Saturday, 28 January 2017

my new life as a travel startupper (or how I started drinking coffee)

I've been quiet in here while my real life has been crazy busy for the last 2 months, in a good way.

When I started my blog here, I wrote that the world probably needs another blogger as mush as I need another hole in my head, (without that stopping me of course). This time I think I've found something that might actually be useful to a lot of people, at least people who love to travel. I'm so caught up in my project that I even believe it will change the way we travel. But right before I jump out and change the world, I wanted to give you a little update on what's been going on and how Pathport happened. And how maybe it saved my life or at least my sanity after a few months as (nearly) desperate housewife trying to escape the question that kept getting louder: what am I going to do with my life now?

Back in July I received an email from a French girl named Laurence Foucher asking me whether I would like to join the travel collective she was putting together made of Instagrammers willing to share their paths around the world. I just found that email correspondence and I can see that I replied yes immediately. I also remember that I thought her idea was nothing less than fantastic. It was so simple I couldn't believe no one had thought of it before. Let's stop buying expensive, traditional travel guides like Lonely Planet (and feel bad because we never get to the bottom of those history explanations or have time to google 25 different hotels to see what they look like since there are no pictures). Let's stop wasting hours on Instagram trying to find the cool spots; it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. She made a perfect summary of one of today's biggest paradoxes: so much content available and so little time to sort through the stream.

The idea? Sorting through the stream and serving one-of-a-kind personal addresses selected by inspiring Instagrammers, each time with the answers to 3 questions: why, what and when?  Plus adding their unique photos and an interactive map to find the spots easily. All of it downloadable and ready to be imported into your smartphone, directly into your pocket. For $4,99.

As Vogue put it this week: "Telling the story of travel through the well-trained eyes of its Instagram gang, Pathport is bringing the humble travel guide into the 21st century with an all-new accessible way to see the world". See how I just nonchalantly mentioned we're in Vogue? You can read more here: pathport-the-new-travel-guides-at-your-fingertips

I made my first path about Paris and a few months later one about our road trip in Portugal, but I kept thinking about the whole Pathport idea, it was in the back of my mind a lot of the time. Looking back, I realize a part of me already wanted to get more involved but I had just moved out of my Parisian apartment and all of my furniture was on its way to Washington DC, our new home. More than anything I was focused on the moving and adaptation process for our family. The timing didn't seem right at all.

Then, and it's kind of funny, Laurence told me she had just left Paris too for the US. She was now living in Miami and I happened to go there to visit a friend. We met for a drink. Actually I had a coke because my friend in Miami makes really good Spritz and takes me out sailing and drinking rose all day, (hey Mags). I almost didn't go because I felt so drunk/tired/hungover, or maybe a bit of all 3. It's funny to think how things would probably look a lot different if I hadn't.

We ended up talking for hours with Laurence and before leaving I mentioned the idea of me joining Pathport and the two of us partnering up. When a company is just the 2 of you, the most important thing is by far that you get along, that you have the same vision, that you can laugh at the same things, so I invited Laurence to come and stay with me in DC for 2 days. At this point she had just moved from Miami to New York, now only a bus ride away from me, another lucky coincidence.

That's how I came to join Pathport, how I started drinking coffee, how my days became longer, my nights shorter all carried by the excitement of starting something new, something I believe in and that happens to combine some of my favourite things: travel, photography and social media as well as the independence being a startupper brings with it.

It also means a lot of unknown. We're off to a good start but that doesn't mean we're going to make it. There's no certainty when you start your own company, none whatsoever, and the hardest part begins now; spreading the word, making ourselves known and of course getting people to our store and buying our guides.

No matter how uncertain things are, when you're doing something you like (that even includes watching SEO tutorials on YouTube) you have to feel lucky. And so, while I hope I'll still have time to blog from time to time, the next few months will mostly be about getting Pathport on everyone's radar.

I also want to add that some of you have been incredibly supportive all along the way and I really want to thank you for that. It means more than you probably know. When you've got your head and heart into something one hundred percent, getting messages from and seeing friends and people around you share your enthusiasm, it adds meaning to everything we do.

And of course a huge thank you to all the pathfinders who have joined us so far, it's probably the best part of this job, continuously receiving such inspiring paths and seeing all the work and efforts that have been put into creating these.

You can access Pathport right here:

And if you want to take a peek at the 2 paths I've created or purchase them:
Roadtrippin' in Pourtugal:
A more unpretentious Paris:

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Saturday, 3 December 2016

apothecary stories

One thing that makes me happy is stumbling upon little gems like the apothecary museum of Alexandria. Two hours earlier I didn't even know it existed and now I am the owner of an impressive photo collection of pharmaceutic bottles on my phone. It's a little piece of heaven for nostalgic souls like me and I'm happy to be able to share it here on my blog.

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary closed its doors in 1933 after declaring bankruptcy and its last owner - Edward S. Leadbeater Jr. - died a few days later, putting an end to a long family business story that started back in 1792. Luckily for us, the apothecary was preserved as is with the original shop furnishing and objects such as mortars and pestles, those incredibly beautiful hand-blown medicine bottles with gold-leaf labels standing on old, wooden shelves, formula books, prescriptions (whereof one is written out for Martha Washington, George Washington's wife), journals, letters, invoices, boxes with magical inscriptions: dragon's blood, prickly ash (and not ass like I initially thought) berries, unicorn roots...

Typography, vintage signs, beautiful brick walls, squeaky wood floors, drawers with porcelain knobs, all so well preserved. And the manufacturing room on the second floor where the medicine was prepared is incredible to step into.

The part I'm not so nostalgic about is how approximate the science was at the time. It seems a lot of the time luck was your best ally in getting well. Some of the treatments worked, some where mostly about drinking alcohol (which in high amounts sure does make you feel better), for babies too, some didn't work and some would actually worsen your condition or maybe even kill you.

I found an interesting article about these little blue pills - not the ones you're thinking about - the (in)famous blue mass pills Abraham Lincoln apparently took, a mercury-based medicine widely used from the late 17th century to the 19th (you can see a box on the very first picture of this post if you scroll back up). Originally used to treat syphilis it ended up being used as a remedy for tuberculosis, toothache, childbirth pain, constipation, you name it. At the time they didn't know how toxic it was in high doses or that it could lead to heavy-metal poisoning. Each blue mass pill contained at least 33% mercury and if you took a typical prescription of 2-3 pills per day you would be more than 100 times above the limits set today. Imagine a treatment running over several weeks or even months...

Lincoln's heavy and regular intake of these blue mass pills as a remedy for his "melancholy" (what we would probably call depression today) is said to be the reason for his violent rage attacks and the erratic behaviour he was subject to over a period of years. He would clearly not have passed a drug test if Donald Trump had been around at the time to ask him for one...

A chicken foot for good luck? Or maybe I just don't get apothecary jokes.

It was also a time where doctors would bleed you to make you feel better (didn't exactly work out for George Washington). They weren't even all doctors, sometimes just barbers using leeches or simply cutting open a vein and draining the blood. This was when blackheads were thought to be tiny worms burrowing into your skin - just when you thought blackheads couldn't get any grosser - and when an ointment of sage, chamomile, bay leaves and red roses was thought to be efficient to treat breast cancer. I'm sure a lot of modern parents would have loved the "soothing syrup syringes" for babies containing pure morphine, sweet dreams guaranteed for the entire family.

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary is located in Alexandria, Maryland, a short drive from DC.  For 5 dollars you will get the grand tour of this little museum.

Address and opening hours can be found here

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Saturday, 12 November 2016

the perfect weekend getaway

t h e   i n n  a t  p e r r y  c a b i n  b y  b e l m o n d

It's very difficult to wake up in surroundings like these and not feel an overwhelming sense of serenity and gratitude. We had just left DC behind us and crossed the bridge to Chesapeake Bay the evening before and now that I think about it, this is probably the best way to discover a new place, arriving when night has already fallen, tired from a long week, quickly unpacking in the light of a fire roaring away in the fireplace of your room, slipping into a warm bath and then in the arms of Morpheus, having seen nothing yet of the Eastern Shore of Maryland except for a starlit sky. And then this.

I woke up early, got dressed randomly (read: put back on yesterday's clothes) and went outside. The Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond is facing the Miles river and that makes it a perfect sunrise spot. That morning it was just me, a few birds and the calming sound of boats rubbing against the berth while the sun slowly came out announcing an extraordinarily warm November day, a complete change of scenery from DC even though it's less than 2 hours away.

Travelling with teenagers has taught me it isn't a very good idea to run into their room and wake them up this early while enthusiastically flailing your arms and screaming "look, look" no matter how beautiful the sunrise is, so we let them sleep while enjoying the quietness, the first rays of sunlight on our terrace, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. Did you know that if you don't drink coffee you get to eat all the scones? Mild remorse once we got to the breakfast table.

There have been a lot of stress factors in our lives these past few months. Moving from Paris to DC is a big thing. It's a long process full of goodbyes, drastic changes, paperwork frustration and a lot of unknown. Deep down it's about being sure you're making the right choice and moments of doubt will sneak up on you from time to time. It's also a balancing act when there are several people in your household and you don't all go through the same phases simultaneously. In other words a break away from all of that was well needed, a chance to slow down time and spend it together. Too much stress will make you forget what's important in life and why you're here at all. This weekend and the serene surroundings allowed us to do just that.

A couple of hours with the wind in your hair under a blue, blue sky will certainly help putting your worries behind you. Our captain Jason took us to remote, unspoiled reaches of the Myles River and Chesapeake Bay while telling us more about the area, the Canadian geese flying above us, crab fishing, the town of St Michaels, its famous Maritime Museum.

The hotel has several boats you can rent for a cruise, a few hours, half a day, a sunset trip, whatever suits your needs. There are both sailing boats and yachts and there's even a sailing academy where you can sign up for classes. We had a cheese platter prepared by the hotel that we enjoyed while at sea and our daughter got a private lesson or at least got to pretend she was the captain for part of the trip. An unforgettable moment and a perfect introduction to the Eastern Shore for our first time here, a lot of beautiful islands, shores and houses that one can only dream about.

If you're not a sailing person there are plenty of other activities such as the incredible Maritime Museum I already mentioned and the cute town of St Michael's right next to the Inn at Perry Cabin. During our two day-visit we went there on the hotel's complimentary bicycles for ice cream, took a stroll through its main street, visited the local Lyon Distillery and did some whiskey tasting. We also took the car for a little trip to nearby Easton, we went kayaking (the hotel has both kayaks and paddle boards for you, you just need to sign up) and also practised some less ambitious but no less pleasant activities such as taking a nap in the afternoon sun and enjoying a glass of wine in front of the outdoor fireplaces facing the river while the sun set. 

And if you think we weren't already completely relaxed by now we also indulged in one of the Linden Spa's treatments. It's one of the top spas of Maryland and we went for the in-room couples deep tissue massage. They set up everything in our room and I have to admit the toughest part was realising our two masseuses Sarah and Natalie didn't fit into my suitcase. 

If you're going, don't miss out on the hotel's Stars restaurant. We had a delicious dinner here, tasting local specialities such as crab cakes and rock fish, some delicious desserts (the wine card is great too, we tried our first Pinot Noir from Oregon) and finished the evening with S'mores by the outdoor fireplace roasting homemade marshmallows and telling stories in front of the fire.

One last cup of coffee, one last cookie and it's time to head back to DC. Driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge it feels all right to be on our way home. You know how sometimes it's much too soon and the weekend flew right by without you barely noticing it? This Sunday evening doesn't feel like that. We had time, together, we unwound, there where precious slow moments amidst all these great activities. I think it's the place, the serenity of it that somehow rubs off on you. I'm sure we'll be back, maybe in spring for the hydrangeas.

You can read more about the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond right here 

Condé Nast Readers Choice Awards just named it one of the Top Hotels in New York State and the Mid Atlantic.

Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond
308 Watkins Lane, St Michaels, MD 21663, USA
Tel: 1 410 745 2200

[Fun fact: A large part of the movie "Wedding Crashers" with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn was filmed here.]

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