A Chic Instagram Guide To Manhattan

Spotted: You, roaming around the Upper East Side, looking utterly confused if I do say so myself. Need a little help finding the hotspots around the chicest parts of Manhattan? No problem. That’s a secret I’ll definitely tell. We know you’ll love these Instagram-worthy spots in the Big Apple.

XOXO, Siren.

The MET

Photo: @gemypham

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Start your journey at the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The gorgeous Beaux-Arts building is only the beginning of the masterpieces found within. Once you’ve snapped a picture on the iconic Met steps or by the fountains, head on inside and take in all the incredible collections the museum has to offer.

@newyorkpalace

Lotte New York Palace

Take a cab to 455 Madison Avenue, the famous Lotte New York Palace. Head into Villard for one of the best brunches you’ll ever have or book a treatment at the hotel’s world-class spa. Maybe your very own Chuck Bass is waiting for you with a dirty martini at the hotel lobby bar, Trouble’s Trust.

@hotspotsofamsterdam

Shops on Madison Ave

Once you’re nice and relaxed, take a stroll down Madison Avenue for a window shopping session or pop into Céline and finally buy that bag you’ve been dreaming of. Commemorate the moment with a photo of the picturesque street lined with luxury stores and delicate building facades.

@flexdith

NoMo Soho

Ready for dinner? NoMo SoHo has you covered. Take your photo under the leafy arc before enjoying a delicious meal. We recommend the Kale Salad and Pappardelle pasta.

@jstnrnd

Top of the Rock

Nothing says chic like Rockafeller and there is no better place to catch the sunset than at the Top of the Rock. The whole city is laid out in front of you, a concrete playground waiting for you to explore.

Central Park

Photo: @parisinfourmonths

Central Park

Lunch at the Boathouse, a stroll through the tree-lined path, feeding the ducks at The Pond in Central Park. A day in the life of Blair Waldorf and the perfect place to capture an enviable Instagram photo.

Sarabeth's New York

Photo: @yuyuchien

Sarabeth’s

You can’t spell chic without b-r-u-n-c-h. Head to Sarabeth’s Central Park South for a mouthwatering late Sunday morning meal. Indulge in the Lemon & Ricotta Pancakes or the Toasted Coconut Waffles. More of a savoury person? How does Classic Eggs Benedict or Vegetable Frittata sound?

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Transform Your Travels With These Minimalist Luggage Essentials

We’re not here to tell you what to exactly pack for your next trip or to roll your clothes instead of folding because realistically, it’s different for everyone. One thing that’s the same for travellers is our luggage.

The secret to minimal travel isn’t what you pack, but your choice of luggage. You’ll structure what and how you pack according to the style, size, and structure of your bag.

We’ve narrowed down the best, smallest, most durable and of course, the chicest luggage on the market right now that will fit any trip you take – from Iceland to Bali.

TRAVELLER guide

Photo: @woolandoak

1/ The Perfect Backpack

Wool & Oak’s backpack is crafted in a way that the front flap fully opens with compartments throughout like a slot for your laptop, phone, and important documents. Plus the back of the bag unzips to reveal a slimmer backpack just for your laptop and other important documents.

Best for: Weekenders and day trips

Photo: @paktbags

2/ The Transformative Duffle

Duffles aren’t a preferred bag among travellers, but this one by Pakt is a game changer. It has the casualty and flexibility of a bag, but the organization of a carry-on. The duffle opens down the centre to reveal two large pockets for more organized packing. There’s also a centre cushioned lining for your laptop, secret compartments for important documents and TSA approved pockets.

Best for: Trips with lots of travel and jumping between cities

@away

3/ The Ideal Carry On

Finally, the Away carry-on is unlike any other rolling luggage. Not only does it have thoughtful slots, but also a TSA approved battery attached and easily accessible to charge your tech. The clean design and wide range of colour choices is definitely an added bonus. Plus there’s lifetime warranty!

Best for: Long-term trips

Say goodbye to your large pieces of luggage, and invest in a smarter type of bag for your travels.

5 Incognito Tourist Activities In New York City

When visiting New York City, one must stay away from selfie sticks and tour buses. With so much to offer the options (and outfits) seem endless.

Take a break from Magnolia’s bakery and S&B’s MET steps and dare to explore these local gems.

New York City

Photo: @lynnkimdo

Gansevoort Park Avenue Rooftop Pool and Lounge:

With an exclusive appeal of twenty stories overlooking Manhattan, you’re guaranteed to be happy hours before 5 pm.

21 Club

Photo: @hyunny_tittlemouse

21 Club

Endearing New Yorkers since the Prohibition, a mix of young professionals and Wall-street giants frequent this restaurant-lounge daily. Very Great Gatsby.

Photo: @hendura

Village Vanguard

Break from the Metropolitan Opera House and take your sophisticated vibes to an institution that has been hosted by jazz and blues talents such as Miles Davis for over 80 years.

Photo: @charlotte1288

Attaboy

When privy to the password, speakeasies charm right through their hidden entrances and beyond. The devoted Attaboy bartenders create drinks via guests’ mood or flavour desires. In this city that never sleeps, they won’t stop serving their best Manhattans until 4 a.m.

Photo: @allilolocidesigns

Aire Ancient Baths

New York City can be exhausting. These baths ensure you won’t need a vacation from your vacation. Between the Salt Massages and Red Wine Experience, you can’t go wrong. Go ahead, you’ve earned it.

Editor Picks: Our 5 Favourite Travel-Friendly Gifts

Get Gifting!

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to pick up timeless and thoughtful gifts for the travellers in your life.

Since we’re always on the hunt for the unexpected, this stylized guide will help reinvent their airport style. From a rose gold luggage set to a travel wallet that comes with a designer pencil, we have you and your shopping list covered.

NordstromThe IT Bag: Travel in style with this luxe leather masterpiece.
Sole Society Candice Oversized Travel Tote, $107.90

 

Nordstrom

 

They See Me Rolling: Gone are the days of basic black luggage sets. Give your airport style a refresh with these rose gold beauties.
Calpak Ambeur 2-Piece Spinner Luggage Set, $384.63

Net a Porter

Make Music: The best brand in speakers has officially branched out into headphones game, and we can’t help but gush.
B&O Play H7 leather Headphones, $300

Net-a-Porter

The Devil Wears Prada: Kiss your outdated wallet goodbye, and introduce this passport-friendly accessory. Included is a super-chic embossed pencil.
Prada Travel Textured-leather Continental Wallet, $624.12

Nordstrom

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The sun shines everywhere, do we need to say more?
Quay Australia Byron 50mm Sunglasses, $80.97

6 Hipster Hangouts In Sydney, Australia

Thanks to hipsters, we have a subculture of independent thinking, art appreciation and a notion that anything mainstream is simply not good enough. They’re always on the hunt for the next ‘cool’ thing, and they place a special emphasis on authenticity and uniqueness.

So, if you happen to find yourself in Sydney, check out these must-see hipster hangouts.

6 Hipster Places To Visit In Sydney, Australia

1/ First on the docket, Surry Hills. Not only will you enjoy stunning architecture and hidden laneways, but you’ll also stumble across great coffee shops. For freshly brewed beans that will blow your mind, try a cup at Single Origin Roasters.

However, if you’d rather skip the coffee and dive into the harder stuff, pay the artisan distillery in the Rosebery neighbourhood a visit. You can sample everything from their craft gin to whiskey and a phenomenally tailored vodka as well.

2/ For those who are hungry and are eager to pay a visit to Potts Point, we recommend The Artisan Butcher. It offers a variety of products including French mushrooms and Italian salami. If you’re looking for something specific, or just a simple steak, this butcher shop has what you need.

6 Hipster Places To Visit In Sydney, Australia

3) Gertrude & Alice, named after Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas is a reader’s heaven. This creative space is filled from the floor up, and snacks are served for those with an appetite.

4) Better Read Than Dead is known for their immaculate staff recommendation system. Stop thinking, and just let their team suggest something that will knock your hipster socks off.

6 Hipster Places To Visit In Sydney, Australia

5) Are you looking for pieces from the ’70s? Look no further than The Vintage Clothing Shop. The owners of this store have been collecting and selling vintage clothes for over 40 years, and numerous TV producers and fashion magazine editors are their regulars. Everything in their store is highly curated, including their selection of blouses and Blahnik’s.

6 Hipster Places To Visit In Sydney, Australia

6) Even though we’ve already recommended strolling through Surrey Hills, we have to recommend it again. Some of the most prominent writers, musicians and artists, such as Josh Pyke and Alex Lloyd, adore this neighbourhood. The old architecture combined with a buzz of creativity is what this place is all about, and its only rival is the Balmain suburb. These suburban areas attract more and more hipsters every year, so experience this unspoiled heaven before it’s too late.

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No Boredom In Bucketlist Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand is a non-stop contradiction – from old world temples and makeshift markets to sky-soaring architecture and luxury boutiques. There is no such thing as boredom in Bangkok. This colourful capital has something for everyone’s budget.

Here are the ‘highs and lows’ of this South East Asia gem.

EAT:

Photo: @dear.rt

High: If you can brave the Bangkok view from 61 floors up, then you must try Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar. Enjoy BBQ seafood and Thai delights among the stars. After dinner, stay a while and enjoy a sky-high martini. Note: Vertigo shuts down during high winds, so check the forecast before you head out.

Photo: @irenemarcolin

Low: Bangkok is probably THE most budget-friendly cosmopolitan capital city. Food stalls along the cramped streets offering simple al-fresco dining are plentiful, delicious and easy on the wallet. Beef noodle soup, pad Thai and a fresh mango shake for dessert costs less than $5. Not bad for a three-course meal!

SHOP:

Photo: @bopinyapach


High
: Spend the day at Siam Paragon, one of Asia’s largest shopping complexes.  It’s also the most expensive in Bangkok. Spread across 13 acres, Siam Paragon features everything from designer duds like Armani, Valentino and Jimmy Choo to Thai silk boutiques and even an opera concert hall! Don’t forget to check out Siam Ocean World on your way out, South East Asia’s largest aquarium.

Photo: @sinsinsie

Low: Get lost in the mayhem at Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest weekend market in the world. New and vintage clothes, Asian antiques, colourful lanterns, Buddhist statues and more are all for sale at bargain prices – if you can find it! This market mecca is full of surprises. Exploring the maze is half the fun!

EXPLORE: 

Photo: @peepy_and_mother_lee

High:  If you’re looking for the ultimate East Asian spa experience, the Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hotel was voted the best spa in the world, according to Travel + Leisure. Spend the day being luxuriously pampered in an exquisitely restored century-old teakwood house. The full-body scrub using grated coconut, green bean, jasmine rice and coconut oil smells like pure bliss (or so I imagine!).

Khao San Road

Photo: @seohyenna

Low: The infamous book ‘The Beach’ describes Koh San Road as “a halfway house between East and West”. The iconic Bangkok street is jam-packed with backpacker bars, cheap guesthouses, tour agencies, quirky shops, market stalls, tattoo and massage parlours, eateries and much more. There’s no doubt that the legendary Koh San Road is a smorgasbord of everything and anything. Be prepared for the masses!

Photo: @mixxpst

Also: Be sure to visit Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, where both the revered Emerald Buddha carved from solid jade and the King of Thailand reside. Intricately tiled facades, shimmering gold Buddha statues and exquisite wall murals are the centre focus of this top culture spot. Note: Don’t forget to take a cute pic with one of the stern-faced Palace guards.

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10 Unique Hotels That Are Worth The Splurge

Finding hotels that fall into stylish city stays, romantic rural retreats and chic coastal getaways can be hard to come by.

From Istanbul to the Dominican Republic, Portugal to Thailand — and a handful of destinations in between — these 10 properties that will get even the most modest of travellers hunting down their next trip.

Best Hotels Bermuda

Photo: @rwbermuda

Rosewood Tucker’s Point: Bermuda
Style: British colonial charm

Have the tennis whites and golf plaids pressed and ready for Rosewood Tucker’s Point hotel in Bermuda, a luxe playground for the country club set with views of the glittering pink beaches of Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound. As Britain’s oldest colony, you’ll catch sight of a bobby directing traffic or a heated cricket match. But this sun-splashed island is decidedly tropical, moving to the rhythms of calypso and reggae and the resort’s four stylish swimming pools, spoiling spa, manicured golf course and pro-worthy tennis courts are at your whim for playing the days away.

Santo Domingo Hotels

Photo: @casasdelxvi

Casas del XVI: Dominican Republic
Style: Charismatic colonial casas

Dominican Republic hotel Casas del XVI invites guests to quantum leap back to the colonial era – with the added benefit of all mod cons, naturally. Two casas, in the centre of Santo Domingo’s UNESCO World Heritage site Colonial City, have been lovingly restored (dare we say, improved upon) and fashioned into seven luxury suites. However, a supernaturally helpful private butler, peaceful palm-strewn courtyards to siesta in and a bygone setting support the illusion that you’re a fresh-off-the-boat hidalgo paying homage to the New World.

Panama Hotels

Photo: @elotroladoportobelo

El Otro Lado: Portobelo, Panama
Style: Native arts and culture

Tucked away across a cerulean Caribbean bay from the historic port town of Portobelo, El Otro Lado hotel is a laid-back, yet luxurious, outpost of traditional Panamanian culture that’s right at home in the jungle-blanketed wild. With original artwork adorning every room, local woodworkers carving sculptures on site, creative Caribbean cuisine and an ambitious list of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, this jungle retreat is the ideal mix of art and adventure.

Photo: @liz.bonney

The Byron at Byron Resort & Spa: Byron Bay, Australia
Style: Relaxed rainforest resort

Bed down in the rainforest at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa, a tropical treat with an excellent restaurant, award-winning spa and flocks of resident birds and butterflies. Toast the forest from the glittering green pool, stroll to the beach or laze around in your fig-and-fern-surveying room.

LA Hotels

Photo: @acedtla

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles: Los Angeles, United States
Style: Rock ‘n’ LA noir

Where else can Spanish Gothic, art deco, noir, rocker chic and hipster cool coexist so peacefully but at the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles? Located in the revamped United Artists Theatre building in the up-and-coming neighbourhood’s once-great Theater District, the hotel has generations of cool, and uses them to its utmost advantage, from its scenery rooftop bar to its Brooklyn-meets-California restaurant.

Istanbul Turkey

Photo: @smallcrazy

Vault Karaköy, The House Hotel: Istanbul, Turkey
Style: Historic bank, modern makeover

Originally the Ottoman Bank, Vault Karaköy by House Hotels in Istanbul has kept its classic architecture and charming historic features (including the eponymous vaults) but added plenty of modern delights: there’s a spa, stylish modern decor and even its own in-house art curator. Rooms from $263 per night. 

Photo: @royalcrescent_hotel

Royal Crescent Hotel: Bath, United Kingdom
Style: Georgian perfection

The neoclassical finery of Bath’s Royal Crescent Hotel, in the centre of one of the country’s most evocative streets, makes it the English escape of which elegant dreams are made. Add the first-class food and top-notch spa, and you’ll never want to leave.

Photo: @out.of_office

Point Yamu by Como: Phuket, Thailand
Style: Paola Navone perfection

At Italian-influenced Point Yamu by Como, rooms are immaculately styled by Paola Navalone and brilliant pizzas are served poolside at La Sirena restaurant. Thailand sings through, too, thanks to the Phuket-inspired artworks in the lobby, Peranakan-Thai cuisine in Nahmyaa restaurant and the jaw-drop views of Phang Nga Bay.

Memmo Alfama Hotel

Photo: @thehautepursuit

Memmo Alfama: Lisbon, Portugal
Style: White and wonderful

Once used as a shoe polish factory, Memmo Alfama hotel is a bright and breezy townhouse tucked away in a maze of cobbled streets twisting between ancient churches and Fado restaurants. Inside, smooth lines, crisp sheets and laid-back lounges beckon; outside, the river-view pool bar is Lisbon’s latest spot to see and be seen.

Photo: @toppingrosehouse

Topping Rose House: Hamptons, United States
Style: Gallerist’s beach house

If someone with a summer home in the Hamptons decided to build a hotel, it would be Topping Rose House. With just the right doses of gallerist-curated art, historic and modern architecture, anything-you-can-dream-of service, farm-to-table cuisine and the understated luxury that well-heeled New Yorkers expect, the Bridgehampton hideaway might actually be better than your own private Hamptons home. Or, does your summer home come with a free car and beach passes?

Eco-Friendly Destinations For Chic Travellers

By choosing green travel, you can help reduce your carbon footprint without sacrificing the quality of your experience – many resorts and hotels are doing their part to be eco-friendly while remaining truly luxurious.

We’ve rounded up a selection of eco-friendly hotels that use sustainable approaches and provide a memorable stay.

Photo: @odile_archambault

Ritz-Carlton Montreal:

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal has been the most elegant address in the city since 1912, but following its recent renovations, it has also become the destination for green travellers. Take a dip in the hotel’s saltwater swimming pool that is heated using reclaimed-energy. Thermostats that remember a guest’s temperature preferences upon check-in and motion sensors that will activate the lights are other eco-friendly amenities.  Guests can also dine in a 46-person greenhouse featuring herb garden that provides some of the restaurant’s fresh produce.

Costa Rica Hotels

Photo: @elsilenciolodge

El Silencio Lodge & Spa’s,  located in Costa Rica, boasts 15 mountainside eco suites are set on stilts in the cloud forest canopy and are made with eco-friendly materials. 90 percent of the luxury hotel’s grounds are designated as a private forest reserve and the restaurant’s cuisine is provided by local farmers or the hotel’s garden.  Bonus: each suite is assigned an EcoConcierge to personalize your stay.

Eco-friendly resorts

Photo: @masseriacervarolo

Masseria Cervarolo in Puglia, Italy, has been awarded an EU Ecolabel for its environmentally sustainable practices.  A family-run 18-room farmhouse, Masseria Cervarolo has a knack for repurposing materials. You will find barn doors as headboards and bathroom racks made of recycled driftwood.  The eco-friendly retreat generates its own solar power and supplies only Malin + Goetz green toiletries.

Dominican Republic

Casa Bonita in the Dominican Republic is a 12-suite hotel set in the rugged Barahona rainforest, a leading eco-tourism destination.  The retreat was built entirely from locally sourced materials and uses a hydroelectric generator.  On-site, you’ll find Pat’s Organic Garden, which provides produce for the restaurant and the rest of the restaurant’s food is sourced from the surrounding community.  The Tanama Eco Spa, a haven for butterflies, is set in the rainforest. Enjoy therapeutic treatments inspired by natural elements.

Eco-Tourism

Photo: @atlantisbahamas

Atlantis, Paradise Island:

Atlantis, Paradise Island is passionate about ocean conservation and animal rescue; in fact, the Atlantis Animal Rescue Team successfully rescued Georgie, a West Indian manatee and relocated her to the Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Centre earlier this year.  After a successful rehabilitation period, Georgie was released in August to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands.  The rescue centre is a haven for injured marine mammals with a fourteen-acre habitat and the Dolphin Cay features an education centre allowing guests to learn about the ocean and conservation.

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

The holidays are a hot time to travel according to Stats Canada, with over 4.3 million Canadians leaving the country each December.

For Canucks looking to spend some quality time celebrating Christmas with friends and family, or for snowbirds just looking to escape the cold, there is no time like the present to begin planning a winter retreat.

We’re celebrating the season early by rounding up the top places around the world to spend the holidays abroad:

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @adventurefaktory

Aria Budapest Hotel

Embrace the romance and enchantment of winter by cozying up with loved ones at Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection, recently named the number-one hotel in the world by 2017 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards. Just steps away from the Christmas market in Budapest—one of the most charming markets in Europe—Aria Hotel Budapest is the perfect place for a beautiful holiday getaway, offering multiple holiday packages each year that include a range of delicious hot toddies, complimentary spa treatments and special Christmas treats. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

photo: @torfronts

Bisha Hotel Toronto

Escape Toronto’s cold winter weather and immerse yourself in the newly launched, Bisha Hotel Toronto. Right in the heart of the Entertainment District, Bisha Hotel specializes in laid-back luxury with an edge. Enjoy winter-themed cocktails on the hotel’s 44th-floor rooftop bar or indulge in celebrity chef, Akira Back’s namesake restaurant offering modern Japanese cuisine with a Korean accent. The much-anticipated hotel is the perfect place to plan a company Christmas party with venues including a 2,300 square-foot event space on the 43rd floor or for a more intimate gathering, reserve the Bisha Suite with a 1,000 square-foot terrace with views of the CN Tower peeking through its two story windows. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @@eandmbambrick

Dominican Republic:

Trade in your caroling for Merengue music this Christmas and head down to the Dominican Republic. The country celebrates Christmas the right way, with festivities beginning in October and lasting right through to January. Visitors to the DR can experience a Christmas like no other with traditional fireworks and Christmas cuisine over the course of three months. Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is the ultimate night for celebration and those staying in Santo Domingo have the unique opportunity to experience the most elaborate Christmas mass in the country at Cathedral de Santa Maria in the Colonial Zone. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @artistoswald

Gansevoort Park Avenue, NYC

The Big Apple is calling all Christmas lovers. Take a stroll by Rockefeller Center to visit the famous Christmas tree and take in all the lights. Frequent the many renowned Christmas markets that the dazzling city has to offer before retiring to the swanky Gansevoort Park Avenue. After enjoying a warm, delicious meal at Asellina, head on up to the Rooftop Lounge for a night-cap of festive mulled wine. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @passionforcruises

Silversea Cruises

“Lido deck” the halls this holiday season by celebrating with a Silversea cruise. Decorated from bow to stern with traditional greenery and ornaments with an old-fashioned flair—including cheery and whimsical gingerbread cottages—each Silversea ship is a glittering oasis for a holiday abroad. Guests can sip on eggnog, mulled wine and hot chocolate while caroling with the crew, or indulge in traditional meals, Hannukah and Christmas services, holiday specials in the show lounge or delight in a visit from Santa Claus. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @foodienationtt

The Crane Resort, Barbados

Dreaming of a pink Christmas? With the famous Crane Beach’s soft pink sands in place of white snow, The Crane Resort is just the spot! Indulge in a well-deserved holiday getaway to this historic hotel in Barbados. Make sure to book a reservation on Christmas Day at The Crane’s top-tier, on-site restaurant, L’Azure, which offers specialty Christmas menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing says Christmas like a good meal followed by the gift of a luxurious treatment at Serenity Spa. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @thecurtainldn

The Curtain London, UK

One of the best times to visit London, UK is in the winter as the city offers visitors everything from Christmas markets to the iconic Winter Wonderland festival in Hyde Park. For the hottest and hippest place to stay, head to The Curtain. Recently opened, The Curtain offers visitors an eclectic atmosphere infused with luxury and the fun and dynamism of trendy east London. Guests can spot the city’s Christmas lights from the hotel’s rooftop bar, LIDO or hideaway in the hotel’s cozy and iconic restaurant, Red Rooster – they bring comfort food to a whole new level with their famous Fried Yardbird and mulled wine. Also don’t miss the weekly band performances including funk, soul and contemporary jazz – Christmas themed of course!

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A Girl’s Guide To Memories Jibacoa, Cuba

Both Dani and I are Toronto-based Instagrammers, and we were both craving an escape after a busy Summer filled with photo shoots, new projects, and tight deadlines. My birthday seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of town, and our attention quickly turned to Cuba. Neither Dani or I had ever been, and it seemed like the perfect colourful place to explore, eat, sip and shoot content.

We arrived at the Memories Jibacoa Beach Resort an hour outside Havana with no idea what to expect. We were met with sticky hot sunshine, sprawling white sand beaches feeding into the bright turquoise sea, Piña coladas at every turn and the best hospitality we’d ever encountered. Every minute in Cuba was bursting with energy, excitement, and friendly faces, whether we were on a catamaran to the reef at the resort or wandering the streets of Old Havana. This tropical country was loaded with endless candy coloured photo opportunities laden with lush greenery and unexpected historical details. In short, it was an Instagrammer’s dream!

Dani and I both have our own specific creative perspectives and see the world through a unique lens, and though we were in the same place at the same time we saw things a bit differently.

Scroll down to see Dani’s photo diary from the trip, and read each of our takes on the trip!

Dani Roche and Alyssa Garrison

Alyssa of Random Acts of Pastel: There’s something oh so lovely about mixing up your routine and escaping to somewhere completely new. The colours, friendliness, and energy in Cuba was a welcome change from days in Toronto spent tracking down even the tiniest corner of pastel! Some of my favourite elements of the trip included the super friendly dogs and cats “on vacation” at the resort, snorkeling around the coral reef surrounded by fish, donuts for breakfast, the crazy amazing hotel staff, splurging on dinner at one of Havana’s best Paladares (aka. hidden family-run restaurants) and searching the city for pink taxis. Memories Jibacoa was an only an hour from Havana, so we got the perfect mix of fast-paced urban exploration and laid-back resort life.

Dani Roche and Alyssa Garrison

Dani of @daniesque: When work is busy, tackling 100+ hour weeks seems like a no-brainer. However, as I’ve witnessed first-hand, the burnout is real – and maintaining the reputation of being someone “bad at going on vacations” is not sustainable. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to crave new experiences outside my insular reality – which, for the past few years, has consisted of dividing my time between Toronto and New York. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle gets exhausting quickly, and I recognized it was time for some time away.

From bright blue water to colourful buildings in Havana to Piña coladas for breakfast to warm sand between your toes as you run to listen to a live band playing Despacito, my trip to Cuba with Alyssa is one I will never forget. For a few days, I got to see what an alternative reality could look like – one that purposely removed me from my work when I thought I needed to be there most. Memories Jibacoa – with friendly staff, sprawling beaches, and a plethora of photo opportunities – proved to be the most hospitable home-away-from-home I could have ever hoped for, and I know I will be back to visit soon. Until then, I will carry memories of singing “Summer of ‘69” at the Piano Bar with me for the rest of my life.

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All images by Dani Roche