so aside from that annoyingly loud noise, they are harmless, and since mosquitoes love me, the gecko can stay. They are also seen as good luck in Southeast Asia and are believed to be descended from dragons. Later there was one in our room (again up in the thatch ceiling) in Amed, and that thing called out like clockwork at midnight every single night. I took this picture of the priest before we sat down for the ritual and blessing with him at the temple. Through the smoky incense and temple lighting, it looks like a column of God-light is shining on him. Pretty much how this entire experience seemed-surrounded by God-light. Now we know why Bali is called the Island of the Gods. The last picture I took from our hotel looking across at the temple.

The first picture I saw of Hanging Gardens in my research was the pool. It was the single most memorable image I saw while trying to figure out where to stay. It’s what initially sparked the desire to want to stay here. Bali has the most incredibly designed hotels I have ever seen in one destination. It’s as if each hotel is trying to outdo the other one. Consistently one of the top-rated pools in the world, it looks as if it was inspired by the undulating shape of the rice terraces found all over Bali-giving this design a sense of place. Every morning there was an enchanting layer of mist slowly rising from the treetops like a veil lifting away to reveal the jungle before our eyes, and the pool was like a mirror reflecting the clouds. It was magic.

Having been all over the world, it has always been hard to pick an absolute favorite place, that one specific hotel that has it all for me. Hanging Gardens is it, and surprisingly, it doesn’t have a beach. I love the secluded feel, the private villas with infinite pools, the food, fresh juices in the morning, the service, the quiet, exotic natural location. I love how close you feel to nature and how far away you feel from civilization. I don’t know if it’s called Hanging Gardens because of the flowers on vines that hang from the jungle trees, or if it’s because it’s literally hanging on the edge of the jungle, cantilevered out over the treetops. I found this aerial image on the internet, and unfortunately couldn’t find the photographer to give photo credit to, but you can see how it looks like it’s hanging on the edge of the mountain.

Hope you enjoyed it. I can’t wait to share more about Bali with you in the next blog.

xo,

Cassandra