London Shopping Weekend Getaway

In the pre-Euro days, when the dollar was strong, I would make a weekend escape to London every three months just to shop, cruise the antique markets in search of ancient treasures and return to New York with loads of goodies.  I would generally pack an empty suitcase inside my weekender because I knew it would be full.  Now, taking extra luggage on a weekend flight is a hassle thanks to increased security and weekend bargain fares between New York and London are but a distant memory.  Yet, persevere I must in search of all that London shopping has to offer.

Primark is my new go-to shopping mecca in London.  The Oxford Street branch had become so crowded that they opened a much larger store on Tottenham Court Road just over a year ago.  It is “stop one” when I hit town.  Primark is a discounter’s dream.  I rarely walk away with less than two full shopping bags of goodies and never drop more than $100 for the loot.  Great thing also – customer service agents complete your VAT form and attach all of your receipts, making refunds a breeze as you head back across the pond via Heathrow or Gatwick Airports.  Now, if Primark would just open a shop in The Big Apple.

London shopping getawayWestfield London is a standard mall just outside central London.  Westfield London offers all the high street shops without the high street crowds.  I LOVE it.  Crowds may be tolerable on the tube, just barely, but never, never when you have serious shopping to do.  As for the tube, take the Hammersmith & City line to the Wood Lane stop and you’ve arrived.  The Mall offers Marks & Spencer (which now ships to the U.S. – YEAH!), Debenhams, Next & House of Fraser as the anchor stores, with numerous boutiques, both designer and discount.  There is also a food court to die for.  I enjoyed a pleasant Mexican lunch and a margarita outdoors on the Southern Terrace at Wahaca to refuel the tired shopper.

You can’t crowd much shopping into a London quickie.  I had to forgo a visit to the funky Covent Garden stalls and my favorite antique markets during this London getaway.  But rest assured, as Arnold would say “I’ll be back.”

TRAVELER’s TIP:  Don’t buy an Oyster card for the tube & buses before you leave the States.  It’s no longer a good bargain.  I believe the better alternative is to buy a 7-day travel card once you arrive in London.  You can get one at any tube stop.  However, if you plan to return, then buy the Oyster card in London and you can top it up in town.

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Posted in England, Europe, Flying Solo, London, Solo Travel for Women Blog, United Kingdom, Wanderlust Women, Weekend Getaways | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple

There is no dispute that architect Frank Lloyd Wright is one of America’s most notable architects and while his buildings dot the urban and suburban landscapes around the country, one of his most notable is Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois, a perfect day trip from Chicago.  This solo traveler grew up blessed with an architect father who drew inspiration from Wright’s designs, so a journey to see Oak Park was more like a pilgrimage than a weekend escape from the Windy City.

Wright.Unity TempleWhile Oak Park itself boasts more than 25 Wright buildings, Unity Temple is impressive in its place in the center of town and most notably for its influence on 20th century architecture.  In fact, many architects consider it to be the birth of modern design because of its aesthetic intent and use of a solitary material – concrete.  It had never been done before and in 1908, at its completion, Unity Temple stood as a testament to Wright’s innovative artistry.

The Temple is still an active hub of Oak Park and visitors are at once drawn to the loggia and ushered by design into the four-story worship room.  Once inside, you can take in all that the temple has to offer including Wright’s use of light Unity Temple Skylightsthrough his stained glass windows, especially the skylights, and the simplistic and synergistic utility of the furniture which fills the temple’s ceremonial room.  Within its walls, Wright recognized, perhaps for the first time, that the space of a building is as important as the walls which establish its structures.

Unity Temple is a treasure and has been on a US National Historic Landmark for more than forty years and in 2008 the National Park Service submitted it for consideration as a World Heritage Site.

Oak Park is a short train ride from Chicago at just about 35 minutes.  It makes the perfect Chicago day trip, off the beaten path.

Chicago hotel deals: Visit the windy city!

Posted in Illinois, Off the Beaten Path, Travel Blog, United States | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Soul on Capri

It’s springtime on the Amalfi Coast and this is my first year in six that I am not there to soak up the rays of the sun from under a canopy of periwinkle wisteria or enjoy the headiness of it jasmine-scented breezes.  And while the lush island paradise of Capri is technically not part of the Amalfi Coast, its beauty still echoes in the heart and soul. It’s a paradise unlike any other. It’s also the perfect time of year to enjoy some Sunday soul on Capri, to power down from life and really focus on you.

Villa San MicheleSail to Capri aboard one of the many ferries from Sorrento or Naples (It’s still too early in the season to take a boat from Positano). You step onto this lush floral wonderland in Marina Grande and it’s up to you whether to go right to the artsy neighborhood of Anacapri or left to the Funicolare up to the top. The choices are as varied as the bougainvillea blooms which color your path.

Gardens Villa San MicheleAnacapri offers a quiet, laid back village for a leisurely stroll. Explore the wonderful Villa San Michele with its winding gardens which lead to panoramic, terraced vistas. Venture off the beaten path to Anacapri’s residential area, away from the maddening crowds, and grab a seat at a fountain (don’t forget to bring your lunch because a simple slice of Caprese cake and a cappuccino can cost $20 on this island). There are plenty of colorful churches if you are seeking a solo spot to meditate. Depending on traffic, it takes a good half hour to get back to the port by bus, so plan ahead and leave yourself enough free time to sit on the free beach alongside the bus depot.  Don’t forget your towel!

Practically any spot along the sea offers dreamy views of the Bay of Naples, where the aqua water meets the sky on a horizon of robin’s egg blue. Yet, there are special spots which simply cannot be missed for the solo traveler hoping to reflect on the day, on life, on la dolce vita. The Augustus Gardens is another such spot.  You need to take the Funicolare up to the Piazzetta and then it’s just a short walk.  Wind your way along the entry path lined with statues of Roman gods and goddesses and make your way to the top, where a bench is the perfect perch at the edge of the cliff. For a real challenge, you can always tackle the walk along Via Krupp, a serpentine path descending 328 feet (100 meters) to the sea. Just remember, what goes down must come up and Via Krupp has been closed from time to time off season.

Enjoy your bit of Sunday soul on Capri…a day you will always hold in your heart!

Posted in Amalfi Coast, Europe, Flying Solo, Italy, Italy travel Concierge, Solo Travel for Women Blog, Sunday Soul | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Friday Foto

Amalfi Blue for Sorrento

Posted in Europe, Friday Foto, Italy, Italy travel Concierge, Solo Travel for Women Blog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment