Tag Archives: travel

June 10, 2013

“We Go There, Too!” featuring Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com

We go there – we explore and dig deep into other cultures. We know you go there too. This new series will feature stories from world travelers; they’ve taken their first flight over seas with little ones, they’ve traveled back to their native country to introduce their children to grandparents, they’ve packed up only their necessities and traveled to developing countries. Here, you will find their stories and learn about how they’re going there too.

Kicking off this series, we have Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com sharing her trip to Liberia. It wasn’t necessarily an easy one, but you’ll see that it was a trip that’s changed her life forever. Thank you Jill for sharing your story with us on Studio T!

I had the privilege of traveling to Liberia in February as a parent ambassador for Right To Play, an organization that helps children learn crucial life lessons through sport and games.  The experience affected me deeply and I can still smell the heavy West African air.  The kids who touched my ‘soft hair’ and reached for my hand are now part of my history.  They grace screensavers and watch me from silver frames.  The polish of the silver juxtaposed with what I witnessed is disconcerting and constantly reminds me to not take my blessings for granted.

The adults and teenagers I met in Liberia had experienced terrible things in their lifetimes with a war that ended very recently.  Some had lost parents and raised themselves.  Most had a loved one who experienced sexual assault.  And every adult associated with Right To Play worked tirelessly to restore hope for the next generation.  Every day the same volunteers (many had no employment themselves but chose to devote their days to teaching children through Right To Play activities) emerged into an empty space and performed magic.  It was like a slow motion film.  The waiting children would all turn, smile and organize themselves into a ‘great big circle’ so they could begin.  The rhythms of their responses to the leader of the game formed a percussive music.  The empty, litter-filled space had become vibrant and full of life.

When I think about the diversity in cultures brought to mainstream culture by Tea Collection, I smile.  Each outfit I see my kids wear reminds me that we are all connected in this small world.  The women of Liberia donned incredible colors and patterns.  Their bright eyes and huge smiles pierced through the grey sand and cracked concrete.  Standing in front of corrugated metal shacks with red, yellow and purple wraps, these women provided what mothers always do – hope and comfort.  Dressing my boys in similar colors and styles gives a nod to these women;  A sign of respect and awe.  And these women deserved nothing less.

One sign on the side of the road has haunted me since my return.  This one advertisement was a definition of ‘Mother’: a person who ‘makes something out of nothing’.  That is exactly what I witnessed.  These women generated a meager income buying bleach in bulk and selling it in small bags, buying a case of water packets and a block of ice and hoping for extreme heat so they may sell a few individual bags of water to quench thirst in their community.

Hope resonated everywhere – through the games, the smiles, the handmade toys and the tiny children playing hide and seek with this North American girl who seemed so different.  I was brought back to the basics of life:  drink fresh water, keep your clothes and environment clean to prevent disease, help your neighbor.  A young boy bathed meticulously in a large bucket by the side of the road.  A woman carrying a huge bundle on her head picked over potato leaves in a market to find the best choices for her family.  It was all about hope.

As a mother, I can make a promise.  I will never stop visiting other cultures and allowing them to penetrate my own motherhood.  I will share the songs and bright fabrics with my children.  I will try to not take my life for granted.  And more than anything, I will remember that hope is all one needs.

 

April 25, 2013

Equipo McKinstry en Mexico!

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Amy McKinstry, Senior Sales Executive of Department Stores here at Tea, traveled with her family to Mexico to enjoy sandy shores and ancient ruins.

When my husband and I were deciding where to vacation this year with our kids, we went back and forth quite a bit.  France was high on the list, having never been to Paris (shameful, I know) and also wanting to see the French countryside as well as the beaches.  We considered Portugal.  We talked about local destinations in the US as well but having not been on a proper vacation for several years, we wanted to go a little further away – insisting however, on a combine of relaxation as well as some great cultural influence (sitting pool side in the confines of a massive resort was not what we had in mind.)  So we landed far, but not too far – on Soliman Bay, Mexico.  Probably one of the best kept secrets on the Maya Riviera (about a 90 minute drive south of Cancun)  Soliman Bay is a secluded beach just 10 minutes from the magnificent beach town of Tulum – and with so many terrific cultural activities to choose from on any given day!

I feel compelled to first paint you a mental picture of Soliman Bay – a beach so beautiful and secluded that we were challenged to find even 2 more people sitting on the sand or kayaking in the crystal blue water on a regular basis.  Kayaking and snorkeling became my every day exercise and source of meditation – I found myself in “vacation mode” nearly the moment my toes hit the sand.  Palapas (the Mexican thatched roofs) dotted the beach and each villa (be it modest or luxurious) had its own unique beauty and charm.  A little hut at the end of the beach referred to as “The Fish Shack” served lobster, ceviche and ‘the like’ on modest plastic tables under palm trees and could rival the very best seafood restaurants in Manhattan.  Our kids swung on hammocks and played in the sand at our feet as we waited for our food and enjoyed some cold Modelos.  Needless to say, we were happy campers and gloating over our choice of destination almost immediately…

Of course, we soon felt the need to explore the area and with some guidance from a good friend who had been drawn back here year after year, we enjoyed a few wonderful experiences worth mentioning.

The Tulum ruins (again, just 10 minutes from our location) was our first stop.  These ruins sit along the shore of Tulum and are one of the few elevated locations along the coast (so the views alone, as you can imagine, were just beautiful.)  With a terrific Mayan tour guide leading the way (Senor Miguel) we learned about the significance of each ruin, their location within the walls of this
“city” and the carvings and traces of paint that amazingly still remain on so many of the ancient walls.

Another great experience was our visit to a Spider Monkey Sanctuary that had only been open to the public for about 6 months.  This property, spanning 67 acres of jungle, is a safe haven to protect this dwindling species of monkey.  The kids enjoyed feeding these amazing creatures (they took peanuts right out of their little hands) and just watching them in their habitat.  We hiked the property to also discover small alligators as well as a Cenotes (the underground rivers which are a very popular attraction in the area and are often referred to as the sacred waters of the Maya Riviera.)  My husband and I reluctantly jumped into the Cenotes with the other in our group (and if you knew us, and our collective fear of heights and small spaces… you’d be impressed.  Trust me!)

And of course, there is Tulum… a more perfect beach town I challenge anyone to find.  The beach itself is just beautiful – eco friendly and relaxed, it is a beautiful hybrid of an authentic Mexican surf town, and the most sophisticated of locations all in one.  Local artisans sell the most wonderful handmade jewelry on the streets and airy cabanas and palapas line the beach along with amazing bars and restaurants.  A great spot during the day or for a night out – heavenly!

We were inspired daily during this trip with the cultural as a whole – the vibrant colors of their textiles, hand embroidery, Mayan art, beautiful architecture, amazing food and the graciousness of the locals.   So many little things brought me back to Tea’s visit to Mexico and the wonderfully authentic details that they included in their designs just a few seasons ago (and before that, during their first visit to Mexico back in the earlier years of Tea!)

In short – it was a wonderful family vacation full of relaxation, culture, amazing food and fun activities.  I am also so grateful to Tea for reminding me, through their own inspiration & travel, to always recognize the small, beautiful details of the world around us – in every culture.  It is such a special place to work and such a special practice to pass along to our children.

So if you are considering a trip to this region of Mexico, I’d say… pack your bag.  Go there.  ENJOY!


February 28, 2013

Fun in the sun (Part 1)

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).
Emilynne, our excel whiz , traveled to her home away from home to the sunny and humid group of islands in the Pacific.

Last October/November I took a short hike halfway across the world to visit my sister for her semester break in the Philippines. A lot of the school holidays in the Philippines do fall,slightly suspiciously, during major Catholic Feast Days. This means that the Triduum of All Hallows, Christmas, and Holy Week are all holidays that the children may observe with family.

Traveling pictures in the airport.

Look at the handwritten plane ticket.

Once I heard about this break, I jumped at the opportunity to visit my mom and my sister, travel a bit of my parents’ home-country, and (most importantly) soak in some sun and warmth!

We did a small amount of traveling, but kept it relatively simple for this go-around as two of my friends (pretty much my sisters by everything but blood) were flying in and out of Manila via slightly different itineraries. My friend Radhika and I got in one evening and our first stop was Taal Vista Resort in Tagaytay, about an hour south of Manila. The resort has a stunning view of the Taal Volcano.

Taal Volcano in the distance

Look closely and Taal Volcano is the island in the middle of the lake.

Yes, that is an active volcano. In fact, people are not allowed to settle on the island, and even the resort we were staying in is technically within the danger zone. It’s hard to believe that this is an active volcano, which had quite a bit of activity as recently as July 2011, when you look at all the lush foliage surrounding it.

January 25, 2013

The best sights to see in London and Wales

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Sandra, our data guru, shares her travel highlights in the unexplored parts of London and Wales.

Stonehenge

L- R. Stonehenge, the White Hare in Llandudno, Titern Abbey, and Bath.

My brother and I traveled to the UK at the end of December to sight-see and visit our grandma and
uncle in the south of Wales. Since we’ve both been to London before, we skipped the standard tourist
stuff and took a lot of day trips before heading to Wales. Here are a few highlights from our trip:

London. Royal Ballet, one of the top ballet companies in the world, is a must see if you’re a ballet fan
or appreciate grace mixed with athleticism. Try to catch a performance with principal dancer Alina
Cojocaru.

Sightseeing tip: If you’ve been to London before and London Pass isn’t economical, Days Out Guide
offers 2 for 1 promotions with a valid travelcard from a rail station (must have the National Rail logo;
travelcards from London Underground won’t work) and it includes some attractions, such as the London
Eye, that aren’t covered by London Pass: http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london

Stonehenge. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and on my bucket list of things to see. The henge is roped
off so you can’t touch or wander among the stones unless you sign up for a special dawn/dusk viewing.
It was very cold and windy there so make sure to wear lots of layers if you visit in the winter!

Bath. Who doesn’t want to see the city where Jane Austen’s characters go to recuperate? Ok maybe
just me. The city of Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has the only hot springs in the UK.
We took a tour of the Bath Abbey Towers (hilarious yet informative tour of the history of the abbey),
explored the Roman Baths, sampled the spring water at the Pump Room (tastes like warm iron, gross),
and ended the day soaking in the thermal waters at Thermae Bath Spa.

Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey is the first Cisterian monestary in Wales and inspired William
Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” and Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s
poem “Tears, Idle Tears.” The surrounding Wye Valley has beautiful scenic walks along the River Wye; a
perfect diversion while waiting for the next bus back to Chepstow!

Llandudno. Llandudno is the largest seaside resort in Wales and has a Victorian promenade and the
longest pier in Wales. The town has loose ties to Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland as Alice Liddell, the
“real Alice,” spent her summers there. Most attractions are closed in the winter, so after walking along
the promenade and pier, we searched for Alice in Wonderland statues scattered around the town (there
are four: Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, and Queen of Hearts).

January 20, 2013

Explore London with Brooke

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Brooke, our amazing Store Marketing guru, took a getaway trip to London with her husband.

Big Ben in London.

You can’t miss Big Ben when visiting London.

It’s been at least 2 and ½ years since we’ve had couple time for longer than a couple of hours…alone..no kids…no diapers…no nap schedules to work around. It was time to get away and for us to be kids again.  We have two girls and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law generously volunteered their weekends.  We definitely owe them one or maybe two.

Honestly we could have gone anyway (even into Boston), but it was magical to be across the pond (on an island of sorts) and somewhere my husband Josh had never been – London, England.

After hopping the overnight flight, we arrived to a rainy, cold day…this picture pretty much sums it up:

A happy couple in London.

Notice the grey skies in the background.

Instead of wallowing or going to take naps (which would have been a treat all in itself!), we hit the department stores because they are such a wonder overseas.  I definitely recommend popping into Harrods, House of Fraser, and Topshop.  They have food halls, amazing displays and the hippest fashions – things that will be popular here in a year or so!

This was also the perfect day for a bus tour around the city – both to get oriented and to take a rest, and also stay out of the rain. The guide was great and super enthusiastic. We got to see all things quintessential London, and also got to stop for some fish and chips (with mashed peas of course!) and then on the Tate Modern museum.

Tower of London on a cold December day

The Tower of London has been standing since the 11th century.

The mix of super historic (Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral) with the modern city of London really was striking, and on top of it all – the city was all dressed up for Christmas.

House of Fraser decked in holiday cheer.

We loved how the House of Fraser went all out to deck the halls.

November 29, 2012

A taste of Thailand: Bangkok

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Kelly and Cristy, part of our power house sales team, traveled to Thailand for the first time together. Read more about their adventures here.

First stop: Bangkok.

The song is right. One night in Bangkok WILL make a tough man humble! What a modern and bustling city. I think it must rival NYC as the city that never sleeps. What stuck out to us here was the contrast of how very modern the city was but with so much history and culture sprinkled through it. Looking out over the city from our hotel room were tall hotel buildings surrounded by small bazaars and restaurants…and every few miles you would see the amazing tips of a golden temple reaching up through the craze as if to say “Don’t forget me!”  Riding down the street in our Tuk Tuk we would pass busy merchants, 7 Elevens, and school children in uniform making their way home…..and then right in the middle of it all, a Spirit House cloaked in fresh flowers and a glowing candle no doubt recently lit by a very thankful Thai. Even walking through the markets crammed with vendors selling all types of food and wears you would be passed by monks in their vibrant orange robes making their way on some errand. Such an amazing contrast and a constant reminder of where the Thai people came from and what they hold sacred.

We were able to get in a visit to one our favorite manufacturers while in Thailand (think girls knit dresses and boys French Terry bottoms!). Mahin and Samsuk were kind enough to take us to dinner on our first night in Bangkok to ‘debrief’ us and make suggestions on things we shouldn’t miss while in Thailand. Their best suggestion, in our opinion, was the Weekend Market. Wow! This was a shopper’s paradise. This HUGE shopping market was filled with stalls of vendors selling anything from antiques to traditional Thai spices. This market had it all! My favorite was the contrast between vendors…one stall was selling ornate textiles made by hand and loom in the same fashion Thai’s have been making textiles for centuries and next to him was a very hip young woman selling these amazing clutches that she had made herself. Beautiful handmade leather clutches and wallets that had then been spray painted with designs or embellished with studs and embroidery. I’m bummed I didn’t buy one for myself. Kelly was excited about the stations for quick foot and back massages as we spent quite some time wandering this vast marketplace!

The food was amazing everywhere we went. I must admit that both Kelly and I brought granola bars from home on this trip just in case there wasn’t much for us to eat…neither of us eats very spicy foods
(although Kelly is MUCH more adventurous than I!). I’m very glad to report that any spicy-phobic’s out there need not worry. You are able to order everything ‘mild’. We ate very well and both brought most of our granola bars back home. I gained 5 lbs eating as much ‘Drunken Noodles’ as I could get my hands on….not a pretty dish but Holy-Heck was it flavorful!


November 13, 2012

London, Paris, Prague

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Priscilla,  a customer account manager and blogger, recently returned from a whirlwind trip to London, Paris, and Prague.

Tips from a first time European traveler:

1)      Be able to carry your luggage without assistance
2)      Bring the best walking shoes you have
3)      Eat everything over there!  Stuff your face because you will definitely walk off all those calories.

After you’ve got those down, here are the highlights of my trip and things that I think you should see and do.

London: If you’re in London, you must have tea at Fortnum& Mason.  This was a definite highlight of my trip.  Their duo of scones served with Somerset clotted cream and strawberry preserve is mouth-wateringly delicious.  My picture does not do it justice.  Fortnum&Mason has been around since the 1700s and their carousel theme runs throughout the entire store.  After a duo of scones and a Jubilee blend pot of tea, stroll over to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards.  Rumor has it that the guards do not leave their post until they are relieved from their duties.