Tag Archives: travel

September 14, 2011

Foreign Correspondents: The Old City

Our second  Foreign Correspondent has returned from her travels! Stacy, her husband, and her two children traveled to Istanbul and Jerusalem this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part 3 of their adventure.

After a quick flight, we arrived in Jerusalem to reunite with my husband’s family and friends.  We had some excitement in that within the first three hours of arrival, we ended up in the ER.  Our daughter was beyond overexcited and while playing broke her wrist.  She had a cast on for the first eight days of the Jerusalem leg of the trip.

One of our favorite things to do in Jerusalem is to visit the Old City.  This is the walled in city within a much larger city.  I don’t think I can describe how special, how spectacular the Old City is.  The view is breathtaking from nearly every corner of the city.  It’s home to many very holy places for Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and people from all over the world travel here to pray, tour, and experience.  It’s divided into four uneven quarters – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian.  Tens of thousands of people live, work, go to school, and play inside the walls of Jerusalem and, for the most part, things are fairly separate in that the Armenians live in the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Palestinians live in the Christian Quarter, etc.  One can travel freely (for the most part) between the quarters, but there is a demarcation which is always interesting to observe from a tourist’s perspective.

Over the years, my husband and I have traveled up and down the winding alleys of each quarter – together and separately – my husband first as a child and me initially as a college student.  Since the kids were born, however, our plans have been, shall we say, less ambitious.  We want to show them the Old City, have them love the Old City and, eventually, be able to wander throughout the Old City.  But for this trip, we kept it short and simple and entered through Bab al-Khalil (Jaffa Gate) and walked through just a few alleyways for some conversing, shopping, snacking, and observing.

We bought some beautiful traditional Palestinian pottery pieces for our house and some gifts for friends and family.  We’ve been collecting it for years.  The pottery is made and hand painted in the West Bank town of Hebron.    The colors are bright, the patterns are cheerful, and it makes a lovely table setting.

We also stopped by a terrific place where we bought a side table years and years ago.  The little shop sells furniture, chess tables, dressers, mirrors, chairs – all beautifully handcrafted in Syria from walnut with mother of pearl inlay.  Our son sat right down and started playing with the chess boards.  We picked up some pieces for him, and I have my eye on a stunning table/chess board that we will need to save for many, many years before we’re ready to bring that piece home with us.

September 13, 2011

Foreign Correspondent: Sites in Istanbul

Our second  Foreign Correspondent has returned from her travels! Stacy, her husband, and her two children traveled to Istanbul and Jerusalem this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part 2 of their adventure.

We set an ambitious itinerary for the last full day in Istanbul before traveling to Jerusalem.  It included the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, and the Grand Bazaar.

The Baghdad Pavillion inside Topkapi Palace

We started at the Topkapi Palace and, I’ll be honest, I could have stayed there all day long but the kids burned out after the third hour. Basically, the Ottomans ruled the entire Empire from here for hundreds and hundreds of years.  It was their cultural and political center – there’s a library, the treasury, a concubines courtyard, a kitchen that fed thousands of janissaries and soldiers, mosques, reading rooms just to name a few of the highlights in the sprawling compound.  All of this plus incredibly ornate and intricate architecture and sweeping views of the water that can be seen from throughout the walled compound.

Basilica Cistern

Unfortunately for us, the lines to enter the Hagia Sophia were just too long.  We kept moving a short distance to the Basilica Cistern.  Other than knowing that it is the largest of several hundred underground water systems in Istanbul, we had little idea what to expect.  As it turns out, the kids loved it.  First off, it’s dark, lit by candles and about 20 degrees cooler than above ground.  It was built in the 6th century during the Byzantine Empire to supply water to the palace complex nearby.  In fact, the water level is not very deep these days, but it is deep enough to house many fish which swim around and add to the atmosphere and the kids’ happiness.

Blue Mosque

We continued on to the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) which is truly a magnificent sight to behold – up close and throughout the city.  We sat inside the courtyard and took in the beautiful prayer tiles written in Arabic calligraphy, the stained glass, minarets.  Another cool and really helpful thing we noticed were tons of high school aged kids in blue shirts with something like, “can I help you?”, written on them.  We saw them all over the tourist spots and eventually, I asked them what’s up.  As it turns out, they are volunteers for the Istanbul municipality, tasked with helping tourists maneuver the city’s intricacies while receiving school credit and practicing their English.  Such a clever idea, and they really were very helpful.

September 12, 2011

Foreign Correspondent: Returning to Turkey

Our second  Foreign Correspondent is here! Stacy, her husband, and her two children traveled to Istanbul and Jerusalem this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is the first part of their adventure.

We were thrilled to be heading to Istanbul for a few days before our (nearly) annual voyage to see my husband’s family in Jerusalem.


Istanbul is an absolutely stunning city.  Its history is rich – it’s been the capital of one empire after another for 1600 years – Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman.  The first thing we noticed in Istanbul was that there is literally water everywhere you look.  The original parts of the city are on a peninsula surrounded by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus Sea and its arm called the Golden Horn.  The Bosphorus splits Istanbul between two continents, Europe and Asia.  We stayed on the more historic European side, but our views were mainly of the very lovely and green Asian side of the city.

We had a picture perfect day to take a cruise on the Bosphorus. The stand outs for me were the fortresses scattered on the European and Asian shorelines.  It was interesting to think of the role the Bosphorus has played throughout history, including World Wars I and II, and then see the fortresses the different empires built at one point or another in a effort to protect their interests and sovereignty.   One impressive structure, the Rumeli Hisari or European Fortress, was built in the mid-1400s in just 4 months and stands to this day as a museum.

The architecture along the Bosphorus stood out as well.  The homes and palaces lining the waterway are a mixture of old seaside mansions and modern residences or second homes.  Some are made of marble and some wood.

August 30, 2011

Pont des Arts Bridge

Every year Tea employees receive a dividend from Tea to use towards international travel. On Studio T we’ll be sharing travel stories of our employees as they travel around the world.

Earlier this month I returned from a vacation to England, Paris, and New York. I went to England to visit family (I’m English/American), Paris for my birthday, and New York to reconnect with old friends and neighborhoods where I used to live. The whole two weeks was a beautiful blur of old cities, family, English vocabulary, French language, Parisian fashion, and the bustling streets of New York.  But somehow what I have the most photos of on my camera is a bridge over the River Seine where I spent my final morning in Paris.

The Pont des Arts bridge was finished in 1804, and was the first metal bridge in Paris.  Connecting the Left Bank with the Right Bank, and leading directly to the Louvre, it gets a lot of foot traffic from visiting tourists. It has held up valiantly despite two World Wars, but succumbed to a 60 foot barge that ran into it in 1979. Now reopened and more beautiful than ever, it has become a strangely surreal landmark. The criss-crossing metal siding of the bridge has become covered with thousands of padlocks, placed there by lovers who then threw the key into the water of the Seine below. Initials of the couples and sweet notes are written on most locks. The twinkling and sparkling of these locks can be seen a block away, and one can spend hours reading the sweet inscriptions.

After spending 5 days in the city of romance, and being somewhat superstitious, I couldn’t help but want my own piece of the Pont des Arts ritual. But where to find a lock? I searched everywhere for une serrure and finally found one at the Bon Marche department store. My mother and I celebrated the end of the treasure hunt by purchasing tarts and pastries from their exquisite supermarket on the first floor, and we ate them in Luxembourg Gardens while watching little Parisian children push their sailboats around the pond.

I waited until my last morning in Paris to add my lock to the bridge.

Newspapers around the world are hinting that Paris is not such a fan of these locks – one article threatened that the city was going to remove the locks as they were defacing a public monument. The article was written in May of this year, but when I was there a few weeks ago many of the locks looked old and rusted shut, and there were so many that I couldn’t imagine they were just a summer’s worth.

What do you think? Are the locks a sparkly homage to superstitious lovers, or are they an eyesore on an old monument? I encourage you to walk along the Seine, with the morning sun casting long shadows along the cobblestones, a hot crepe wrapped in paper in your hand, and witness the bridge in person before you make a decision.

August 11, 2011

Dolores Olmedo

María de los Dolores Olmedo y Patiño Suarez was a well-known Mexican businesswoman. She studied law in the early years of the 20th century, and went on to own property and factories all over Mexico. Olmedo was also a philanthropist to the arts, and was good friends with both Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Diego painted several portraits of her, the most famous of which was painted in 1955 after Frida’s death:

We love her traditional embroidered top and the classic Frida-style flowers in her hair!

Her biggest life achievement was the creation of the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City, which holds her massive art collection. Our designers visited the museum and loved the xoloitzcuintle dogs and peacocks that run wild in the gardens! To date the museum holds 145 paintings by Diego Rivera, and 25 by Frida Kahlo, as well as 6,000 pre-Hispanic figurines.

Dolores Olmedo died at the age of 93 in 2002, but her legacy of art appreciation continues. In her words “Following the example of my mother, a teacher, Prof. María Patiño Suárez widow of Olmedo, I live as she taught me: ‘share all you have with those around you’.  I therefore will this house with all my collections of art, product of a lifetime’s endeavor, for the pleasure and enjoyment of the People of Mexico.” It’s worth a visit if you find yourself in Mexico City.

August 1, 2011

Random Acts of Inspiration: Disposable Cameras

Have you heard of the Disposable Memory Project? A group of people have released 346 disposable cameras in 71 different countries for people to pass along to one another. The hope is that they will eventually be returned home with photos from all over the world. So far 99 have been found! The process of transferring cameras from person to person is really fun, and the project logs every step that they can:

Camera 146: Left in the silkscreening lab at Otis College in Los Angeles by David T.

When cameras are returned they usually have a whole range of photos taken by different people, often in different countries. Camera 159 went on a long journey – from Wales to Greenland to Antarctica to Chile, and finally ended up in Ireland before being mailed back to the Disposable Memory Project to be processed:

Camera 308‘s journey was much shorter – it was passed to a man selling juice on a beach in Gambia, and passed around the village before it was returned:

Interested in participating? Learn the steps of starting your own disposable memory camera here. We’re so inspired by this project that we’re considering sending disposable cameras with our designers on their next inspiration trip!

July 29, 2011

Foreign Correspondents: The Perfumes of France

Our first  Foreign Correspondent is here! Bijal Shah, her husband, and her two daughters spent ten days traveling around France this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is the final part 5 of their adventure.

Finally, our journey through France was enhanced by the memories of certain wonderful and not so wonderful scents.  The only Paris scent that was a little too overwhelming for my daughters was the scent of the subway. I’m sure the heat was to blame for the overpowering scents of the underground.

Lavender field near Senanque Abbey

In Provence, the smells of the lavender fields were incredible.  This was the perfect time of year to visit because the fields were in full bloom and when we were standing in the middle of the fields, it smelled like a bottle of lavender perfume.  Outside of Avignon, we visited Châteauneuf-du-Pape, an area that produces wines developed by the popes of Avignon centuries ago.

One night after dinner in Aix, we strolled over to the Cours Mirabeau to sit and sip coffee and hot chocolate while we people watched.  The smell of the drinks was enough to relax us and get us ready for bed.

Hot chocolate in Aix ex Provence

The one scent that my girls were not too fond of, myself included, was the overpowering scent of a delicious tasting Camembert cheese that their dad had picked up at the farmer’s market in Aix en Provence.  We were having a wonderful rooftop dinner on our terrace with the fruits and veggies from the market as well as some fresh tapenade and a baguette from the boulangerie downstairs.  Then my husband opened the cheese.  It took a few moments for my 4 year old to realize that something was not so pleasant anymore.  After convincing her that the smell is not actually from the cheese but a bird sitting around the corner, she agreed to taste it and actually liked it.  My seven year old was not so easily duped and decided she would agree to taste it but wouldn’t like it.  Overall, we had a FANTASTIC vacation filled with so many more wonderful moments all four of us are still laughing about.  As much as they love being back home, they still wish they were back at the apartment in Provence or on top of the Eiffel Tower.  They can’t wait until we go on another family vacation and get to have ice cream everyday.

Our Foreign Correspondent program is ongoing. If you’re interested in sharing your family’s international adventures with us you can find out more here.

July 28, 2011

Foreign Correspondents: Feeling the Weather and Cool Water

Our first  Foreign Correspondent is here! Bijal Shah, her husband, and her two daughters spent ten days traveling around France this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is Part 4 of their adventure. Stay tuned for the rest of their story this week.

Our sense of touch or feel had more to do with the hot weather than anything else.  At one point as we were walking through the Greek sculpture room in the Lourve, the girls stopped walking. I realized that they had just walked on top of an air conditioning vent and were enjoying the feel of the cold air.  Needless to say, we all stood on top of the vent for an extended amount of time.

Standing on the cold air vent at the Louvre

Outside of our apartment in Aix-en-Provence, there was a small waterspout type of fountain that my younger daughter made it a point to run her hands in the cool water every time we exited or entered the apartment building.  As soon as she would get her hands wet she would chase after her dad to spray the water in his face.  It became a daily game for her to see how quickly she could get us wet.

Sitting in the heat of the Provence sunshine

Hilltop town of Gordes, "the windy city".

Our first driving adventure in Provence was towards the hilltop town of Gordes.  As soon as we got out of the car, we felt the “whoosh” of the strongest winds we had ever experienced outside of a tropical storm.  I was afraid my girls, especially my four year old would be blown over the edge of the mountain…probably false paranoia on my part.  We attempted to walk around town while we clung to each other and posed for pictures while hysterically laughing at how wild but kind of scary the wind was.   Finally we gave up and decided to sit down at a restaurant and have dinner, but every few minutes the canopy would get pulled up by the wind and come crashing back in place making everyone except the waitresses jump.

The day that we went to Avignon, we also went to Pont du Gard to see the ancient roman aqueducts. Under the bridge is a very cool and refreshing river that people swim and kayak in.  We didn’t get a chance to kayak like we wanted to but decided to get our feet wet since it was a warm sunny afternoon.  The girls enjoyed splashing in the cool water and feeling the slippery rocks under their feet.

Splashing in the river under the Pont due Gard


July 27, 2011

Foreign Correspondents: Listening to the Sounds of Paris and Provence

Our first  Foreign Correspondent is here! Bijal Shah, her husband, and her two daughters spent ten days traveling around France this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is Part 3 of their adventure. Stay tuned for the rest of their story this week!

The memories that come to mind about the interesting sounds of Paris and Provence are ones that my girls found the most unusual, exciting or soothing.   In Paris, they loved hearing the sirens of the emergency vehicles by and the music of the merry go round.  At the train station, they learned to anticipate the whistle blowing and would prepare by covering their ears.

Draing the scene outside the apartment window while listening to the street sounds.

But it was in Provence that sounds began to really become a part of the experience.  My older daughter and I snuck up to the terrace and discovered a flock of “crazy birds,” screeching and flying by the dozens over the rooftops with no purpose or pattern.  We sat there mesmerized by the sound of the chaotic birds.

View from the terrace, where the "crazy birds" were seen.

During the day, we heard the church bells chime on the hour and half hour.  Hearing the bells was a new experience for the girls, and they enjoyed counting the rings to determine what time it was.  As we left the city of Aix en Provence, we could hear the hum of the cicadas that populate Provence in the summertime.

Listening to cicadas outside the Chateau de Lourmarin

Towards the end of our trip to Provence we drove to Avignon, the site of the papal palace.  We ate gelato, people watched, and listened to French folk music while my younger daughter danced.  This was a moment that we will not soon forget; it touched all of our senses.

The square outside the Papal Palace


July 26, 2011

Foreign Correspondents: Sightseeing in France

Our first  Foreign Correspondent is here! Bijal Shah, her husband, and her two daughters spent ten days traveling around France this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is Part 2 of their adventure. Stay tuned for the rest of their story this week.

Our surroundings in France were incredible.  The most amazing moment we had, the one that made both of my daughters’ jaws drop, was seeing the Eiffel Tower change from a lit up tower to a sparkling beauty.  We knew that it would light up at night but all of a sudden, while we were on our night boat cruise it began to sparkle and continued to sparkle for five minutes. This was their single most memorable moment.

Right outside our hotel was the beautiful and peaceful Tuileries Garden.  This garden was our direct path to the Louvre, which held the Mona Lisa, my older daughter’s favorite painting.  At the Louvre, my daughters used their sense of sight to match the famous paintings they were seeing with the ones on their Louvre Bingo card that I had created at home, with the pictures of the most famous pieces of artwork at the museum.  The bingo game was perfect for keeping their attention (at least an hour) at the museum.  On our third day in Paris, we headed to Versailles to see the Sun King’s palace.  Here we once again used our sense of sight to count the number of sun symbols we saw in each room that we visited…another tactic to keep the girls excited and looking around at the beautiful decor in the heat and crowd of people. The favorite room for both girls was the Queen’s bedroom with the pink and flowery motif and total number of symbols counted was over 100.

Playing Picture Bingo at the Louvre

After Paris we headed to Provence, where we had rented a car and were able to tour on our own.  We drove to a 12th century working abbey called Senanque Abbey that was located in a valley outside of the hilltop village of Gordes.  It is impossible to put in words how beautiful the ancient Abbey looked surrounded by the hills and purple lavender fields.

Senanque Abbey outside of Gordes

On a whim, we decided to drive to the town of Lourmarin where we happened to come across an old chateau that was open to tours.  The Chateau de Lourmarin was a beautifully restored chateau from the 15th century with amazing views.  The restored kitchen inside the chateau was the favorite all around.

Chateau du Lourmarin

The next day we drove to the French Riviera coast. As we approached the coast we caught glimpses of the sapphire blue waters peaking out in between the hills. We drove to a picturesque coastal town called Sanary-sur-Mer.  It had a marina full of sailboats and a little boardwalk with cute shops and cafes. We were even able to take a dip in the ocean at a nearby beach.  All of the natural beauty in Provence was a stark contrast to the metropolitan beauty of Paris, but both were a feast for the eyes.