Category Archive for Fims + Videos
Why Travel to Slovenia? The Mediterranean beaches of Portoroz, Slovenian food, Fonda sustainable fish!
Ah, there’s nothing like the Mediterranean coast in summer. Could this be the Italian Riviera? Dubrovnik in Croatia? Surprise… I’m standing in Slovenia!
Before my trip, I knew very little about this tiny European country — and I’m guessing you’re in the same shoes. To my surprise, I discovered a world class beach town, creative restaurant scene, and ethical food produced by Slovenians with passion.
On our first day, my filmmakers and I learned straight away that Slovenia is a travel destination full of surprises.
But first, a style revelation: there’s a dyed skull underneath my hair!
If you’ve been following my social media, you’ll have seen images of my skull-shaped undercut, which is the work of stylist Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Studio in Vancouver. I’ve trusted her with my rainbow hairstyles throughout the years, and am thrilled with this big change.
Want to know how to achieve a skull shaved hairstyle like mine? Then watch the video of my hair transformation, step by step! You’ll see how Stephanie used clippers to sculpt the shape, then bleached and dyed the skull and crossbones. (Watch it on LaCarmina Youtube.)
(Shop more designs by Long Clothing with a click below — this nu-Goth brand rocks!)
My nail art is Miffy meets the devil. They’re by Glam Nail Studio, an award winning salon located in the Vancouver area, specialising in Japanese nail art.
My head feels so much lighter, after taking out the lower layers of hair. I like how I can wear it up to show off the skull, or leave it down to cover it. Perfect for my summer travels.
Slovenia is an easy, quick flight from most European countries (it only took 2 hours for me to get here from Amsterdam). The country is also within a few hours drive of Austria, Italy and Croatia — it’s possible to visit all three by car, in a single day!
Many people assume that Slovenia is a land-locked country, since it appears to be that way on the map. In fact, there’s a warm and gorgeous coastal stretch along the Adriatic Sea. (How glorious is this waterfront view from my hotel window?)
My filmmakers and I started our journey in Portoroz, one of these seaside towns known for wellness. We stayed at Hotel Slovenija: beautifully designed, luxurious and modern.
Their spa offers therapies related to the surrounding nature and healing mineral waters. I was glad for a massage after multiple flights and jetlag.
Crowds of tourists can ruin experiences for me. In Slovenia, there’s nothing of this sort. No Starbucks or McDonalds. Not a single bus tour in Tartini Square.
I loved walking around and seeing the layers of history in the architecture. Slovenia was once part of the Eastern Bloc, so travellers might assume that the country has a “Soviet” character. On the contrary, Portoroz feels more like an undiscovered seaside town in Croatia or Italy.
I stopped to take a Vine video of the red roofs overlooking the Adriatic. (I’m @lacarmina on Vine, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.)
Perhaps this gorgeous country is overlooked by travellers because it’s so tiny. It only has two million inhabitants, over 20k square kilometers.
The small size is a big advantage, when it comes to food production. Slovenian ingredients are outstanding because locals can take their time and use natural methods to bring out the best possible flavors.
My travel film team and I visited Soline / Sečovlje Saltworks, the famous evaporation pond located in Piran. At these saltworks, everything is done in the traditional method.
Saltmaking is one of Slovenia’s oldest economic activities. At Soline, the process is the same as it was centuries ago: the sea, sunshine, and a lot of muscle work. The salt flats also have an ecological benefit, as they encourage flora and fauna.
I pretended to be a salt-worker, and failed. Let’s just say that I only managed to push the cart a few inches on the track!
Slovenian salt also has health benefits, since it’s high in minerals and crystallized naturally.
I’ve tried a number of gourmet salts, but Sečovlje’s product is outstanding. The taste is light, with hints of minerals. Since the crystals are enhanced by the seawater captured inside, flavors are nuanced rather than explicitly “salty.”
Slovenian salt gets my “Miffy two thumbs up!” If you’re curious, you can order Piranske Soline salt through their website.
My next stop was again an eye-opener. I always thought of “fish farming” as bad for both the creatures and the environment, and preferred the taste of wild-caught. However, at Fonda Fish Farm (Ribogojnica Fonda), I met a woman who is taking a very different approach.
Dr. Irena Fonda (molecular biologist and award-winning researcher) joined her family in raising fish via the free-floating method, or cages in open water. The rich sea water, continuous movement, and natural environment result in sea bass that are ethically raised — and recognized as the best quality in the world.
Dr. Fonda took us on a boat ride through the warm and beautiful Piran Bay. As the waters deepened, we came across what looked like yellow caterpillars, floating on the gentle waves. It turned out to be Fonda’s mussel farm! Ropes hang down from these buoys, and the mollusks grow on them.
We arrived at the pens, and they were nothing like the crowded, dirty “fish farms” that I always heard about. The sea bass swim freely about in the fresh Piran waters, which have an ideal balance of salt and minerals. The cages also become homes for other underwater organisms, supporting the local ecosystem.
Every day, Fonda’s team comes to feed the sea bass (they grow for 2-3 years). I got to give it a try: you can watch me tossing food to the fishies, in this Instagram video!
Dr. Fonda impressed us with her heartfelt dedication to every aspect of her work, including education and package design. If you see Fonda sea bass on a menu, you’ll know this means the highest grade. The body had a clean, pleasing smell — nothing “fishy” is going on.
(On the boat ride, I wore this exact Sorel Torpeda sandal, which is both stylish and practical — you can walk all day long, and they match most clothes. I also love Sorel’s studded sandals. See more of their footwear below.)
It doesn’t get any fresher than this: sea bass carpaccio, straight from Slovenian waters. With a sprinkle of Soline salt (from the flats we visited) and local olive oil (which was better than any I’ve had in Italy or Greece, no joke).
“Na’zdravje” or cheers to Fonda fish farm for the enlightening tour and snack.
With our appetites whetted, it was time to sit down for lunch. Our guide and driver Ales took us to Domačija Šajna, which is the definition of a charming Slovenian village. We passed through these big doors into an open courtyard with a flowering garden.
Yet another pleasant surprise: Slovenian cuisine has a lot of seafood and Mediterranean influences. It’s certainly not the “central European” stereotype of meat and potatoes.
We started with farm-fresh cheeses and prosciutto, paired with Slovenian wines (all were outstanding). At the bottom right, I could have eaten ten services of this shaved truffle gnocchi.
The chef used local fruit and wines to add both color and flavor. He served aged beef steak in wine sauce, poached pears, and millefeuille with strawberry.
Everything is close by in small Slovenia, and Domacija Sajna is well worth a drive for a meal like this.
Our road trip continued with a few more scenic stops. In the Littoral region (Municipality of Komen, in the Karst plateau), we walked around Štanjel church.
This Parish Church of the Prophet Daniel was built in the 15th century. It has a Games of Thrones feeling, doesn’t it? I half expected the High Sparrow to step out.
Are you surprised by what we found in Slovenia? This is what I love about off-the-beaten-path destinations: they’re full of hidden treasures, which surpass our expectations about a place.
In a single day, I had my eyes opened in many ways. Coming up, I’ll show you what we found in the capital of Ljubljana, the island on Lake Bled, and more.
If you’re digging my outfit, you can shop these same items below:
And here’s the DIY tutorial hair video of my skull shaved cut. Would you do an undercut style like this?
Hosting a Travel Channel TV series in Tokyo! Using Happn app to meet new people through everyday coincidences.
Tokyo remains one of my favorite cities on the planet. There’s always something new (and usually cute!) to discover here.
I recently filmed in Japan with a new Travel Channel TV series, and am delighted to finally share behind-the-scenes from the shoot.
As we whiz through Tokyo’s coolest districts, I’ll also introduce you to a fabulous French app called Happn, which seizes everyday coincidences and lets you meet the people you cross paths with!
(“Tokyo’s Cute Culture” airs again on March 29th at 8:30am. Soon, the show will be available for download on Amazon.)
The Travel Channel team and I filmed all over Tokyo. Can you imagine how many people I must have walked past, during this TV shoot alone?
I snapped this photo in busy Akihabara, and it made me think. People are always on their phones, and yet, it can be hard to start up a real-life conversation.
I was excited to learn Happn was launching in Japan, as it’s a brilliant way to bridge these gaps.
This free app lets you give a second chance at a first encounter. It first launched in Paris in 2014, and is now is in over 35 cities worldwide.
Happn is all about facilitating real-life connections. Every time you cross paths with another user, their profile appears on your app: a starting point for getting to know someone new.
On a busy day like my Travel Channel TV shoot, I’m sure I walked by or near tons of interesting people. (The app connects you with users within a 250m radius.)
However when we’re caught up in work, or in a hurry to reach the next location, there’s no time to interact.
We filmed an intro at Hachiko dog statue, near the busy Shibuya crossing. As many as 2500 pedestrians cross this street every time the light changes!
So many people gather here in Shibuya — but are often too shy to strike up a conversation.
Happn lets them see the number of times they’ve crossed paths with someone, as well as the time and approximate location of the last encounter.
Wouldn’t it be fun if the fellow behind me was checking his phone, and finding me on Happn?
If there’s a user who you want to get to know better, you can Heart their profile (the person doesn’t get a notification, so it’s private). If that person Hearts you too, you can then start up a conversation.
You never know… one of the people you cross paths with could be a special guy or girl destined for you!
I love how Happn lets me meet new friends with common interests. As you know, I’m an animal lover… and was in my element when we filmed at Deco’s Dog Cafe.
Owners bring their puppies here to dine on gourmet food, and see other dogs.
In Japan, locals can be reticent about conversing with people they don’t know. An app like Happn breaks the ice.
“Hi, I was at Deco cafe too! Where did your poodle get her cute dress from?”
“Perhaps we can exchange cooking tips for organic dog food!”
I have a feeling Happn will be especially popular in Akihabara, the high-tech otaku district.
Maid cafes are big here, since they let customers talk to the staff about manga, anime and other “nerdy” interests.
No need to be shy when you can first chat about shared hobbies on the app.
As you can see, I went to all types of neighborhoods for my Travel Channel shoot. We filmed a segment at the Odaiba hot springs, Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari.
The final “decision scene” took place at a verdant Shinto temple.
In the end, did my “relocation” clients decide to move to Japan? You’ll have to tune in to find out. (“Could I Live There”? airs regularly on Travel Channel.)
I think anyone new to Japan would have fun using the French app Happn. It’s a charming way to meet people, from real life encounters.
Who knows — you could bond over your passion for kawaii mascots, creepy accessories, or a heaping plate of pasta!
Perhaps you’ll even cross paths with me! (If you’re intrigued, here’s where you can find out more about Happn.)
Hearts for all of you — I wouldn’t have these opportunities in Japan without your support. More Tokyo coverage to come, and I hope you enjoy the Travel Channel show that I hosted.
There’s no better place in the world to wear a skull cut-out dress… than the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.
My filmmakers and I got to explore this fascinating neighborhood, thanks to Visit Spain and Eurail. As we walked through the narrow streets, we came across Star Wars stormtroopers, twee murals, and retro indie fashion.
From Las Ramblas in Barcelona to the Alhambra of Granada, watch as I dive into the country’s art and culture.
Produced, filmed and edited by Borderless Media. I’m always amazed at how they capture our adventures and make them come to life.
Perhaps you’re eyeing my outfit of the day. I adore this dress from Pretty Attitude Clothing, featuring a white cobweb print, lace skull cut-away back, and dangling bell sleeves.
My necklace is from an LA company, Vidakush Jewelry. The pendant is the word “universe” in Sanskrit.
Most tourists start at Las Ramblas, the main shopping street of Barcelona that holds the famous market (Mercat de La Boqueria, or St Joseph’s Market). It’s worth checking out Ramblas, but I found it too tourist-driven and commercial for my taste.
Instead, I encourage you to explore two of my favorite Barcelona neighborhoods: El Raval (see my travel guide here), and the spooky-named Gothic Quarter.
To get to the Gothic Quarter, you can start at Plaça Reial square near Las Ramblas, and keep on walking east.
This grand, “royal” plaza was designed in the 19th century, and features lanterns by Gaudi. Many people meet up at Placa Reial, and the atmosphere is especially abuzz at night.
We wandered into the El Barri Gòtic, the center of old Barcelona. Many of the walls and buildings date back to Medieval times, or even further back when the Romans occupied the city.
The Gothic Quarter is famous for its narrow, labyrinthine, cobblestone pathways. It’s great fun to stroll around, and take in the stone walls and art nouveau buildings on the way.
Similar to El Raval, there’s an artistic, indie feeling to this district. We spotted cheeky street art on the century-old walls.
These old-fashioned Roman door knockers got the graffiti treatment, next to a striking mural that makes use of the doorway as a canvas.
The Gothic Quarter is my favorite area for shopping. It’s filled with quirky, independent local boutiques — especially on the street Calle Avinyo.
Instead of commercial brands, you’ll find innovative design shops. Like this one, which lets you customize your own lamp from a rainbow of colorful balls.
The artists turned unexpected materials, such as basketballs, into hip lighting fixtures.
We popped into artisan shops that sold handmade purses, crafts, and other design objects. I think Spanish Cubist artist Picasso would be pleased with the creative scene here.
The Force is alive and well… in the Gothic Quarter! This clothing shop paid homage to Star Wars.
Have you ever seen Stormtroopers looking so fabulous?
I spent the afternoon browsing Spanish retro and vintage fashion boutiques. Their items are one of a kind, and not expensive.
My Pretty Attitude lace dress would fit right in with the cool fashion found here.
With an edgy creative culture and skull street art, the Gothic Quarter lives up to its name.
And now, we have to say “adiós”… because this is my last post about Spain, at least until I visit again! If you missed my previous stories about Barcelona and Granada, see them all here.
Gracias for watching our Spain travel video here!
Watch me on Travel Channel’s new TV show: Could I Live There? Karisma El Dorado restaurants, cooking classes.
Welcome to a new edition of my Mexican travelogue. Yukiro and I ate like queens at Karisma Hotels & Resorts… I hope you’re hungry, as there are a lot of food photos ahead!
(I’m sure you are curious about my Basil Farrow cat top (above). It’s by LA-based designer Lili Chin, who custom-makes shirts and drawings to look like your pets! There’s info on her site, and I’ll be posting more images soon.)
But first, some quick updates about my upcoming TV appearances and travel destinations.
Perhaps you’ll recall that I was in Tokyo last spring, to shoot a show with Travel Channel. Now, I can officially reveal details about the series, called “Could I Live There?“
In each episode, a couple considers moving to a new country — and makes the decision after exploring it with a “relocator”. I’m the on-camera host for the Japan show, titled “Tokyo’s Cute Culture.” Above is a scene from a Shinto temple, where I took the pair before they decided whether to stay in the US or move to Tokyo.
I had a terrific shoot with the production team, and hope you’ll tune into Travel Channel to watch me on TV! “Could I Live There? – Japan” premieres Monday, February 8 at 9:30 pm (8:30 pm Central), and repeats the next day at 12:30 am (11:30 am Central).
If you’ve been following my Instagram and Snapchat (@lacarmina), you’ll have seen me in Los Angeles.
Now, I’m boarding a flight on Turkish Airlines… and heading to Istanbul for the first time! I’ve dreamt of visiting “Constantinople” for years, and finally got the chance to go — thanks to a generous invitation from the World Tourism Forum. I’m honored to be one of about 20 international bloggers chosen to participate in the event. Can’t wait to share images of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and more.
Right after, I’m excited to be doing a project with Brussels Tourism! My filmmakers Borderless Media and I will be shooting travel stories in Belgium, including coverage of the decadent Binche carnival. I’m looking forward to a taste of chocolates, surrealism, street art and underground culture.
(Above is a still from their Rene Magritte inspired video featuring cats taking over the city.)
And now, back to our Riviera Maya escapades at Karisma El Dorado. As I mentioned in the first article, Yukiro and I had full access to their three resorts.
We found this Ganesha elephant god statue in a little garden, hidden between the Casitas and Generations properties.
My t-shirt of the Hindu god, Shiva, turned out to be the perfect match for this mural! It’s by 1991NewYork, a newly launched clothing line by designer and tattoo artist Hiten Damodar. The striking style pays respects to his Indian background, but with an Americana feel.
Hiten says: “We chose the name 1991NY because that is the year my family and I moved to this country. The style is influenced heavily by my tattoo background as well as imagery from mythology, religion, and symbolism.”
In addition to Shiva the Destroyer, 1991NewYork has eye catching t-shirts featuring Ganesh, Kali and more. Everything is made in the USA and sure to turn heads. Pick out your favorite shirt here and check out @1991newyork on Instagram.
Now that our fashion vogue-ing is complete, Yukiro and I are ready to eat!
Each of the Karisma resorts has a different focus (Casitas is for couples, Generations Riviera Maya is for all-ages and families). We enjoyed aspects from each of them.
There’s a suite and experience for every type of traveller. At the newest property, Generations, guests could walk right out into their own balcony swimming pool.
Between El Dorado Royale, Casitas and Generations… we had over a dozen all-inclusive restaurants to choose from!
The cuisine offerings included: Caribbean, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, American. Yukiro looks like he’s strangling himself out of amazement.
I knew that Karisma had a reputation for excellent food. However, I confess I didn’t expect their restaurants to be quite this good.
Wine Kitchen (at Generations Riviera Maya) set the mood with chandeliers and candles. We loved the amuse bouche with watermelon and spices, and the special wine pairings that came with each plate.
When everything comes at no extra cost, you can live out your foodie dreams. We ordered a large range of plates to try… and dessert, always.
If only we had time to try each Karisma dining room! Jade Restaurant has an Asian menu, and the decor to match.
Karisma encourages guests to participate in the food experiences. At the Jade “tea bar,” you could create your own unique blend of tea.
The resorts had several entertaining “dinner theaters” where you could watch guest chefs prepare meals — and take part in the cooking too. Several volunteers came up to help create Mexican dishes, which we then ate with pairings from Jackson Family Wines.
Fuentes Culinary Theater is one of the most popular attractions. The venue is set up like a Food Network TV show, and the chef riffs and jokes around with the audience — which teaching them how to make authentic Yucatan dishes.
On the two big screens, we could see close-ups of the ingredients. The chef walked us through each step of the preparation. As soon as he finished making the dish, a team of servers came out and served it to each table.
That evening, his menu was based on traditional Yucatan Peninsula flavors. To start, we had a fantastic soup made from avocado, octopus, radish, apple, and X’catic pepper.
I particularly enjoyed the segment where the chef introduced us to masa (corn dough), and showed us how to build it into tortillas, tamales, pupusas and more.
After three small bites inspired by street food, we devoured the mahi mahi (with pumpkin seed puree, corn, beans and crispy achiote tortilla). Above is the pork loin marinated in charred chilies, sweet potato and tamal. We had never tried these types of flavors and combinations before — what a meal to remember.
Karisma also had dozens of all-inclusive bars. We took the advice of this swing — “Enjoy” — and cooled down with salt-rimmed margaritas.
Since we were in Quintana Roo, Yukiro and I mainly ate Mexican food. We particularly are fans of avocado, mahi mahi and ceviche (raw marinated fish),
All of the above were on the menu at “La Carreta” in El Dorado Royale. Once again, if all the food is included, why not order one of everything…
… and a double serving of the outstanding ceviche?
We ate our fill of fresh berries, including in this strawberry dessert with avocado cream.
For lunch, we usually hit the Health Bar. In North America, I always cringe at the price of a fresh green juice (usually around $7-10). But at Karisma, everything is included… I think we must have ordered 25 smoothies and juices between the two of us!
The Health Bar had a long list of drink concoctions, and we also could create our own. We paired them with fresh salads and sandwiches made with whole grains.
Thanks to Karisma El Dorado, we were able to relax and enjoy the Riviera Maya.
No need to stress over anything… it’s all taken care of here.
I hope you are enjoying these Mexican posts. Don’t forget to watch me on Travel Channel (Feb 8), and check out my Snapchat and Instagram @lacarmina for the latest updates from LA, Istanbul and Brussels.