Category Archive for Food + Theme Restaurants
Casa de Campo resort review: our luxurious Dominican Republic hotel! La Romana all-inclusive, restaurants.
Winter… what’s that? In early January, I escaped the cold by travelling to Casa de Campo Resort & Villas in the Dominican Republic!
With 7000 acres of palm trees, warm beaches, a marina, golf courses and activities — it’s easy to see why Casa de Campo is one of the Leading Hotels of the World.
My photographer and long-time friend Molly Weingart accompanied me to the Dominican Republic. We wanted to be surprised, so we didn’t do much research beforehand… and our jaws dropped when we saw this exquisite property. Casa de Campo isn’t your typical all-inclusive; it’s the most beautiful and luxurious resort on the island.
How to get here: Casa de Campo is a resort and community located in La Romana, on the southeast coast of the DR. Most international flights land at Punta Cana or Santo Domingo airport. From there, you can either take another short flight to La Romana airport, or have the hotel pick you up (the drive is about an hour long).
Casa de Campo address: Carretera La Romana – Higuey, La Romana 22000, Dominican Republic
Casa de Campo was established in 1974, but recent renovations have modernized the buildings with an airy, warm Caribbean feel.
From the moment we arrived, we were in love with the peaceful, authentic feeling of this five-star resort. There’s nothing “touristy” or “Americanized” about the experience. Molly instantly bonded with the staff, who chatted with her in Spanish, and were always a step ahead of our needs.
Casa de Campo has a variety of rooms to choose from. Our home base was this spacious suite, with our own patio overlooking the tropical grounds.
(CDC has private villas for rent too. In the next post, we’ll give you a glimpse of this rock-star living.)
As a “Mario Kart” fan, I was tickled to learn that every guest received a personal golf cart! Molly and I had our own little 4-passenger mini car, marked with our room number. This way, we could easily get from place to place (remember, the grounds span thousands of acres).
The carts also make sense because Casa de Campo is hands-down the best golf resort in the country, with three award-winning Pete Dye courses including “Teeth of the Dog.”
It was quite the adventure to learn how to put the golf cart in reverse, turn on the lights, and avoid oncoming traffic. For the safety of everyone on the resort, I let Molly do the driving!
We went to the Dominican Republic in January, the pleasantly warm and dry season. The east coast storm brought brief rainshowers, but these let up quickly by the afternoons.
Even if it’s raining, there’s plenty to do indoors. Our comfortable room had fast wifi, a flat screen TV, and giant bathroom with a separate dressing room. I loved spending time soaking in the bathtub, which came with L’Occitane bath products including an effervescent cube.
There’s also the option of going shopping. Casa de Campo’s lobby opens up into a courtyard with several fashion boutiques. We loved the colorful selection of designer resort wear, and were tempted to get jelly spiked platform shoes by Carmen Sol. (She also makes the studded sandals below.)
Here’s another look at my “tropical Goth” outfit, perfect for a relaxing getaway in the Caribbean.
The sun is out — time to explore! Casa de Campo’s all inclusive package is a stellar deal, especially if you’re a foodie and enjoy trying new activities.
With this package, guests get full unlimited access to the amenities including the swimming pools, fitness center, bars, and seven restaurants. You also get to experience horseback riding, skeet shooting, tennis and water sports (we’ll show you the fun we had, in the next post!)
Can’t go wrong with the main pool deck, featuring modern cabanas and an in-water bar. The resort’s guests were very respectful (you won’t encounter rowdy guys or noisy children), and you can always find a secluded spot to lounge.
Casa de Campo’s common areas are also beautifully designed. High ceilings, rich mahogany and native stone create a relaxing tropical vibe.
So many lounge areas to choose from! But first, a cocktail please.
The bar at La Caña is located in the main area of the resort, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The friendly bartenders quickly get to know you by name, and prepare your favorite drink with a generous pour.
La Cana bar is a popular gathering spot for guests, who come to watch the game on the big screen, dance to live music, or simply hang out on the L-shaped couches. Molly and I would often come here to grab a snack or drink, and chat with our favorite bartenders.
The Dominican Republic is known for its fruit and rum (Brugal, Barcelo, and Bermudez are local favorites). I combined these in the perfect tropical drink: freshly blended pineapple juice, with Ron Bermudez Aniversario dark rum! I also recommend their special “Coco Chanel” cocktail, a scrumptious mix of coconut puree, lime juice, white rum and black pepper.
On the right: the bartenders also brew up an addictive latte with perfect froth, served with home-baked cookies.
Unlike typical resorts, the dining at Casa de Campo is at a consistent high level. I got my “fish fix” at La Cana restaurant, and ordered Nicoise salad, grouper, and sea bass. All were prepared beautifully with Mediterranean flair.
I’m usually not a fan of buffets. However, once again, Casa de Campo reversed my expectations. Lago Restaurant served up probably the best lunch buffet I’ve ever had, with dozens of Dominican dishes to choose from.
You could have mahi mahi, chicken, and steak grilled up fresh — or choose from these bright Caribbean salads. Or try a bit of everything, as I did. The creamed pumpkin, sweet potato mash, coconut fish, and roast chicken… I’m still thinking of this meal today!
On the left, a snap of my pigeon beans and rice, chayote, avocado, and grill selections. We ended with tea and a selection of fruit and desserts; as you can see, I have a passion for passionfruit.
Too stuffed to drive? Thankfully, the hotel bellmen can give you a lift any time. We discovered it’s especially fun to ride on the backseat of a golf cart when you’re a little tipsy!
We carted to the resort’s newest addition, Minitas Beach Club. It’s located right by the ocean, and features an open-air bar with minimal lines.
Molly and I immediately took off our shoes to wade in the 23 meter infinity pool. I love the modern, upscale design of the pool deck and lounge areas.
Minitas Beach Club also encompasses a casual oceanside restaurant. We sat down to panoramic views of the sand and waves, and sipped on rum with coconut cream. (Don’t you feel relaxed, just looking at this?)
Minitas Beach Club Restaurant has a menu inspired by Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines. To match this casual beachfront, there’s an extensive selection of fish served light, clean and bright — as well as a selection of vegan and gluten-free options.
We dined on arepas, fried plantains, ceviche, and burrata. A pleasure to listen to the sounds of the ocean, while dining on colorful salads and vegetable dishes.
As you can see, there are so many different areas to explore in Casa de Campo. The community also includes The Marina, where you’ll find multi-million dollar yachts bobbing in the water. It’s a charming area with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants amidst cobblestone paths.
After window-shopping at The Marina, we went to Pubbelly Sushi for what Molly calls the best sushi of her life. (She’s planning to visit Miami, just so she can eat at their original location!) She says, “I thought they did a great job of respecting traditional dishes while playing with the creativity allowed in modern cuisine” — and I wholeheartedly agree.
Our waiter, Cezar, suggested innovative dishes such as the Tuna Pizza (with crispy tortilla, garlic aioli, and truffle oil), short ribs gyoza, and Tigueraso sushi (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, avocado). We were delighted by unexpected combinations like dates with chorizo, and brussel sprouts with miso.
Be sure to order the unique cocktails, made with Japanese spirits like umeshu, sake framboise and vodka-sake. And leave room for the berries and cream dessert of dreams.
We walked off the meal with a stroll in the Marina, and came across this metal statue. Molly’s red dress made her the perfect dance partner for the bull.
On another evening, we revisited The Marina to dine at La Casita, a Spanish fine dining establishment. (As you’ll recall, all these stunning restaurants are part of the Casa de Campo all-inclusive pack. The concierges are great at making reservations for all their guests.)
Casa de Campo is an elegant resort, and it inspired us to dress the part. We noticed that guests tend to be from European or Spanish-speaking countries, and are very stylish (I saw some beautiful jewelry, handbags and resort-wear!)
At La Casita, we ordered passionfruit rum cocktails, followed by sangria with fresh fruit. What a treat to sip these drinks under tall sail-like callings, while yachts pass by in background.
It was easy to choose our main course: seafood paella. The servers plated this beautiful mix of Spanish saffron rice and seafood at our table, and we finished up every last grain.
As we dined al-fresco, we got a visit from some furry friends. It looks like the cats want a piece of shrimp!
Finally, we rode our golf carts to Altos de Chavón, and found ourselves in a re-created 16th century Mediterranean village. This project as conceived by Dominican architect, Jose Antonio Caro, and Italian designer / cinematographer Roberto Coppa.
The quaint village includes a 5000-seat Grecian-style amphitheater that has held performances by Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesias, Sting and Carlos Santana.
Altos de Chavón is a cultural center that lets guests meet artists from all over the world. In the daytime, you can pop into studios dedicated to pottery, weaving, silk screening and other media. The village is also home to the Altos de Chavón School of Design, which is affiliated with Parsons in New York.
At night, St. Stanislaus Church glows next to sweeping views of Chavón River.
Since Altos de Chavón has a Mediterranean feel, it was fitting that we had dinner at this rustic Italian restaurant, La Piazzetta.
We entered what looked like a home in the Italian countryside, lit with candles. This sweet trio serenaded us with traditional songs, while we eyed the antipasti bar and handmade pastas.
Red wine, creamy black truffle risotto, and green pea ravioli with Parmesan… what else does one need in life? La Piazzetta’s flavors are as lovely as anything I’ve had in Italy; in fact, this was the best pasta and risotto I’ve had in a while.
We continued with filet mignon and truffles, and melt-in-your-mouth tiramisu. Trust us, Casa de Campo’s dining is outstanding and will satisfy even the most jaded foodie.
Back to La Cana bar for a nightcap, and some dancing! Every night, Casa de Campo brings in live music to the lounge. Singer Daniel Castro Arias showed us how to dance the bachata (a style of dance from the Dominican Republic).
The atmosphere got lively as more guests took to the dance floor. We watched them sing their hearts out to Toño Rosario – Dale Vieja Dale, while hopping back and forth — a memory that will always make us smile!
Casa de Campo was the perfect winter getaway to the Dominican Republic. The resort exceeded our expectations in every way, with world-class food and amenities in a picture-perfect setting. Now that I’m back in cold weather, I’m keen to return to the tropics as soon as I can.
PS: this is only Part 1 of our Caribbean adventures; stay tuned for the next story featuring the beaches and activities.
Twin Peaks themed bar & restaurant, The Black Lodge Vancouver! Strathberry East/West crossbody handbag.
Twin Peaks fans, this one’s for you. Did you know there’s a restaurant and bar in Vancouver… inspired by David Lynch’s cult TV series?
It’s called The Black Lodge, and as you’ll see, it deserves a whole lot of thumbs up.
Read on for photos of inside the Twin Peaks theme restaurant including a Red Room, cocktails named after show characters, and of course — damn fine coffee with cherry pie.
Since many of you loved my Instagram preview, I’ll also unveil my new East/West crossbody beauty from Strathberry. They’re my favorite handbag designer for obvious reasons: clean, minimal, handcrafted perfection! More about these purses below:
The Black Lodge has been a hidden gem in my hometown (Vancouver) for some time. After the success of their first location, the owners set up a second, larger restaurant on Broadway near Main Street, which I visited on David Lynch’s birthday.
My friends and I are fans of Twin Peaks, the 1990-1991 mystery TV series that returned for a season last year. It’s a favorite among Goth / horror fans, and one of director Lynch’s most celebrated works. The plot opens with the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, and spirals into an addictive web of camp, surrealism, drama and the supernatural.
Broadway Black Lodge address: 317 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC, Canada. The old location is also open, at 630 Kingsway.
In the story, special agent Dale Cooper learns that the Ghostwood Forest holds the entrance to two extra-dimensional realms: The Black Lodge (a place of evil) and White Lodge (a place of goodness). Rob and I love how the restaurant is named after the dark, Gothic dimension.
The TV show’s lodges are connected by a room with zigzag black and white floors, red curtains, and bright spotlights. As you can see, the restaurant’s bathroom and hallway look just like the Twin Peaks Red Room!
The Black Lodge’s owners, Brad MacKinnon and Claire Wyrostok, are independent business owners who truly put their passion into their restaurants. Brad and Claire adore Twin Peaks, and when they got city approval for the restaurant’s name, the theme took on a life of its own.
Today, Peakers (hardcore fans) even make Lynchian pilgrimages up from California, to see the show’s Pacific Northwest shooting locations and visit this bar.
Outside the new location, you can see The Black Lodge sign beckoning mysteriously.
The atmosphere recalls the words of Deputy Hawk: “There is a legend of a place called the Black Lodge… every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self… But it is said, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”
Rob was amply prepared to cross the dark threshold, with his custom ring and tattoos featuring the Twin Peaks sigil! He’s also wearing a t-shirt based on the series, which you can see in the image below.
The Black Lodge has an extensive food and drinks menu. We eyed the list of over a dozen special cocktails, all named after Twin Peaks references.
Above, Rob is holding a “Blue Rose” mixed with Beefeater gin, curacao and Aquafava. On the left is Ben’s “Double R” — coffee infused genever and sherry. Indeed, it was a “damn good coffee,” “black as midnight on a moonless night!”
I prefer drinks on the smokier, not-sweet, “old man” side. My personal favorites were the “Fire in the Mill” (rosemary gin, scotch, ginger, lemon, bitters), “Wally Brando” (brandy, chartreuse and grenadine), and “Ghostwood Forest” (infused gin and tonic with muddled rosemary).
For something on the sweeter side, try the outstanding Lynch-burg Lemonade on the left (triple sec, Jack Daniel’s and mint).
The Black Lodge serves hearty comfort food, all of it vegan or vegetarian. I tried the B.A.L.T sandwich, and it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The “bacon” is house-made with coconut, and I couldn’t tell it from the real deal. Paired with avocado, sprouts, tomato, cheddar, dijon and garlic aioli… it was creamy crunchy heaven.
There are many indulgent dishes that you can share, including curry poutine, nachos, vegan drumsticks.
In Twin Peaks, inhabitants of the Lodge feasted on garmonbozia — which looks like creamed corn, but is made up of pain and sorrow. While this isn’t on the menu, a similar-looking “Tot-Chos” is available (above): spuds smothered in corn, beans, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream and cheddar. We ate it up like it was the nectar of the undead!
If you’re in Vancouver, Canada, there’s no better place to spend a spooky night with friends than The Black Lodge. (All photos by Ben and La Carmina.)
My black cut-away top is by Michi; more from this avantgarde activewear label below:
That night, we made a toast in memory of our friend Rose (June 26 1988- January 11 2017). Can’t believe it has almost been a year since we went to her memorial in Sechelt.
Rob introduced Rose to the original Twin Peaks, and she devoured each episode. She always had a blast dressing up and going to underground, off-the-beaten path places with us. Rose would have adored The Black Lodge (I even had old photos of her in what look like a Red Room), and it certainly felt like she was there with us.
We’ll try to keep the tradition going and meet up every year around this time, to celebrate her life.
The Black Lodge fills up fast on weekends, so I encourage you to come early and nab one of the peaked booths. Weekdays are no problem.
Even if you know nothing about Twin Peaks, the restaurant / bar has a warm, easygoing, Canadian cabin feeling that anyone can enjoy.
As detective Dale Cooper would say, “If you ever get up this way, that cherry pie is worth a stop.” The Black Lodge’s “Damn Fine Cherry Pie” is a fresh-baked slice filled with tart fruit, served warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Two thumbs up!
The bar has a large selection of spirits, and various beers on tap. Go for the Black Lodge Lager, an amber-style Baltic brew. (Note that the restaurant’s font and logo are reminiscent of the one on the Twin Peaks map.)
The owners Claire and Brad are lovely, and put genuine care into the service and decor. I smiled when I saw a VHS Twin Peaks collection, guarded by owls. Below, there’s as tribute to Canadiana kitsch; those “Cheezies” are our national version of Cheetos.
The Black Lodge restaurant gets an earnest thumbs up from all of us! If you’re in Vancouver, Canada, do check out their newly established Broadway location.
“The Owls are not what they seem…” But “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song, and there’s always music in the air.” (Twin Peaks quotes)
For more info, check out the The Black Lodge website that includes opening hours, menus, addresses etc.
I dressed a bit like Audrey Horne for our Twin Peaks dinner. Played by Sherilyn Fenn, she’s the daughter of a wealthy businessman and enamored with FBI Special Agent Cooper. I wore red lipstick, a plaid skirt and deadly heels in her honor.
I completed the outfit with my new Strathberry purse. They just released this East/West – Black with Edge bag… isn’t it a beauty? It arrived in a beautiful black box with gold font, and matching dust bag.
The 2018 East/West has the brand’s signature structured silhouette, branded hardware, and bar closure.
Strathberry’s East / West dual-length strap is an ingenious design. You can extend one end and wear it cross-body… or double it up, and sling it over your shoulder! The gold chain is beautiful quality and easy to adjust, yet the bag is lightweight.
All of their handbags are made in Spain with the finest calf leather, and lined with a suede-like microfiber. The flap has an easy yet secure closure: you slip it under the horizontal bar, and it secures magnetically.
I also have the Strathberry midi tote, from their original collection. You can find this style below:
I’m quite choosy about handbags, and the popular luxury labels don’t appeal to me (no monograms please!).
On the other hand, Strathberry is an independent, artisan company based in Edinburgh. Their purses have clean lines and exquisite luxury detailing, which appeal to my love of minimalism, and increasing focus on “slow fashion” over mass production.
Here’s a peek inside my East/West White Edge purse. There are two compartments with one interior pocket, and the accordion-style sides can expand. It’s the perfect size for me: compact, yet spacious enough to hold all my necessities.
Strathberry just released multiple new designs for 2018, and I couldn’t be happier with their East/West crossbody meets shoulder bag! The purse comes in various colors and combinations, and there’s a mini size as well.
Are you loving Strathberry as much as I am? I hope you enjoyed these photos, and the tour of the Twin Peaks themed diner.
(PS: see below for more about this sweet bag.)
A Gothic Halloween in London, UK! Viktor Wynd cabinet of curiosities, absinthe bar, horror-themed afternoon tea.
Happy Nightmare before Christmas!
I’m not much of an X-mas person…. so in the spirit of Jack Skellington, this post is going to be about how to celebrate Halloween in London, United Kingdom!
Ye ol England was one of the original centers of Goth subculture, and remains one of the best cities for Gothic, bizarre and underground festivities. I spent Halloween 2017 with my friends in London, and it turned out to be one of the best All Hallows Eves yet.
Our dark bacchanal included the Black Devil Disco Club with the Satanic Temple (above), seeing The Exorcist stage play, enjoying monster-movie themed afternoon tea, and drinking absinthe at a cabinet of oddities. Keep reading for details of these London Halloween bars, events and parties!
But first, a peek at my Nightmare Before Xmas outfit. You won’t catch me wearing red and green this season. Instead, I like to layer faux fur during the winter, and break out my Sorel knee-high boots. (Click below to see where I got these items.)
Tis the season… for unique stockings and socks! My go-to source is always UK Tights — they ship worldwide, and have the largest online selection of legwear, including fishnets, patterned and luxury hosiery.
Since it’s now too cold to go barelegged, I’ve been reaching for above-the-knee or thigh-high socks. I love the alternative look of these Girardi Meredith hold-ups, especially when paired with a short black skirt and sweater. The faux leather cuff at the top stays securely, and is decorated with an adorable bow.
You can find these socks and other fashion legwear from my friends UK Tights. I’ll be wearing these and more all winter.
– Here’s a different spin on this look. I’m accessorizing with a holographic Cyberdog backpack, and Moat House wood sunglasses.
– My faux fur jacket is from Pretty Attitude, similar to this furry and this ombre jacket.
– I’m wearing these exact Sorel boots (the After Hours no tongue lace-up boots in redwood leather). For more info, click below.
Now, let’s descend into the London Underworld. When you see Baphomet and a pentagram… you know you’ve entered the den of the British Satanists!
This pre-Halloween event was organized by The Satanic Temple London & UK. It was the first edition of their “Black Devil Disco Club,” which brings together two of my favorite things (the devil and disco).
Established in 2016, The Satanic Temple’s mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, to reject tyrannical authority, and to advocate practical common sense and justice.”
The members are atheist, and advocate for fact-based science, and marginalized communities. Everyone I met at the event was kind and inclusive.
At the Black Devil Disco night, the DJs played tracks by Patrick Cowley, Giorgio Moroder and other Italo Disco heroes. Between boogieing, you could get a tarot reading or “leave something witchy” in the candlelit back room.
The Satanic Temple of London and UK hosts gatherings like this year-round. Check out their chapters’s Facebook page to see what’s coming up next.
I wanted to do some “only in London” excursions, such as seeing a play in the West End. I’m not a fan of cheesy musicals, so I didn’t come across anything appealing… until I learned The Exorcist was opening at the Phoenix Theatre!
I reunited with my friend Vanessa, and we went to one of the first showings of The Exorcist. I was keen to see how they’d adapt William Peter Blatty’s horror novel and 1970s movie, for a live stage production.
We weren’t allowed to shoot photos during the performance, so I’m doing my best impression of Regan, the little girl possessed by a demon (voiced by Sir Ian McKellen.) The cast nailed their parts, especially during the battle against the evil spirit Pazuzu.
The Exorcist’s lighting and set were outstanding, especially the spooky candlelight confessions and blood writings on the wall. There were jump-scares, and fantastic effects — let’s just say, they’re literally hair-raising and head-turning.
If you’re in London and a horror fan, The Exorcist is the play for you. Tickets and info here — this is a limited run show, which ends on March 10, 2018.
What else is a rather British activity? Afternoon tea.
There are many London venues for tea and finger sandwiches. However, when I read that Royal Lancaster Hotel was offering a Halloween afternoon tea, I knew I’d found my place. (Address: Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY, UK)
I entered the recently-renovated modern hotel, and was delighted to see that the tearoom was decorated in the theme of 1960s horror movies! Royal Lancaster nailed the classy details: everything is in black and white, with celluloid-printed menus and a clapboard that read 666.
Out came a black-and-white themed tray, with a fog of dry ice! Royal Lancaster’s ArTea set included a mix of creatively-designed, delicious savories and sweets.
My favorites included the cucumber and pumpernickel sandwiches, sushi with black caviar, a scotch egg with black crust, and popcorn in a coffin (a nod to the film theme). The macaroons and checkered cake went perfectly with our pots of tea: we ordered a selection, including classic Earl Grey, and a ginger medley.
Royal Lancaster chose a 1960s classic horror theme since this year is the hotel’s 50th birthday. The tearoom set the mood with black-and-white footage from Hitchcock’s Psycho.
I loved the imaginative, classy take on the theme (this doesn’t feel like a kid’s kitschy Halloween experience). All around the room, there were carnivorous plants in homage to Audrey, the Venus fly trap from Little Shop of Horrors.
We ended our monochrome meal with freshly-backed black scones, with clotted cream, marmalade, and cake pops. Royal Lancaster ArTea offers seasonal afternoon teas year-round, but their Halloween one is especially a treat.
Also open year-round is the mysterious Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities. The glowing exterior looks like something out of a Victorian fantasy novel — and that just about sums up the experience of visiting Viktor’s lair. Push open these doors, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by bizarre, macabre and kitschy oddities from around the world.
(Viktor Wynd / Last Tuesday Society address: 11 Mare St, London E8 4RP)
Viktor leads tours that are a mix of story-telling and performance art. The space is a throwback to Wunderkabinetts of past centuries: mesmerizing collections of taxidermy, natural phenomena, tribal art, and other esoteric wonders.
In addition, the museum is home to East London’s Most Curious Cocktail Bar. A giant lobster overlooks the bar, stocked with tinctures for pre-Prohibition drinks.
My friends Zoetica Ebb and Trevor cuddled up with the top-hatted lion, and we enjoyed absinthe with a sugar cube and water drip. Behind them, you can see spellbinding works from the temporary “Of Shadows” exhibition on loan from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. (Next time, I’ll share our photoshoot in Highgate Cemetery.)
The charismatic Viktor leads his guests down a winding spiral staircase, and into a basement filled with thousands of strange objects. He begins at a glass case dedicated to dandies such as Quentin Crisp and Stephen Tennant. He especially admires Sebastian Horsley, and keeps his Saville Row suit and nails from his crucifixion down here.
The theme of decadence, excess and self-creation carries through all the cabinets of wonders. Viktor Wynd’s collection includes shrunken heads (he spoke of spending time with the tribes of New Guinea and Congo), Happy Meal toys, rare and perverse books, mermaid skeletons…
You can interact with many of the objects, and ask Viktor about their origins. True to the mad dandy personality, he’ll probably answer with a cryptic tale that has you thirsting for more.
For a dark dining experience, you can rent out the room on the right for a private meal. Guests sit on crimson banquettes, under a preserved sea monster, and feast on a sarcophagus table with a skeleton inside!
On the left, Viktor sits at a table that was once used for secret occult rituals. The Gnostic Temple of Agape was discovered beneath an old building, and brought here for preservation.
He writes in his guidebook (which everyone on the tour receives for free): “For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, The Temple, under the guardianship of the initiates, has been used as a place to celebrate the divine gift of love, to create spells, practice alchemy and summon angels and spirits from the other world.” The book of magic sits outside, beckoning you to decipher its spells.
Let your imagination soar at Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities and The Last Tuesday Society. Check out their site for special events, and I encourage you to come for a glass of absinthe and tour with Viktor for a delightfully bizarre experience.
London turned out to be one hell of a destination for Halloween! There was plenty of spooky decor, food and attractions all around the city (I didn’t get to check out the London Dungeon or Jack the Ripper walking tour, but both were also recommended by local friends).
I leave you with some snaps from Chelsea. Skeleton and skull cookies from Gail’s Bakery, and a staring statue of Lucifer.
And how fabulous is this Ouija board box of chocolate, from Artisan du Chocolat? They also had pumpkin-shaped and flavored chocolates.
I still have another Gothic post from London to come, about Highgate Cemetery. And if you’re looking for Goth and alternative shopping, check out my Camden Market and Shoreditch guide.
Did you know that London had these dark attractions? If I missed out on anything, let me know in the comments and I’m sure I will be back in Britain soon.
De Pijp, hip neighborhood of Amsterdam. Halloween travels & speaking at Experience Bucharest tourism conference!
Get your fangs out… Halloween 2017 is going to be bloody fabulous!
This year, I’ll be in three European countries famous for Vampires, Alien, and Jack the Ripper. (Any guesses? The reveal is below.)
First, I’m excited to officially announce: I’m off to the land of vampires, Transylvania! I was invited to attend and speak at Experience Bucharest, the largest project ever to promote tourism in Romania’s capital and beyond. For several days, worldwide travel influencers will be gathering to see the capital through the eyes of its passionate residents.
It’s been my long-time dream to visit the ultimate Goth destination, and experience the dark underground culture. I’m honored to be speaking on at Travel Massive’s “Future of Tourism in Romania” conference, on a panel about travel and social media.
Follow along my social media @LaCarmina and hashtag #experiencebucharest to join the fun, including a visit to the castle of Count Dracula. (Above, photographer Joey Wong captured me in front of UK’s Whitby Abbey, an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel.)
While in Europe, I’m also teaming up with Switzerland Tourism and La Gruyère Tourisme… to visit the H.R. Giger bar in Gruyeres!
Fans of the Alien movies will immediately recognize these eerie bio-mechanical works, which form the backbone of the art design in the series. I’m fascinated with Giger’s imagination, and can’t wait to see his sci-fi bar and museum. (Images above by Kristin Thorogood Photography).
Finally… I’ll be in London, England for the first time in ages! Time to reunite with spooky friends, and check out the many dark Halloween events in the city. If you have suggestions for what to see and do (around the end of October), please let me know in the comments.
(To get you in the mood, here is my friend John’s London Goth travel guide. His photo above shows a store in Camden Market.)
Since I’m off to Europe again, I thought it was nigh time to release my final article about the Netherlands.
A while back, I shared my tour of Noord, the artistic district north of Centraal Station. Now, I’ll take you around De Pijp, another Amsterdam hipster neighborhood.
De Pijp translates to “the pipe,” for reasons that are unclear (perhaps it refers to the winding streets, or a former gas company with that name). In line with this spirit, the borough has a funky, good-humored vibe. Both travellers and locals come here for the bustling Albert Cuyp market, and to dine in ethnic restaurants.
My friends and I went for lunch at Bazar Restaurant, which was recommended by several people. The word “bazaar” aptly describes the tw0-level space filled with Middle Eastern decor and music to delight the senses. When I walked in, I was transported back to the time I visited the markets of Morocco.
(Address: Albert Cuypstraat 182, 1073 Amsterdam, Netherlands)
– I love my alien sweater, which looks similar to the keyboard emoji. There’s a similar alien shirt here, and more sci-fi fashion below:
I began with a cup of fresh Moroccan mint tea, while Leyla perused the gluten free menu. Bazar has options for everyone, including vegan and vegetarian plates.
As you can see, we ordered a bit of everything! Bazar’s dishes take inspiration from the cuisine of North Africa and the Middle East — everything is moderately priced, and perfect for sharing with a group. I particularly loved the grape leaves, garlic sauce and falafel that came in one of the mixed platters.
A visit to Bazar feels like stepping into a Far Eastern fairy tale. I lounged under the high ceilings, next to these spectacular hand-painted tiled walls.
The vibrant spirit continues right outside Bazaar, at Albert Cuypmarkt. Six days a week, this street is packed with vendors selling everything from hippie skirts to stroopwafels.
I think we fit in rather well with the creative spirit of De Pijp! (My alien top is similar to this one; browse more styles below:)
De Pijp was once a working class quarter, and home to residents of many nationalities. Today, the neighborhood remains filled with color. Leyla spreads her wings on Gerard Doustraat, a street lined with indie shops.
These rainbow flags beckoned us into De Kinderfeestwinkel, a store for kid’s party goods.
Doesn’t this feel like a Wes Anderson dreamscape? Masks and gadgets and hats everywhere!
Arina couldn’t resist taking home this magical stuffed unicorn. My attention went to the rack of Miffy books, of course.
The smiling ghost light stole my heart. We wandered past a 3D printing shop, and saw these “octo-pussycat” designs.
The other “hipster district,” Noord, is more for experimental art and murals. If you’re looking for indie fashion and cafes, De Pijp is the place to be.
Case in point: Anna + Nina, a shop with eclectic jewellery and old-world home accessories that reflect their love of travel.
The boutique is filled with textures: a floral silk dressing gown, golden leaves, fresh blossoms.
If I had more space in my apartment, I’d set up a curving mid-century modern floor lamp like this one. Many of the stores in De Pijp sell both clothing and interior decor, mostly by local designers.
Pick up a cactus, or Michael Jackson’s glittery mask… that’s the humorous spirit of De Pijp!
In the evening, my friends and I had dinner at Supperclub. The restaurant is designed like a nightclub, with flamboyant light projections and quirky performances throughout the evening.
All of the diners get to lounge on beds while eating dinner! Between the courses of the set menu, we watched dance and art performances right in front of us. My favorite was a woman with a giant eyeball for a head — she came up to each bed and interacted with guests, in funny ways.
Later in the evening, the venue turned into a dance club. Cheers to the fantastic staff, for keeping our wine-glasses filled and making this night a delight.
I leave you with some snaps from our walks around Amsterdam. I was drawn to the city’s modern architecture, and never-ending rows of bikes.
Amsterdam is great for wandering around and popping into stores. Arina is peering into Nunc, which carries handmade, fair-trade and recycled products.
We saw cute skeleton cats and robots in one window…
… and posse of Miffies in another. (Psst: I wrote this guide to Miffy stores in Amsterdam, which includes De Winkel Van Nijntje, Mr. Maria studio and a chocolaterie).
We couldn’t leave without a stroll through the Red Light district, home to brothels and marijuana cafes. Note: it’s forbidden to take photos of the girls in the glass windows. If you attempt to take an image, you’ll get shooed off by their security.
Tourists can see live erotic entertainment at venues like Casa Rosso, which has a cheeky red elephant mascot.
If you’re planning a visit to Amsterdam, here are all my Netherlands offbeat travel tips on a single page. I hope you find them helpful.
I had such a great time with my friends in Amsterdam, and I’m sure we will be back soon.
And now, time to prepare for London, Bucharest and Gruyeres! If you have travel advice for me, or know of events happening in these cities at the end of October, please let me know in the comments. Here’s to the bloodiest Halloween yet.